Serena Joy Waterford (played by Yvonne Strahovski) is mourning the loss of her sadistic husband, Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) in the latest season of the hit dystopian drama, The Handmaid’s Tale. Although she will still try anything within her power to get June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss) back in her clutches, an easily-missed detail from a key scene in the Hulu drama has revealed her ulterior motives.
Costume designer Leslie Kavanagh has explained exactly why Serena’s funeral dress wasn’t completely black during a pivotal scene of The Handmaid’s Tale.
Near the beginning of the new season, June is furious to learn her former captor is once again a free woman after the brutal murder of her husband.
To commemorate Fred’s death, Serena holds a public service and flaunts the fact she has June’s daughter Hannah (Jordana Blake) under her control.
However, she also appears to be vying for more control at the top of Gilead, despite the fact women are considered a lower class, as Leslie explained the reasoning behind her outfit.
“So, Serena, for me, had to be a real showstopper,” Leslie said.
“The whole reason she goes back to Gilead for this funeral is to emphasise or hope that she emphasises, that she’s got power because she is pregnant with a Commander’s baby.
“That’s, of course, a really special thing to happen there.”
Back in 2017, The Handmaid’s Tale set the scene in its first season by introducing viewers to a bleak future in which female fertility has dropped drastically.
Not only has Serena managed to get pregnant, but she is also pregnant with the child of someone who held one of the highest ranks in Gilead before his demise.
“She’s sort of making some power moves for herself,” Leslie told GoldDerby.
“So I really, really needed all the attention to be on her as a grieving widow and how she will receive sympathy from people watching. And also make power moves.”
The costume designer went on to detail how Serena’s shifting goals within the series were smartly incorporated into her outfit.
Although her dress may have seemed black to fans at first glance, Leslie revealed the fabric was subtly changed to reflect her growing power and influence within Gilead.
“She was scripted originally to be head-to-toe black,” she continued.
“And in my early days of researching and fabric swatching and things of that nature we came across this amazing midnight teal silk velvet.
“And that was it for me. I was like, ‘I have to have this.’ It sort of marries the grieving widow but also keeps her in a slight undertone of a Commander.”
“That’s how she’s trying to position herself. Anyone that watches the show knows that women in Gilead really have no say or power.
“So she’s trying to make a power move in that way. Luckily, when I gave my best pitch, all the powers that be […] were all on board.”
Serena originally stuck to tradition by dressing in funereal black, but viewers with an eye for fabrics may have picked up on the subtle blue tones as she tries to subtly blend in with the Commanders.
Fans who have finished the latest season know the finale ends with a surprising outcome for June and her Gilead foe, but will Serena still have her eye on a promotion to Commander when the series returns for its sixth and final season?