The Handmaid’s Tale season 3: What was the meaning behind the mouth rings? | TV & Radio | Showbiz & TV

The Handmaid’s Tale season 3: What was the meaning behind the mouth rings? | TV & Radio | Showbiz & TV

The Handmaid’s Tale season three, episode three transported viewers to Washington D.C. for trade negotiations. The episode was entitled Household and showed the capital had an even more extreme set of regulations than viewers are used to seeing in Gilead, including the Handmaids forced to cover their mouths. Head costume designer Natalie Bronfman exclusively spoke to about the meaning behind this.

WARNING: This article contains spoilers for season three, episode six.

Season three, episode six of The Handmaid’s Tale sees June Osborne (played by Elisabeth Moss) and the Waterfords travel to Washington D.C.

The episode revealed how much more extreme the dystopian ideology of Gilead is enforced in the US capital.

One of the most shocking elements was the reveal that Handmaids in D.C. must wear mouth covers and their mouths have been forced shut by ring piercings.

June first sees the extent of this when she is taken by a handmaid into a private room in the Winslow family house.

At first she can’t understand why the Handmaid is not replying to her before she sees that her mouth has been forced shut with metal rings.


The episode is a particularly interesting one for June, who is forced to also have her mouth covered when she travels to Washington D.C. by Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd).

This is to fit in with the Handmaids in the US capital who must wear mouth covers as well as the rest of their iconic red uniforms.

Lead costume designer on the show Natalie Bronfman spoke exclusively to about the variations on the new design.

She said: “It is pretty much the only thing left in terms of visible skin to the outside world.

“It sits just beneath the nose mostly because your nose and your nostrils are actually extremely expressive, not just your eyes.”


The positioning of the mouth guards is because the mouth and face is one of the most emotional parts of the face.

She added: “For example when you look at someone and you see they’re angry, what’s the thing that happens? Their nostrils flare. So that’s why it’s just the mouth covered.”

Bronfman said it was also important to make sure that the costumes looked brutal and medieval.

She explained: “I had to come up with something that was expressive yet looked medieval really and oppressive.”

And the costume addition automatically worked to stop people speaking, which Bronfman noticed during the fittings.

She said: “Oddly enough, as soon as we were making the prototypes for that, we tried them on different people to tweak.

“And all the girls in the shop when they put it on, they said it’s immediately it makes you stop chatting, you just don’t talk any more because it’s so tight and it is covering your mouth.”


Show runner Bruce Miller also spoke to Business Insider about the reveal of the mouth rings.

He said: “It was my idea to put it in the show. It was an extrapolation of the enforced silence, which is the idea that handmaids are told to be quiet, and they’re forced to be quiet.”

Miller also told the publication that the Handmaids took a vow of silence in D.C. and put on the rings themselves.

He added: ”But that’s how these things start is, they’re voluntary, then they’re encouraged, then they’re required.”

The Handmaid’s Tale season 3 drops weekly on Hulu on Wednesdays and airs on Channel 4 in the UK every Sunday at 9pm

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