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In Gilead, clothing reflects a person’s social status. Wives wear teal, Commanders wear black, Handmaids wear red, etc. The fourth season of The Handmaid’s Tale showed June Osborne in modern clothing for the first time in a long time. But some of June’s clothes in The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 puzzled fans because of the significance of the color. Indeed, June’s clothes in the Hulu drama seem to indicate that while she may have escaped from Gilead, Gilead is still part of her.

[Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4.]

Elisabeth Moss as June in 'The Handmaid's Tale' Season 4 Episode 10, 'The Wilderness.' She stands in a driveway looking at a house that's offscreen. Moss is wearing a long red coat that's similar in color to the dress she had to wear as a Handmaid in Gilead. It's daytime in the winter.
Elisabeth Moss as June in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 4 Episode 10, ‘The Wilderness’ | Sophie Giraud/Hulu

The symbolism of color in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Color has always played a significant role in The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s a visual representation of a person’s place in Gilead. The colors of everyone’s uniforms in Gilead were established in Margaret Atwood’s original novel. She told Vanity Fair what the colors are meant to invoke a “traditional Renaissance color scheme.”

“Blue = Virgin Mary. Red = Mary Magdalene + blood + also – used for prisoners of war in WW II Canada as red shows up well against snow!” she said. “Econowives = stripes (obvious): they have to do all functions. The TV series uses vaguely Nazi brown for the Aunts.”

The Handmaid’s Tale costume designer Ane Crabtree said the red provided an aesthetic contrast. But it also has a special connection to the Wives’ teal dresses. She said:

“[The colors were] two opposites that would look beautiful together and stand alone, opposing each other in the frame,” she said. “It was a great visual metaphor for where we wanted to go in the story, and I love it that the inspiration was from nature.”

June’s clothes in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: Why does she still wear red?

June wore her red Handmaid dresses for most of the seven years she was in Gilead. Fans thought she let go of that uniform forever when she traded her Handmaid dress for a Chicago Cubs hat in episode 5, “Chicago.” But she donned a red coat in episode 9, “Progress,” that was a close match to the color of her former Handmaid dress.

June wore her red coat when reuniting with Nick in “Progress.” And she dressed Nichole in an all-pink outfit—the only color young girls in Gilead wear. Nick, a Commander, wore a black suit. The colors of their clothes served as a visual reminder of their former lives in Gilead. Given the significance of these colors, fans don’t understand why June would continue to wearing red. Or why she would dress her daughter in pink. They debated the choice in a Reddit thread. Some think she chose the colors intentionally, others don’t.

“I appreciate the desire to dress in the color Nick saw her mostly in, but if were June i would never wear red again,” one user wrote.

“I thought it was odd for June to choose those colors deliberately,” another user said. “They’re a family formed in Gilead but I don’t think June would try to symbolize Nick as a commander, herself as ‘Ofnick’ and their daughter as perfect little Gilead-girl.”

“I think it’s more of a sentimental thing and meant to be symbolic of the one good thing that came out of Gilead—her love for Nick and the family they created together,” another user added. “Two pieces of her heart are still in Gilead—Hannah and Nick, so she’s conflicted.”

Elisabeth Moss and Max Minghella sit with a baby while filming a scene for 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Elisabeth Moss and Max Minghella in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ | Sophie Giraud/Hulu

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: How the First Offred Changed Fred, Serena, Nick, and Rita’s Lives Before June’s Arrival

June still wears her ear tag in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 4

Another part of June’s costume is the ear tag Gilead forced onto her. Fans noticed that she was still wearing the tag in Canada. But when she escaped in season 2 and went into hiding for months, she cut the ear tag out immediately in a bloody scene. (She also burned her Handmaid dress in the moments before.) Why wouldn’t she have it removed the first chance she got in Canada? Fans on the Reddit thread debated this as well. One user said:

“She’s still wearing her ear tag, and I think it’s because she’s having a hard time letting go. She had a hard time letting go of her handmaid cloak in Chicago as well. She’s been trying to reconcile the person she was versus the person she became because of gilead, and she won’t be able to completely move on from gilead with part of her family still there.”

Others said it might indicate she doesn’t feel free, and that she fears returning to Gilead. In a separate Reddit thread, some fans theorized she kept it on as proof of the sexual slavery. They believed she would use that in her favor when testifying against the Waterfords in episode 8. That didn’t happen. And the final shot of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 shows June wearing the red coat, the ear tag still in place.

It seems to be a metaphor for June not feeling free as long as Fred Waterford was still alive. So, now that that’s settled, she’ll hopefully ditch the red and the ear tag for good in The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5.