The costume designer behind a creepy new television show says she looked to Gloriavale for inspiration.

The Handmaid's Tale is based on Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel and is earning rave reviews, with a 92 per cent approval rating on Metacritic.

Starring Elisabeth Moss, it is yet to screen in New Zealand, but is available on streaming service Hulu overseas.

The show follows a group of women living in a dystopian future under the Republic of Gilead, a military dictatorship which enslaves women to produce children after a sudden drop in birth rates.

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Elisabeth Moss as Offred in a scene from The Handmaid's Tale.
Elisabeth Moss as Offred in a scene from The Handmaid's Tale.

Most notable is show's dystopian look and feel, with women dressed in red and white cloaks, capes and hoods.

If certain parts of those costumes feel familiar, that's because The Handmaid Tale's costume designer Ane Crabtree has admitted she sought inspiration from real-life "religious and cult groups".

She singled out Gloriavale in the South Island as her main source of inspiration.

"I wanted there to be glimpses of reality in the clothing and to do that I researched religious and cult groups," she told The Muse.

"There's this very interesting New Zealand ... religious group - the Gloriavale Christian Community. They have a very old-world culture, much like Gilead, where women are baking bread and children are dressed quite close to the women of the group."

Dove Love and Watchful Stedfast, members of the Gloriavale Christian Community.
Dove Love and Watchful Stedfast, members of the Gloriavale Christian Community.

Based in Haupiri on the South Island's West Coast, Gloriavale is home to around 90 families who seldom venture outside their community.

It has attracted controversy over strict rules which sees members marrying young, and former members excommunicated by their families and friends.

Several television documentaries have aired over the years showing the day-to-day lives of those living there, with women often doing cooking and cleaning while men do building and labouring work.

Families from the Gloriavale community enjoy a stroll.
Families from the Gloriavale community enjoy a stroll.

Crabtree said she'd used Gloriavale as a starting point for the show's costumes, but it spiralled into something else.

"I might look to Gloriavale, but then it goes off on a whole kid's version of a nightmare."

Elisabeth Moss,left, is draped in a red cloak in a scene from The Handmaid's Tale.
Elisabeth Moss,left, is draped in a red cloak in a scene from The Handmaid's Tale.

The show has had rave reviews, with

The Boston Herald

telling viewers to "clear your schedule for one of the best series of 2017" and

The Lincoln Journal Star

calling it "must-see television".

It has already been renewed for a second season by Hulu.