I find myself wondering which color I’d choose. The red satin looks a little Catholic Cardinal for my taste. (I almost said “too tacky”. Ha!) And although the grey version is an appropriate nod to the Confederacy, I’d probably go with iconic white. Please note the harmless symbol of southern heritage on the arms.
Meet the KKK’s seamstress of hate couture. Photo Essay by Anthony Karen
Ms. Ruth is a 57-year-old tailor who lives in the Deep South. She makes ceremonial Ku Klux Klan robes and comes from five generations of the Klan. This is pre-cut cardboard outline for one of her Ku Klux Klan hoods.
Ms. Ruth at her work station at home, sitting in front of her computer and a sewing machine.
The beginning stages of a new hood in white, a traditional Klan robe color.
Ms. Ruth personally sews one robe a day. She works 10 to 12 hours a day, seven days a week. She has 1 to 3 helpers at times. The person to be fitted measures themselves, fills out the tailoring chart, and mails in the order. It takes 4 to 6 weeks for delivery. Here she puts the final touches on a red Klan hood.
A Louisiana Ku Klux Klan patch on one of Ms. Ruth’s new white robes. Ms. Ruth works in the background.
Ms. Ruth changes her daughter’s IV fluids. “They said she wouldn’t live for more than three months. I refused to leave her in the hospital, so I took her home.” Caring for her daughter Lilbit is a full time job. Ms. Ruth rarely leaves the house; she spends most of her time sewing and taking care of her daughter and her animals.
Ms. Ruth’s husband has just returned from the Sunday flea market, where he rents a booth to sell white pride merchandise. Ms. Ruth fills him in on the events of the day, including the temporary escape of several pets.
There aren’t many people making traditional ceremonial Klan robes these days. As far as quality is concerned, Ms. Ruth stands alone. All of her robes and hoods are custom made by hand.
Sue (right), checks the fit of a red satin robe made for an Exalted Cyclops of the KKK, while Ms. Ruth takes a cigarette break in the background.
The traditional Klan robe is white, although over time, many groups have adopted their own color system. Robes may also have stripes. They can be any color, depending on the group and its policies. Robes come in satin or cotton. Good quality custom cotton robes sell for $105 to $115; satin robes cost between $110 and $140.
Ms. Ruth blesses each robe before sending them off. Here, she is holding a new, red satin robe against her chest as she blesses it.
Ms. Ruth holds a new robe close to her as she blesses it before sending the robe off to the customer.
Ms. Ruth folds a newly completed gray robe. After it is blessed, the robe will be shipped directly to the customer.
In the middle of preparing dinner for her family, Ms. Ruth gets interrupted by a phone call requesting information on the various ceremonial robe colors. Between phone calls, sewing, and caring for her daughter and all of her animals, it’s “Just another day at the zoo,” she says. A picture of Nathan Bedford Forrest, one of the founders of the KKK, is displayed in the living room just outside the kitchen.
A young child wears a new white Klan robe made by Ms. Ruth.