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Costume as Character in Twin Peaks

Iconic is a word that gets thrown around a lot when it comes to Twin Peaks. Its timeless charm can be linked to many aspects: the Lynch/Frost-penned quirky dialogue, the splurge-worthy diner food, the atmospheric filming locations in Washington state, or Angelo Badalamenti’s haunting score. 

But a big draw then and especially now—in this day and age of the hipster—is the costumes. Think I’m overreaching? In 2014, The Cut ranked every sweater ever seen in the show. Be it town member or a Black Lodge spirit, Twin Peaks has been inspiring fashion editorials since it aired. I can remember coming across a Twin Peaks-inspired fashion shoot in an old issue of Sassy magazine and it played into my long-term obsession with cardigan sweaters. In recent years, both Refinery 29 and Vogue have done deep dives on how to dress like you’re spending Friday night at the Double R Diner, but there’s more to the story than that.

Audrey horne shoes

Americana and the Otherworldly

On the surface, the fashion choices feel familiar or even comforting. (It’s always sweater weather in Twin Peaks.) And even though it was the early ’90s, Lynch’s penchant for the 1950s America is interwoven through the citizens of Twin Peaks. It’s in the robin’s egg blue waitress dresses, Audrey’s saddle shoes, Laura’s plaid skirts and homecoming crown, and the Log Lady’s acorn brooch. In The Return, we’d see Diane’s love of leopard print and carved bangle bracelets. (Later, when she’s back to herself, she still wears bangles, but her color palette mirrors that of the Black Lodge that Cooper has finally left.) These choices are all deliberate—by Lynch and the costume designers—and the result is equal parts timeless and time warp. (I’m old enough to remember the 1950s retro-hysteria of the early 1990s and wanting a poodle skirt and sweater set and my mother sort of just looking at me and making note I was probably born in the wrong era altogether. Now I’ve lived long enough to see everything I wore in the 1990s come back into style and I understand. Sorry, Mom.) 

Laura Palmer laughs while Special Agent Dale Cooper watches in Fire Walk With Me.

It also feels like the rules of time don’t apply in the Black or White Lodges—but the rules of high fashion do, and the spirits are best dressed. Take Señorita Dido in all her sequined finery or the Man from Another Place in his red dress suit. In the spiritual worlds between heaven and hell, you’d better be in your Sunday best. Both Laura and Maddie wear black dresses that feel both like shrouds and femme fatale finery. (Elle and others have also used the Lodges as a setting for couture-forward spreads.) There are also the spirits and odd characters that dwell outside the Lodges, like Mrs. Tremond’s grandson with his strange white mask or Phillip Jeffries in his slightly white pantsuit paired with a garish shirt and red shoes (so he can dance the blues?) Jeffries doesn’t look a damn thing like any of the other FBI agents. I’m still well pleased that Lynch literally turned the character into a tin machine of sorts.

Clues and Mysteries

Bits of wardrobe also lend themselves to further the plotlines of Twin Peaks. The most obvious are Laura’s broken heart necklace (given to her by James and found at the crime scene) and the Owl Cave ring (with its mystical powers that protected Laura from BOB—even though it meant her death). Garments can have their own power as well. Remember how Laura freaked out when Donna was wearing her stuff in Fire Walk With Me? Well, after her death, her worst nightmare comes true. Donna swipes her shades (and one of her boyfriends) and does her best bad girl impression. And don’t forget his mother’s sister’s girl, Lil, in Fire Walk With Me, with her custom made (and coded) red dress complete with blue rose. And while I am in no way suggesting that plastic is clothing, many a girl has wrapped herself in plastic for a Halloween party. But the more and more I look at that image of Laura, the more I see her as a blue rose (and maybe that’s what Lynch was going for all along). There’s also Carrie Page’s upside-down horseshoe pendant in The Return. While horseshoes are typically a sign of good luck, an upside-down one could also mean you’re letting your luck slip away, which seems to be a theme in Carrie (and Laura’s) life, while also tying into the white horse of Sarah Palmer’s dreams and the horse that Laura had as a child.

Donna wears Laura's sunglasses while smoking a cigarette in Twin Peaks

There’s more if you keep digging. A few years ago, I threw together a Black Lodge Laura cosplay for a con where Sheryl Lee and Sherilynn Fenn were set to appear. When I cosplay, I’m typically drawn in by retro elements and also feel some sort of emotional connection to the character I’m dressing up as. I was set on doing Black Lodge Laura from the end of Fire Walk with Me because, for the longest time, that was the end of Laura’s story and she was finally at peace. (I also loved how they curled her hair/wig, deepening the femme fatale vibes and old Hollywood glamour.) Most of the costume elements were easy to find. I had a black velvet dress that would do; I ordered a wig I could fuss with. 

But it was the brooch that kept throwing me for a loop. Not only does it change between series, but its last incarnation in The Return is also a dragon. While other theorists have counted the number of stones and tied the green color to the Owl Cave ring and the Great Northern key fob, I was most taken with the idea of the brooch being a serpent. In Victorian times, snakes were a symbol of eternity (see Queen Victoria’s engagement band, which was popular at the time). If you push that idea further, there’s also the ouroboros, which represents life, death, and rebirth. All are themes explored in Twin Peaks, so I wouldn’t put it past Lynch to hide a clue in plain sight. 

Well, I’m here to tell you that style of dragon brooch is true dead stock and hard to find (and fetch a pretty penny). I did the best I could and found something in a similar shape and would photograph well. (That’s really what cosplay is. It’s Googling odd things in the middle of the night.) It all paid off, and I got the best response I could have expected. When I walked up for my photo op, Sherilynn Fenn literally screamed out to Sheryl “It’s like looking in a mirror!” and I was thrilled I had met them both in street clothes the day before because I felt like I was melting into the carpet. I remember exiting the photo area and people whispering over my cosplay. I’d nailed it. And again, that’s really what cosplay is, in its purest form—it’s an homage. And to give homage to David Lynch and Laura Palmer was a great moment for me even if I never don it again (and I have a great cocktail dress I can wear, too.) 

People are drawn to the Twin Peaks mythos for all sorts of reasons, and whenever another fashion editorial pops up, I’m never surprised. The costumes are nostalgic and campy bordering on—yes–iconic (that striped sweater Billy Zane wears as John Justice Wheeler is burned into my actual brain cells.) 

John Justice Wheeler stares at the ground deep in thought

Until next time, I’ll see you in 25 years…in the vintage sweater section.


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Written by Rachel Stewart

Rachel Stewart is a staff writer at 25YL. She has written fandom commentary and critique for sites like The Sartorial Geek, FangirlConfessions.com, Nerdy Minds Magazine, and ESO Network, among others. Her work has also appeared in the print anthology “Children of Time: The Companions of Doctor Who.”

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