Illustrations by Blakey Bessire
Twin Peaks, the David Lynch masterpiece that originally aired from 1990 to 1991, is a show crafted around the idea of image. Where do our perceptions of each other diverge from the truth? Where does our perception of ourself become corrupt? The show never really answers these questions, but instead explores the limits of these ideas. It’s spooky, quirky, and there are some damn good outfits.
It’s fascinating to consider why Twin Peaks has continued its cultural resonance 15 years later, particularly in terms of being an active influence on style. There have been capsule collections, knitting patterns, and YouTube beauty tutorials, all dedicated to replicating the lifestyle of a small Washington town with dark and mysterious secrets.
One argument is obvious: the 90’s were a glorious time that Urban Outfitters is presently attempting to market to us all. Norm-core has been written about in the New York Times, so who wouldn’t show their hairdresser a picture of The Log Lady when going in for their next cut?
Yet, I can’t help but feel there’s something more powerful than the cycle of fashion marketing at play here. To put it plainly, the owls are not what they seem.
Beyond serving as norm-core inspiration for the modern folk, the fashion and styling of Twin Peaks is incredibly powerful. Each character has their own distinct look that says just as much as their campy dialog. Everything from Lucy’s scrunchie collection to Donna’s Didion-esque sunglasses is aesthetic pleasure in its purest form. The style of each character is so distilled; everyone is such a pure version of themselves that makes each identity irresistible. Everyone is so acutely unique both in emotion and ugly sweater.
There is also a certain threatening nature in the aesthetic of the show–a power in style that is often forgotten in the modern media world–something lost in a swirl of Zooey Deschanel sundresses. Twin Peaks acknowledges the menacing underworld of suburbia. Though we may not be forced to work at One Eyed Jack’s, something within us relates.
One of the first scenes in the series is of Josie Packard, sitting at her dressing table, painting her lips. We already grasp a sense that she wears a mask; that her passions are self-destructive. We first meet Audrey Horne at school. She steps out of the slick black car and saunters her way through the halls in a pair of slick saddle shoes. Though she quickly swaps the more reserved footwear for a pair of high heels stashed in her locker, there is something about those saddle shoes that stays with you and reveals more than the generic pair of heels.
How we choose to dress is a performance, a costume, and a reflection of our outlook. It’s admittedly quite a bit to translate with various shapes of fabric, but the conclusion if its truth is as simple as looking at how much money the global fashion industry made last year. In television and film, fashion is often used as a tool to reveal more about a character. Oh, they wear a leather jacket–they’re tough. They’re wearing pink–they’re young an innocent. We’re forced into gleaning knowledge about the characters from their stereotypical external characteristics.
In a way, Twin Peaks is the antithesis of that. The styling choices are not an explanation of their personality, but an extension of it. We dress not to say everything, but to say something that can’t be said with words.
Perhaps that’s what inspires us to wear a flannel skirt or unfortunate ruffled blouse. The characters in Twin Peaks weren’t necessarily stylish, but they were honest. There was no attempt to market or flaunt a set aesthetic (unless we’re talking the Miss Twin Peaks Fashion Show, of course). Rather, to dress for the town of Twin Peaks is to dress in a way that is to understand who you really are.