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Look of the Week: Twin Peaks serves style nostalgia at the Double R Diner
Welcome back to Look of the Week, celebrating the best in TV and film sartorial excellence, past and present across sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and other genre classics!
Twin Peaks is so ingrained in the pop culture psyche that uttering its name conjures multiple images, whether a black and white chevron floor, smoking in the chicest high school bathroom, or Kyle MacLachlan dressed in a simple black suit and tie while waxing lyrical about a cup of coffee. And what goes well with a damn fine cup of coffee? Obviously, a slice of homemade cherry pie. Food is a big part of the Twin Peaks lore, which has even spawned an unauthorized cookbook (appropriately titled Damn Fine Cherry Pie). Sometimes a tie-in of this kind is tenuous, but in this case, sugary treats are part of the texture: who wouldn't want to make their very own Double R Diner-worthy pie?
Baked goods are consumed with glee and appreciation in this small town by the visiting FBI agents, and we can think of no better way to celebrate Pi Day (March 14) than with a look back at the Double R Diner's leading ladies.
From Audrey Horne's (Sherilyn Fenn) '40s femme fatale style to Josie Packard's (Joan Chen) exquisite masculine-meets-feminine tailoring, the women of Twin Peaks exude sartorial prowess. Even Log Lady (Catherine E. Coulson) with her penchant for pattern clashing knits in pattern earthy tones and large red frame glasses is someone I have emulated in my wardrobe choices. Costume designer Patricia Norris created a definitive aesthetic for each character, marrying mid-century timeless sensibility with grungy '90s flannel and cardigans —the most Pacific Northwest style option. The time warp costumes are perhaps at their most striking in the Double R Diner, which embraces the comfortable familiarity of this type of eatery and the food it serves.
Norma Jennings (Peggy Lipton) and Shelly Johnson (Mädchen Amick) wear the traditional waitress uniform which is instantly recognizable, whether watching the 1945 melodrama Mildred Pierce or current Netflix series I Am Not Okay With This. Regardless of whether it is a contemporary setting or period, this uniform speaks volumes about the location. In Twin Peaks, the aqua and white-accented traditional design are in line with the decor of the Double R Diner, which could easily be a restaurant in 1940 or 2020. Artisanal might be on-trend but an old school diner will always have patrons ready to enjoy the simplicity of the menu.
When Twin Peaks returned in 2017, Norma and Shelly were still in the same style frocks they had worn two decades previous, which shows how little has changed in this small town. To see these characters occupying this space in matching uniforms all these years later is equal parts reassuring and soul-crushing. Norma owns this business (which is being franchised as Norma's Double R) but Shelly is stuck watching her daughter go through the same abusive boyfriend cycle — at least Bobby Briggs turned out to be one of the good ones.
As a town, Twin Peaks is a step out of time, which adds to its off-kilter atmosphere from drinks at the Roadhouse to taking a room at the Great Northern Hotel. The homemade pie and filter coffee don't mesh with the artisanal cafe boom of the last decade, but Norma sticks to her traditional recipe guns in Twin Peaks: The Return. Franchising the Double R provides the source of her conflict in this revival as she wrestles with so-called forward-thinking and the essence of her business.
The waitress uniform isn't a marker of a lack of progress for its owner; rather, it is actually a sign of her resilience and defiance in the face of men who try to trample over her dream — and even her identity. Furthermore, a waitress uniform is now viewed as representing a bygone era that no longer exists (and maybe never did), but it wasn't always seen as something potentially regressive.
A historical look back at this garment by Restaurant-ing Through History reveals that not only did women wear this matching uniform for practical reasons, but also legitimacy. In 1966, diner chain Howard Johnson's teamed up with iconic fashion house Christian Dior in a bid to inject some glamor into the traditional uniform. Four different options were created, and the final choice was a pretty traditional design. The blue and white houndstooth pattern added a fresh take, but even with a high-end brand behind the redesign, they made sure not to break the wheel. It is a cute (and expensive) bit of PR that proved the original look didn't need altering.
Designer brand or not, in Twin Peaks it is impossible to de-glam Peggy Lipton and Mädchen Amick. Shelly adds her own touch of youthful accessorizing to her look with funky costume jewelry, red lipstick, and a strong brow. Thankfully, there isn't a push toward making this uniform overtly sexy. You are just as likely to see Norma, Shelly and later Heather Graham as Annie Blackburn wearing a cozy cardigan over the top of their uniform — even while serving. Adding a homeliness to an already welcoming environment, this is the kind of costuming detail that separates a good designer from a great one.
In the revival, Norma's burgundy knit thrown over her uniform resembles the one Annie wore in Season 2. The timelessness of this environment is emphasized in this costume choice by Return designer Nancy Steiner after Norris died in 2015. And the bond between the two women is underscored in this image from Part 5.
Of course, they wear the same outfit because it is their uniform, but their unity extends beyond employer/employee obligation. Over the three seasons, this is one of the strongest relationships.
Shelly's off-duty look includes throwing a flannel over her uniform, which is ideal for the location and the 1990 air date — and is also on-trend 30 years later. She tries the business look in a plaid jacket with a chiffon blouse underneath, a blouse that features in the pie-heavy scene diner scene with hard of hearing FBI Regional Bureau Chief Gordon Cole (David Lynch). Earlier in Season 2, Gordon realizes he can hear Shelly perfectly. When he quips this is a miracle, the Log Lady informs him "this cherry pie is a miracle," but he can't hear this very accurate description — he does plan on writing an epic poem about the pie though.
When Gordon has a diner date with Shelly in "Variations and Relations," she wears the sheer blouse with the lace front detail from earlier in the season paired with a black cami and denim mini skirt for maximum early '90s effect. To Gordon, the pie and Shelly are a miracle. She thinks she is just a waitress, but she's much more than that.
The uniform doesn't define either Shelly or Norma, but the Double R Diner is a beacon in the darkness that has enveloped the town of Twin Peaks. The retro design offers up the same level of comfort as a cup of coffee or slice of pie, all of which are damn fine!