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!
In the town of Riverdale, the cheerleaders have a specific funeral-themed uniform and their duties extend beyond pep rallies for the school team. They also perform an impromptu rendition of “Jailhouse Rock” at a football game being played at the Leopold and Loeb Juvenile Detention Center, Archie’s (K.J. Apa) current residence. Weeks after the Season 3 premiere and I am still finding this name amusing — Leopold and Loeb are real-life killers who tried (and failed) to commit the perfect crime in 1924 and were the inspiration for Rope. This reference is so perfectly Riverdale, particularly after last season’s serial killer homage.
This week’s very special episode goes back to the early ‘90s in a series of flashbacks when Alice (Mädchen Amick), Fred (Luke Perry), F.P. (Skeet Ulrich), Sierra (Robin Givens), Hermione (Marisol Nichols) and Penelope (Nathalie Bolt) were at high school together. It helps for storyline purposes that these characters didn’t make like the Dixie Chicks; instead, they stayed in the same zip code where their parents lived.
“It was junior year. Phones had cords, Winona had Johnny, and everything smelled like teen spirit.” Alice starts her story with some very Riverdale references as she struts down the corridor to an ‘80s soundtrack. Yep, this might be the early ‘90s but the songs are not adhering to these rules. Reinhart’s hair has been freed from the ponytail and straighteners and is indeed “enviable” as her mother’s voiceover notes, part-Madonna, part-Courtney Love with a dash of Mädchen Amick when she was starring in Twin Peaks. And just like Shelly’s tumultuous love life in Twin Peaks, Alice Cooper (née Smith) has pretty terrible taste in dudes, bouncing from F.P. to a quick smooch with vanilla Fred — K.J. Apa is delivering an all-star performance as his dad — followed by the union with future serial killer Hal Cooper (Zachary Hayden).
There is a distinct sartorial difference between what is worn in the flashbacks to what we see in the present day timeline; however, a lot of these early ‘90s looks wouldn’t look out of place in 2018, because this era is in the midst of a comeback. Sure, teen Penelope and Hermione’s spectacle frames are huge, but Penelope’s turtleneck, pinafore dress, and plaid blazer look a lot like some of the best contemporary go-to fall outfits.
Meanwhile, both Perry and Ulrich starred in iconic high school set TV shows and movies in the ‘90s, which is part of why the adult casting on Riverdale is so good. When a young F.P. ditches his Letterman jacket, the light tee is a full homage to Billy Loomis in Scream, right down to the way his hair is styled.
Archie’s mom is already played by Hughes teen icon Molly Ringwald, but the direct link in "The Midnight Club" comes in the form of her former co-star Anthony Michael Hall, who meets a grisly, blue-lipped end as Principle Featherhead.
There is also the full dress up moment when they play G&G in the school at night complete with capes, sparkly bodices, and a very Jughead-looking crown. When we return to the present day, Betty even looks like she has grabbed an outfit from last season’s Carrie episode, as the rainbow Elizabeth and James tee and flared FRAME overalls are very 1970s in appearance.
At the end of her mother's story, Betty learns that either a killer has returned or someone is playing copycat to a crime committed nearly 30 years ago. Everything is referential in Riverdale — whether it is fashion, pop culture, or murder.