the most aspirational beauty moments from david lynch's universe

A case for the brightest of blue eyeshadow, à la 'Blue Velvet'.

by Emily Manning
24 March 2017, 6:49pm

To celebrate the opening of David Lynch: Art Life — a new documentary about the iconic director — New York City's IFC Center is screening a series of Lynch's films starting today. All of Lynch's features, plus rarely-seen shorts, will play through April 5. Though his characters have inspired many fashion designers (think Raf Simons's 'Twin Peaks' sweaters, or Creatures of the Wind's live Julee Cruise performance at NYFW) their style is often rather understated. Arguably, beauty plays a more exciting role in Lynch's surreal visions. So we're taking a closer look at five of the director's most memorable hair and makeup moments, from Eraserhead's electrifying locks to Wild at Heart's full-face lipstick.

Henry Spencer's hair-raising horror quiff
Though Lynch has never definitively commented on the meaning of Eraserhead — his debut feature film, which opened 40 years ago last week — many interpret the foreboding piece of cinema through the lenses of urban anxiety and male paranoia. Inspired by Lynch's time living in industrial Philadelphia, the black and white body horror follows Henry Spencer as he copes with having to raise a deformed, disgusting, constantly wailing child. The role was played by Jack Nance, who went on to appear in most of Lynch's subsequent projects (you likely remember him as loveable Twin Peaks crackpot Pete Marnell). As feelings of claustrophobia, panic, and disorientation swell with each of the Eraserhead baby's sobs, you start to understand why Spencer's hair has assumed its lightning-zapped vertical style. Lynch is a steadfast advocate of Transcendental Meditation, yet it seems none of his characters are ever really relaxed and at peace.

Dorothy Vallens's bold blue eyeshadow
Isabella Rossellini was always going to be on this list, but it was a toss up between her brief, mysterious Wild at Heart appearance and her turn as Blue Velvet's nightclub singer. We'll leave the choppy peroxide mop for now, and spend some time on Dorothy Vallens's eyeshadow choices. Despite the Bobby Vinton song she croons, she doesn't actually wear all that much blue velvet — rather, red silk and black lace. Her signature makeup look, however, stays faithful to the film's title. Vallens does a full royal blue lid, which is emphasized by her vibrant red lips. It is a similarly winning formula on the Margiela runway, where Pat McGrath has recently been experimenting with many different kinds of bright blue eyes.

Feyd-Rautha's flame red locks
Before directing the adaptation of Frank Herbert's 1965 sci-fi epic Dune, Lynch was contacted by George Lucas with the opportunity to helm the third Star Wars film, Return of the Jedi. Lynch declined, but it's fun to imagine what his take would have been on the intergalactic icons. Instead of Princess Leia's cinnamon buns, Lynch's cosmic hair moment came courtesy of Dune's flame-headed villain, Feyd-Rautha. Sting plays the cruel nephew to an evil Baron, whose hair looks like a cross between Eurythmics-era Annie Lennox and theHeat Miser (in a good way). Feyd-Rautha's Thierry Mugler-esque corset situation really makes the look.

Marietta Fortune's full-face lipstick
"Whenever you're depressed, just change your hair color," Cookie Mueller once wrote. Whenever you're in the middle of a nervous breakdown because the hitman you secretly hired to track and kill your daughter's boyfriend also killed your sometimes boyfriend, smear cherry red lipstick all over your face. Alright, so Wild at Heart's Marietta Fortune's beauty routine doesn't exactly have the same ring to it. But it's certainly a strong, memorable look. Diane Ladd really commits to this new level of cosmetic craziness, just as her real-life daughter Laura Dern commits to stabbin' and steerin' down the open road as Wild at Heart's leading lady, Lula Pace Fortune.

Lil the Dancer's everything
Despite Twin Peaks's enduring style influence, many of its most iconic characters keep things pretty clean and classic when it comes to clothing and beauty. Even Lynch's own glorious hair is slicked back neatly for his role as FBI Agent Gordon Cole. Things start to get really weird in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, the 1992 prequel-sequel feature film that still divides many of its viewers. In one early scene, Lil — a mysterious dancer — performs a series of bizarre actions for Special Agent Chester Desmond. The "choreography" is actually a covert FBI brief, and each of Lil's movements represents relevant details of a murder case Desmond is investigating. Much like the rest of the ambitious film, a lot of this sequence gets lost in the unconventional translation. Unforgettable, though, is Lil's head-to-toe rose red situation. So much red can make a look feel pretty extreme pretty quickly (see Grace Jones's Vamp character, Divine's Pink Flamingos dress, Jessica Rabbit, Ronald McDonald). But Lil's precisely painted lips, tidy but lively red wig, and simple shift dress keep this moment feeling experimental and fresh without going overboard.

'The Films of David Lynch' screens at New York City's IFC Center through April 6. Tickets and more information here


Text Emily Manning
Still from Blue Velvet via YouTube

Twin Peaks
Blue Velvet
Wild At Heart
Laura Dern
Emily Manning
twin peaks: fire walk with me