What do The Smashing Pumpkins, Sofia Coppola, Bill Murray, and David Lynch have in common? The sartorial wizard that is Nancy Steiner, of course. Having cut her teeth working in a Santa Monica punk rock shop in the early 1980s, Steiner is one of the most prolific costume designers working today. Kurt Cobain’s grandpa sweater? That was her. Gwen Stefani’s little ’40s frock from “Don’t Speak”? Came from Steiner’s closet. The haunting ’70s styles worn in Coppola’s dreamy 1999 take on The Virgin Suicides? Also the work of Steiner. Abigail Breslin’s Little Miss Sunshine leotard? Yep, you have Steiner to thank for that, too. With a resume that ranges from dressing the Red Hot Chili Peppers to fashioning the looks for Lost in Translation, there’s not much Steiner hasn’t done. But her latest project, working on David Lynch’s hotly anticipated Twin Peaks reboot (debuting next year on Showtime) might be her biggest—or, at the very least, most daunting—yet. Here, Steiner talks Lynch’s impenetrable brain, the flawless Audrey Horne, and why old people have the most intriguing outfits.
Katharine K. Zarrella: Let’s start at the beginning. How did you get into costume design?
Nancy Steiner: I studied fashion design at L.A. Trade Tech. But really how I got into costume design was, in the early ’80s, I was working at a punk rock store in Santa Monica and we had a lot of stylists come in for videos and things. Some of them said, “Hey, if you leave here, you should come work for us.” I remembered that when I left, I called a couple people, and I started assisting them on commercial shoots and whatnot. And I liked it. I never really knew about costume design. I never set my sights on that. It just kind of happened.