A Canadian gal from small town Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Shelly Tambo somehow winds up in Cicely, Alaska. A former beauty queen, she inspires the devotion of men, and finds herself being the almost-wife of the local tavern owner, Holling (while much is made of their age difference, the relationship is surprisingly normal). She is among the youngest of the characters we meet on Northern Exposure, and her character combines both the naiveté of youth and quite an astonishing depth of human understanding.
Many times on the show, Shelly’s lack of intellect is played up, but what she lacks in book smarts she makes up in a kind of wisdom that surprises us, and in her sometimes odd way of looking at the world.
Out of all the characters on the show, Shelly is by far the most fashion-conscious. She can wear anything, and just about does (getting away with some hideous combinations, we might add). Yet with all her focus on her appearance Shelly never seems superficial or high maintenance. The show’s Costume Designer, Katherine Bentley, says in an E! special about the show (circa 1992), says of Shelly, ” I have a lot of fun with Shelly, ’cause she’s so out there…I can do anything I want with her character and I like that.”
Much emphasis is placed on Shelly’s body, and she plays up her figure in most of what she wears. She dresses in jeans, leggings, and miniskirts, all of which are worn to show off her curves and legs. She favours form-fitting clothes, but interestingly, she is nearly almost always covered up. There is something very innocent about Shelly (she is a good Catholic, after all), and her wardrobe incorporates this quality in its modesty.
Of course, Shelly’s tastes are wild and often questionable. She mixes up prints (flower, fruit, animal and everything in-between), and piles them on on top of each other. Strangely enough, she pulls it all off with confidence. Her colours veer toward the feminine side, with lots of pinks and purples. Rarely have we seen her in drab, dull colours.
The Jackets and Coats
Like the other characters on the show, Shelly has a real wardrobe that she wears over and over again. In particular, Shelly wears distinctive jackets and coats that we see again and again.
The white jean jacket:
Later, Shelly prefers the fringed suede jacket:
In the winter, Shelly opts for a distinctive white fur coat with a red and black flowered lining:
While Shelly mostly wears fashionable, trendy clothes, we often see her dress down in oversized sweatshirts, flannel shirts (usually Holling’s), and garish bathrobes.
For special occasions, Shelly usually goes over the top with ruffles and lace. Her tastes are very traditionally feminine.
Shelly also has a penchant for poofy hair:
Of course, we can’t talk about Shelly’s style without talking about her ever-changing earrings. She loves her accessories and wears a lot of strange-looking and unique earrings. Interestingly, often her choice of earrings will reflect the story for that episode. Here is merely a sample:
Shelly’s style is at once eclectic, adorable, feminine, and a little bit crazy. She is the one character that is most daring in what she wears. We often see her change her hairstyle and look in contrast with most of the characters of the show who maintain a consistent look, and she is often the most brightly dressed person in the whole room.
We adore Shelly. She is often really funny without even meaning to be, and she makes everyone around her think. The things she says often seem to come out of left field but they often induce a chuckle or two.
She is definitely the only person we can think of who can look good in clashing clothes and layers upon layers of flower/fruit/animal print.