If this is your first time here, I recommend starting from the first episode and working your way forward. Of course, that's entirely your call.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Season 1, Episode 11: You're Not A Mother Night

This episode is all about Clair in so many ways. From a literal perspective, she is the center of the plot: overwhelmed by her dual roles as attentive mother and litigator extraordinaire, she is treated by her husband to a night at a hotel, where she will be wined, dined, and relieved of all responsibilities. From a personal perspective, I see this episode as about her because I see all episodes as being about her. As a self-appointed fashion expert on the internet, I identify her as the main event because, well, just look. 

The lunchbox is not an accessory.

Get ready to gaze upon this outfit for a while, because I took about a million screencaps. I love it love it love it. Where to begin? First off, that color is magnificent, and with the long skirt and full-length sleeves, there's just so much of it. It's not gray, it's gunmetal. That all-encompassing deep platinum suggests armor, or perhaps weaponry. She is ready for battle. Getting closer, we can take some time to appreciate the glorious pattern on top. It's not quite a plaid or a checker, just a system of crossing stripes. The hint of pale blue is breathtaking. The top also has a neckline that I deeply appreciate: though high, it's not overly conservative or dull. This whole thing just reeks of good taste. Let's check a couple other details.

I love RoboClair. No way to control it, baby it's automatic.

The buttons on the back and the large locket, combined with the coverage and the cut of the sleeve, give this a slightly Victorian feel. She's melding old and new in a manner that is both elegant and daring. Also, check that asymmetrical slash of purple and blue across the waist. You're on a roll, Mrs. Huxtable. 

Rudy knows how to make sassy hues work for her. 

The fit is just perfect: slim enough to highlight her figure, but still loose enough to wear in an office environment. She's letting you know that she's completely bodacious without flaunting it. Rudy's sweater is also a stunner; more from her later. Before we get there, Clair needs to let you know that she's not all business.

She should have starred in a "Wonder Woman" movie in the '80s. No, really.

Do you see how high the slit in that skirt goes? I noticed right away that it existed, but I just about fell out of my chair when she ran across the living room and gave me a surprisingly complete look at the inside of her left leg. This woman has officially thrown down the gauntlet: I'm not sure that we'll see a better ensemble for the rest of the season. I'm so, so happy. Moments like this make life worth blogging.

She's not done yet, though. What, you might ask, does a woman of such grace and style wear for her evening out?

Oh no she did not.

Oh yes she did.

I'm going to start by easing any worries you might have about that giant bag. She does not have an enormous purse; she's staying overnight at a hotel, remember? In the second shot, you can see the perfect little clutch that she brings to dinner. Now, let's talk about everything else she did right. There's so much! Look at the confidence of that pink. It's so rich and vibrant, and there's a ton of it, and she's just luxuriating in it. The cooler purple isn't exactly a neutral, either. It's like cutting Campari with vodka: they're both going to take your senses for a wild ride. The dress itself is a work of art. The cut is deceivingly simple; it almost looks like she just grabbed a sheet and wrapped herself in it, and yet it's actually two matching pieces. The complex draping is doing everything for her. The way the back cascades down like a cape is unbearably glamorous. A pairing of shades like this would look tacky in a simple cocktail dress, but when you tornado the fabric around yourself, you let everyone know that they are in the presence of a queen. In terms of accessories, she's serving opulence: gold, gold, gold, from the hair clip to the earrings to the great big necklace to the shoes. I will say that it's a little less delicious once the top piece comes off.

"I must have misheard you. Was that a critique?"

Sorry, Clair, I just think there's too much pink shoulder pad and not enough billowy brilliance. No need to get defensive. I'm going to jump forward and skip the bedroom scene, not because it's NSFW but because they wear pajamas, and we're not talking about pajamas here. Instead, let's review the coming-home-to-motherhood attire.

"Don't listen to him, Rudy. Mommy will always look good in shoulder pads."

Given the dizzy heights she reached with her last two looks, it'd be difficult not to let us down a little with her everyday wear. The trend of lousy coats continues here with this overly wide fuchsia number. It's not terrible, but the cut isn't great, and the hue doesn't really complement the purple (surprise) shirt underneath it. I'm also worried about that skirt. We never get to see exactly where her waist is, but I feel like it's a little high, which is weird since it's also a little long, and maybe a little too full. There's slightly more garment than there should be in every direction. The scarf has something going for it; letting it hang long over her shoulder like that says "movie star fantasy," especially when we zoom in on the detail.

Her I-shouldn't-laugh-but-can't-stop-myself face is my favorite.

That's right: it's a multicolored alligator print. No foolin'. I'm not sure it belongs with the other pieces, but then again nothing here really goes together. This whole look should be disassembled and only worn separately in the future. But nice try, Clair. I know how it goes when you pack in a hurry and then you get there and you're like, "why did I only bring jogging shorts, a tuxedo shirt, and a lime green poncho?" 

Happy colors, sad face.

Cliff starts the episode out alright. Normally I'd throw a lot of shade about the suspenders almost matching the polo, but I think there's just enough contrast that it works. The trousers are riding a little high (and the pleats just won't leave me be), but this is a decent showing. There's something compelling about everything being light. The constricted tonal range pleases me.

Teach us an important lesson about earth tones.

That little flash of pink at the bottom near the center (not the chair behind him, clearly) is Clair. In other words, when she dressed for dinner, he put on a coat. For a moment, I was supremely worried that he was going to wear this for their night out. Underwhelming, right? We've seen this before: khaki pants with a tan coat. Beige-a-palooza! Luckily, Cliff would never do that to his lovely wife.

"Why does everyone keep asking me who died?"

He never stands up, but I'm sure we're looking at a full suit here. This is not a slacks-and-blazer scenario. I'm not enamored with the so-blue-it's-black jacket paired with a simple white shirt and navy tie. I realize that he's prioritizing formality, but the look ends up being boring as a result. The occasional flourishes aren't working for me, either. The stripes on the shirt that don't extend to the collar, for instance: not right. I'm all for a contrasting collar, but it really only fits when the rest of the material is bolder in color or pattern. You can do this with solid pink and white, or checkers and white, but not pinstripes and white. The red emblems on the tie aren't great, either. The handkerchief in the pocket was a step in the right direction, but he missed his one chance to incorporate a catchy color. This suit puts me to sleep. 

Doctors are trained not to show signs of overt stress.

This wakes me right back up, and not just because he's making a crazy monster face. He's wearing the same blazer from yesterday, but the closer shot reveals that it's pleasingly textured. Ignore the cap, because it's almost matching the jacket, and I'm at my wit's end with that nonsense. Focus instead on the sweater, which is just right: great combination of rich greens on that bright yellow, and creative use of argyle by refining it to a single stripe down the center. The hint of salmon collar peeking out is the fashion equivalent of a wink: it says, "oh yes, I'm having fun with this." And so are we.

Now for the children. I had some trouble capturing images of them because they're not around a lot, and when they are, they're moving. On top of that, the picture was a little blurry for parts of this episode. While I'm tempted to blame Netflix, it seemed that the issue was actually with the episode itself, as though it were filmed with two cameras of different quality levels. Anyhow, until someone buys me the whole collection on DVD, this is as good as it's going to get. You'll get the idea.

Stoop parties are the best parties.

Denise begins the episode wearing an outfit we barely get to see. It's sort of a huge dark pink shawl/shirt over a white turtleneck with lighter pink pants or leggings underneath, from what I can tell. It's probably suitable if unremarkable. No, that's not true at all: it's weird and I'd either adore it or despise it, but since I can't tell for sure, I'm not going to needlessly speculate. Still, I'm obsessive and thus can't let clothing go by as if it didn't happen.

She and her band are going to ruin Jem once and for all.

Poor Denise. She's all set to go out dancing, and her father forces her to stay home and babysit instead. Unfair. And on top of it, I'm going to question her fashion sense again. Since I'm a nice guy, I'll search for some positives first. I can support the silhouette of the dress: the tight bodice that opens into an explosion of tulle is interesting. But she's trying so hard with this one that my screen is practically sweating. The painter's dropcloth pattern of the dress itself is loud enough without three different shades of contrasting fabric shooting out beneath it. Then she pushes even further by adding that squiggly coat with the short sleeves, which isn't terrible but still adds one more epilepsy trigger to an already messy situation. The jacket needs to go entirely, as does the crap bandaging her wrist. Everything else needs to take three giant steps back. You're not stranded on a desert island trying to attract the attention of low-flying planes. We all see you.

When John Goodman is getting rid of old clothes, she gets a call.

When she next appears, she's wearing defeat. Oddly, I'm drawn to this look. My head says that the gargantuan plaid shirt is dumpy, but my heart accepts it. Something about the palette and brazen horizontality of the pattern, I don't know. The jeans could be better; they're too short and there's a lot of drawstring (I think that's a drawstring) going on. But after the countless times she's carted out overworked creations that hurt my eyes, she's maybe just lulling me into a false sense of security with this comparatively simple presentation.

Basketball is not typically played sitting down, champ.

Sports jerseys should be reserved for sporting events in which you are a participant. Conversely, if you plan to participate in a sporting event, do not wear your largest watch. This is all terrible.

Vanessa's tough to caption because I legitimately don't care about her.

Vanessa brings out last week's skirt, but it looks better in new surroundings. The cerulean tights are especially well chosen, but I also admire her blouse. The color is refined and the pattern is subtle but effective. She's maybe slightly off-base with that bow, but it's not as bad as it could be. I'm prepared to voice tepid support for this outfit.

When it's right, it's right.

Rudy has to deviate significantly from the norm to get mentioned, so if you see a picture of her, it's typically because she's either nailing it to the wall (in a good way) or hammering it to death (not in a good way). Here, we have an example of the former. Those britches with the knee socks are so fun for a child her age. Since she's being pretty daring with her styling, she wisely opts for neutral colors with only hints of flair in the greens and yellows around the neck. Her hair accessories are my favorite, though: purple roller skate barrettes? Yes, please. A small part of me wonders if a present-day adult female could rock this look, including the hair clips. I kind of think it's possible.

"Your mother leaves for one day and you all forget how to dress yourselves?"

All the kids get a brief second appearance at the end of the episode, but they don't get a lot of individual screen time, so I'll just evaluate them quickly as a group. Denise sometimes wins me over with her love of volume, but I'm unconvinced by this blobby shirt. The fire-engine red was smartly selected, but the cut is a problem. Her pants are close to good, but the flecks of color look like television static or confetti or something. Taking chances is fun, but you can't win 'em all, especially when you're a teenager in the '80s. 

Theo is also homing in on stylishness without actually arriving there. The muted shades look nice on him, but rather than suggesting a vest, why not just wear a vest? It's fine, but could have been great if he'd thought a little harder.

Vanessa secretly invented the Snuggie. She looks preposterous and I hate everything about her fleece smock. I knew I would from the second she walked through the door.

This is a test shot of Leia and Han from the unreleased blaxploitation remake of "Star Wars."

Her face is a rictus of despair. At least the belt is simple and nice, but really, who thought the rest of that would fly? I hope there were pink slips a-flyin' in the costume shop after this aired.

There's only one person left now.

Meet the lady.

Cliff saw a patient in this episode. Again, I'm including her only because I have a mania about thoroughness. She's bountifully pregnant, and while this dress looks terrible, the designer maternity phenomenon hadn't really hit when this aired, so I'm making allowances. It's all wrong, but it's alright.

Well, another one bites the dust. Join me next week for episode twelve, which will mark the halfway point of the first season. Milestones like that make a compulsive shut-in like me feel so accomplished!


  1. Oh my god, this is amazing. That purple shirt and suspenders. So good. Thanks!

  2. This is a test shot of Leia and Han from the unreleased blaxploitation remake of "Star Wars." that made my stomach hurt. ha ha ha ha ha ha

  3. Loved this! Found this blog after being captured by the fashions in this episode (including Clair's silk nightie with matching 3/4 sleeve jacket, with this gorgeous lace trim!). Great read.

  4. As always I will offer my highlights on your commentary:She's letting you know that she's completely bodacious without flaunting it.

    2nd: Do you see how high the slit in that skirt goes? I noticed right away that it existed, but I just about fell out of my chair when she ran across the living room and gave me a surprisingly complete look at the inside of her left leg. This woman has officially thrown down the gauntlet:

    3rd: It's like cutting Campari with vodka: they're both going to take your senses for a wild ride. The dress itself is a work of art.

  5. Denise really was rocking that dress for that time though, I think Cindy Lauper when I see that dress!