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.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Season 1, Episode 16: Jitterbug Break

Today's story starts off being about responsibility: Denise wants to buy tickets to a concert, but doing so will require her to sleep on the street overnight. If she goes out with her friends, then Theo will have to step up to the plate and babysit Rudy. Rudy needs to be a big girl and eat her vegetables. Vanessa is responsible for briefly bothering the rest of the family and then retreating up the stairs to remain unseen for the rest of the night. Thanks, child labor laws! (Sorry, Tempestt Bledsoe. If it makes you feel better, I enjoy you more in later seasons. I never warm up to Sondra.) Anyway, any semblance of a plot disappears toward the end when Denise's friends arrive at the house at the same time as the couple with whom Cliff and Clair are supposed to go dancing. There's some generic "young kids dance funny" humor that makes Bill Cosby seem like a fossil, and then the older folks get in on the fun with some classier ballroom action. A good time is had by all, and Dancing with the Stars is unintentionally invented.

And now: the clothes.

Observe the teenage male in his natural habitat.

We'll hit Theo up first because he only wears one look and it's mad boring. It's tough to say for certain, but I'm thinking the costume department only bought him one pair of jeans, maybe two. I've complimented their fit and shade before: you're not going to go wrong with a dark, slim denim. If he's only allowed one jean, he should be thankful that it's this one. The green long-sleeved tee is unremarkable to me. I don't mind the color, the fit seems reasonable, it's a good, generic top. He's added a little interest to the gray hoodie by cutting the arms off. It has kind of a Flashdance-for-doodz vibe. Personally, I abhor white athletic socks for any purpose other than actual athletics, but he's a teenage boy, so I can't expect him to go the extra mile there. As for the sneakers, I'm fine with them aesthetically but forever curious about why the Huxtables all wear shoes in the house. You walked the streets of Brooklyn in those! Unclean.

Look at me. Now look at your jazz record. Now back to me.

Cliff starts out the episode not yet ready for the dancing extravaganza, but quickly gets himself in gear. Rather than give him a full costume change, the wardrobe department puts him in dress slacks and a white t-shirt, then upgrades the upper half when the evening hits. It's an economical decision, but one that doesn't make a ton of sense. If it's not time to go out, then you shouldn't be bumming around in your good pants. They're going to get creased and maybe dirty. Leave them hanging in the closet until later. Once he's fully suited, however, I'm impressed. Staying with a simple yet snappy palette, he pulls together the navy and pink smartly by using lots of patterns and contrast. The stripes on his tie, for instance, are actually lines within lines  meta-stripes, if you will  giving the impression of a wider range of colors than actually exists. The diagonal on the tie contrasts with the vertical pink and white pairing on the body of his shirt, but the ensemble remains coherent because the shades match so impeccably. The solid white collar pops out well, bringing focus and brightness to his face and adding a little more interest overall. I can get behind this.

Since this episode, laws have been enacted that prohibit child actors
from wearing more than three pounds of excess bangle.

Vanessa looks gravely worried, and rightly so: this isn't going to go well for her. To begin, she's in a sweatsuit, which is the sartorial means of communicating defeat. While I can't pretend I'm not slightly amused by her decision to wear a turtleneck under her top, I can't really justify the choice, either. She must be sweating bullets under all that warm clothing, and I'm not sure that mauve is the best way to offset the deafening volume of electric blue on display. Her other attempt to break up the monotony fares even worse. Charms dangling from the front of your shirt? Like you're a Christmas tree? Honestly? The concept is so unthinkably terrible that I am forced to wonder if I'm witnessing secret genius. Like, it's so impossible to defend that I have to question whether I'm wrong and she's right, and I'm just not seeing it. Let's get away from this before it damages us psychologically.

Thanks for noticing me... *sigh*

I never talk about Rudy on here, so I thought I'd take a moment to point out that this braid configuration is terrific. I like the hot crossed buns action on top. Also: aren't overalls great? Doesn't she look swell in yellow? There, Rudy, you got a short paragraph all to yourself. Feel the love.

That on the left is known as the Awkwardest Shrug Ever.

Denise wore this shirt/pant combo all the way back in episode two, and the cardigan in episode seven. Discovering that I knew this led to a dark realization. The longer this project continues, the more clothing I will be required to memorize, until eventually I have an unnervingly encyclopedic knowledge of the entire show's wardrobe. I will lose other information to make room for puffy blouses and pleated pants. One day, they will become all I talk about. People will distance themselves from me, recognizing how unhealthy my obsession has become. Soon, this blog will be my only friend. I will be like a crazy cat lady, only instead of felines, I will be surrounded my screencaps of Phylicia Rashad. These are the depths to which I am willing to sink for my readers.

Also, she changed her hair and I'm kind of into it.

I can't even snark in the caption. It's that good.

When she gets ready to go out for the night, she nails it to the friggin' wall. I am deeply in love with this look. The red skirt suit is fun and funky: the color is ballsy, the shiny accents are fun yet still formal, and the long skirt keeps it squarely in evening territory despite the playful nature of the overall styling. She gives a nod to the roaring 20s with the fantastically long string of pearls, but then brings it into the excessive 80s by wearing basically all the jewelry she owns. We've seen her do brooches and cuffs in pearl before, but this is their best application yet, adding to an overall opulent look. Most people would warn against combining pink and red, and I'd often agree with them, but here it just comes off as confident and unexpected. And again, the satiny patterning of the underlying blouse makes it seem somehow adult even when it's surrounded by an almost comical array of strange fashion moments. Like most days, Denise is skating on the thinnest of ice, but she's on the edge of glory in this case, and I am all about it.

Look out, Jennifer Aniston! She's after your husb... oh, never mind. My bad.

I don't have anything else to say about the ensemble, I just wanted you to see how much Angelina Jolie she's serving. (And this is before even Angelina was serving Angelina.)

I'm sure she's just saving her energy for an absolutely incredible dancing dress.

In an adorable costuming moment, Clair starts the episode wearing Cliff's sweater (first shown in episode three). I'm not sure she wears it better than he does. In fact, I know she doesn't. But I like that we see this happen. It subtly shows their closeness as a couple. The rest of her outfit is nothing special: solid black pants, solid salmony top. There's not much to say except that I love Phylicia Rashad endlessly and she'd have to do something exceptionally wrong to get me to speak ill of her.

Do you really want to hurt me, Clair?

Oh, so now you're testing me, huh, Phylicia? No, ma'am. This I will not stand for. Need I remind you that your husband is in a suit? You look like the love child of Patti LaBelle and Charlie Brown. While I like her in yellow, this is all wrong. The oversized tailoring and crazy pattern on her top make it clear that it was designed for a much younger woman; while she looks exceptional for her age (especially considering the age she's intended to be on the show), it's still a borderline choice for her to wear a blouse aimed at the teenage market. Besides, judging by her dance partner's duds, she's going someplace fancy enough that this will be perceived as downright tacky. Poor judgment, Clair. Make a statement some other time. Tonight, go with something classy. You're going to make clowns of yourself and your husband.

This episode also featured a handful of guest stars. I can't give an in-depth recap of the whole group of Denise's friends, but I'll explore the highlights for you.

If you think these still are awkward, you should see these poor souls in motion.

The girl furthest to the right does nothing for me. I hate the patterned shirt, I hate the yellow vest, I hate that almost everyone is wearing black pants. Avert your eyes. The guy next to her is faring a little better. That big cardigan is great, I like the pink shirt with the red tie, and the saddle shoes add some schoolboy realness to the mix. But with all that brown attire, why would you wear black slacks? Brown pants were invented before this, right? The main dancer, the dude in the blue, is trying really hard. For a breakdancer of his era, he looks the part, but by today's standards, he is a joke. Everything is wrong, from the harem pants that suddenly taper just below the knee to the spangly  belt to the oversized blue shirt (with another terrible shirt beneath it)... I'd hand him a Worst Dressed award, but we haven't even gotten to Tuxedo McScrunchie yet.

If pirates hijacked the Good Ship Lollipop.

This is like a scene out of a horror movie for me. I need to get in touch with the producers of this show and verify that each of these items was taken to a separate location and individually burned to a pile of unrecognizable ash. Why? WHY? Fuchsia, red, and lavender mixed together? That's not a fashion statement, that's the recipe for gay cyanide. I'm surprised I haven't taken ill just typing this paragraph. She looks like the bartender at a circuit party thrown by a preschool. Nothing makes sense. Chaos reigns.

How you doin'?

Hey, did you know that Denise is friends with Blair Underwood? He was dreamy even back then. Unfortunately, he didn't know how to buy shirts that fit. Look how puffy! Also, the horizontal crease across the middle leads me to believe that it was folded for a long time. That line is the telltale sign that this garment was put on immediately after it was purchased. Pro tip: wash your clothes after you buy them so that this doesn't happen to you. Also, buy clothes in your size. The green pants are nice (ignoring the pleats, as we must), and I like that camel-colored leather on him. It's not all bad. Also, being handsome helps any look immensely.

Knock knock. Living legends calling.

Now, here's where the real star power comes in. One of the great things about this show is that Bill Cosby was interested in promoting the arts and culture, with a particular focus on work generated within the African American community. These two people, though not immediately recognizable to most, are titans in the dance world. Donald McKayle is a noted choreographer who, in addition to his five Tony nominations, is one of the first black men to break into modern dance choreography successfully. Judith Jamison was, until early this year, the artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; she is held in significant esteem as a dancer and choreographer.

But all I care about is their outfits.

As it turns out, both are spectacular! Mr. McKayle delivers right from the start with that delightful dusty purple overcoat and maroon scarf. The suit underneath is pretty fierce, too. It takes a brave man to match two differing weights of stripe like that, but he does it with panache. I'm also giving a lot of credit for going with the Nehru collar. Way to deviate from the expected! Ms. Jamison starts off in rich bitch mode, which I'm not saying is bad, throwing some largess our way with that abundant fur collar and giant golden necklace. Underneath, she is resplendent in red. The draping of the dress looks a tad awkward when she's just standing, but once she starts to dance, the fabric glides with her with a grace that can't be captured in a blog. Take my word for it. Or, you know, watch the episode. (You're watching these along with me, right?)

Well, that concludes this week's entry. Celebrities, dance-offs, and fashion risks a-go-go. This is why I love the Huxtables with all my heart. Stay tuned, lovelies. 


  1. As an african-american child of the 80's, I rocked the turtleneck and sweatsuit combo myself. I'd ditch the turtleneck at recess.

  2. i would so wear fuchsia, lavender, and red together. totally.

  3. Claire wearing Cliff's cardigan is genius. I have always been borderline obsessed with The Cosby Show, and details like this just push me closer to the edge. Love it.

  4. I went to high school to Tuxedo McScrunchie - be nice.

  5. I just watched this episode. Phylicia Rashad & Debbie Allen are 2 of my youngest daughters mentors, so I love them obviously. Seeing Judith Jamison & Donald McKayle is giving me so much life! Your comments are spot on & make me literally laugh out loud.Thank you for this!