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.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Season 1, Episode 22: Slumber Party

This is one of the episodes that I have remembered since I was just a child, probably because it's so youth-focused that it opens with Keshia Knight Pulliam informing the audience members specifically that this show will be directed at the kids watching. It's a really adorable twenty-odd minutes of television. Each of the tots is cuter than the last, and many of them have special talents like singing a rhyme or being the roundest little boy you have ever seen. Bill Cosby has a natural gift for interactions with the young'uns, too. It was interesting to watch the level of physical contact he had with the kids; I feel like some of his actions (in particular, the playful slap on the behind he gives to each of the children after the pony ride game) would have been avoided in a modern taping of the same story. But that's an examination for a different day.

The problem with a show about a slumber party is that it's really low on fashionable choices. Observe.

... as in My but this Moutfit is Muninteresting.

See? Theo throws down an ensemble that is completely unworthy of any attention whatsoever. He's been wearing those jeans, or ones just like them, for months now. Other than that, he's got a sweatshirt. Sure, I could waste your time with examinations of the interplay between the black and red, or the placement of the logo, or his jaunty choice to roll up his sleeves (because that's unexpected), but the truth is that this is one of the dullest arrangements of clothing I can think of, and I don't want to validate it with further attention.

The polychromatic heavens weep at your fashion missteps.

Vanessa's sweater here marks the beginning of a trend that will continue occasionally throughout the show: hand-me-downs. This Lucky Charms knit first showed up in episode 6 on Denise, and it wasn't any better back then, let me tell you. The look is too young for either of these girls; it would make sense on Rudy, maybe, but that's about where I draw the line. At least she's trying to spruce it up with the yellow turtleneck, but I'm still not convinced. She should also rethink the denim fisherman's coat, which makes her look like a dock worker in a Gap commercial.

Eventually, she'll wear only togas before entirely abandoning cloth for chrome and plastic.

I wish Denise had hung around a little longer so we could have figured out what was buried beneath this coat. As it stands, I can't even tell exactly what's happening with these layers. The jacket seems to have some sort of dark, patterned collar, and then the shirt underneath is also partially khaki, creating this weird optical illusion where you can't tell where one garment ends and the next begins. Thank goodness for that pink undershirt, mostly because I can tell exactly what it is. That giant scarf also deserves mention. It's so big that it barely looks like clothes. It's as if she decided to wear a throw rug or a bed sham or something. But the colors and patterns are so fabulous that I refuse to deny her the right to put it on her body, even if it used to cover a whole couch. Down in the corner there, you can see her old standby plaid pants, most recently carted out in episode 20. She wore them with a plain, light-colored jacket last time as well; maybe this is how the costume department throws some sass into her wardrobe when her top half is obscured? It's not the worst choice they could make.

I hate that thing around her neck so much.

This red top first appeared way back in episode 4, when Clair paired it with black pants instead of a black skirt. It retains its magical ability to distort the body wildly depending on the angle from which it is viewed. There are more flattering options for her. The skirt is nice, but I wonder if they hid the hem on purpose. We only see its length for a brief second in a panning shot:

Hopefully, she's planning on donning some epic legwarmers before going out.

Really, Clair? The rest of your family is dressed for cold. Vanessa has on two sweaters! You're not even going to wear stockings?! You could die of hypothermia. Your legs are lovely, but safety first. Don't leave five children without a mother.

"Rudy, are you ever sad that no one blogs about you?"

Cliff wears this, which is even duller than Theo's outfit. Even Rudy's outdoing him. Looks like we'll have to turn to the older generation for some wisdom.

A master class in class.

Earle Hyman makes another triumphant guest appearance as the dapper Russell Huxtable. Part of his fashion success might stem from the fact that we have yet to see Grandpa in his own home; since he's always out, he never gets to fall back on pajamas and loungewear like the rest of his family. As usual, getting out of the house is closely correlated with sartorial success in this show.

Getting down to the specifics of his decisions here, I love his consistently austere palette. The pastels above paired with the rich brown of his trousers give an overall warm and inviting look that retains some real elegance. Going for subtlety in the v-neck sweater, he keeps the tonal range pretty narrow while throwing in a tad of fun with the diagonal checker pattern. I wouldn't personally go out in this because I think it reads a little old, but that's kind of the point: he's dressed well for a man his age without looking like he's trying to skew younger.

OK, one more thing before we go, because this blew my mind. Which of these children grew up to be famous?

One of them is a million-dollar bill.

And no, I'm not talking about the Huxtable children, who are famous because of the show. I mean which of these guest stars later made it big? I'll give you a hint.

You don't know her name.

Who is that little girl?

Alicia Keys.

No, but for real.

I'll close on that note, because I have nothing else to say. See you next week, when we get to see a setup for a spin-off that never came to fruition. It's really weird in hindsight watching the producers and writers and actors trying so hard to make "fetch" happen when we all know that this fledgling sitcom completely never got made, or maybe even mentioned again.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Season 1, Episode 21: The Younger Woman

This show has so many episodes, I can't even believe it. Sorry, lovelies, but I'm in recovery after a debilitating migraine, so my dial might be set a little further toward "bitchy" than usual. I'll try to keep the tone bouncy and lively, but secretly I'm wishing that half of the Huxtable children had perished in the previous episode just so I wouldn't have to review them today. (I won't say which half.)

Anyhow, this week a colleague comes over for dinner so that Cliff and Clair can meet his new lady friend. Before this meeting, arguments ensue in the Huxtable household over whether Cliff would, should, or could remarry following Clair's demise. When Dr. Newcomb shows up, his woman companion turns out to be close to Sondra's age. This is simultaneously distressing and hilarious to his hosts. The episode is thin on plot, but hopefully huge on fashion! Follow me, my children.

I bet that bed is so damn comfortable.

This is what Cliff serves up first, and it's not awful. The khakis are standard for him; I don't want to say the p word, so let's just say there's some front-bunch. In terms of the shirt, I'm not mad at it. The color scheme is nice; the amethyst and aqua offset each other much better than one might anticipate. I'm not hugely in favor of chunky vertical stripes overall, so I might have gone with a different way of juxtaposing those hues if I had designed this textile, but I didn't design this textile because I was a toddler when this shirt was made, so there you have it.

I feel less bad using the small print to point out how bulbous he looks.

After napping and changing, he delivers this little number, which I'm equally ambivalent about. The maroon is nice, and I like that the sweater has a cable knit to it to add a little variance. Those taupe trousers are my favorite pair; they're less common than the tan and black ones everyone else carts out all the time. The collar leaves me with questions about the rest of that shirt. It seems to be a sort of strange hue; something about its closeness to the deep red gives it the illusion of a greener cast than it probably has on its own. It also seems like the striping is strangely infrequent: I feel like there shouldn't be so much distance between them that we can only fit one on the collar. It must look way sparse, no?

You're probably wondering why Cliff was in bed in that earlier image. Well, that's because he got home at 3:07 in the morning, and he was greeting his wife.

Waking people before 9:00am usually gets you whatever the opposite of this is.

3:07 in the morning. Hell, if I met a woman that looked this good when someone jolted her awake at an unwholesome hour, I'd marry her, too. Which is really saying something, seeing as I'm gay. Which you knew because I maintain a blog about the clothes on The Cosby Show.

Seriously. Wonder Woman movie. This should have happened.

Everyone else wears only one outfit in this episode, because it would be impossible to spread this thin-ass story over more than one day. (Do we see the bitch creeping in?) Clair delivers this, which alerts me to the fact that even though she's broken cleanly out of the blue-purple family, she's still exploring too narrow a range of possibilities. Her go-to option is a solid blouse with black pants. Even when she has abandoned her beloved eggplants and aubergines for this glorious saffron, it still sort of looks like she's wearing a uniform. Granted, there's a realness there: you're a working mother of five, of course you're going to go to the mall, find a shirt that fits, and buy one in every color. Her monetary budget may not be restricted, but her time budget is wearing pretty damn thin. Especially when her husband is shaking her from her scant hours of slumber at 3:07am to talk about his widower friend. I'd try to smother him, too.

There's kind of a domestic violence undercurrent to this episode, huh?

Vanessa and Theo appear only briefly, and only together, so we'll just get them out of the way. Vanessa's shirt made an earlier appearance in episode 9, but worn quite differently. I'm liking it a little better with the brighter contrast from the yellow garment underneath. Points docked for p-word pants, however. Theo is wearing dark jeans and a purple t-shirt. Snooze. Don't make me rethink that death list, young man. (I've gone from bitchy to murderous. Not good. Stick with me, children. I'll eat some chocolate before I type the next paragraph.)

Is that an age-appropriate bedspread? Seems a bit toddler-y.

Denise is hella proud of these bangs; she's got height, body, and some near-icicle definition across the forehead. I can only imagine the hours of effort that could have been better applied in basically any other manner at all. The rest of the outfit has a sort of sloppy cuteness to it. The shirt is so dramatically giant that it says "I'm doing something fashion-y" and not "I don't know what my size is." The ruddiness of the pants is subtle, and the pattern up top is basic; she's really letting the volume be the star of the show here. I will neglect to mention that she is wearing shoes in bed (in her bed, it's so unspeakable I can't even) and just say that I kind of like this outfit.

Ye Olde Princetonne Wench

Have you ever gone to one of those "living history" re-enactment attractions like Colonial Williamsburg or whatever and listened to those weird people whose job it is to talk in the first person about how pies were made in the 1880s? At the end of the day, those actors go back to their lockers, put on their street clothes, and ask each other, "Was there one girl in a periwinkle blouse who talked to you for an uncomfortably long time?" Yes, yes there was. Seriously, Sondra, this is a step above Renaissance Festival. I will say that the screencap makes her look positively radiant in the facial region (and you know it burns me to type those words because I always dislike her and I ate my bitchberries this morning), but everything below the neck is a tragedy. Her skirt is so bad that I couldn't find a single frame featuring the whole thing at once. It's shown in snippets and flashes, as if the network found it too obscene to be broadcast in full.

Seeing more, enjoying less.

I know it's asking a lot, but look closely at those images and try to extrapolate the upholstery-grade awfulness that must be wrapped around her legs. Also, that blouse reaches her knees. And she's wearing a gross belt. It's like she was planted in the past like a Terminator to kill me through time with her offensive outfits. How many more seasons will I withstand this onslaught? Pray for me, children.

And now: guest stars.

Fun fact about my date: she's the host for a symbiotic parasite!

These two don't stick around for long and are never more than a few inches apart, so I gave up any attempts at discussing them as individuals. Robert King, playing Dr. Mike Newcomb, has held occasional small roles in his career. His resume is a sprinkling of accomplishments like "Jennifer's Dad in Perfect Strangers" or "Cyrus in Lust for Frankenstein (direct to video)." His much-younger girlfriend, Nicki Phillips, is played by someone that the nerds out there will probably recognize: Terry Farrell. That's right, Jadzia Dax from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine made an early appearance right here on The Cosby Show.

Look at the eye lines here. What are people looking at? Chaos reigns.

Their costuming is interesting to me, because they dressed her in a lot of neutrals, and then buried her in that big leather jacket. I'm guessing the intent was to make her look prim but still youthful, but really she practically disappears into the living room couch. That might also have been the goal. By contrast, her partner is much more vibrant looking with his rich blues and stripes. By today's standards, the popped collar would be a clear indicator that he was trying to come across a little younger, but I'm not sure if that was the implication when this was filmed. Regardless, neither of them is all that interesting from a clothing perspective. They also don't seem interested in staying very long, since they leave their coats on and barely even look at the coffee being served. So rude.

That's about enough of that. I should go meditate or drink some herbal tea or something. Why I gotta hate? Come back next week for an episode I'm sure you all remember.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Season 1, Episode 20: Back to the Track, Jack

Whew! The last episode was so jam-packed with 80s style that writing it felt like a demanding workout. Ironically, this week's show is about a demanding workout, and as a result I will have to put in far less effort because a good half of the clothing shown is workout gear. Cliff's college track coach approaches him to run a relay race for men in his age bracket. Though not in prime condition, he accepts because doing so will afford him the chance to compete against his rival from the old days, Sanford "Tailwind" Turner. The rest of the family invests themselves entirely in the race with the exception of Vanessa, who gets asked to a boy's birthday party and worries over what to wear and how to dance.

We've all completely given up!

Let's just get it out of our systems: sweatsuits. This isn't even all of them. Not by a long shot. I'm skipping entire guest stars because they exist only in the realm of exercise gear. Sorry if you're for some reason super eager to read my opinions on track pants. I just think the less said about it, the better. Let's check some real clothes.

He is a harbinger of track suits, and thus my mortal enemy.

To kick things off, I'll examine the one new face deemed worthy of non-gym attire, Coach Ernie Scott. He is played by Al Freeman Jr., who won an Emmy for his work as Captain Ed Hall in One Life to Live and has since gained some fame for his portrayal of Elijah Muhammad in Malcolm X. He makes a good first impression with this look. Classic pieces like this overcoat will always serve you well, especially if you know how to break the mold in other areas. For instance, a quiet trench looks even better with a slightly louder scarf. I'll admit that the red and gold of the scarf are actively fighting with his similarly patterned tie, but otherwise he looks great. It's even better once the outerwear comes off.

Is it just the angle, or is he mad short?

When he first came in, I thought he was rocking a plain black sweater. I guess the lighting by the door just sucks, because it is in fact the perfect shade of green. Between the crisp white shirt and the rusty tie and the gray blazer and the rich brown corduroys (overlooking the pleats as we always must), he's really firing on all cylinders. Guest actors get precious little time to imprint themselves on the audience, so they have to be handled carefully. A lot of information needs to be conveyed through one outfit; there has to be a cover by which we can accurately judge the book. The coach strikes a good balance between rigidity and warmth, and that shows in his highly formal yet comfortable outfit.

Puff, the tragic fashion.

This is a great example of when Theo's forays into layering fall flat. It's just not always appropriate to wear one collared shirt over another. In terms of palette, he's doing fine: there's an awful lot of that grape-y color, but it matches nicely with the candy-like pink and white stripes beneath it. The styling gets an A for effort, at least: if the proportions were better, I'd be commending him for the way his sleeves roll together to flash a little color at the cuff. Unfortunately, the bottom shirt is clearly too large, meaning that the one over it needs to be almost comically sized to compensate. The result is completely tenty. This, like pleats, is something I'm just going to have to get used to. This is how clothes were expected to fit back then. Maybe our current obesity epidemic stems from our comfort with seeing people in puffy, droopy, overlarge clothes. Like, Malcolm-Jamal Warner may as well be fat if he's going to be parading around in XXXLs anyway.

Don't even come all the way down. Go back up and change. Now.

Also, he may as well not show up at all if he's only going to deliver one line and wear this episode 5 sweater for which I have already voiced disdain. Come on, kid. Step it up.

Finally coming into her own. I'll never doubt you again.

Vanessa's apparently on a mission to win me over, and the effort is paying off. I'm loving the whole vibe of this ensemble. The top is just baggy enough, the belt is sassy, the coverage and fit are age-appropriate, the deep coral is wonderful, and the earrings are fish again. In fact, I'm pretty sure they're different fish than last time; she actually listened when I asked her to do that more. No wonder she's getting noticed by the boys all of a sudden. She's clearly out to impress us.

It appears I spoke too soon.

Unfortunately, when she's trying to impress a boy, she goes a little bonkers. Denise might not be a good influence on her. Maybe she needs to see a little more of Sondra's hyper-prep to balance things out. I mean, what are we going for here? Other than the color and maybe one or two accessories, this is pretty awful. I'm most concerned with the texturing across the sleeves and chest. It looks overwrought and tacky, not to mention oddly provocative. Like, if that panel at her neck is meant to be unbuttoned and opened, then what does it say when the same stitching detail is repeated once over each of her developing breasts? Not OK. There's something compelling about earrings so ugly they just don't care, and I'd be ready to love them except that they're too colorful to play nicely with a necklace and bracelets that are primarily white. She spends this scene asking her father for advice on how to slow dance with a boy, but I'm surmising from this rather preposterous dress that it's maybe not something she has to worry about.

"Hello? I'll get her. Right boob, it's for you."

Oh, Denise. You are forever merging rightness and wrongness in new and confusing ways. Some of this I can get behind. As a general concept, I've become indoctrinated into the leggings/oxford/sweater getup that's made a resurgence with the so many other 80s looks recently. Her tonal choices here are pretty interesting, too; the buttery yellow and ochery orange would be about as compatible as oil and water if it weren't for that calming periwinkle, which goes a long way toward tying this whole mess together. Still, something about that headband screams "loungewear" to me, which makes everything else seem like pajamas. I know I complimented her use of color, but I think that these summery hues, while well selected, might be better off decorating the furnishings of a quaint bed-and-breakfast than adorning a teenage girl. It should also be pointed out that the splashy, splotchy pattern on her shirt is foul. That effect really did not stand the test of time.

Her blush is blushing.

These pants appeared fairly recently, when she comforted Theo in episode 17. Today, she's wearing them to cheer on her father. Clearly, she believes in the healing power of plaid. We never really catch a glimpse of the top she's hiding under that jacket, and I've learned by now never to think I could predict Denise's next move, so there will be no speculation here. Let's just focus on the jacket. The fact that it's too big for her is, I'm sure, shocking to no one. What surprises me is its relative plainness. Sure, she got a little out of the ordinary with that collar, but it's mostly a rather standard coat. This is another time when I wish I could see this garment in person to make a clear assessment. I'm 90 percent sure it's off-white, but there's a part of me that things it could be truly ivory. My guess is that it's eggshell or cream or one of those almost-colorless colors simply because white photographs poorly. Regardless of the logic behind the decision, the beigening of a wild child is a sad thing to witness. Give this woman a colored jacket.


I'm counting this as real clothing only because otherwise Cliff wouldn't be reviewed at all in this entry, and that seems wrong. We'll bypass the track pants and simply say that he looks lovely in this purple.

You need to watch this episode for her "excuse me" moment. It's the best.

Speaking of family members who never get their due and the faint praise thrown their way, can we stop and discuss how much I love gray and pink together? This color combination is perfect for those days when you feel like looking prim yet fun. By going for stripes and being five years old, Rudy manages to avoid the business-ier aspects of these hues. But picture a gray pencil skirt with a pink ruffly blouse. It's way feminine and flirty, but it seems austere as well. Or a man in a pink Oxford shirt with slim, pale gray slacks. Well appointed, yet approachable. Think about this for the future. Learn from the youngest Huxtable, or whoever dressed her.

She is snapping and saying "fierce" here, oddly not in reference to herself.

You knew I was saving Clair for last. This first outfit is mostly pretty standard for her. We've seen her in black pants with a blouse of this cut many times before. Everything is fitted well for her shape, while still retaining some give and flow. The collar, the jewelry, the shimmer of the fabric, they're all standard issue at this point. The belt might be a little different. The real stunner here is that she's presenting full-on aqua, which I don't believe she's ever worn on the show before. It's a daring color, especially in a shiny material, and I love it on her. See? There's no need to make everything purple. We have options, Mrs. Huxtable.

This gasp of dismay is also not self-referential.

This, however, should not be an option. Initially, I wanted to fall in love with this sweater. The idea of a luxuriously gigantic turtleneck was so appealing to me. But I was envisioning some glamorous angora like what Julie Christie wore in Dr. Zhivago, and instead she's giving me this cable-patterned mess. Beyond the texturing, which cheapens this garment significantly, I'm concerned with the tapered sleeve, which totally undercuts the effect of a voluminous piece like this. Plus, when we look at the cuffs and collar, we can see that she has something red on underneath or, heaven forefend, built into the garment itself. Regardless, beyond the delight of the cobalt, I can't really condone this tease of a look. You were better off staying at the top of the stairs and letting me guess at this one, hon.

Is that everyone? I think that's everyone. We're closing in on the end of the first season. Can you believe it? It's been such a long, glorious journey already, and it's far, far from over.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Season 1, Episode 19: Clair's Case

The show often shows Clair coming home from work, talking about work, and occasionally even working at the office, but it's a rare treat to see her litigate as we do today. After Sondra (yes, Sondra is back) gets ripped off by a mechanic and her lawyer has the audacity to suggest settling out of court, Clair takes matters into her own hands. Since she's working overtime, the other children chip in with chores around the house, giving Cliff a chance to deliver some memorable lessons about how to make a bed or mop the floor.

Since this story takes place over multiple days, several family members wear multiple outfits. Also, the people who leave the house throw on their best duds; distance from the home continues to increase presentability among the Huxtable clan. On the other hand, the younger children spend the whole time cleaning up, meaning that they are relegated to sweats or sweats-like attire. With that being the case, let's get the young ones out of the way first.

It's a 10. You'd rewear it, too.

Theo gets two looks, but the first one is a repeat. At least it's a wise repeat; this shirt-over-shirt combo from episode 5 was half my reason for starting this blog in the first place. I don't have more to say about it other than LOOK AT IT. Resplendence.

I had to widen my screencap format to get all that shoulder in there.

Once it's time to get down to business, though, he goes from infallible to inexplicable. In terms of color, he's right where he should be. As he proved in episode 8, he looks terrific in pink. On the other hand, I'm thrown by the whole "fleece tunic" configuration: the hugeness of the cut, the way the fabric changes texture near the collar, the giant buttonholes... it's almost built to imply that he's wearing an awful undershirt beneath an awful v-neck sweatshirt. If his first outfit was a layering risk done right, then this is certainly layering done wrong. Or really, not done at all.

"The Huxtable Girls Variety Hour!" with special guest, Moppy.

I'll get to the girls individually, but I figured it would save time to give them a group shot. Besides, I remembered this little mopping dance fondly from when I first saw it air, so I couldn't very well skip it.

Cage? Triage? Underage? Garage?

Vanessa has missed the mark here for the most part. Taking a page from her older sister's book, she's opted for something absurdly oversized, but hasn't really made any of the styling choices that would support such a move. Given how long this top is, it should really be belted. I know she's not going anywhere, so some sloppiness it to be expected, but if I give everyone free passes then there's nothing to write about. This is a lot of pink, and even though the text breaks it up some, a division in the middle to give it shape and variation wouldn't have hurt. (Side note: I was convinced for most of the episode that her shirt said "RAGE" across it, but it actually says "ON STAGE.") Despite these obstacles, she manages to pull of a couple wins. I'm a fan of the daring day-glo, especially paired with the stark black leggings and pointy boots (which are maybe a tad old for her but whatever), and the goldfish earrings are just phenomenal. They might be the best accessory I've ever seen on her. New edict: I want Vanessa to sport more animals. If only I could affect change in the past. And how sad that this is how I'd waste that superpower.

Phoney Stalloney.

Denise is in full-on lounge mode, so actively critiquing her outfit seems somewhat futile. She obviously didn't wear it with the intention of looking good, so why bitch about how she doesn't look good? This is what you would expect her to throw on for a day off: a baggy, assertively hued shirt with some wide pants that don't reach her ankle. I'm bemused by that headband. Functionally, yes, of course it makes sense, but there seems to be an attempt at a fashion statement happening here. Like, it's not just pulling hair away from her face: it's actively creating height and volume in a manner too extreme to be accidental. It's a move so bizarre that I have trouble forming a clear opinion of it. I'm trying to envision this hairstyle ("hairstyle") in another context, perhaps with a formal dress. My gut says that this is an outright fail, but something about Denise's ability to pull truffles from the scraggliest, murkiest depths makes me wonder if I should just have faith that it's a kind of amazingness that I don't quite appreciate yet.

As usual, I'm none too keen on clocking Rudy's duds. She's a child. I'm feeling that cardigan, though. I would wear it if it came in my size.

Keshia Knight Pulliam hid iron weights in her shirt for this scene.

Rudy also wore pajamas during this episode, though really I'm only using her as a means of segueing into Cliff's attire. This shot gives us a good look at his pants, which have a kind of heathered texture to them that I enjoy. Pants can get too loud pretty quickly, so he adds just the right amount of pizzazz with the unevenness of the khaki. I should develop a shorthand for dealing with pleats so that I don't have to mention them each time; maybe I'll just start calling it out in the caption to avoid taking up further space. Captions are hard to think of anyway. The blue shirt goes well with the trousers, but we've seen it before.

"I'm a grown man and I will put buttons wherever I damn well please."

I was confused by this look in episode 8, and I'm still confused now. The details are odd, and I want them to go away. Cliff looks best in classic pieces. His triumphs come not from the individual garments so much as the interesting ways in which he combines and accessorizes them.

It's so nice when the director actually gives me a full-length shot of someone.

This outfit feels almost too old for Dr. Huxtable. Something about the gray pants, lavender sweater, and chestnut loafers makes me think of a grandfather. He pulls it off, though, because he's got personality, and you know that he wasn't just throwing some random configuration of clothes together. This here is a man who thinks about his style. The pattern of soft pastels is stellar on him. It's weird to see so much subtlety in the wool numbers he wears this season. We've come to think of this character in terms of his brashest choices, when really he pulled off some delightful moves early in the show's run. I'm bracing myself for when the true Cosby Sweaters make their way into the vernacular. I'm not sure if they'll make my job easier or harder.

His Julia Child voice is kind of upsetting.

For cleaning day, Cliff opts for some sweatpants that I won't discuss at all, and a shirt that I'll mention only briefly. The length was compelling to me when I first saw it. Something about it seemed international in its styling; I pictured an Indian or Middle Eastern man in a kurta as the inspiration. I don't necessarily think that was anyone's plan when this top was pulled off the rack, but it was an interesting flavor to get thrown in nonetheless. Also: new apron. Fun!

It's kind of sinister that this man shows up at his house months later
using an assumed name and pretending they hadn't met before.

His fourth and final ensemble is his accompanying-Clair-to-court look, which rescues his episode 8 blazer by pairing it more prudently with his episode 5 sweater vest. It's tough for me to discern whether his collared shirt is white or palest pink. I think the colors as shown are a little deceiving; for instance, the lines on his vest look pretty white here, but were clearly yellow last time around. I'm going to guess that it's a trick of the light or a flaw in the video adding redness to the shirt, but I wouldn't bet money on it or anything. It doesn't hugely matter; either option would look lovely.

We should also talk about David Langston Smyrl, who guest stars here as the nameless man in court who converses with Cliff about Clair's prowess both as a lawyer and as a person in general. The casting people obviously enjoyed his performance, because he comes back a handful of times throughout the show's run to play two other characters. I can't argue with their opinion: he's a compelling performer and has good screen chemistry with Mr. Cosby. 

He also wears this outfit like a champ. The attention to detail here is fantastic. He's clearly meant to look like someone who doesn't have a ton of money to buy new clothes for court every day: this is a hobby for him, but he's stretching to look like he belongs. The shirt is a little casual, the blazer is maybe ten years old, and the tie is probably twice that. As a character, Man in Court probably threw together a blue striped tie and a brown plaid shirt without thinking about it; as a costumer, Sarah Lemire (who was the queen of wardrobe for the entire series) obviously pondered pretty carefully. The pieces fall into place effortlessly. I just love this look.

What a depressing courtroom. Everyone loses this case.

Since we're talking about guest stars, I'll also get to another two: Lloyd Battista plays the lawyer (whose name is never given). He's held small roles in a wide array of film and television projects, including a couple movies over the past decade. His client, Mr. Wilson, is portrayed by Shawn Elliott. This marks one of the only times in Elliott's career that his ethnicity is not overtly referenced in his character's name. His resume is bursting with credits like Judge Santos, Detective Ortega, Paco, Domingo, and even a highly specific listing in Do The Right Thing as "Puerto Rican Icee Man." There's enough else going on in this episode that I don't want to spend forever talking about these two, but it's worth mentioning that they share a common design theme. Their styling is just a little off; they're not quite dressed for a mid-80s hearing. The client looks too casual in his corduroy, and the lawyer's suit looks a few years out of date. As the eventual losers in this case, we're given subtle cues about their lack of polish from these costuming decisions. Legitimate contenders are validated with awesome clothes; shabby litigants get bargain-bin leftovers.

Damn you for making me say nice things about you.

We could only coast by for so long before Sondra made another appearance. She's at least less annoying in this episode; the script focuses on her ability to eat Cliff's cooking when no one else will, rather than stressing her know-it-all tendencies. (For a sitcom about a lawyer and a doctor raising children, they get a lot of mileage out of "listen to how the hoity-toity Princeton girl talks" jokes.) Also, she looks kind of nice here, at least from the neck up. The shaggy, breezy hair is a better choice than the various half-up configurations she's previously tried, and I wish she'd stick with it more often. While the make-up is pretty, I worry that it matures her slightly. She doesn't look old, it's just that she's playing a college student and she's 27. As a woman who's only a decade younger than the actor playing her mother (who is, as alluded to in previous entries, too young to be playing the mother role), Sabrina Le Beauf needs to be styled carefully.

Ignoring the pretty face, she's delivering some pretty gross clothes. This suit seems to have been purchased from the David Byrne collection. It's just so gravely broad! I can't complain about the color combination, and the brooch isn't terrible, but she looks like she's wearing someone else's belongings. The fit is that off. Maybe it was fashionable once, but it's really plainly bad from any reasonable perspective.

How can we work it so you are only ever seen sideways?

This one came so close. Look at it from the side. The rusty slacks, blue oxford shirt, and charcoal sweater vest deliver the exact pairing of youthfulness and studiousness that the character requires. In profile, the fit is pretty great, too; some puff in the sleeve, but an overall slim silhouette that makes her look young, bright-eyed, and collegiate. But then she turns straight on, and the whole thing just spirals out of control. More wideness! Flagrant pleating! Strange faux-suspender stripes! Sondra, why you do this? I was prepared to give her praise, and then she trolled me. Ouch.

Objection, your honor. The plaintiff shops at Talbot's.

Her last look is her courtroom suit. This is what she wears to convince the judge that she is an honest, upstanding citizen. Her eye for color is really showing through in this episode; I'm not sure that anyone else in the family would have opted for quite this shade. It looks great on her, and it's professional without conforming to stodgy expectations of gray and khaki. On the other hand, this is yet another outfit that was built without real consideration for her shape. Her family has money, they can afford to buy her a nice suit, or to have a tailor take a stab at it if the off-the-rack purchase is malformed. Apparently she enjoys looking like this, though I just can't comprehend why. The desk prevents us from ever knowing if she was wearing a peasant skirt or gauchos or lycra leggings or what. It could be anything! It doesn't matter, nothing would have made this OK in my eyes.

And finally: Clair, my true love and only muse.

That's a wrap, folks.

Remember how I said that no one else in the family would attempt that color? I lied a little; Clair is rocking a closely related shade at the beginning of the episode. (It's practically blasphemous to say that I prefer Sondra's choice, but it's true.) This slightly darker, dustier slate-ish color is alright, though. She's coming home from work, so it makes sense that she'd be rocking a more corporate vibe. Her affinity for atypical draping is back again, this time with less success than in the past. I don't adore this neckline; its height and sag suggest a turkey wattle. Similarly, she's baggy in all the wrong places around the waist. The wrapping is fun in theory, it just doesn't always work. The pearls are fabulous, though.

Crime spree. This lady will steal your clothes and your heart.

This sweater is just totally Clair's now, huh? I wonder if the production team did this intentionally, or if some assistant just saw this and assumed that it was a lady's garment and the rest is history. I kind of hope that Cliff picks it up again down the road. It'd be interesting to see it reclaimed. Maybe another character will wear it at some point. This cardigan has a bright future ahead of it, regardless. It's pretty stellar. The rest of the outfit isn't quite so grand. This coral-y number isn't bad, but it's a little dowdy. The pants could fit better. Whatever, she's not actually in court, she's just going through the motions. This outfit says, "I don't really care." Reading you loud and clear, honey.

Turning in? More like turn it out, am I right?

This is another entry in the "Nobody Looks Like This At Bedtime" series. Do we see the smoky eye? The raspberry lips? The pajamas? Her attire says "I'm about to retire for the evening," but the rest of her says "I'm just getting started." When her husband finally falls asleep, she's going to hit the town.

Look at that face. He's done for. She's a lioness going in for the kill.

And finally, we have Clair's lawyer realness. It's funny: from the close-up shot, this almost looks like an emerald judge's robe. It gives the impression that it should be fuller and baggier throughout. Maybe that's part of her strategy; she's playing psychological tricks on people, subliminally suggesting that she holds even greater authority in some sort of Oz-like judiciary system. Once we back up, though, we see that this isn't a fantasyland barrister costume, but more of a businesslike zoot suit. I'm thrilled to finally see Clair move into new territory on the color wheel, but a little saddened by the rest of this. The dress underneath (or blouse/skirt pairing, who knows?) seems solid. You can't really go wrong with a basic: good length, classy cowl neck... this is foundational. I just wish she had done something else with the coat, which is poorly tailored and has awkward sleeves and just doesn't do a lot to make me happy.

Before we end this, I have two more screencaps. They are my favorite images that I have ever taken from this show. I know, you'd think that Clair holding the joint would be a clear winner (and until today, it was), but these are both so phenomenal that I just have to share them. They're both of Phylicia Rashad, of course. First, there's this moment right after the trial, where Cliff pretends he's never met her and asks her out on a first date. When he first gets her attention, she turns around and hits him with this:

"Who, me?"

Just brilliant. It's all right there. Clair Huxtable is an almost impossible role to play: she's smart enough to be a lawyer, sassy enough to cut you with her wit, maternal enough to raise five intelligent and well-behaved children, beautiful enough to captivate every man around her, and on top of it still in love (and sexually active) with her husband after all these years. She is the perfect woman. And it's all there, in this one look. This person is flawless. This, however, is my second-favorite shot. You see, above is an actor who knows what she's doing. Below is a moment between moments; she's mid-turn, doing something accidental, not quite thinking, and it to me is a moment of true beauty.

The ascension.

I don't know, it just speaks to me. She looks like she's ready to rise to a higher plane. I'm even rethinking my critique of the dress when I look at this.

We'll end with Rudy, because I overlooked an outfit of hers that was a repeat, though I don't think I commented on it last time, either.

Does a body good.

Thanks, Rudy. It's been a long day. We needed that. Until next time, kids.