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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Season 1, Episode 24: Cliff's Birthday

I can't even believe it. We've reached the final episode of the season. If you don't mind, I'd like to take a moment to pat myself on the back for having kept up with this nonsense for so long already. It's a slightly lame thing to be proud of, but hey, everyone has to make their contribution to the world, and this is apparently mine. The key is thinking of a legacy so absurd that no one else would bother to create it. Wisdom. You're welcome.

But enough about me. We're all here for one reason only: we care deeply about the clothes on The Cosby Show. The finale provides us with a wide range to explore. As the family plans a big surprise for Cliff's 48th birthday party over the two-day arc, we see them in a couple of casual outfits each, plus a formal dinner look. That means that I'll be working hard for the proverbial money this week (emphasis on proverbial; this is not a real job for which I am offered real cash) to bring you the best in fashion recaps. We want to end this cycle with a bang.

Cycle? What is this, America's Next Top Model? Oy.

We'll start with the man who started it all, Mr. Cosby himself.

He is the alpha and the omega.

This, to me, is momentous. We've made it through a full year's worth of airings, and not once have we seen a Cosby sweater. This is the last knitwear of the season, and it's delightful, but quite tame in comparison to my expectations. I really thought that I'd hear a lot more "bleep blop fligglty higgums" and see a lot more woolen anarchy, and I'm sure your expectations were similar. While there's some crazy in store in the coming years, it takes much longer to build than I realized. Focusing on the work at hand, I'd like to commend Cliff on this lovely multi-hued number. The speckling effect of the various blues allows him to throw in a hint of neon without it reading like Solid Gold: Aspen Edition. He's also brought back episode 8's delicious yellowy pants, giving us a color-on-color presentation that not every man could pull off. Though he skirts a more neutral vibe with the gray collar, he can't help but spice it up with the stripes, just to let us know that he's fearless. Altogether, this gathering of textures and shades could easily create havoc, but I think he's still within the bounds of taste. It's almost his birthday, let him live it up.

"I don't have to wear sweaters for you. I'm not your trained circus animal."

Alright, we all like those slacks, but that doesn't mean you don't have to change ever. The shirt is a solid offering; the color is really saturated, which I enjoy, and the contrasting stripes are nice. We actually saw the collar briefly in episode 21, where I questioned the wide spacing of this pattern. If I had been able to see the purple that alternated with the white, I would not have been so quick to judge. Both shades are visible in that episode's screencap if you look really carefully. I guess I wasn't paying close enough attention. I apologize.

I'd be mad, too. Pizza could ruin a tuxedo right quick.

Cliff's final look is his tuxedo, which we saw in episode 15. He's wearing another of those thin, flat fabric strips in lieu of a bow tie; I still haven't been able to figure out what they're called, but the presence of several of them in the show's costume trailer leads me to believe that they're not just something an intern made up on the fly. If you know what's going on with Mr. Cosby's neckwear, do let me know.

Let's keep going with the doodz. You ready, Theo?

He's the real reason I started this blog. And look! Still bringing the fire.

Indeed you are. This is a solid-to-strong showing from the younger Huxtable gentleman. He's rewearing the polo initially seen in episode 5, but for the first time without the plaid shirt over it. I could do without the popped collar, but I agree with him that if you're wearing a lot of khaki, you need to overcome that blandness with a really punchy color. Well done. I'm going to have to dock points for wearing both a belt and suspenders, however. I'm sure the teenage girls are all over him, but they can't be so voracious that he needs multiple means of holding his dungarees in place. Besides, that much trussing just emphasizes the pleats to an almost unconscionable degree. They're practically pockets at this point.

It's not great, but I'd still wear it.

None of the children get much time devoted to their second outfits, and I'm not going to spend a lot of time deconstructing them. Theo is wearing a perfectly presentable maroon hoodie with his usual jeans. The end.

He's so excited. And he just can't hide it.

Theo also wears his tuxedo and non-tie. I continue to demand answers about the non-tie.

How does she look so windswept? Is it stormy in that part of the kitchen?

Sondra materializes midway through the episode, meaning that she only gets two outfits. You know I'm OK with less Sondra. We've seen this shirt already in episode 19, and just like before, she makes sure to show us that it is slim in profile and mad chunky from the front. Otherwise, I'm reluctantly supportive of her brown tie and olive pants. The slightly-rumpled, straight-laced Princeton proto-snob thing works for her. She's the 1%. And of that, a good 40% is hair. Really, though: that 'do is big.

Her necklace is bowling balls, but downstairs it's all pins, honey.

For the formal dinner, Sondra surprised me by wearing something that I mostly enjoy. The messy, top-heavy hairstyling isn't my personal favorite, but it's not horrendous. And sure, she's wearing enough eggplant that it wouldn't have killed her to add a splash of color somewhere. But really, the dress isn't bad. In the shot on the left, I think the extra fabric hangs rather elegantly; she seems to know what she's doing with the look, thus removing any sense of sloppiness. The bold purple looks lovely on her, and the giant necklace is a risk that pays off in my book. She really drives it home with that split skirt, though. I gasped aloud when she stood up: I really wasn't expecting that much leg. Clair's fashion influence on her has never been clearer, from the choice of hue to the carefully placed flash of carnal energy. This is the last time audiences would see Sondra for months, so they left us with a positive impression. I accept.

Remember when listening to music required carrying a suitcase?

I loved Denise's episode 7 outfit that incorporated this skirt. On the other hand, I'm concerned to discover that after last week's floral blazer debacle, she went ahead and wore a second one. It's like Sister Maria was stuck in Blanche Deveraux's Miami home but just had to make the Huxtable girls new playclothes. (Too many gay-ass references in one analogy? Maybe.) Jumping past my rhetorical flourishes, though, you've got to admit that this is pretty grim. It's important to try new things, but not every experiment can be a success. I can allow for this overall silhouette, but basically every choice of hue and print is a mistake. It's also worth pointing out that this is why people didn't used to wear white on television. Look at what a wash her shirt is in that close-up. It's so flat. Save it until they invent HD, kid.

Denise doesn't peek through a cracked door. She opens it all the way.
Nuance isn't her bag, you know?

This outfit, which is much better than the last, gets almost no screen time. I'm not saying it's perfect, but let's start with the good. I'm into the way the peachy beige of the top almost matches her skin tone. It wouldn't be appropriate if the shirt were tighter, but at this volume, no one is mistaking that for bare flesh. The black detailing at the neckline complements the floss-thin suspenders beautifully. If I were able to change anything, I'd rein in the pants to make them a little slimmer. The idea of a nicely tailored high-waisted trouser supporting that big, fluffy sweatshirt thing makes me pretty happy. Still, you take what you can get. Also, I'm in love with the way she gave herself a tomboyish hairstyle to match her slightly gentlemanly clothes. It's a less severe version of last week's attempt, and it serves her better.

Cylon dinner party.

When Denise dresses up, the wardrobe department works really hard to put her outside the norm. There's something feminist about her desire to express herself through clothes in a way that is honest to her character even when that means breaking from typical standards of what is attractive or sexy. Here, for instance, she's showing an unusual (for her) amount of skin with the mostly backless gown, but the cutouts aren't placed in a particularly provocative manner, and they're framed by an absurd shoulder situation that resembles the military garb of a futuristic alien society. She also makes up for the reveal at the back by rocking a full floor-length skirt, giving a demure quality to the look. I hated it when I first saw it, but I'm often won over by audacity, and in this case I had to revise my opinion and decide that this is brilliant. The brick-red, silky material is maybe the best possible option for her, and accessorized well, too. The long silver earrings, the single Wonder Woman wristband, the gargantuan, complicated belt... this much solid color makes the use of extensive jewelry permissible and even preferable. (You hear that, Sondra?) I'm still on the fence about the headband, mostly because I think it's too casual. She needed a different headpiece to really sell this, and probably a different hair configuration, but beyond that I'm great with everything I'm seeing.

"Like the Miami Sound Machine just exploded all over you."

I complained in episode 20 that these earrings didn't go with Vanessa's outfit. It turns out that the outfit that matches those earrings is garbage. Everything is far too big and far too loud. She apparently got dressed in a room without subtlety. Sure, play with yellow and orange, but don't just throw them around like they don't mean anything. OK, so you own turquoise shoes and a shirt with turquoise in it: do they really belong together? You should construct an outfit with the level of care with which you would arrange a blind date. Think about how those individual components fit before putting them next to each other. Also, for my own mental health, I'm going to assume that the yellow garment I'm looking at is a really odd raincoat, because if I thought for even one second that she was earnestly wearing that smocky mess as a shirt, then I would have to stop this blog immediately for fear of the terrors to come.

It pains me to highlight what is clearly the worst part of this picture.

We get almost no indication of what Vanessa wears in the faux cooking segment of the story. If I had to take a guess, I'd say it's her episode 16 sweatsuit with the crap hanging off the front, in which case we had best move away. I refuse to say more about that beastly creation.

This dress could not have been deliberately designed. It must have been an accident.

Vanessa's dressy outfit proved hardest to capture; she was often in the background for this portion of the story. Maybe it was merciful, since there's not much to recommend this dress. I can see what they were going for: she's young, and the baggy cut and bubblegum color serve to reinforce her girlishness. But it's strange enough in its structure that it seems like maybe she tried and failed to be fashion-forward. Either that, or this is just too casual by half, even for a youngster at a grown-up party. The Oscars every year give us Dakota Fannings and Hailee Steinfelds bedecked in age-appropriate gowns. This pleated t-shirt is not the answer. We should also swiftly acknowledge that whatever she used as a belt looks like a coral reef made of scrunchies.

Hombre? Ooomaaa? Aroma?

Any guesses on what Rudy's hat says?

Om nom nom nom.

Her dress looks like it was stolen from the Emerald City's smallest cleaning lady, but I don't really want to get into that. I just want to watch this gif forever. I've been waiting for a long time to post it, and we've finally reached the appropriate moment. Fulfillment! Besides, I couldn't do the season's last review without including this child. She's fabulous.

I can't believe she wore this again. It hurts.

Mrs. Huxtable sets the bar oh-so-low with her first outfit, which is a head-to-toe repeat offense from episode 8. Everything I hated about it the first time remains loathsome. The more detailed view of the coat only reaffirms my initial reading of it as unforgivable. It's been a real roller coaster of a review, huh? We're jumping between triumph and tragedy too quickly for me to even keep up.

Also, now seems as good a time as any to discuss the age discrepancy between her and Mr. Cosby. The story that Clair and Cliff left for college in the same year just doesn't hold water. Even allowing for her starting school early and skipping a grade, she is at minimum supposed to be 46. At the time of filming, she was a full decade younger than that; she turned 37 a month after this episode aired. I don't really have a point, I just thought it should be overtly stated that she is not his contemporary.

Blue's Clues: The Stage Musical

Things don't get better for Clair in round two. It's possible that these are her episode 6 trousers, but I can't say for certain. They look bluer here than last time, but the whole screencap in that episode looks tinted differently. It's not worth dissecting. The point is that this is a wreck. I'm not against the idea of constraining an outfit to three shades and drawing all the interest from the patterns and combinations. That can be done. But to do it in this tonal range was probably a mistake because these bright blues are awfully cartoony. She could be a housewife mascot or a picnic superhero or something. The giantness of the shirt's plaid or the housecoat's color blocking aren't helping either. These pieces could work on their own (though the top half might take some advanced maneuvering), but they should never be allowed in the same outfit again. In fact, they shouldn't even be allowed in the same room together. Actually, the housecoat might need to be destroyed. The more I look at it, the less I want to look at it.

She's angry at Cliff in most of the screen grabs I take. I guess I like her feisty.

She brings it back for me in the evening wear category. On its own, the amethyst dress is pretty good. I'm a fan of the shimmery tone, and the cut isn't bad. (It's not fantastic, but it's not bad.) Where she really nails it, though, is the accessories. The colorful earrings and necklace are going in a new direction from her standard jewelry selections, and that dangling... dangly thing might be my new favorite. Look at the close shot, and then check the image on the left. Do we see how that piece hangs clear down from her shoulder to her waist? It's bizarre, but not unacceptable. It adds a splashy, exuberant quality to the look that I can get behind.

Oh, and there were two little guest stars.

I can't caption this appropriately because I've never watched The Mod Squad.

This is Clarence Williams III from The Mod Squad. I don't really care what he's wearing, I just felt like I had to include him because he's done other work. You might have heard of this other lady, too.


OMG LENA HORNE. I don't have to list her credits and achievements. You know who she is, and if you don't, you should be learning about her instead of reading this blog. If you're going to close out a season of your sitcom, you may as well remind people that watching it will give them the occasional opportunity to hear living legends deliver knockout performances. This woman is a shining star, and everything about her sparkles in this episode. I'd love to wig out over her all day, but you'd be better served reading one of the many books written about her, or simply whiling away an evening watching her sing on YouTube. We came here to talk clothes, and that's what we're going to do.

This is a great dress for a woman who is nearly 70. Coverage can become more important as you get older, but you don't want to look Amish. She avoids that potential problem by picking a garment with as much interest as possible. The rich midnight is offset nicely by the golden print, and the sequinned stripes bring everything to life. On top of that, she pulls in a little shape with the wrappy quality of the belted middle. The great big scarf is also terrific, especially when you see how colorful it is.

No jokey captions for this lady. RESPECT.

The pink gradient? Knockout. I also want to talk about the hair. I don't love it from all angles, but this shot shows how from the front, she's serving a head shape that borders on extraterrestrial. I have no problem with that. This episode has been all about trying new things, and this woman has been around long enough that she's worked through all of that boring Earth fashion already. Level it up, Ms. Horne.

Wow. A whole season over and done with. Thanks for sticking with me, lovelies. I'll be back in action next week with our first glimpse at season 2. Get excited.


  1. You should be very proud of yourself! Can't even tell you how happy this website has made my friends and me over the past few months. Onward to season 2.

  2. I too have wondered about the ties. My guess is that they are inspired from somewhere in Africa - that's totally the kind of thing that The Cosby Show would do. I haven't been able to find any evidence of this, however.

  3. I think the ties are just an awesome variation on a standard crossover tie. Think girls' school uniform. Google "Crossover tie" and you'll get a gagillion results.

  4. The shirt and tie that Sondra is sporting is perhaps a hint that she has influenced Denise, just as Sondra herself is influenced by Claire?