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, December 12, 2011

Season 2, Episode 3: Happy Anniversary

Ask all your friends which episode of this show is most memorable, and they'll probably all give the same answer:


That's right, it's the episode where the family puts on a musical number for Russell and Anna as a present for their 49th anniversary. There's not a ton of plot here: it's all what to get them, what to cook, lip sync for your life, blah blah blah. Rudy's Emmy nomination has to be, like, 90 percent because of this song. Since the script includes two days and nine Huxtables, though, there's a lot of clothing to cover, so let's get to it.

Let's do a blog about low-budget 1980s set design in sitcoms.

I'm carting out this screencap not to highlight the clothes specifically (I'll get there), but to talk about the set for a second. This scene is supposed to take place roughly five steps from the Huxtable residence; their front door is just out of frame on the left. Now, I ask you: how in the world does this setting relate to the exterior establishing shots in each episode? Where is that wall behind them coming from? In later seasons, they get a different "outside" environment that is, while not entirely realistic, at least vaguely plausible. This one is totally off. How are they even walking in this direction? Did they emerge directly from the brick? It makes no sense.

Context does not explain his facial expression.

Clair and I need to have a talk about her outerwear, because she continually pulls out the most awful coats. How many stuffed animals died to make this, hon? The pattern suggests that you're emitting a fleece force field. Were you trying to confuse enemy radar? I can't begin to figure out why these colors were put together in this layout in this shape with this fabric. All of the choices, from start to finish, were misguided at best and malicious at worst. Someone might be trying to kill her with that coat, and it would be a slow, painful death, let me tell you. Underneath, we catch a glimpse of what might be a fabulous red skirt, but she never reveals the full outfit. She actually wears the coat upstairs rather than taking it off and putting it in the front closet. (If that means that this is actually a shirt, then I'm going to need a pep talk and another shot of espresso, because damn that's demoralizing.)

Pretty in pink. 

Cliff, who usually rocks a more classic vibe, has really pushed into contemporary (for the time) styling with these choices. The light jacket with the brushed texturing, the tiny collar, the pale-on-pale pink-and-gray palette, the geometric black-and-neon tie... he's not wearing ugly clothes, but he doesn't seem like himself. This is very Miami Vice for Dr. Huxtable, and while I don't disapprove of the outfit conceptually, I have a hard time believing that he would have it in his closet.

We still haven't reached maximum Cosby Sweater madness.

Here, we find the missing link between his wardrobe in season 1 and the fashions from the rest of the series. In this sweater's pattern, we can observe the vestigial suspender markings left over from previous outfits. He's obviously not yet fully comfortable abandoning them for bizarre, bulky knits, so he retains them in a representational form. This is a standard showing: the red and gray work (even if something about them reads a little Christmasy to me), the pants and shirt are basic, the sizes are all reasonable. It's good everyday wear.

I'm truly not trying to catch him at odd times. He's just always making faces.

His second suit is much more in keeping with previous endeavors. In fact, it's entirely possible that it's the same suit he wore in episode #1.2. It's definitely the same shirt. I have to say, he looked slimmer and sharper in the previous jacket. The color was part of it, but also the cut. This one is a little broader overall. In particular, I think it closes a tad high: we don't see a ton of his tie and shirt this time around, which would have been nice. There's so much dark happening here: he could have made better use of that pink. I might've swapped out for a different tie, too. Something more vibrant, maybe with a pocket square to match. This isn't a goldfish funeral, dude. 

So scornful she's making the soda froth up.

Clair's second look is a repeat from episode #1.21, so I'm going to let it stand without comment.

I would love her even more if she fixed that haircut.

I do, however, want to point out this thing they keep doing with her make-up. It's not as apparent here, but in later episodes, they apply the shadow really heavily to her outer lid, and then leave the rest of the eye almost bare. It's a jarring choice that is maybe rooted in actual trends of the time and maybe rooted in a sort of stagey approach to facial contouring that was more appropriate before high-definition television happened, but the point is that it's weird. I'm mentioning it now so that we can both watch for it later.

Either she's wearing stockings or her legs are bionic. Both kind of make sense.

This dress has a lot going for it. For starters, the cut. She's been wearing her clothes a little looser lately, so it's nice to see her return briefly to fitted garments. If I was in that kind of shape, I'd want to remind you, too. I mean, look at her entrance into the living room.

"Don't mind me, I'm just over here being FABULOUS."

My God, even out of focus she's breathtaking. Between the shape of the garment and the placement of that wide belt (which is a completely fantastic piece on its own, I might add), she's kicking ass and taking names. Which is not to say that everything's peachy. Those big buttons distract me, for instance. She should be wearing jewelry, not fussing up her front with giant fasteners. The primary colors thing is also a little over for me. In general I find them better suited to toddlers than grown-ups, and on her specifically I think this bold blue is not stupendous. Everyone has one color they should avoid, and this is hers. She doesn't look bad, per se, it's just that she's typically luminous and some of that luster fades against this shade.

Check the cookies at the bottom. The prop department wants you to know
 that he both pigged out and napped.

Russell is literally asleep in this shot, but in a more figurative sense, he's asleep at the wheel. I seldom have an unkind word about his outfits, but this is a rare misstep for him. The blue-red-black scheme is usually Clair's error (see the above dress, not to mention her unholy episode #1.5 sweatsuit), but he gives it a shot today and doesn't do much better with it. I appreciate the hue on him, but those stripes don't grab me. Brick and cobalt are uncomfortable bedfellows, and I'm not sure why everyone's trying so hard to put them together. He's done all that could be done with unsatisfactory tools, but this is still problematic for me.

The navy lining might mean that this item is reversible. Ew.

When he puts on his jacket to leave, things only get stranger. The windbreaker seems a little youthful for him. Like Cliff, he's kind of dressed out of character. Russell has always been a champion of age-appropriate attire: he's frequently more formal and old-fashioned than anyone else in the room. It sort of makes sense that he'd have outerwear like this because it's basic and functional. That's how my grandfather would shop: identify a need, find it in the right size and color, and call it a day. But that stripe down the side bothers me, and I can't put my finger on exactly why. It feels like a Theo jacket, though, right? Am I wrong here? I guess I just expect a blazer from Grandpa Huxtable. Casual isn't his groove.

That there's how it's done, folks.

This is how I'm used to seeing him. His party look is flawless. Charcoal three-piece suit, shirt with a retro collar and just a hint of yellow, vintage brown tie. Clean, cool, and classy. Not a hair out of place. Like a boss, as they say. He comes from an era when men knew how to dress, and even back then people probably thought he looked better than the rest.

Age brings wisdom, but not always taste, apparently.

Anna's only got one look for this episode, and it isn't great. Yes, her confidence in sporting full-force, uninterrupted fuchsia is stupendous, but that doesn't mean that I can overlook her decision to wear a men's XXL polo shirt. And it's not even a shirt dress, because she has a matching skirt underneath: it's really just a big-ass polo, brazenly presented as a formal garment, which it is not. The square earrings are awesome-ish, but the overall ensemble isn't for me. Or her. Or maybe anyone.


Sondra's back. Oh goodie. I'll give her a little leeway because she's cooking, so maybe that smocky overshirt is actually serving as an apron. Wearing it with the intention of dirtying and/or destroying it is acceptable. Otherwise, it's an obvious "no." I feel the same way about her hair: my hope is that it has been pulled up haphazardly just to keep it out of open flames, because I would be sad to learn that someone had spent time and effort making it do that on purpose. If we remove the purple shirt, however, we're left with another problem: the gray pants and gray top would match, leaving her in a drab faux bodysuit with only a thin band of color coming from the yellow undershirt. Why does she have so many layers on, anyway? She must be cold-blooded like a lizard, because anyone else would die of heat stroke if they swaddled themselves so thoroughly before cooking a large meal.

Wasn't it bad enough the first time, you sadist?

The wardrobe department was apparently unwilling to let this look go to waste after the opening credits were filmed, so here it is in all its glory again. I don't have much more to contribute, except that I hadn't realized how pleated her shirt was. Those folds continue all the way over her shoulder and onto the back. It's criminal. Also, look closely at her middle in the first shot. There appear to be two belts there: a smaller one cinching her waist, and a larger one for purely cosmetic purposes. Don't do this, people. You can use a single accessory to both shape your clothes and add interest to your outfit. Seriously: that's what belts do. One is plenty. Otherwise, my previous commentary stands unaltered.

Gag on the eleganza!

Denise doesn't appear in the "cooking dinner" segment, so she only gets one chance to show us her stuff. As I've said before, her efforts to subvert the norm when dressing formally are consistently delightful to me. Even when she's more odd than actually good, I can't help but feel affection for her commitment to blazing new trails. The skirt and blouse complement each other while still creating an almost disorienting effect: the colorful bottom offsets the subtle top half nicely, but they're both patterned in a wacky, complicated way that makes it difficult for the eye to focus. Her usual almost-floor-length hemline and bunchy waist are in effect, but she's exploring novel territory up top with a much more fitted look that seems quite polished. The high neckline and puff sleeves are delicious, like she's in a modernized costume epic. She just needs a towering wig. The more I saw of this, the more I approved. And then she turned around.

It's like she has her shirt on backwards, but in an elegant way.

Gold chains? Oh, Denise. You're too good to me.

Been there, done that.

Theo already wore this in episode #1.6, so let's move on.

The nighttime is the right time, indeed.

I had a difficult time capturing Theo's second look; he's sort of lurking around on the sidelines until the big number, at which point he covers up with a coat. (Though, in his defense, the coat and hat are pretty sweet, even if they're obviously his dad's.) He appears to be wearing a meta-shirt, essentially: it's covered with other pictures of people in fun outfits. I can't get close enough to review the sartorial choices of the individuals on his clothing, but that's some Inception-level nonsense that I can't get into anyway. Extra points for the shiny midnight tie (so much better than flat black) and the suspenders (which I guess are getting handed down to the next generation now that Cliff is focusing on sweaters). I wish I could get a better read on the shirt's color. I want it to be a minty green. Wouldn't that be slammin'? Let's just pretend that it is so I can congratulate this boy some more.

Oh, girl. Gritty in pink.

Vanessa, honey, what's going on with those pants? They seem like the spiritual successor to your shirt from two weeks ago, and that's not a good thing. On top of that, you shouldn't match your pink bottoms with your pink top, even if you cover it with a loafy gray sweatshirt. Also, I shouldn't address you directly because you're a fictional character from decades in the past. You're not reading this because there's no "you."

I don't know, something something Katy Perry song.

Not better. I can see where we were going here. A peacock print sounds great: those colorful feathers are so beautiful and opulent. And if we're going to put lots of golds and blues in our shirt, we should reflect that in our choice of vest and trousers, right? And by reflect, I mean literally wear shiny things! No, no, and no. The peacock is an emblem of showiness, and likewise, the choice to emulate it ends up seeming overdone. (The peacock is also the logo of NBC, though I doubt that had any influence on her attire.) The vest with coattails is cute, but beyond that, we're in Bonkersville. In particular, I'm distressed by her yellow shoes. They're bad on their own, but I worry that she might be trying to literally embody a peacock. Like, if the vest has a tail, are those supposed to be bird feet? Is she in a costume? It just got weird in here.

Since we started with Rudy, let's end with Rudy.

She is the alpha and the omega.

Her slippers are too big. That's all.

No, really, that's all. There are no more outfits. See you next Monday, darlings.

1 comment:

  1. Judging by what appears to be a teeny collar on that atrocious colourbomb Claire is wearing in the first 2 pics, I feel it may actually be a shirt. I also feel a stroke coming on at the thought of it...