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, January 30, 2012

Season 2, Episode 10: Clair's Toe

Before we dig in, I have to acknowledge a disappointing truth about this project: I have been performing incomplete reviews. As it turns out, a few minutes of footage were cut from each episode when the show went into syndication, and that footage is not covered in the blog. I only have access to the streaming content on Netflix, and they provide me with the abridged, 22-minute version, not the full-length original airing. I'm not even sure that the complete episodes are available on DVD. But the point is that outfits and sometimes even entire characters have gone unseen, and thus unmentioned. Maybe one day I'll get access to these lost scenes and do a quick recap. Until then, I just wanted to lay down the truth . Transparency, y'all.

Anyway, back to this week's storyline. Clair is going to take Cliff out to dinner to celebrate the anniversary of the night that he proposed to her. This becomes a Smooth Contest to see which of them will dress the smoothest. (Their adjective, not mine.) Only a fool would enter any sort of fashion competition against Mrs. Huxtable, but the good doctor gets an unexpected windfall when his wife breaks her toe, forcing her to walk with a cane and abandon the new shoes she had intended to wear. Will she be able to overcome this handicap and impress the judges? The judges, bear in mind, are her children. And us, I suppose. (The IMDb tells us that three guest stars this week played various coworkers of Clair's, meaning there was a scene showing the repercussions of her stubborn need to go into the office without any sort of walking aid. I bet there were some great power suits happening, but I have no way of corroborating that assumption.)

This is his "well-meaning and unintentionally wise" face.

Grandpa Huxtable is back, using his sweet-talking ways to convince Clair to walk with a cane. Russell's look is a little less polished today than usual. He holds onto his signature dress slacks and white poplin shirt, but lets his hair down ever so slightly with this sweater. It's not exactly casual, it's just not up to his usual standard in terms of class. This reads like something Cliff would wear: the pattern is too boxy to be viewed as refined, and the color choices have a decidedly '80s feel that contrasts roughly with the more classic garments Grandpa typically favors. Maybe this is a top that Clair bought him for Christmas or something, and he's wearing it to make her even more sympathetic to his cause.

That bag is kind of big for just one pair of shoes, lady. I hope you recycle.

Clair finally harnesses the potential of complimentary colors in this episode, unleashing weapons-grade fabulousness by pairing her usual aubergine overcoat with this golden jacket and blouse. The palette here is undeniably correct. Though the outfit has a little less snap once the outerwear is stripped away, it's still doing its thing. If that shirt has a snakeskin pattern like I think it does, then it's one of my favorite things I've ever seen on her. Hiding a hint of diva in your business attire is such a Clair thing to do, no? Details like letting the collar spill out over the lapels really add depth to the look. Unfortunately, proportions come back to bite her in the ass.

It's not an unfair screencap. It looks that big in all of them.

Literally. The combination of wrappy top and ill-cut skirt give her the appearance of a significantly wider backside than she actually possesses. The thick belt is wonderful, but the clothing below it could use some work. Upon closer examination, I'd like those sleeves to be longer, too. She doesn't do a lot of orange, though, and I'm a big fan.

She has a second outfit, but I'll build suspense by saving her showdown with Cliff until the end of the entry.

A repeat for him is a reprieve for me.

Cliff saves me some times this week by wearing two repeats: his shirt with the non-matching purple stripe from episode #1.10, and his blue long-sleeved tee from #1.19. As with Clair, his Smooth look will be saved for later.

She was also the inspiration for Emo Llama.

This week, Denise has turned her body into an art installation exploring the meaning of the word "sweater" in its contemporary context. This is the first of two multi-sweater ensembles she gives us, as well as the first of two sweater dresses. The gray and periwinkle aren't knocking my socks off, and the collar is way wide for my tastes, but I like that she went for the biggest safety pin she could find in lieu of a more traditional fastener like, say, a button. I also have to give her credit for going wild with the knit concept. Her father is, after all, famous for his work in this area, so attempting to drive innovation in that field is a pretty gutsy maneuver. She's the Jennifer Lynch of the family.

This is the first shot I've had to censor. I didn't want to ruin the surprise.

The giant pink sweater dress somehow proved insufficient on its own, so she's belted it with a second sweater. I would have urged her toward an actual belt, but it's too late now. Going with a gray pant underneath was a nice touch, and the giant cuffs to match the turtleneck also work for me. She's rocking some sort of brooch, and though we never get a good look at it, I'm going to assume that it's wonderful. Her brooch game is generally on point. This getup kind of does it for me: the more I review it, the more I think it speaks to Denise's essence as a character. It's weird but wearable, off-putting and endearing at the same time, different by nature rather than by effort... way to tell a story through clothes, wardrobe staff.

What's the deal with all that teal?

I can't shake the feeling that Theo is wearing a women's sweater here. It's not just the sizing, though that helps push it into the realm of something Denise or Vanessa might wear. The diamond patterning is the kind of thing you see a lot in clothing for women: the design creates the optical illusion of a slimmer waist in comparison to one's hips and chest. While men certainly desire a broad shouldered, narrow-hipped physique, they typically aim for an inverted triangle as the ideal build. This garment implies more of an hourglass. The color scheme is neutral in terms of gender, and looks nice on him. The shirt beneath is a little off; I'd like it if worn separately, but it's doing that thing where it's just a hair off from the color it's trying to be. When will we learn, Huxtables? Don't match, coordinate.

Better than tiger blood. Definitely winning.

For his second look, Theo revisits his episode #2.7 cargo jeans, but makes up for the repetition with a pretty bonkers top. It's funny, because my track record leaves me obligated to dislike this on the grounds that it is a sweatshirt. And the truth is that I don't adore the make of the shirt so much as I enjoy the print. It's a tiger, people! Not just the stripes, but the head and paws, too. He's wearing a giant tiger. This is the kind of top that you run across in a thrift store and buy immediately because you're going to get so much cred out of your ironic look. He's laying the foundation for a future in which kids with non-prescription glasses and experimental facial hair arrangements will gravitate toward garments this brash without even realizing that they're touching greatness. They won't think to flash just a glimmer of orange at the neckline, or to roll the sleeves with panache. Don't worry, Theo. I'm here. I get you.

So much trying, so little succeeding.

Vanessa must take her family's tendency toward flat tones as a personal challenge, because her shirts often incorporate a mishmash of eight or nine patterns bleeding together, apparently in some vain quest to single-handedly invigorate the house's overall fashion impact. Maybe I've just been beaten into submission by previous, more violent efforts in this regard, but I actually like this shirt. I could see it being the best part of an outfit that didn't involve a garment that is simultaneously overalls, a miniskirt, and a vest. Veskirteralls? Overskvest? Turducken? In electric blue, no less! There's nothing about it that is good or makes sense. Who will take this beastly abomination into Mordor and toss it into the howling crevice from which it was forged? Side note: those wings aren't fooling anyone, we know you're not a pilot.

An affront even from the back.

This look officially grosses me out. She's starting from a not-entirely-terrible foundation. A collared shirt tucked into high-waisted shorts is, if not the best possible option, at least an option that has been tried before with moderate success. Similarly, gray and yellow aren't best friends, but neither are they mortal enemies. (Not that those red high tops are helping anything.) Her fish earrings are adorable, and I think they're even a different pair than the ones in episode #1.20, which looked greener. But then the villain of the story comes along in the form of this grotesque vest that reaches practically to her knees. Not everything can be a dress, kids. Just buying an extra large and pretending you're innovating doesn't cut it. Especially when you're working with an awful pattern in a tonal range that spectacularly clashes with the rest of your outfit. This is an awful, near-unforgivable mess.

Since she's there, we'll stop to look at Rudy just long enough to notice that she is better dressed than Vanessa. But enough of this amateur hour nonsense. We're having us a good, old-fashioned walk-off.

We have different definitions of "smooth," it would appear.

Look, I said already that you don't get into a fashion contest with Clair, but that doesn't mean you don't even try! Cliff is wearing probably his worst suit yet. Navy is a problematic shade for him in general, and here in particular he's not doing himself any favors. It's the kind of thing you wear to a business meeting rather than a dinner out. This was his chance to show a little flair, and he entirely missed the mark. The suspenders are a nice touch, but again, he has better ones. The flat black isn't smooth, it's dull. And besides, navy and black aren't that awesome together in my eyes. I like that the jacket is lined, but I don't like the way the lining looks with the tie, or the way the tie looks with the handkerchief in his pocket, or really the way the tie looks with the suit overall. Once more: he has better ties. The swirls of deep reds and purples and even greens and mustards all look sloppy and undifferentiated. It's too low-contrast in its presentation, and doesn't show the level of care one would expect from a person entering a fashion contest, for heaven's sake! He has more stylish shirts, too, even if this one is just fine. The tailoring here is sleeker than his black suit, I suppose, and the lapel is nicely understated. Other than that, he's swimming in a sea of misfires.


When Clair first marched down the stairs in this, I had reservations. This, is, to quote the prophet Tim Gunn, "a lot of look." It's hard to pull off an entirely metallic ensemble, and adding four colors of stripes (going both vertically and horizontally at different points) and then overlaying a floral on top of that is pretty much begging for the whole thing to topple. But when you're Phylicia Rashad, you can call down your superpowers and wear whatever you damn well please. She's not exactly in a trash bag, either: the draping and wrapping effects are sexy while still offering complete coverage. The matching pants keep it demure. There's a hint of Eastern inspiration here; the sparkle motion of the fabric makes it feel like a sari a little bit. And that one shoe that she's wearing matches perfectly, which is nearly impossible when you're working with the kind of complexity that she's handling.

If you're looking to for some shimmery, flowy duds of your own, you should check Haider Ackermann's Fall 2011 ready-to-wear line.

Models: Josephine Skriver (l), Ataui Deng (c), and Sigrid Agren (r) / Photos: Monica Feudi, feudiguaineri.com

His designs are tighter and abandon pattern in favor of richer hues, but the parallels remain. And of course, that paper bag on Clair's foot from earlier is still begging for a big reveal. I won't leave you hanging.

OMG, shoes.

Oh Clair. First, let's take a moment to appreciate the fabric in close-up. It's just magnificent. The sandal is also pretty rad. It's perhaps a hair overdone; there's a slight artsy-craftsy aura about it. But she goes for it with the India theme, throwing down multicolored baubles and faux jewels in style. The confidence on display here is really the key ingredient, though. This woman is walking with a cane while carrying a staggering array of colors, patterns, and design influences on her back. To ooze this kind of bravado on top of it all is simply unbeatable. Sorry, Cliff. You were demolished.

The kids, of course, agreed. Duh.

I love the episodes centered on fashion. One of these days, I really do need to get in touch with Sarah Lemire (costume designer) and pick her brain. Anyhow, until next week, dears.


  1. If you type in "Cosby Show Episodes" in youtube, you can find pretty much any season of this entire series. You might be able to find those extra minutes that have been cut. Love the blog. Keep it up.

  2. "He's laying the foundation for a future in which kids with non-prescription glasses and experimental facial hair arrangements will gravitate toward garments this brash without even realizing that they're touching greatness."

    Quote for the ages.