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Monday, August 20, 2012

Season 3, Episode 13: Monster Man Huxtable

Adding to the long line of hobbies, interests, and extracurricular activities in which the Huxtable children participate for roughly 48 hours, Theo takes up wrestling. Though he has never mentioned the sport before, he suddenly brags about an undefeated record over more than a dozen matches, and the nickname "Monster Man" is bestowed on him by the school paper. I'm sure by next week we'll have forgotten all about this latent talent of his, but it's exciting for the time being, I suppose. In news that actually has implications for the rest of the series, Elvin and Sondra reveal that they are thinking about marriage.

Triumph from the front, tragedy from the side.

When Elvin first walked in, I was primed to like this shirt. He has such an easy confidence in his smile, standing there with his hands on his hips like nothing's wrong. Then he turned to the side and I almost shrieked aloud. The way this tents out from his body is plainly abhorrent. It has to be accidental; this must be an irregular from the clearance rack. No young man is thinking, "You know, I'd like a garment that emphasizes the slimness of my shoulders and creates the illusion of an almost cartoonish beer gut." The six-inch difference between the front and back hems only heightens the fiasco. From the chest up, he looks great: the fit is solid, the color is swell on him, and he even rocks that hairdo rather nicely. But downward, he's basically in a maternity blouse. Is that why he's popping the question? Is this a shotgun wedding? (Side note: if this shirt were just a shade deeper, then I'd worry that we were having a recurrence of the first season trend to pair cobalt and black at every opportunity.)

Try not to see the pocket buttons as giant white nipples.

The shape of this shirt isn't actually better for his body, but at least it's uniformly too big. It's almost built like a coat, really: beyond the sizing, there's a sense of durability in the fabric, plus the giant buttons and many pockets. It reads like outerwear. He's still wearing the gray t-shirt from yesterday, which kind of defeats the purpose of an undershirt (it's gonna get smelly, Elvin), but I like the sort of non-plaid he's showing us. Mild blues suit him, and that denim-y shade that dominates the outfit is made even more charming by the olive and off-white accents. I'd like to see this shirt retailored and fitted with less obtrusive fasteners, but it's not terrible.

I'm not ashamed of my attraction to him.

That same day, Elvin helps Theo practice his wrestling moves, which means removing a layer. I've gotta say, he's looking pretty good here. Check the bicep in that profile! The jeans are doing him some favors, too. Maybe this is taking it a little far, but I'm inclined to say that Elvin looks hot in this pared-down ensemble. This is why Coco Chanel recommended taking one thing off before you leave the house: simplicity will often serve you better than an ill-placed flourish. With all the misguided rick rack everyone keeps throwing around, it's refreshing to see someone looking mighty fine in solid basics.

Would a belt have killed you?

What strikes me most about this shot is that Elvin actually seems to have changed into a different pair of jeans. His last ones seemed more modern: slightly darker, with some attention paid to the shape of his legs and waist. This pair is darker, with a little more of a "mom jeans" fit to them. The red shirt is also a step down. I thought it might have been Theo's from episode #3.5, but I think it's just a similar one. Though the more I look at it, the more I wonder why they wouldn't have reused it if given the opportunity. I don't mind him in this color, but that periwinkle was such a slam dunk, you know? This look mainly serves to illustrate that not all basics are created equal.

I admit to putting less effort into Sondra. I'm sorry.

Sondra's first appearance is pretty brief, and awfully grim. I don't think we get a good sense of what she's wearing for pants, but it seems that she came from a much colder place than Elvin, since her top half is encased in eight or nine layers of thick wool. Seriously, that sweater makes her look huge. HUGE. (She should have learned her lesson in episode #2.4, when she first wore it.) Maybe they're both pregnant. She might want to ask her mom about how to hide that with patterns and tables and stuff.

What if all of the Village People were just one woman?

Her bashful face in that shot on the left is because Cliff caught her singing. I wonder if Sondra's tendency to serenade herself is a holdover from when Whitney Houston was offered the role. Getting back to the actual focus of this blog, though, I'm curious about how this outfit is constructed. It's possible that this is a single black jumpsuit with a plaid lining, a jumpsuit with a shirt underneath, or pants and a top plus a second shirt. (The vest is more obviously separate.) Regardless of the logistics, I'm put off by this look. She's drawing on a lot of hard labor references: the carpenter vest, the mechanic coveralls, the lumberjack plaid. Her aim, I suppose, is to juxtapose rough-and-tumble imagery with more feminine elements, but it doesn't follow through for me. Concept or no, she's layered in items that don't flatter her in shade or shape.

Gangsters gone wrong.

I'm including this shot just to let you process the fact that Elvin only packed one undershirt, but Sondra brought two enormous technicolor Dick Tracy overcoats.

Feel the beat of the rhythm of the nightmare.

Underneath that coat, she's serving up one of her most confusing outfits to date. The red pieces are fairly comprehensible: an indoor coat seems unnecessary, but not unfathomable, and red pants have their place in society. But that black thing: what's happening there? Those side panels jutting out by her thighs are completely without precedent. If I could get my hands on one garment from the entire run of the show thus far, it'd be this one. I need answers. What could possibly be happening there? I know I hate it, but I want more information about what it is I'm hating.

Your husband needs one of those belts.

Sondra's final look isn't great, but after what she's put us through, it's surprisingly tolerable. I'm particularly impressed with the way it flatters her body shape. She's spent most of the episode defying biology with strange constructions, so it's nice to see her accentuating what she actually has. Like with Elvin's simplest look, I think she's better served by a minimalist perspective. Not that this truly counts as minimalism: she has two belts on, for heaven's sake! (One black and one brown, mind you: she's out to make my eyes bleed with that offense.) The khaki here is close enough to her skin tone that I wouldn't normally recommend it as the foundation for an outfit: there are better ways to suggest nudity. I do like the jade peeking out at her wrists, though, and am even willing to accept the bandanna. (Though it's crazily meticulous to point this out, I'll note that Vanessa wore that bandanna in episode #2.17.)

She has a lot of unsupervised phone access for a kid her age.

Rudy gets two outfits this week, and I'll give them both a cursory glance because why not? This episode has been really red-heavy. Does it symbolize something? The bloodiness of battle, as suggested by Theo's wrestling wins? The passion of love? Maybe someone backstage just loves the color. Maybe it's a fluke. Whatever the reason, the littlest Huxtable continues the trend with her leggings and turtleneck. The gray dress manages to make the whole outfit seem drab, though, even with such a vibrant foundation. That dusty sack of a smock just makes her look like an extra in Oliver! or something. If you want to dress your children in durable, functional attire, you're better off going with coveralls.

That hair is all Heidi realness.

Here we have a more generic take on play clothes: sweats! Throw your kids in brightly colored sweatsuits and let them run free! I'd love to know what her patches say, but beyond that I've got little to add.

No thanks.

Vanessa teased this shirt's collar in episode #3.11, but now here it is in all its glory. She even buttoned the top button to make sure we saw as much of this absurd print as possible. I have nothing nice to say about it, so I'll move ahead quickly. Actually, I'm not sure that I have anything nice to say about her cowboy boot earrings or her wrong-shade-of-tan slacks, either. Her belt is poorly placed, allowing the hang of the fabric above it to create the week's third (and perhaps least appropriate) pregnancy scare. I reserve my greatest disdain, however, for that sad piece of twine at her neck. The only thing worse than a bolo tie is a janky imposter bolo tie.

If you're going to take someone's stuff, at least take something good.

Vanessa returns with one of the strangest acts of thievery yet. Remember last season, when she was hitting on Robert? That's his shirt. Let's all spend the next few minutes thinking of some completely ethical ways in which this change in ownership could have occurred. It's going to be more difficult than you think. (And Robert giving it to her as a gift doesn't count, because I'm pretty sure that he'd only ever have done it in a futile attempt to win back her affection.)

His smug expression has gotten a lot of mileage this season.

Theo's first appearance is pretty quick. He wears a greenish shirt and jeans. Without indicators about how the clothes fit or how the pattern extends across his upper half, I have no real option but to say that I like the color and move on.

[this space intentionally left blank]

Black sweatsuit. The end. Theo persists in his quest to underwhelm me.


No, flexing your muscles will not earn you better reviews. (I feel compelled to confess that I am uncomfortable whenever Theo's underaged nipples are displayed.)

It seems to me that he lived his life like a candle in the thrift store.

Well at least this is a whole, actual outfit. To start on a positive note, I'll compliment his use of midnight blue as a base instead of black. My personal fashion philosophy is typically to avoid black; color makes much more of an impression unless you're doing something entirely black or something very formal. Despite his success on that count, however, he falls short elsewhere. This sweater is downright tragic. I'd expect to see someone wearing it ironically at a party. Are those white chunks supposed to be candles? Is this a menorah? Are those snowflakes in the candles? How does that even work? The fact that he's making an effort is reassuring, since he's been slipping this season, but he's still not even close to meeting expectations.


It still amazes me sometimes that "Cosby suspenders" aren't a thing. I guess they're not as outlandish as his sweaters, but he wears them all the time and they're usually balanced perfectly between kooky and sharp. Take this getup: if any of those colors were a hair brighter, he'd basically be a clown. But everything somehow harmonizes to cohere into a rather dapper presentation. The pants are sitting a little high, but the effect ends up being nicely slimming. The doctor knows what he's doing.

There were better shots of his sweater, but THAT FACE!

Why wear one sweater when you could wear three? If one could attain Zen mastery of knitwear, it would look like this. It's as though he bought the same item in three colors, and then found a way to give them singular, cohesive life. The predictable stripes and mellow palette give this a more controlled feel than one might anticipate from the rather unruly pantheon of Cosby sweaters. There's a heathered quality to each color that almost reads like television static, and I guess that adds the required chaotic element, but it all stays pretty well managed. As for his trousers, we've seen them many times before. I don't know that green-gray is the optimal choice in this circumstance, but it's not necessarily wrong.

I see no sweating happening, Doctor.

His last look is another "Lemire brand" sweatsuit. We do not speak about sweatsuits here.


By not featuring her in the episode! That's right, Clair doesn't appear even for a brief phone call. My love for her is deep enough that I actually felt like I missed her. My mental health continues to plummet as a result of this blog.

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1 comment:

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