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Monday, August 27, 2012

Season 3, Episode 14: Rudy Spends the Night

In the back of my head, I've been looking forward to a couple important fashion moments on this show. This week, I realized that they both occur in the same episode, meaning that we get to explore them both in the coming paragraphs. I won't spoil them in the intro, but will highlight each as we get there. Try to contain your anticipation. So, the plot. Theo is interested in a new girl at school and is trying to get her to come over with a mutual friend under the pretense of studying. Rudy is sleeping at her grandparents' and battling the anxiety associated with leaving her home overnight for the first time. Vanessa is excited that Denise has invited her to hang out in the Village with her college friends. It's a big day for everyone.

Theo says that Lana has "it." "It" is not an eye for fashion.

This is Ana D. Zenon as Lana Herman, the object of Theo's affection. Her acting career begins with this appearance and ends before this season is over. The costume she's sporting is pretty clearly intended to position her as the girl you'd notice, but she's relying heavily on the "all publicity is good publicity" philosophy.  Yes, everybody's looking, but it's because you're as wide as a compact sedan with those shoulder pads. There's too much unfocused detail in this outfit: even in a restricted tonal range, she looks disorganized. For instance, even though the strip at the waist of her sweater aligns perfectly with the bands at the wrists of her coat, it's interrupted by the black horizontal band at her lapels. She adds to the chaos with that unidentified symbol across her midsection. If the whole thing were simpler, then I could see tiny white buttons on a long black skirt being a tasteful accent, but here they only create one more unpleasant distraction. And then up at the collar she's got a brooch or something? There's no focal point or unifying theme, so it all falls apart for me. Plus, she's probably sweltering under all those heavy layers. Be careful about how you use flourishes and ornamentation, guys.

Suitable only by comparison.

Tracy Allen Clark plays Maxine Kirkwood, the third wheel, in her only IMDb credit. I'm not sure how she didn't make the cut as a dating option, given that she has far more personality and charm than Lana. Her look isn't great, but it's better than her friend's. I have the same concerns about her shoulder pads, which are excessive, but applaud her restraint in sticking to a couple colors and minimizing all the splashy business that a less discerning woman might have thrown at this garment. Though the draping doesn't do her figure any favors, at least she lets the seams do the work rather than integrating inappropriate patches and accessories. All she needs is a little bright teal at her neckline and a well-placed belt to get the job done. She should avoid this ochre in the future, though. People wearing colors close to their own skin tone tend to freak me out, because from a distance I always have to question if they're maybe naked and showing off a strange, medically unsound body shape, and then I'm like, "No, it's just a boxy blouse. Maybe wear purple next time."

Slacks 'n' relaxin'.

Russell is back in some khakis and his episode #2.17 shirt. I feel like he's really getting the short end of the stick in terms of wardrobe budget. Cute socks, I guess.

She is an endless encyclopedia of facial expressions.

Anna loves her some aqua. After ranting for so long about people abusing accessories, I think she provides a nice counter-example: sometimes, less is just less. While her neck scarf is playful and inserts some much-needed diversity into her presentation, overall she's lacking panache. It's mostly just a sea of monotony. Even though she selected a pretty bold shade, she has nothing to break it up: no prints, ruching, flocking, nothing. Her little collar is spunky, but the rest of it is begging to be embellished. This looks like a rough draft.

Rudy even rhymes with cutie! That's how cute.

My favorite thing in this show is when Rudy wears short pants. Can't get enough of it. Plus, her sweater has a little circus seal bouncing a ball! She's too, too precious. The best part, however, is that she and grandma play dress-up with some old clothes from the 1940s. This is one of the two moments to which I referred earlier. Observe.

They're cooking with gas. (That's slang from the '40s, y'all.)

I'm not so into fur, but those hats are sensational and the long pearls are delicious and that brown jacket just owns. And see what I mean about Anna's outfit needing some pizzazz? This is so much better. She even looks happier! This section was also fun because she and Russell got to talk about being "hipsters" in their youth, and it's always nice to be reminded that there was a previous definition of that term. The cherry on top? Rudy giving us FACE.

And I mean FACE.


Less face.

Vanessa is still figuring out her style, but I'm liking where she's headed. That's not to say that I fully approve of where she is now, just that I see the potential. Her palette suggests a sharpening eye for flattering contrast: she gets better results than I would have expected from the dark, cool shades over this goldenrod foundation. I don't know that she needs the red on top of all that, but she at least uses it sparingly. There's something surprisingly coherent about her selections: in the wide shot, you almost feel like this is a total outfit, and not just composite parts. Matching the pants and shirt (or almost matching, like we do in the Huxtable household) was not my favorite choice, obviously, but I see why she would want to go there, given how many new hues are present in that big cardigan. The snowy pattern is subtle, which is a welcome change from her usual senselessness about prints. There's observable growth here, so I'm giving her credit for that, even if the outcome isn't quite where I'd like it to be yet.

This next look is the other reason that I was excited about this episode. When Denise invites Vanessa to go out with her, she stresses the importance of looking "funky" in the Village. How does she propose achieving this look? By raiding Cliff's closet.

So very funky.

The scenes in loose Annie Hall clothes are unfortunately brief, but I'm impressed by the results. Truthfully, commentary would be practically redundant specifically because of the Diane Keaton reference point: this was a well-worn path by the time the episode aired. It's a well-executed take on the trend, I suppose. These are clearly large men's clothes, but they look fantastic on her. The classic, Brooks Brothers color choices become suddenly ironic: she's a young, punky woman commenting on conservative fashions by turning them on their ear for her own purposes. Bonus points to the wardrobe department: Theo calls Vanessa out for wearing his tie, and that sure enough is the tie he wore in episode #3.12.

He's talking to that phone hard.

Theo starts off in an exact repeat of his episode #2.22 look so we'll move forward.

Are his days in nice clothes permanently over? I worry.

After getting caught in his pajamas by the ladies, Theo dives into something more comfortable. I don't know if this is an actual angora sweater or if it's just ratty and full of flyaways, but the fact that I have doubts means that he might need to retire this one. The hexagonal pattern being employed is interesting in the way it cycles through several pastel shades (one of which nicely matches the blue shirt underneath), and if this piece matched his body shape in any realistic way, I'd be tempted to give it my seal of approval. He shouldn't wear it with black pants, though, because the overall effect becomes too dreary: there's not enough splash in the upper half to justify so funereal an impression. Besides, if you're trying to get a girl's attention, don't you want to wear something a little more alluring? Why so serious?

Thank god you're back. It's been so dreary without you.

Denise jokes that she borrowed this sweater from her father, and she sure enough did: he wore it in episode #3.11. I'm surprised at how much I enjoy it on her, given how dubious I was about it last time. The floppy gray pants are floppy gray pants.

Denise is wonderful and special and I hate when she leaves.

Again, I'm in love with the ladies-in-old-man-clothes vibe, so I won't dig too deeply here. The yellow kerchief is inspired. I do want to point out a couple inconsistencies, though. First, other than the hat from episode #3.4 (which is kind of a cop out, since that was a costume to begin with), I don't think we ever see Cliff wear most of the clothing borrowed by his daughters. Now granted, he's old enough and rich enough that he's probably accumulated a lot of stuff over the years, and they could have been craftily selecting items he was less likely to miss. However, I still think it would have been nice if there had been more evidence in their outfits of the wardrobe we've grown familiar with over the past three seasons.

My second point is probably only interesting to New Yorkers, so if you don't want to read a nitpick about subway options, then feel free to skip ahead. Anyway, Denise informs Vanessa that the G train will take them straight into the Village. No, it most certainly will not. I live off the G train, I know. (And it wouldn't have worked in the '80s, either, I checked.) The G won't even get you into Manhattan. Further, if you're living in Brooklyn Heights, that's not even the closest train to you. Why are they walking to Hoyt-Schermerhorn in the middle of winter when the 2/3, N/R, and 4/5 are all right there and will all actually get them where they need to go? (I'm including all three options because I don't know if they're thinking East or West Village.) I just thought it was a particularly ridiculous mistake. Dad should probably just give them cab fare anyway; this family is loaded.

"Don't volunteer me to give my children money."

That's a terrible shirt to wear under this sweater, Cliff! Busy + busy =  mess. Then again, for him, a single sweater usually involves raising busy to the fourth or fifth power, so I can see how he got confused. Speaking of the sweater, I was interested to see in the close-up that there are a few different textures of wool being incorporated. It all seemed a little too cohesive to me, so it was nice to be reassured that he's still fully committed to lunacy. It's not horrid, though: the reds and browns and tans don't compete, and the diamond pattern doesn't cause brain damage. He might as well be in a tuxedo it's so restrained. And khaki pants! Is he visiting someone frail later? Why the need to avoid shocking us? Maybe his children stole all his best looks.

What is this awfulness? Did a pimp die?

They didn't steal this matching black leather coat and hat, though! They probably should have.

We'll close out with another round of your favorite game: HOW ARE THEY HIDING PHYLICIA'S PREGNANCY THIS WEEK?

Same as last week: by not including her in the episode. I'm not sure precisely when these shows were filmed, but my guess is that Ms. Rashad is ready to go into labor at any moment, or perhaps just recently gave birth. Hope she's back soon!

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See you guys next Monday!


  1. I liked Theo's pink/coral bootsocks in this episode. Taught me guys could wear pink socks too! :)

  2. Maxine didn't "make the cut" because Lana is the better looking one (IMO).