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, October 29, 2012

Season 3, Episode 23: The Bald and the Beautiful

This week's episode has two parallel stories: Cliff and Clair have dinner with old friends, while Theo and Cockroach prepare to shave their heads for the chance to appear in a music video. Look, sitcoms were slow in the '80s. This isn't The West Wing.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Patrick Horgan
This also isn't Downton Abbey. See you later, Sir Snobby Accent.

I feel obligated to include the maître d' at the restaurant, even though reviewing a tux is pointless, especially when it's a work uniform. Regardless, say hello to Patrick Horgan, an actor whose career had already been well established by the time he delivered this performance. Though he might not have been particularly famous for any particular role, he made guest appearances in a whole slew of prominent series. His posh, authoritative voice might sound familiar to you if you're a Woody Allen fan: he was the narrator in Zelig. Anyway, here he is.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Robert Culp Scott Kelly
People in this show tend to take hardship well. Probably because they're rich.

Cliff's friend Scott Kelly is played by Robert Culp. His casting as an "old Navy buddy" is something of an in joke, as he costarred with Bill Cosby in I Spy for three years. A prolific television and film actor, he was performing right up until his death in 2010. His character in this episode shows up to deliver a bunch of exposition about heart attacks, what causes them, and how they can be prevented. This seems a little preachy and a lot redundant, given that the show has previously discussed one of Cliff's friends having a heart attack and the subsequent dietary restrictions Clair tries to impose. Anyway, this dude is wearing a suit, and I'm not a tailor, so I can't say much about it specifically. The gray is nice. I'm skeptical of the red and blue pattern of the tie over the matching navy stripe in the shirt, though. Stripes that thick are always a little dicey for me, and I'm not in love with the "colors of the American flag" palette. Those selections could have been improved.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Ann Reinking Jill Kelly
We Got Annie, indeed.

Star of stage and screen Ann Reinking pops up as Jill Kelly. You might have seen her in Annie or All That Jazz. A protégé of Bob Fosse, she is closely associated with the musical Chicago: she replaced Gwen Verdon as Roxie Hart in 1977, and then 20 years later reprised the role in the revival, for which she also won a Tony for Best Choreography. I guess they were trying to reflect the glam of her stage presence with this look, but only in the '80s would someone dare to wear a three-piece outfit made entirely of gold lamé. We're talking jacket, blouse, and skirt. Its' much, much too much. While the fabric is vibrant to the point of getting obnoxious, I'm not mad at the shape of these garments. If she were wearing on gold piece surrounded by blacks and purples, maybe, I'd have fallen in absolute love with this. Here's an idea for a modern take on that look:

(I'm trying to get back to presenting modern equivalents for these ensembles. Full disclosure: these are ads, and I could make small amounts of money off them. But I'll only post relevant links, and to make up for the distraction, I'll stop begging for donations. Those of you with ad blocking software will see only a blank space. If it ends up being a terrible idea, let me know and I'll make it stop.)

One more side note: this is Ann Reinking's final IMDb credit. After The Cosby Show, she apparently lost all interest in on-screen work.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Ana D Zenon Lana Herman
Now sashay away.

Lana Herman is back one last time, and she's going out hard. Cowboy boots. Dark-wash mom jeans. Seafoam artist's smock. Purple zippered long-sleeved polo. Pink cami (or maybe that's just a straight-up t-shirt). Orange wedge earrings. I feel like every one of these pieces is from a different look. Like, are you a substitute teacher or an arty bohemian? Cowgirl or girl next door? Maybe she and Theo break up because she needs to do some soul searching. She's all, "Who is Lana Herman, really?" If this outfit is any indication, she's really going through it.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Carl Anthony Payne Cockroach Walter Bradley
This boy has literally never made a good suggestion.

Cockroach steps in with big ideas about haircuts and bigger ideas about what size his shirt should be. He and Theo could wear that big tenty thing simultaneously. The muted shades and vaguely pop art print are at least on the right track; he'd be doing great if this piece were slimly tailored. I agree with the charcoal undershirt, but am less sold on the neon green next to the yellow cars. Though they're not pictured here, he's serving some tasteful black pants downstairs.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Carl Anthony Payne Cockroach Walter Bradley
Like I said.

This whole presentation is just so weird. I'm assuming he was trying to be fashion forward because he thought he was going to be in a music video, but what was the thought process that created this mess? I can't say anything bad about an item as basic as a gray hoodie, but I have to question a shirt that matches his denim that closely. And speaking of denim, I want to talk about the high-waisted jeans situation. That waist is mad high, people. And to make sure it stays high, he's securing it with both suspenders and an industrial-strength belt. His only concern in the world is making sure that his fly extends up to his lowest rib no matter what. (Oh, and I'm not even going to go there with the bald cap.)

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Rudy Keshia Knight Pulliam
Cameo appearance.

Rudy only shows up for a short scene in the beginning of the episode. It's kind of weird, actually: a boy calls to ask Vanessa to the eighth grade dance, but Rudy forgets his name when she conveys the message. The story is left unresolved, however: no one ever mentions the phone or the dance again. Anyway, this is all we see of the littlest Huxtable, and that's a shame, because I love everything about the top quarter of this look.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Vanessa Tempestt Bledsoe
She's going out for Halloween as the Kool-Aid Man. OH YEAH!

To compensate for the fact that she's only wearing one garment, Vanessa makes sure it's the busiest single garment she can get away with. There are buttons, a banded collar, thick belt loops, six-inch cuffs at the ankle, and a wide plaid swath thrown haphazardly across her chest. And yet, despite these challenges, she comes within striking distance of pulling this off. No, guys, really, hear me out. The apple red is gorgeous. (At least, it's apple red in the kitchen; things skew a little pink in Theo's room for some reason.) But more importantly, there are some great things happening with the fit. The off-the-shoulder draping of those sleeves is audacious, but since they're short sleeves, it feels less egregious and more like a plausible fashion option. It's just a drapey top, you know? That happens. And then the lower half actually fits her. Those pant legs are tailored nicely, and just look at how the belted waist shows off her... ok, I know she's underage and we're not supposed to look at her butt, and I don't mean to turn this conversation in a direction that's going to put me on an FBI watch list (I swear, government agents, I'm gay as a goose and have no plans to go back in time and harass the Tempestt Bledsoe of yore), but if I had a booty that round, I'd be thrilled to find a onesie that displayed it with such majesty. Oh, the envy I feel! I'm even prepared to forgive the Tartan Rectangle of Confusion in light of this triumph in gluteal tailoring.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Theo Malcolm Jamal Warner
Is there a light at the end of this tunnel?

Theo's back to his simpler jeans, which is both good and bad: they're more fashionable, but less conducive to elaborate critique. Sticking to his shirt, as we always do, I'm seeing a slight upswing in his level of taste. I wouldn't call this a fantastic piece, but it's not a sweatshirt. The garment makes interesting use of the interplay between the bright, bordering-on-neon orange and the stonier slate and cadet blue accents. It doesn't fit properly and is a little aggressive in its hue, but at least it has a collar.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Theo Malcolm Jamal Warner
From a distance, I'm wondering if maybe the Ruby Rhod look is right for him.

If he went to school in an A-shirt all the time, he'd nab WAY more ladies than he does with his current selections. On the other hand, the lack of baggy sack top reveals that his jeans are pleated. One step forward, two steps back.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Clair Phylicia Rashad
I can't get enough of her judgment face.

Clair jumps on the button bandwagon with her first look, adorning the front of her shirt with a dense string of fasteners even though there's clearly no opening there and thus no need for any fastening. If I hadn't seen her looking so trim in other episodes, I'd assume that this outfit had been chosen to mask pregnancy weight, because that jacket is way tanky. She's not doing herself any favors by hiking up her trousers and throwing down that thick belt, either. Slathering her in beige also seems pointless since she wears jewel tones and vibrant prints so well. She's beautiful, and this poorly designed outfit is holding her back.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Clair Phylicia Rashad
Letting everyone know.

She brings it back with this red suit, though. I'd love to scorn this jacket, but it takes sizing incongruity to such a comical extreme that I have to call it a success. Look at those shoulder pads! And the sleeves that puff in the middle but taper at the wrist! In that first still, she has the upper body of a gorilla costume. But somehow, by sinning as fiercely as she can, she pulls out a win, turning the idiocy of an ill-fitting blazer into something chic and regal. And look at her from the front. Such blatantly sexual cleavage! In the space between the choker and the lowest point of her neckline, there's quite a bit of skin showing. I don't think it's a bad thing, I'm just surprised to see that much breast on this show. Her skirt won't win any awards, but it's not dragging the look down, either. And so much shimmery red! This is another one of those cases where owning it makes all the difference.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Cliff Bill Cosby
Flaws-by sweater. (I know, that one's weak.)

Not one of my fave Cosby sweaters. Having pushed the envelope so stridently with his previous showings, it's hard to watch him take a step back. This vaguely Mondrian-inspired foray into geometric details is nice and all, but it doesn't feel as dynamic as it could. It's not overwrought enough to be a precedent-setting sort of terrible, nor is it conceptual enough to be amusing in an intellectual sense, like his postage stamp or ponytailed lady. This is just a jumble of colors. I wouldn't say that it doesn't work, I'd just say that it doesn't do enough.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Cliff Bill Cosby
For someone "relatable," he sure has a lot of expensive suits and fancy dinners.

Lastly, Cliff's dinner suit. I find the pale gray to be rather dashing, especially with that subtle crosshatching that adds depth and finesse to what could otherwise be a more standard offering. The almost sparkly effect achieved by that patterning reads maybe a touch young for the doctor, but I'll allow it. It's not too flashy, it just has a hint of sass. The deep eggplant handkerchief in his pocket is divine, especially because it salvages that tie from the brink of disaster. It's a rather fussy piece of work. What are those details on it? Peacock feathers? Ferns? The cosmos? It's a Rorschach test, really: you see yourself in that neckpiece. He manages to make it all look suave, though, which ain't bad for a guy that isn't quite Denzel Washington, you know? Go ahead, Mr. Cosby.

Isn't it nice to get to the end of this entry and not have me try to verbally mug you? GIVE ME THE MONEY See you next week, all.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Season 3, Epidose 22: Andalusian Flu

Let's clear one thing up right now: there's no such thing as the Andalusian flu. Why not use a regular flu? Unclear. Regardless, Clair is already sick with this dreaded, entirely fictional disease when Cliff begins showing symptoms as well. While they are both incapacitated, it's up to Theo to keep things running smoothly. Unfortunately, teenage boys are assholes across the board, so he makes his little sisters do all the work while he congratulates himself on being such an adult. There's also a pointless subplot about getting the banister fixed.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom David Langston Smyrl Sam Lucas
He shows up and leaves immediately, presumably because there's no Clair to leer at.

In a stunning display of continuity, Sam Lucas the handyman returns in the jacket he wore the first time he was on the show. Way to pay attention to detail, wardrobe staff! Though he never removes said jacket, we still get a decent idea of what he's up to here. Dark jeans have been the accepted standard for a while, but I welcome the occasional foray into lighter territory. After all, these pants aren't the hapless victims of acid wash crimes; they're a sky blue denim gone paler with years of exposure. I recommend that everyone have one good pair of light jeans in their closet. Notice how they soften the whole outfit. I don't think the top half would work as well with a richer indigo beneath it. The gray tie and outer layer meld so nicely into the warm brown plaid, and the pants maintain that dusty, low-key impression. In that context, even the darkness of his hat band sticks out as a smidge too harsh.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Lou Myers Mr. Davis
His voice is a gravelly wonder.

This is Lou Myers' second and final appearance on the show as Mr. Davis, and I wouldn't feel right about overlooking him again. This series gave him his first TV acting credit and paved the way for his role as Vernon Gaines on A Different World. He's done a whole bunch of movies since then. I'm really only featuring him because I think he's a wonderful performer. Go back and watch his previous episode where he asks Cliff to fight for his job. It's spectacular. His depiction of the character is a little less forceful this time around, which I think is kind of a shame. I still don't think there's anything to be said about what he's wearing. I guess the striped t-shirt is something of his own choosing, but it's clearly a ratty old work shirt rather than a signifier of personal taste. The rest is coveralls and a hoodie. There you have it.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Ana D. Zenon Lana Herman
I know someone has worn those earrings before, but I can't find where. Anyone?

Lana Herman, who Theo asked out in episode #3.14, is back again. Things have apparently not been going well for her hair since our last encounter. Maybe it's really windy out there today. She's taking her previously established button obsession to new levels by employing them purely as decoration. Nothing on this outfit needs to be fastened, she's just fascinated with fasteners. The effect is cloying, unfortunately. There are plenty of flourishes one could add to a neckline (a necklace leaps to mind), so I'm not sure why she chose this method. Head to toe, though, her outfit is unsalvageable. Let's face it: from a distance, she looks like a nude, sagging white lady. It's not just that the whole thing is putty colored or that the top is huge: it's that the lower hem of her shirt actually scoops downward in the back to mimic a big, dumpy butt. The design purposefully drags her ass downward and away. I can't believe that she'll be back for a third date after this sad showing.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Rudy Keshia Knight Pulliam
Werqing girl.

Rudy's top is a hair overdone given its application. A six-year-old girl mopping the floor doesn't need a felled seam across her chest. (Said seam also makes the boxiness of the garment all the more apparent by adding stiffness that reinforces the width like a hoop in a skirt.) One might be tempted to assume that she's wearing an ugly skirt, but I'm pretty sure they're actually ugly pants. Leave the mixing of patterns to your father, hon. You're not going to win at that game. I will say she looks good in that pinky red color, and that the apron with the teddy bear on it is adorable. Of course, why she owns it is anyone's guess. This doesn't seem like a household in which Rudy is frequently required to labor.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Vanessa Tempestt Bledsoe
She was later incarcerated for inciting a zoot suit riot.

Vanessa's stellar performance last week was apparently a fluke rather than a turning point, because this is bad bordering on unacceptable. First of all, count the layers on top. Black t-shirt, green shirt, green jacket, horror vest. But then downstairs, her slacks are rolled to mid-calf. ARE YOU COLD OR NOT?! Also, why do you even own an entirely grass-colored suit? And if you're only going over to Janet's house, is a full suit (even a cheap suit) really necessary? And why did you not throw that vest in the garbage directly after episode #2.10? If there's an outfit this piece matches, you sure haven't found it yet. To prevent my commentary from being entirely derogatory, I'll offer tepid praise for the juxtaposition of casual converse with a look that draws from some formal business influences. That sort of pairing probably seemed fresh-ish 25 years ago.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Theo Malcolm Jamal Warner
Is he wearing this because Vanessa calls him a tyrant? Because that's kind of lame.

One of these days, Theo is going to walk down the stairs in a shirt with a collar and buttons, and it's going to fit him, and I'm going to cry tears of joy. Until then, I'm apparently doomed to talk about sweatshirts a lot. This one is at least more daring than his usual selections, using screen printed images in the style of Medieval tapestries to say, "Hark! This be no common peasant shirt. Nay, gaze upon the glory of this mighty gryphon and the powerful sleeve lions by which it is flanked. This is truly raiment fit for nobility!" (I would love to know what the voice in your head sounded like as you read that, because mine was hilarious.) It's hard, because I want to love the showy strangeness of it, but I don't honestly feel like it works. He's trying new things with the jeans as well, serving up not only pleats, but also seams that run down the front of each leg like a crease. This is another example of detailing borrowed from a formal setting: he's trying to indicate dress pants, but with a lazy denim. Good effort, but it's ugly as sin and ruins the fit. Better luck next time.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Cliff Bill Cosby sweater
You're a doctor. You know this isn't even a real illness.

Since Clair never gets out of her pajamas (I'm not judging, mind you), we'll jump straight to Cliff. This sweater is a fantastic addition to his repertoire because it's supremely odd without being brash. I've never seen a garment with a stamp and postmark of such size. The focus of this piece is really to project, "I am a manila envelope being sent through the mail." However, it's constructed with neutrals, and the pattern of fine stripes is noticeable only once you get right up close, so it comes across with a sense of subdued control. Similarly, the collar of his shirt could easily be read as a flat tone, when in fact it has a faint print as well. The tans and olives of this outfit cohere impeccably, and since tailoring will surely fall below expectations for the entire run of the show, this is likely as close to perfection as we're going to get.

We're closing in on the end of the third season, and I'm excited to pull the shrink wrap off the next batch of DVDs. I hope you'll keep following along with me as we revisit the treasure trove offered to us by this series. Those of you who'd like to help out with the blog can do so in a few ways. The first and easiest is to tell people about it. Every time you post my URL somewhere, my traffic increases. Every time my traffic increases, I feel more like a freelance writer and less like a weird, obsessive recluse. Second: share your thoughts. Post a comment or write to me personally. I want to hear your feedback and suggestions. This project will keep trucking along, but if it needs a course correction, then you need to let me know. Third: donations are gratefully accepted. Think of the little yellow button as a tip jar: if you feel that your life has been made better by three seasons of thorough and (hopefully) humorous fashion reviews, then why not throw a spare dollar my way? Fourth: keep coming back. New posts are up every Monday morning, and it makes me happy when you read them. Thanks, all.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Season 3, Episode 21: I Know That You Know

Theo receives a sack of cheap gags in the mail, but untrickable Cliff refuses to chew the dirt-flavored gum or submit to a joy buzzer handshake. As the family's frustrations mount, they're met with a golden opportunity: Sondra comes home to reveal that Elvin has proposed, but Cliff is out of the house and misses the announcement. Clair and the kids plan an excellent ruse, but the doctor is too sly and gets the upper hand in the end.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Rudy Keshia Knight Pulliam
She's over Theo's lame pranks.

There's no indicator that Rudy has been outside at all today (and if she had been, I hope she would have rolled those sleeves down), so she has no cause to wear a jacket. I suppose one could argue that this is more of a cardigan, but the snaps, the bulk, and the contrasting lining all say "coat" pretty clearly. To me, wearing outwear indoors broadcasts that either your outfit is missing something or the heat is too low. I'll assume the former in this case: the Huxtables can afford that gas bill, I'm sure. Rudy, on the other hand, has forgotten to insert a color other than pink into her look, and is now in the awkward situation of scrambling to find sources of tonal variance. Just go upstairs and change your shirt, dear. Accept defeat gracefully. You look great in neon, but enough is enough.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Rudy Keshia Knight Pulliam
Maybe she's colorblind and thinks this has depth and interest?

Everyone changes clothes for the big dinner, but no one offers the camera a great view of their formal duds. This side view of Rudy is probably the most explanatory shot we get of anyone during the whole meal. She's obviously going through some sort of obsession with this shade, because it's head-to-toe peony once more. The garment reminds me of her episode #3.11 coveralls, but I'm pretty sure this is actually a shirt dress made from a rather stiff material. This time, the realization that she went monochrome led her to dangle beaded fringe half-heartedly off her shoulders. It's not fooling anyone, Rudy. You're still 98 percent pink.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Vanessa Tempestt Bledsoe
Choose the right accessory and I'm yours.

Vanessa, you're in on this pink thing, too? I talk a lot of smack about this girl, but I'm actually feeling a lot of what she's presenting this week. Perfect? No, certainly not. But she's miles ahead of where she usually is. By juxtaposing the prom-style skirt with a plain ol' long-sleeved tee, she hits this wonderful stride where her clothes become commentary a la Denise. Especially with the sleeves bunched like that, she's projecting the silhouette of a Disney princess while simultaneously undermining that girlishness with the scrubby details. Like, the only time you see a vest that janky is on the housekeeping staff at the Red Roof Inn. And yet if you look closely, it has these tiny little white frills on it that are all, "See? PRETTY." And the belt! It's wrong and right in ways I can't even type. But what pushed me right over the edge were her flamingo earrings. Case closed, everything is perfect. The black sheep scores a touchdown.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Vanessa Tempestt Bledsoe
Look at me using Photoshop. (Let's be real: GIMP. I'm on a budget.)

It's maybe for the best that Vanessa has no lines and negligible screen time at dinner, because it would hurt my feelings to have to review this obviously terrible apparel-thing after her recent surprise victory. But I'm not going to draw bitchy conclusions from insufficient data (at least, not today), so instead let's continue to bask in the feeling of enjoying her previous look.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Theo Malcolm Jamal Warner
He's delivering total Keenan Thompson face here.

I'll say this, Theo: it's not boring. Though I don't care for this sweatshirt, I appreciate having something to talk about finally. It's not even all bad: I'll give points for the color blocking on the sleeves. But the yellow flocked stars and squares don't work, both because they're unnecessary and because they read way too young. They're the sort of Lucky Charms shapes that we should be sewing onto Rudy's shirt to break up the single-shade parade. The worst offense here, however, is that quilted swath over his tummy. It adds the impression of roundness exactly where you don't want it, expanding his slim middle in a way that suggests his father's proportions. If all this same nonsense had been applied to a shirt that fit him tightly, he'd still look dumb, but significantly less so. (I know I never review his jeans, but I'm just not capable of coming up with something new to say about jeans every week.)

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Theo Malcolm Jamal Warner
He has to dig back a full year to find clothes I like.

I'm glad the episode #2.5 tie is back. That's a nice tie. I don't think it's the same shirt though, as this one is a deeper purple . It still matches well. I approve. Like Rudy, Theo has opted for an over-garment that presents as a coat even if it's not actually a coat. It seems a hair flimsy to be even a windbreaker, and the lapel is thin like a shirt collar even if it does run all the way down to... well, it could be floor-length, for all I know. There, mystery solved: this is a bathrobe. Seriously, though, it's never the right time to put yourself in a beige sack.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Sondra Sabrina Le Beauf
I will not make a "totally leotarded" joke.

No Denise this week (since this was a surprise visit, she was doing her regularly scheduled college stuff during the engagement announcement), so we're skipping straight to Sondra. In some ways, I'm proud of her: she's experimenting with styles that actually fit her body, and I have to commend that. The wrap at her waist is elegant, and everything else is tailored without being tight. There's an almost minimalist chic about this, or there would be if she weren't ruining it with that trashy shell necklace. It'd be worth it for her to incorporate a print or color shift somewhere, though; otherwise, she's basically costumed for a modern dance recital. She's going to express her joy about Elvin's marriage proposal through ten minutes of jagged arm movements, harsh pelvic thrusts, and guttural shrieks. After dessert.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Sondra Sabrina Le Beauf
She's not waking up tomorrow morning (ha ha) and finding that there's nobody there.

Nope, I got that wrong. Since she's wearing Jennifer Holliday's Dreamgirls costume, I can only assume that her after-dinner performance will be a window-shattering rendition of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." (You'd better eat a lot of that dessert, girl.)

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Elvin Tibideaux Geoffrey Owens
Reminder: Elvin went to a good school.

My crush on Elvin is beginning to fade. I mention this only because there is absolutely nothing to say about this outfit.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Elvin Tibideaux Geoffrey Owens
He has like eight reasons to be nervous during this dinner.

He's not really doing anything exciting here, either. A periwinkle shirt and blue blazer are sleep-inducingly predictable. The contrasting green on the tie is a little Tron for my liking, but it's otherwise an inoffensive presentation.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Clair Phylicia Rashad
"Fix my hair? Honey, you couldn't handle it if I did."

Oh Clair, you are so beautiful. I'm giving you this screen grab to show my affection, because the next ones aren't nearly as flattering.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Clair Phylicia Rashad
That necklace has been worn a bunch before, but I'm too lazy to link it right now.

Was there a memo circulated? One shade maximum? Is this secretly a live-action game of Clue? Nonsense abounds. Mrs. Green here looks fierce in emerald, and she at least creates a dynamic sense of motion and depth by using patterns and shine. However, the high, deeply pleated, poorly tailored trousers make her downright bulbous. Also, look at how her pockets slant downward: she has to keep her arms akimbo, like in the previous shot, or her chest becomes droopy. Her shirt needs to be darted. I'm a fan of this in that I'm more inclined to like whatever she's wearing, but objectively it's not an awesome ensemble.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Clair Phylicia Rashad
"The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize."

I'm stunned too! Why is that burly safari jacket even in your closet? The skirt is the right length, but the wrong width, and the peach top underneath is underwhelming and rather casual. One big toucan brooch is not going to save her: this needs an overhaul. (I'm betting this suit is by the same designer as her episode #3.19 number: they share the same back strap and overall fit problems.)

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Cliff Bill Cosby sweater
I call this one "The Girl From Ipanema."

There's a subset of Cosby sweaters that are basically wearable art prints. This one, for instance, is a stylized depiction of a long-haired woman in an off-the-shoulder blouse; the image is repeated on each sleeve as well. I'm in love with the strident colors and pared-down quality of the image. I feel like if this were worn today, it would be considered more feminine. Someone could rock this as the bulky top half over a tiny skirt and tights.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Cliff Bill Cosby
Assault gear.

Cliff's dinner look is part of the scam. See, if he knew that his daughter was about to announce her engagement for real, he'd probably have worn a suit. But since he thinks he's just dressing for a less momentous family dinner, he grabbed a gaudy tie and a loud pair of suspenders and presented himself like the goofy father that he is. In fact, he probably upped the nuttiness just a hair because he's a skilled troll, and he knows that everyone wishes they had told him the truth so that he would have looked less like a jerk. Since this whole getup is a joke, I can't really fault him for its ugliness. But damn is it ugly.

And with that, we come one step closer to the season's end. Thanks for continuing to read along; I'm having more continued fun doing this than I ever thought I would, even if it is an unexpectedly time-consuming endeavor. As always, donations are welcomed. See you all next time.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Season 3, Episode 20: Cliff's 50th Birthday

This episode depicts Cliff celebrating the milestone of half a century of life. The story begins with the doctor and his wife in bed, discussing what they will do for the occasion and deciding to have two parties: one with the children, and one with Cliff's adult friends. Planning starts to get kind of sad when it's tough for him to think of people to invite, especially since everyone he mentions is someone Clair vocally dislikes. When this soiree eventually happens, there are only five guests. As the night progresses, Clair is forced to reconcile with a man who went through a messy divorce with one of her friends while Theo takes care of the former couple's 12-year-old daughter.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Mel Winkler
He does eventually leave the couch, don't worry.

Three of the five party guests are never addressed by name, but they speak and wear clothes, so I'll include them in this entry. Above is Mel Winkler, who had picked up a handful of film and television credits before this appearance and who has continued to act regularly since then, though mostly as a guest star on the small screen or in minor parts on the big screen. Nothing from his IMDb page jumped out at me as something you'd have recognized for sure. He's sporting a classic three-piece suit, which is tough to critique appropriately without some serious up-close examination. Suits, unless they deviate absurdly from the norm, are judged on minute tailoring decisions, and you can't usually eyeball them unless something is way out of place. From what we see of this guy, he looks well put together: the simple light gray is invigorated by the winey red accents, and overall the fit seems right. If forced to question him, I'd say that Tim Gunn recommends that socks match the trousers rather than the shoes, and I'm inclined to defer to his judgment.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Carmen De Lavallade
She looks like the kind of lady who says "pizzazz" regularly.

The suited man's wife, who also goes unnamed, is portrayed by Carmen De Lavallade, who had by this point already made a significant name for herself as a dancer with Alvin Ailey, the Metropolitan Opera, and in several films. As well, she earned acclaim choreographing her own pieces. Her lithe, compact frame is accentuated by this fluid, flattering dress: the wrap at her waist tapers everything well at the slimmest point on her body, while the light fabric wisps around her like air to highlight the grace of her movements. By opting for translucent sleeves, she gets to tease her arms without losing the formality of a wrist-length garment. The golden print helps lighten things, but I'm not sold on so much black for her. Especially when paired with the tight bun, it has a funereal feel to it. Cliff's not that old. This same frock in a jade green or rich amethyst could have really nailed it.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Omar Torres
The whole joke is that he has an accent. No, really. He talks funny, get it?

Poor Hector gets the short end of the stick: though we at least get to hear his name, we barely get to see what he looks like, let alone what he's wearing. Omar Torres, the actor, had previously appeared in one film, 1986's Power starring Richard Gere, Julie Christie, and Gene Hackman. Since this show, he has only acted once more, in a 2004 Argentine thriller called Leviatán: El juego. I wish I had more to go on as I consider his clothing. The grayish yellow of his shirt is reflected in the stripe of his tie, which unifies things neatly. Otherwise, he's delivering gray pants and a black blazer (I was leaning toward deep navy for some reason, perhaps because of the blue in his tie, but I'm reasonably sure it's black), and everything seems to be in working order.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Gates McFadden
What would Fashion It So have to say about this?

In another Star Trek crossover, Gates McFadden steps in as the last of the no-names. You're probably familiar with her as Dr. Beverly Crusher if you're familiar with her at all. The costume department was apparently having a weird day when she came in for her fitting, because this outfit would make more sense on the Starship Enterprise than it does in Cliff's living room. While the saturated, shimmery green works well for her, the construction is just a nightmare. The pants are at least sized correctly, but come across as goofy because of how strange the top is.  It's tough to tell if the bottom seam of her blouse is asymmetrical or if it's just hanging oddly. Sleeve length is also a concern here. Even if everything is measured correctly, the slouchiness of the shirt makes the horizontal lines look imbalanced: when there's an extra six inches of fabric in every direction, it's hard to keep a garment properly centered on one's shoulders, you know? Then we've got that terrifying lace ruff on her collar. It's just unbelievably bad. And in case you weren't already thinking she looked like a Christmas tree, she went ahead and dangled an ornament from her neck on a ribbon just to make sure. Not a winner, Gates, I'm sorry.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Mark Douglas Turner Ward
Speaking of pizzazz, this guy's got it.

This is Mark, a man for whom Clair has no love. She expertly throws shade in a manner that lets him know he's under fire without making the party uncomfortable, and he soldiers on like a pro. Douglas Turner Ward, the man playing Mark, had previously appeared with Bill Cosby in the 1971 film Man and Boy. His resume is populated with as many theater credits as screen appearances, including one Tony nomination. Since I've already discussed the virtues of a gray three-piece suit, there's not much I can add about his current wardrobe, except to say that I think the paisley of his tie is rather loud and a hair silly. Something simpler in a cool blue to match the handkerchief in his pocket would have been optimal, I think.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Ellen Ashley Thompson
Cliff and Clair would never have allowed their daughters to hang out alone
with high school boys at this age.

Last in our parade of guest stars is Ashley Thompson as Mark's daughter Ellen. After this, she pops up as a nameless student in Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, then in a TV movie called Time Well Spent, and then I guess stopped acting. Though she is only 12 in comparison to Theo's 16, Cliff spends an uncomfortable amount of time trying to get his son to consider this child as a romantic prospect. No, really, there's a long conversation about it. But getting back to the point of this blog, I think she's doing OK for her age in terms of clothes. I'm always happy when someone decides to eschew neutrals entirely: forget the black and beige, she's going for aqua and coral. There's nothing to indicate that either of these garments fit her at all, but she's taking chances with her palette, so I'll give her credit for that effort.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Rudy Keshia Knight Pulliam
Even when she's wrong, she's right.

This is one of those outfits that makes me think Rudy has begun dressing herself. The prevalence of pastels is so cloying, it could only have happened because someone let her child brain loose on a closet full of clothes. In terms of storytelling, I like that she's wearing a skirt that clearly came from a dress-up closet or Halloween costume or something. Her dad is having a fancy party, and she went with a ball gown. It's an adorable concept, really. Also, her party hat is oddly well coordinated with the rest of her look. How did that even happen?

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Vanessa Tempestt Bledsoe

Vanessa spends this episode lurking in the corners and on the fringes, making it difficult to capture her outfit. Luckily, the whole thing is a hand-me-down from Denise, who wore it in episode #1.14.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Theo Malcolm Jamal Warner
He doesn't bring me flowers anymore.

Remember how I said that I love when people avoid neutrals like beige and black? No, Theo? You don't remember that? You'd rather continue to depress me by donning dull tents in lieu of respectable attire? Fine. We're still in a fight.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Denise Lisa Bonet
If there weren't a party, she might still have worn that hat.

Denise is, as usual, thinking differently about the concept of a formal party. Though she's technically wearing a dress, it has a tough, rustic feel to it. Plus, that appears to be a sweatshirt underneath, which is flat-out never dressy. Nonetheless, I applaud the blue-gray and true gray combo. There are a couple key details to point out, though.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Denise Lisa Bonet
Secret genius revealed.

The dress is weirdly short in the back, revealing that it's more of an apron. In this light, I have to wonder if she's drawing from a medieval or Viking inspiration (you never know with this one). While I normally wouldn't care for unevenness in a hem even as an intentional flourish, I love that she uses it to reveal unexpected short pants and black stockings, pairing a tomboyish choice with an accessory steeped in feminine sexuality. It's a genius move. Next, take a look at that necklace. She wore it last week, too, and I was intrigued by it, but didn't get a good enough shot to actually critique it until now. My guess is that it's another cultural appropriation, though I couldn't guess at its origin. It's some sort of leather pouch secured by several straps around her neck. The amount of fuss involved in the construction makes it look almost like a safe: it's what a locket might be if a locket took half an hour to open. She must keep the souls of her enemies in there or something.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Sondra Sabrina Le Beauf

Sondra takes aim at territory similar to Denise's, but misses the mark considerably. Like her sister, she's toying with a vintage men's look, but her application of the concept is more clownish than alluring. Check out the shoulders of her jacket: they slump down in an A-line like a skirt for her chin, an effect that is only exacerbated by the buttoned top button of her white shirt. The shirt, by the way, is not tucked in, which cannot be condoned. I'm also dubious about that crystal slung around her neck, which reeks of a month-long New Age phase that she won't shut up about. I kind of dig the satiny finish and subtle pattern of the deep blue suit, but the high-water pants are dodgy. Further, she covers the area below her ankle with white athletic socks, which should not under any circumstances be worn outside of athletic engagement. I was on the fence until I saw that, and then everything was ruined. Sorry, Sondra. I'm trying to throw you a few compliments here and there, but you need to give back.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Clair Phylicia Rashad
Still finding her sea legs, apparently.

That hat is amazing. Only Clair Huxtable could find a party hat like that. Her outfit for Cliff's first celebration starts off well. The turquoise blouse and gold belt make a knockout pair, and the khakis make a serviceable foundation to show off the top half. Nothing revolutionary, but a nice ensemble. But then she hauls out that plaid work shirt and everything goes to pieces. I mean, what even is that? Is it supposed to be a jacket? Is it one of Cliff's old flannels? The lapels make it seem like a blazer, but the fabric looks too thin for that. Whatever it is, it's making a mockery of my sweet Clair and I can't tolerate it.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Phylicia Rashad
Getting closer.

Of course, by the time the adults arrive for the real party, she has put on something more fabulous. I know that nothing about this should be considered fashionable, but I can't help but revel in it somehow. Half the enjoyment is in the fact that she has a matching red opalescent blouse and harem pants. That's just gutsy. What really needs to happen though is that we need to start from scratch on that blazer and reconstruct it several sizes smaller, because the fabric and print make it look like upholstery at this scale. If it were a smart little tailored number, it would be so cute. I feel like this is the fourth or fifth time recently that I've had to ask why someone's clothes have so many buttons, so I guess that was a trend in the late '80s, but honestly, there are a million fasteners running down her front and it's overdone. At least she had the good sense to roll with that excess by flaunting lots of big, gold jewelry to round out the look.

Oh, and now is as good a time as any to mention that Clair's age is never discussed in this episode. The show has previously established that she and Cliff went to college in the same year, so it stands to reason that Mrs. Huxtable is either about to turn 50 or already has. I'm just keeping that number on your radar because it'll come up again.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Cliff Bill Cosby
Looking wistfully into the live studio audience.

Cliff gets three outfits this week (This is the opening scene in which they discuss his invite list; she was in a bathrobe, which is why her half of the conversation didn't show up in this entry.) He looks great in a deep, almost violet red, and this not-quite-plaid color-blocked shirt is phenomenal, especially underneath the teal suspenders. As for the pants, I wondered for the first time while watching this episode if those cargo pockets might not be pockets at all. Something about the construction of that flap makes me think that it's sewn on merely as a decorative element. There are no seams or anything below it to suggest that you might actually be able to hold something in that area of the slacks. Maybe I'm wrong, but it was interesting to notice.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Cliff Bill Cosby sweater
Serving face. And hat.

His first birthday getup is an episode #2.24 repeat.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Cliff Bill Cosby
Pretty fancy for a man who only has five friends.

And finally, a suit. As I said before, you only really comment on suits when you can gauge the tailoring more closely, or when something is brazenly wrong. The latter has happened here. I've occasionally seen buttons on jackets placed just below each nipple (I'm sure that's not what they're intended to evoke, but the comparison is right there), but that tends to happen on double-breasted suits that have more buttons overall. Since this coat has only three visible buttons, the two with no use seem more blatantly out of place. Especially since they're so shiny, they distract horribly from what could otherwise be a nice look. It's no longer en vogue to put so much rigmarole on a formal piece: the idea is to have sleek, clean lines. Nice tie and pocket square, but there are improvements to be made.

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