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.

HAVE MERCY.

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.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Season 2, Episode 9: Clair's Sister

Today, we get introduced to the other members of the Hanks clan. Clair's sister Sarah just got engaged, so the family gathers to talk about wedding plans, play chess, and tease each other. Not a ton happens, though it's great to hear Denise talk about her disdain for traditional marriage, and Clair's song with her father at the end is lovely.

If the Occupy movement existed back then, Denise would have protested these guys.

The episode begins with these two suave dudes putting the moves on Clair and Sarah in the restaurant where they're eating lunch. On the left is Jeff Mooring, playing Greg. You might recognize him as Dave from Sports Night or Reporter Phil from The West Wing. He looks pretty classy in his pin-striped suit. It's a tough look to fail at, honestly. On the right is Russell Curry, who has held recurring roles on Santa Barbara and Sunset Beach, two shows I've never even heard of. The IMDb credits him as Tad, though I could have sworn he said Thad when he introduced himself. I'm not particularly fond of either name, though they were both popular in the 80s for some reason. He's going a little riskier with his outfit, and it's veering slightly toward used car salesman territory. It's not clownish, but it's a hair louder than it needs to be. I might have been a little safer with the tie if I were wearing a plaid blazer, but that's just me.

I was going to speculate about her age in relation to Clair's, but the
data points in that area are convoluted enough already.

Continuing with guest appearances, Yvonne Erwin plays Clair's sister Sarah, a role she will reprise once more before the series ends. Her resume is pretty sad stuff; the only thing you might have actually seen is Crocodile Dundee, where she has an uncredited appearance dancing in the bakcground with her twin sister. At least she has achieved internet immortality in this blog now. (I'm sure she'd be just thrilled to know that.) Anyhow, she starts off the episode in a pretty interesting getup. The cream exterior and tan lining provide a nice, calm foundation for the showier detailing in the nontraditional lapel and dangerously high split in her skirt. From there, things get a little intense, though: the height of the turtleneck makes her look like she has extra vertebrae, and the too-tight bun gives her an odd cranial shape. It gets a little alien, particularly with the sci-fi seams on that top. Doesn't her head look too small in the long shot? I'm not saying she is deformed, just that the styling isn't doing her any favors.

The long shots really highlight how hard the clothes are working
to give her form a less humanoid appearance.

Her second look is a similar mix of good and bad. That screaming pink is fabulous, and the mini-cowl thing she has going on with the neckline is a better look for her. On the other hand, the top's overall proportions are ludicrous, and since she's rocking the tiny-head bun again, the sizing is still a pronounced challenge. Proportions come into play with the trousers, too, though it was tough to really convey that through the images I was able to capture. She has a riding pants thing happening, where they're super chunky up top and then way tapered from the knee down. I'm not sure if the intention here was to mimic aristocracy or what, but I'm not feeling it. Getting down to the jewelry, it's again a mixed bag. The brooch at her neck that she stole from the set of The Neverending Story? A little bit great. The earrings? A poor match, and also ugly even by themselves. Next time, Sarah, we're going to aim for consistency. I feel like even "all terrible" is better than "some terrible and some great."

You better lock that down, Sarah. 

You know who Sarah's going to marry? Mario Van Peebles. Well, she's marrying "Garvin," but you know what I mean. Let's start with the obvious: he's mad handsome. Also obvious: while he's a snappy dresser, he's keeping it pretty standard. Navy blazer, red tie? We've all seen it. You can coast with outfits like this when you're handsome. I included the trench coat so that you could see it, but not because I have anything to add. It is what it is.

Clair clearly learned stankface from her dad.

The stalwart patriarch Al Hanks is played by jazz great Joe Williams. His album Nothin' but the Blues had won a Grammy the year before this episode aired, but his career spanned a good three decades before that. His fashion choices err a little more toward comfort than class. Whereas Cliff's father is rarely seen without a tie, Clair's dad even unbuttons his top button. Wantonness! The snowflake pattern is also showier than Russell would probably get, but by contrast the gray-and-navy palette is much calmer. While he still looks nice, he gives the impression that he cares less about his clothes: he's a man who doesn't need to impress you with his fashion sense. The functional nature of his attire gives him the air of a no-nonsense straight-shooter.

This week's fashion-forward featurette.

Ethel Ayler returns with a far more reasonable hairdo. In fact, she's pretty much delivering a replica of Vanessa's season one back-pompadour, meaning that Clair intentionally gave her daughter an old lady's coiffure. As for the dress, I'm loving it more than I thought I would initially. A paisley of that size could basically wear you, especially in this loud a color scheme, but somehow Carrie owns it. That giant sash belt helps a lot by providing a break in the action while continuing to deliver a powerful, passionate purple. The shoulder pads here almost work because, when paired with the ballooned-then-tapered sleeve, they're very 1890s. Going back that far for inspiration is kind of badass. Tailoring like that was already vintage when this woman was born. Looking for a recent foray into loud, long-sleeved print dresses with conservative necklines and a divider at the waist? Proenza Schouler has you covered.

Models: Liu Wen (l), Julia Nobis (c), and Daria Strokous (r) / Photo: Monica Feudi, Feudiguaineri.com

Spring 2012 Ready To Wear. Carrie Hanks called it.

A woman this glorious shouldn't be surprised to get hit on. Ever.

The facial expressions you're seeing here are so much better in context. That wider shot is the look she gives after she notices T(h)ad checking her out, but the close-up is the real killer. When he tells her how beautiful she is, she tosses back a hellaciously flirtatious "thank you" while smiling like that. She barely moves her mouth. It's sex-riddled ventriloquism, basically. Now, on to the clothes. Someone backstage at this show is a fan of solid colors. Perhaps Phylicia Rashad herself. (Side note: I learned this week that she pronounces her name as though it rhymes with "militia," not "Saleisha" like I've been saying it. I'm assuming that if you read this blog, you know who Saleisha is.) Anyhow, while I love this piercing yellow next to the forest green, I still can't help but wish that the two were intermingled a little more. Keeping everything so flat sort of robs the outfit of interest. Beyond the more daring hues, this is what you'd expect from Clair: slightly big blazer, flowy blouse with demure lapels, fun, chunky jewelry. The skirt is sitting a little high, but I like to think that she'd adjust it when she stood up. We don't ever see this happen, so speculation and mysteries abound.

Speaking of speculation: what if I told you that Clair's second outfit paired this same green with a bright red? What would you picture?

We need to reconsider the placement of that lemonade glass.

Admit it, she doesn't look nearly as much like a Christmas tree as you thought she might. I love how we've never seen her in this pine shade before, and then all of a sudden she rocks it twice in one episode. It suits her, I'm not criticizing, I just wanted to take note. Anyhow, the shirt itself is structurally pretty average, with the obvious exception of that collar detail. It's a well-intended flourish, but leaping to the exact opposite end of the color wheel was maybe a bit drastic. Next time, scale it back. I get that she wanted to match the pants, and there's a logic to that choice, because this color pairing defies expectations by being kind of appealing. Even so, it's not quite coming together for me. I guess the collar works at a conceptual level, but falls apart under detailed scrutiny. It would be negligent not to take a moment to highlight how high those pants are riding, creating the impression that her pelvis is spherical.

Is that a chess set? Just wanted to check, mate... See what I did there?

Cliff, unable to decide between a loud sweater and a loud pair of suspenders, goes for a piece that incorporates both, essentially. 80 percent of this is gray and unworthy of commentary, but then we've got those vertical stripes running from each shoulder. The combination of colors and flared collar reads a little 70s to me, but I'm not against it. This is a not-terrible outfit. A different pair of pants would have won me over more completely (how much gray am I to permit?), but this will do.

We never see Denise get hit on, but I'm sure it happens.

I see this hairstyle on people of both genders every day when I walk down the street. Dear Brooklyn: you're copying Denise Huxtable. Like, all the time, and not just because of her 'do this episode. This big fat sweater with its big fat pattern is a big fat success, but the blue Hefty bag that she's made into pants comes close to ruining the whole thing. Oh well.

Meh.

Wow, when Theo gets boring, he gets really boring. It's a shame, because he has the potential to knock my socks off, and then he'll turn around and be all, "t-shirt and jeans, whatever whatever." Whatever is right, dude. I have nothing to contribute.

With these outfits, the less you know, the better.

This is another situation in which a character does not get up from the table, leaving me with an incomplete data set on which to base my conclusions. From what I can see, Vanessa has exceeded expectations here. The two shirts complement each other wonderfully; the colors are stunning, and the busier print underneath is nicely offset by the subtler white flowers on the outer layer. It's bulky, but I can forgive it a little since she's layering and we can pretend that the obscured shirt is well tailored. Of course, the whole thing could be shot to hell when she stands, but for now this is a pretty classy showing. This palette gets extra love from me, because it would work as well for office attire as it does for a tween's school clothes.

And with that, we conclude another journey into the wild and dangerous world of 80s styling. I'm glad you're all still here with me. Oh, and if you hadn't noticed already, I put on my big boy pants and registered a domain name, so this blog officially exists as huxtablehotness.com now. Update your bookmarks accordingly! Tell your friends! Later, kids.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Season 2, Episode 8: Denise Drives

Uh-oh. A certain boundary-testing teenager just got her license and has her eyes on a car. This is the kind of episode that probably resonated quite well with financially comfortable parents who were really interested in the humor that comes with helping your kid purchase a vehicle. The rest of us were left in the dust, however, because who wants to watch half an hour of price negotiations? It's a rite of passage, I suppose they made a valiant effort to turn it into something amusing. And in Mr. Cosby's defense, his line about the car saying "What?" was one of the funniest things I've ever heard from this show. Anyway, most of the episode is a wash for fashion, so we'd better forge ahead.

Given his lascivious conduct, I'm surprised Cliff hired this man again.

David Langston Smyrl is back again, reprising his role as Mr. Lucas the handyman. His presence gives the Huxtables access to a sturdy newel post and an affordable car. He doesn't even make inappropriate passes at Clair this time around. What a guy! He's not giving me much to say in terms of style critique. I do like the offbeat plaid on his shirt. Its size is enticing, and the way the horizontal and vertical shades don't match precisely is also great. Other than that, it's standard stuff. He's in work clothes, after all: too baggy, doesn't really match, yadda yadda. He's fixing stuff, it's not exactly time to bust out the Prada.

These people are going to have a baby. No, but for real.

Guest stars can be fun, but they often bore me. Such is the case with Paul Harding, a character actor whose resume lists a smattering of jobs at about this caliber. His costume is standard-issue older dude duds. I have nothing to report about it. Ann Flood, who pops up occasionally in various soap operas, fares better in terms of attire. Let's start with the skirt, which you can barely see: it's maroon, which is surprising, and falls above the knee, which is a little sassy. It might even be tight-ish, though that's tough to say without seeing her stand up. The mustard plaid blazer is a smart match; in this context, I even kind of enjoy the padded shoulders. Something about the overall shape of the jacket just feels right. Again, this is contingent on someone having the sense to tailor the waist rather than leave the whole thing boxy, and the truth is that nothing in previous episodes should lead me to believe that this has happened. Underneath, her black turtleneck provides an appropriately neutral background for the showier parts of her outfit, and the black necklace (or is that just part of the shirt?) adds some depth without distracting. I think something like this could be made to work in a modern setting. Not easily, but it could be done. Provided you dial down the blush. Like, a lot.

The Sweatergeist is upon us.

Khakis and a white button down? Good, fine, whatever. The Cosby sweater here is pretty mind-bending, though. I don't know how exactly to describe what's happening with these colors. It's as though we're seeing alternating vertical bands of two different horizontal stripe scenarios. The specific shades hardly matter; while I normally wouldn't put such disparate hues together, I think in this case it's helpful to see clear differentiation. Like, that part across the middle where the two similar blues line up? It just stops making sense altogether. Does this make anyone else's eyes hurt? It's just too weird and I can't.

You can almost hear the "b'daaawwww" he's probably making.

He jumps back in later with last week's coat and an Indiana Jones hat. The latter is a mistake.

I need for her to change that hairdo.

You'd think this would be a repeat for Clair, but I'm pretty sure it's not: it's just another in her parade of violet ensembles. This one breaks from the pack by virtue of its being suede, if I can trust my eyes on that close-up. She also gives us some variety by opting for a sort of dusty jade blouse underneath, which is a lovely complement to the suit and a really nice shade for her in general. Finishing off with some silver jewelry, we've got ourselves a perfectly acceptable showing from Mrs. Huxtable. Not exceptional, but also not exceptionally bad.

No, really. Fix the hair. Immediately.

She's the only person this week to get a full costume change, but she changes into this. Sweats. Not part of what I look at.

IT'S EATING HER HEAD!!! Oh, no, wait, it's still just the crap hairdo.

I did notice, though, that she borrowed Theo's episode #1.13 jacket, perhaps in the same way she "borrowed" Cliff's purple sweater last season. Keep an eye out; she might be a kleptomaniac. Lady, you're rich. You can buy new clothes.

Where have you been lately, dude? We need to get your groove back.

Characters are starting to develop real leitmotifs in the second season. Cliff has his sweaters, Clair has her amethyst blouses, Denise has her red sacks, Vanessa has her double belts, and Theo apparently has cyan sweatshirts. This isn't the one with the shoulder buttons from last week, nor is it the one with the gross patterns from episode #1.10, nor the similar one (which may have been a t-shirt) from #1.14. This one differentiates itself by having a preposterous pocket. It's like storage space for a shirt that actually fits him. Downtown, he's giving sweatpants. All of this saddens me.

Vanessa and Rudy don't even appear this week, but that's just fine. We need to devote some serious attention to Denise. This episode is all about her in every way.

Uncapturable in a caption.

More is more, children! Look at the lushness of this layering. This is another Jenga outfit where everything is precariously balanced but somehow comes together into this amazing impossible obelisk. It's all working. That warm mint turtleneck gives a punch of brightness around the face before disappearing into the more muted tones of the shirt. And what a shirt! I'm pretty sure that it's all one garment from the offset collar all the way down to the baggy, faux-skirt tails. It's a hugely fashionable piece, mixing a sort of baroque menswear element with a more kimono-inspired feel. That brilliant wide belted section around her waist could be a cummerbund or an obi, or both. Moving downward, she's paired the sort of tea-stained upper garments with a rich sienna pant. Are those trousers actual silk? Is that what I'm seeing? It's all so overwhelming. Normally I'd hate on a blazer this big (and I'd be wary of a brown/black pairing), but here we're just sinning as boldly as we can, and it all delivers. Seriously, this outfit is my world.

Something like this could so be worn today. For a modern referent, consider Balenciaga's Fall 2011 ready-to-wear line, which played similarly with diverse layers and palettes to create an overall explosive impact.

Models: Aline Weber (l) and Karmen Pedaru (r) / Photo: Monica Feudi, Feudiguaineri.com

The colors are different, but the silhouette is remarkably consistent with Denise's selections.

But wait, we're not even done.

Desperately fabulous.

Oh yes you are seeing a turban. With a big ol' sparkly bangle right on the front because at this point, who even cares? She's hit some sort of sartorial Nirvana in which every move she makes is the right one. She's in a Zen state of oneness with all clothes everywhere. Look at the delicate print on her top, and the way it subtly incorporates mahogany squares reflecting the shade of her pants. The unique, odd yet not haphazard draping of the darker strap. The juxtaposition of the benign overcoat with the divine ensemble it covers. This is life-changing. How did this single look not change the course of fashion forever? We should all be dressing like this now.

OK, go rewatch the episode and take notes on Denise's clothes and then go buy something that will help you look more like her. That's what I'm doing today. (You think I'm joking?) Bye for now, darlings.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Season 2, Episode 7: Rudy Suits Up

Get ready for a journey into the implausible! This week, Rudy "Sweet Feet" Huxtable briefly becomes the breakout star of her junior football team. She's ungodly fast or something, but her skills only last a couple days before she gets tackled and the whole family is inexplicably shocked and disappointed, because why in the world do they even make football padding that would fit a child her size?! Don't put Rudy in a situation where tackling could occur! Wait until you see the screencap of the team. The other kids are huge compared to her! How we went 22 minutes without her getting a broken bone, I'll never know.

Don't get shady with this old lady.

Also implausible? Ethel Ayler's curly side ponytail. Yes, Carrie Hanks briefly returns at the start of the episode, serving as the initial voice of reason. She poses the hard questions, like "Is it OK to indulge Rudy's interest in sports at the risk of her personal well-being?" and "Just how much pleating can a shoulder seam withstand?" A woman of science, she takes that second query out of theory and into practice with this power blouse. The subtle, buttery tone is nice, but dear heavens we've pleated it a lot. The 80s must have been great for fabric retailers; the whole decade was just an endless quest to force more cloth onto people's bodies. Baggier! More folds! Pad it! I'm surprised they notched her collar so deeply without, I don't know, putting lapels around the notch or something. There's a hole where more fabric should be, people.

Mrs. Hanks never stands up, so we'll assume she's naked from the waist down. Chaos reigns.

"The surprise is, there's no pickle."

Since we got a slice of Clair in that last shot, I'll jump to her next. I'm warning everyone now that this story takes place over several days, so there's a lot of ground to cover. I'll try to be brief, or at least mildly amusing in my verbosity, but gird yourself for the time commitment. If you thought you were going to be productive today, then you were fooling yourselves, because you're reading an amateur critique of fashions from a decades-old sitcom. Anyhow, the episode starts with a really tight shot of Clair's hand pouring tea, and when I saw a small square of this garment in the background, I assumed it was a bathrobe. Nope! It's a wrappy, kimono-inspired top. The cut's not great; her breasts are looking more pendulous than usual, and it's kind of frumpy in the arm region. The overly prominent button is distracting and doesn't need to be: would it be so hard to match it to the rest of the shirt? I'm drawn by the swirled pattern, though. It sort of implies roses without actually being roses. Though the fact that I mistook it for a bathrobe probably means that it's not an effect best applied to outside-the-house clothes. I'm super into the way that softness of her top is contrasted by the sharply geometric earrings, though. (Random nerd-out: her jewelry looks like a Dharma Initiative logo. Clair has secrets.) Also, note the foreshadowing: her hair is shaped just like a football helmet.

Suits belted highly keep Clair smiley.

Day two, Clair steps back from prints and goes for a flat sandstone shade. It's so safari, no? And check the drape on that sleeve. It's basically a straight line from her waist to her elbow. She's played that game before, and better, but I'm OK with it. Really, though, it's not much of an outfit; it would be deadly dull if she hadn't accessorized properly. Luckily, she has that gorgeous banded red belt and her button earrings that I'm sure we've seen before though I can't at this point be bothered to figure out when. The colors in the beaded necklace really pop against the backdrop of that dreary top. Later in the episode, though, I began to grasp why she hadn't gone bolder with her choices.

Dance it out. Ri-VER toot toot toot TOOT toot toot toot...

It's all just a foundation for her red coat and boots. The palette is a little McDonald's for my taste, but I can at least appreciate the effort that went into coordinating all the parts. Even if her decisions were wrong, they were at least decisions. Though I'm not the only fashionable gay man to have revisited the flat reds and beiges first seen in childhood: below are the first two looks sent down the runway from Zac Posen's Spring 2012 ready-to-wear line.

Models: Coco Rocha (l) and Hailey Clauson (r) / Photo: Yannis Vlamos, GoRunway.com

Clair's legacy lives on.

See that face? This lady is satisfied.

The strap-ankled jumpsuit from episode #2.2 is back, which is great because that's one less outfit to recap. This shot can also serve to proactively cover Cliff's sweatpants and t-shirt, which will also not be reviewed.

They never show her kicking the children who tackled Rudy, but I assume it happened.

Told you this was a long one. Clair's back one more time, again using her clothes entirely as a conduit for serving outwear to the masses. I've got to say, though, when your sweater coat is this fierce, you can go naked underneath it for all I care. Look at how luxuriously huge this knit is. The overhang down the back is divine, and the fact that someone constructed an entire trench coat out of yarn is something I can barely believe. She even matches the pomegranate shade with her lipstick. Can you imagine how cozy this piece feels? It's like if Snuggies were suddenly supremely stylish. I live.

Also satisfied.

Now this is a Cosby sweater. Notice how there's an underlying pattern of horizontal stripes. Then, on top of that, there are vertical bands. And then those bands themselves are decorated with meta-stripes. The overall impact is kind of a wash, unfortunately; his torso is more or less swathed in TV static. I feel like if I unfocus my eyes, I'll see a 3-D picture of a pudding pop in there. Letting my eyes drift would also prevent me from seeing the loafiness at his collar. I think he's going for "mock turtleneck," but instead arrived at "woolen turd ring." Not a good look. He earns back a little cred with the pants. We seldom see him in midnight blue slacks, not to mention corduroy, and I enjoy both.

Plaid-clad cad dad.

Trousers so nice, he wore them twice! It's cool, Cliff. We've all done it. Besides, everyone loves Newsies, so as long as you keep it up with that hat, you're golden. I'm digging the sweater, too. It's like plaid turned up to eleven. The more I consider it, though, the more I think Bill Cosby might not look great in navy and gray. His face is so dull here compared to the vibrance in his skin from the previous shot. Stick to reds, Mr. Cosby.

An oldie but... well, just an oldie I guess.

This sweater was worn with similar, maybe even the same, trousers in episode #1.8, though without the jacket or terrific purple shirt. Something about his coat has a lovely archetypal father vibe to me. It's right, though I can't tell why. The medium chestnut color helps. Very warm, goes with everything. I'd let this man teach me to shave. (Though why he'd need the coat to do so is beyond me.)

Her?

You know who's back? Effing Sondra, that's who. Judging by the boots, she hasn't completely excised the cowgirl from her wardrobe yet. As for the rest, you've got to be careful wearing white, and she isn't. Too tight, and it reveals every little dimple and bump; too loose, and you look like, well, this. The sweater has potential; I particularly like it in the close-up, where you get a sense of how the brown and blue interplay... wait a minute, what is... on her shoulder... hang on a second...

I really don't try to catch her at bad times. The odds are just in my favor.

No. No, no, no. NO. Get that piece of dangly crap out of your hair this instant. No.

We got to see the family in an actual outdoor environment this week.

This second outfit is so bad that it must constantly be masked by a swarm of better-dressed Huxtables to mitigate its potential damage. I mean, is it a poncho, or just a king-sized shirt? And if it is indeed a poncho, what unholy ugliness lurks beneath it? Is there a bubble helmet that bolts into that collar, allowing her to wear this garment in space or while deep-sea diving? Could the color scheme be duller? These are the dangerous questions I am forced to ask. It's almost worse not knowing.

Southwestern Desert Essence Woman.

Oh, goody. Entirely light denim. Plus, with all the stone accessories, we've gone full-speed back into country western. It's not a good look for her, but she won't let go. The top hints at her episode #1.21 blouse, but isn't the same. For instance, it's got those grody mock epaulets on the shoulders! I'd almost be tempted into complimenting that big sweater, but Clair already bested Sondra in that department, so we're back to zero on this one.

We've still got a ways to go, so if you need a snack or a bathroom break or something, you should really do it now. Maybe even put this down until tomorrow. The prolonged screen time isn't good for your eyes.

Those are headphones, not a weird necklace. I looked really closely just to be sure.

Denise evidently has a penchant for big red shirts. She's got a bunch of them. Here's another! The pants are a repeat from the season premier, but this clearer capture allows me to discern that the wacky pattern is, in fact, spiders. Spiders! She's wearing Halloween pajamas, I think. As punishment for this crime against taste, I'm stealing her army surplus jacket, because she doesn't deserve it, and I want it for myself.

I hate that I had to feature Sondra's horror poncho in additional screencaps.

Denise continues her trend of wearing this particular pair of plaid pants to support her family, as she has done previously in episodes #1.20 and #1.17. She's also wearing a red sack that could easily be another one we've seen before, even if it's not the one from yesterday. I'm not going to search through my collection and point out all the times she's gone down that road. The leather jacket is a good staple piece, but the purse she pairs it with is a mess. In fact, it's so boxy and ugly that I have to assure myself it's not a fashion piece at all, but a camera bag containing a large piece of 80s photographic or video equipment.

The silhouette is bonkers. Bonkers.

Before we talk about details, can we just immediately acknowledge the Seussiness of everything happening in the righthand frame? The shapes, body language, everything. It's like she's this mad professor stomping barefoot through the truffula trees. Now, getting down to business: I think these specific pants are new, but the style is as old as the show itself. This girl loves her some slouchy pants. The shirt has a pleasant hint of hipster irony to it; by buttoning it to the top, she gives that winking nod to dressing like an old lady while having the fashion know-how to avoid it if she wanted. And while the sweater is the third knit jacket carted out by the Huxtable women this week, Denise of course puts her own spin on it by opting for a split up the side that almost makes it a coat with tails. Like her father, I think she does herself no favors with dark blues and aquas; the shades look nice, but not on her specifically. Her face is so pallid up there! No wonder her torso is enveloped in a tomato costume half the time.

Stop. It won't be Hammer Time until 1990.

This outfit didn't get shown a ton, and perhaps it's better that way. Like Sondra, she has made the mistake of going for broke with this light denim hue. However, she's gone the extra mile by making sure there's as much periwinkle as physics will allow. We as a society have hopefully moved beyond parachute pants. I'd love for them to become like bustles or bonnets: marveled at in museums and costume dramas or only worn for specific dramatic effect. She's also throwing down a lengthy, wide-cut shirt. With so much draping and matching, it's tough to tell where one garment ends and the next begins. Moebius outfit! Also, she's doing the shoulder rope thing again. She shouldn't.

He might have worn this before. If he did, I probably ignored it last time, too.

Aqua sweatshirt with shoulder buttons. Boring. Done.

This top might also be a repeat. Who cares?

Red sweatshirt. Good color in him, but still boring. The jeans should be mentioned briefly, since I think this is the first time we've ever seen Theo in a sort-of cargo pant. Thigh pocket? Way to get the ball rolling on a trend that didn't really pick up until the 90s. OK, next.

His torso is carpeted. Your argument is invalid.

This is a bigger risk than he typically takes, but it pays off. Sure, it's sized inappropriately (what isn't?), but he's wearing a dragon tapestry. You can't really deny the wonder of that. The shirt underneath looks like it'd be nice even on its own, and it works here as an accent. Thumbs up for the grandiose sweater. Go team!

Denise only gives away her ugly clothes, apparently.

The hand-me-downs continue as Vanessa inherits Denise's episode #1.10 abomination. It's a poor match with basically every conceivable item of clothing, and this jacket is no exception. I could maybe get into the coat on its own, but it would take some real finesse in terms of the surrounding outfit. The socks and white sneakers are a little stark against the black leggings, and really those are only pants on a technicality. Not a good start, kid.

You jealous?

Hopeful that Robert might turn up to Rudy's game, Vanessa contributes considerably more effort to her second ensemble. I have to say, she looks a great deal more grown up here. Mostly, I'm a fan. She wears yellow well, and it's a pretty serious color to throw down as the main component of an outfit, right down to the accessories. I think the use of both navy and black as accents is misguided; they're a little close for that. But her instincts are overall good. The paisleys are exciting, the beret is cute, the shoes are much better here than in episode #2.3, and the blazer is just the right amount of oversized. I can get into this groove.

Speaking of yellow, let's close with a look at Rudy.

Look at the field! She and Peter are TOO SMALL FOR THIS TEAM.

The wardrobe department did a smart thing by putting her in yellow sleeves. Beyond her size, it's the only thing that differentiates her from the crowd. It's a well-thought-out touch.

God, I hope this family decides to be nudists next week. I'm worn out. Until later, my dears.