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, February 27, 2012

Season 2, Episode 14: Vanessa's Bad Grade

My favorite part of this project is coming across an episode where fashion is a central plot point. This week, for instance, the title suggests that we're going to hear a lot about the D that Vanessa got on her big test. Most of the story, however, focuses on her agonizing efforts to build the perfect outfit for the school dance. Robert has already seen all her sweaters, and Denise has the perfect one but won't let her borrow it. This is one of the earliest points establishing Vanessa as the rule-breaker of the family. All the kids get into trouble eventually; Theo even gets arrested. But I feel like Vanessa is most frequent in her efforts to test the limits, as we see tonight when she hides her bad grade from her parents and takes a sweater from her sister's room after being denied permission to do so. Such drama!

Grimace's little brother.

Robert shows up twice this episode, but spends the vast majority of his time sitting at the kitchen table. We'll critique his shirts, I guess. He deserves props for that lavender, and for the confidence it takes to rock a full Lionel Richie haircut. But this garment is so big that it creates its own shoulder pads. Unless he's planning on gaining 50 pounds in the next ten minutes, I'm not sure where the impetus to wear this came from.

He's wearing a map of the mall. You are here. Style is somewhere else.

Remember when big, colorful watches were a thing? Robert's obviously very proud if his. Anyway, this is his look from the big dance we've been hearing so much about. I see what he was trying for: the pattern is eye-catching and would be especially seductive to a girl like Vanessa, who knows her way around a print. That hint of electric blue from his undershirt is just right; the hue fits well with the cool palette and looks great on him. There's no denying how ugly this shirt is, though. Can't beat around the bush, son. It's just no good.

Gotcha!

Those pants are probably the same ones from episode #1.9 and definitely repeats regardless. This shirt feels old to me as well, but I can't find it in any of the previous episodes. I think I'm just growing numb to all the chunky plaid. Against the gray trousers, this top looks pretty washed out, but I love the interplay between that infrequent neon purple stripe and the shade of the suspenders (which first appeared in episode #1.7). Also, I know the suspenders are hanging because it's early and Cliff hasn't quite finished getting dressed yet, but that straps-around-the-ass look is all over recently. Dudes love almost wearing suspenders. I don't care for it myself; it seems like such a double affectation. "This recently resurrected fashion device? I don't even care about it enough to put it on all the way." I get it, recent art school graduate. You're not trying at all. Sure.

Cliff is really tired during this episode. So, so tired.

This sweater was first seen in episode #2.7. It's nice with a lighter shirt beneath it, but blue isn't exactly the right call. It's tough when the top layer has so many competing elements: how do you match your other clothes to this? It's like rhyming with orange.

Radiant.

Clair also starts off with a repeat, also from episode #1.7. The earrings are from last week, but that beaded necklace is all new. It gives a whole different vibe to her outfit; there's something a little earthier about a swarm of tiny beads as opposed to gold or pearls. I'm so taken with the way they just cascade out of her dress when she bends down to get Rudy's bowl. Also, her hair looks a little more composed today. It's not just a big cloud, it's really styled. This should happen more often.

She's whistling while she lurks.

This getup is tough to assess because it's around only briefly and obscured by that big purple coat the whole time. I'm pretty sure it's a repeat of last week's citrus jacket and maroon dress, though.

Don't cross this pink. It won't be pretty.

She spends the second half of the episode pissed, but she looks fantastic. The moment she walks in the door, you know she means business. You'd better be in the top percentile of all humankind if you expect to pull off that much neon pink coat. Underneath, she's more subtly delicious. As a mom going out to a movie, she's casual and comfortable, but her choices still let you know that she has style. The chenille tunic is another one of those pieces that sounds disastrous, and truthfully I'd be inclined to hate it on someone else, but the rich pink and black contrasted with the paler turtleneck somehow work for me. She's reveling in those textures by putting something big and frayed over a much softer foundation. It could be slimmer, but again, she's aiming for easy and breezy, so I'll let it go.

As a side note, the thematic analysis in the show's dialogue was sort of a mess. Clair's pseudo-intellectual deconstruction of a foreign film sounds like what a fourth grader might think smart people sound like. Could they honestly not have found a film student somewhere in New York to give that a second look? Just wait until we get to the episode with the book club, which is even worse. Of course, I'm using my English degree to make this, so maybe I'm not in a place to judge.

Denise spends the entire episode fed up.

And now, another admission of fault. Last week, I said that Denise's outfit was a verbatim repeat of her look from episode #2.10. That was a half-truth. This look is a direct repeat; last week was the same gray pieces paired with a new pink sweater over it. She can, it seems, never have too many sweaters on at once. Anyway, I apologize for the oversight. But for real: why is this combo the one that keeps popping up? Is the neutral knitwear just easier to sneak under the radar than her wilder stuff?

Why so serious? Seriously, there's no need for all this stank.

In another episode #2.7 repeat, Denise throws down the same blue pants we saw in her Dr. Seuss outfit. This lighting gives us a better look at how shiny they are, but I think it's the same pair. Up top, she's sporting a matching-and-yet-not-matching navy patterned fleece. I kind of thought we had gotten out of the woods with these near misses, but old habits die hard with the Huxtables, I guess. Anyhow, this outfit is pretty lazy by her usual standards. It's too dark and lifeless. Granted, she's just moping around at home examining the contents of her closet, so I guess huge strides forward in fashion aren't truly necessary. I'd prefer it, though. My job is more interesting when everyone pulls out all the stops every time.

I never really comment on it, but Rudy is an adorable name.

I think it's great that Rudy is mirroring Denise here. In fact, she's sort of showing Denise how it's done. "Oh, hey, by the way: this is what you were aiming for with that drabness you're serving."

He looked better in other caps, but a derpy face from him is so rare that I had to keep it.

Well, at least this is new, even if it's not pretty. Theo's sweater reminds me of an Atari game, or maybe a TV test pattern, or a visual representation of Morse code or something. For all I know, he's broadcasting a secret message on his torso. If he is, it's a note begging us not to judge him too harshly for wearing a split-front mock turtleneck. That collar is just shameful. It's clear that there is a shirt beneath this sweater, but unclear what it might look like. His pants are unremarkable. You know, for an episode with so much clothing, it's amazing how little I have to work with so far. Unimpressive, family. Step up your game!

His pants are wide enough to carry a spare set of legs, just in case.

The pants are an episode #2.5 repeat, but the shirt is both new and interesting. It's masquerading as a standard chunky plaid. At first glance, you'd be tempted to call it black and white (at least, I was), but if you linger a little longer, you'll see that it's really blue and a sort of off-white or light beige. Then the subtle pink stripe comes into focus and changes everything. He also has a little bit of a mandarin collar going on, which further bucks expectation from the lumberjack-y initial impression. There's a subversive, layered quality about this shirt that appeals to me. It's like one of those Magic Eye pictures where you're seeing a blur and then all of a sudden it's a fashion triumph. Or, like, a duck carrying an umbrella or something. Well done, Theo.

Next time, take the shirt out of the bag before you put it on.

Vanessa is the star of this show, with three outfits, two plot arcs, and her name in the title. She starts off in comfortable territory, delivering a complex print topped by a garment that looks like it came from the irregulars bin. The shirt is lovely, really: the depth and movement of the red and black paisley are so unique. But the other thing... well, it's definitely knit. And it's overalls-ish, but a skirt instead of shorts at the bottom. And the bib starts right at the bottom of her boobs, which isn't a great idea. Is this like in The Lorax when the Once-ler made a thneed and it was just whatever you wanted it to be? I assume Vanessa sits in her room all day inventing garments that didn't exist before. "They're hooded shoes, guys! Don't they go great with my one-sleeved skirtlet?" Oh, and that indigo sucks next to the red in her shirt. Yes, even though there's clearly indigo in the shirt. I don't care, I hate it.

Also, if you look really closely at the wide shot, you can see a pin on her right side: it's those wings from episode #2.10. Was there a budget cut this week? Are we raising awareness for recycling?

Your honor, I present Exhibit A.

More old news! This is her beloved paisley shirt first seen in #2.7, worn with her opening credits skirt. I will say that the silhouette here is far more flattering than I would have anticipated. Another detail worth pointing out is that in this scene, Vanessa is going through her sweaters to decide what to wear, and yet one of her options is Denise's, or at least was back in #1.12. There are a lot of gray areas around sweater ownership lately. If Clair weren't such a good litigator, Vanessa might have made a case for herself based on a few key pieces of evidence.

Good outfit for a date. Bad outfit for a lady-on-lady cage match.

And finally, the garment in question. You have to admit: nothing we've seen Vanessa wear previously would have finished the outfit off quite as well as this aubergine cardigan. I'm a little bit on her side here. Denise clearly borrows stuff from others (beyond last week's snag from Aunt Sarah, she is called out in this very episode for taking Cliff's clothes) and wasn't wearing this particular sweater tonight. In fact, she didn't even have plans . Meanwhile, her little sister has a date and a killer outfit. Keeping the sweater is entirely a power play. Lame. Don't be jealous, Denise. Vanessa rocked this sweater, let her have her moment of glory.

This ensemble really plays to Vanessa's strengths as a stylist. She's got her bright solid foundation with the matching Kermit-colored leggings and turtleneck. Then she offsets the tight solids with a baggy, peacock-patterned shirt. The whole thing is controlled by the richness of the purple and the bulk of the wool. It's such a great look. I can't hate. Obviously, she was still in the wrong, so verdict for the plaintiff here, but the law isn't the same as justice.

I can't snark on this.

Because this episode aired shortly before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 1986, it ends with the family gathering around the television to watch a rebroadcast of Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" speech. The historical reference is really obviously shoehorned into the plot without any real relevance. (I'm pretty sure he never mentions borrowing your sister's clothes.) It also seems a little late in the night for this to be happening: Rudy had already gone to sleep and was woken up, Vanessa has been to a school dance and fought at length with Denise, Cliff and Clair are back home from a movie... it's got to be at least 10:00, probably 11:00. But whatever, the real joy here is watching people react. Let's rate the Huxtables on a scale from 1 to inspired.

Tempestt, you're in the frame. You know that, right?

Vanessa's pretty blank here. Denise might be thinking, but it's also possible that she's smelling a fart.

What did you eat last night, dude?

Oh yeah, Denise is smelling a fart. Squeeze, Theo.

Even that bear is more expressive than Vanessa.

Cliff is bringing the somber pretty well, but the winner (as in all contests at all times) is Clair, who is just radiating pride and understanding and even a weird sexual vibe. She looks like an entire gospel church is dancing down the aisles of her heart. Oh, and little sleepy Rudy is just the darlingest.

Well, that about does it. As usual, let's cap things off with a friendly mugging. GIVE ME YOUR MONEY! No, but really, you guys have been exceptionally generous, and it is appreciated. If you liked this entry (or previous entries; many of them are quite good if I do say so myself) then I hope you'll consider donating a dollar to the cause. Until I think of a better reward for your contributions, all I can promise is a personal thank you from me. But it'll be a really nice thank you, I swear.



Bet you can't wait until next week. Here's hoping they don't just all wear the same stinky clothes again. There's laundry in the basement, people! Do you know how rare that is in New York? It's like installing a gold-plated toilet. That's how rich.

UPDATE 2/27/12, 11:00pm
I know I didn't do my usual thing where I pair a character's clothes with a current runway trend. I was kind of hoping that someone would throw down an Oscar gown that related to something seen above, but my searches have left me empty-handed. I have to accept that this episode was not relevant to this year's Academy Awards red carpet. I did, however, decide that of all the dresses, the one below looks the most like something Vanessa would wear:


This is Lucy Walker, nominated this year for her documentary The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossoms. I almost chose Natalie Portman's polka dot ensemble, but this bold print sort of speaks to me as something that Vanessa might rock. And I guess it's not miles from her purple paisley shirt. So there you have it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Season 2, Episode 13: The Auction

I've run into an interesting conundrum. As it turns out, the DVDs order the episodes differently than online resources like the IMDb or Wikipedia do. Since I've trusted the internet's ruling on such matters up until now (as it has been my only source), I will continue to follow it despite physical media's recommendations.

In this episode, Clair is looking through an auction catalogue (for no discernible reason) and finds a painting by her great uncle. The man in question is not a fictional character, however, but real-life artist Ellis Wilson, and the work being auctioned off is his actual creation, "The Funeral Procession."

She paid $11,000 for it. That's roughly $22,000 with inflation.

While Mrs. Huxtable goes on a quest to reclaim this family heirloom, Elvin drops by to learn more lessons about how not to be such a misogynist all the god damned time. The story takes place over two days and features several day players, so we've got plenty of ground to cover. Sit tight.

TV auctioneers typically have the same speech patterns as the
homeless people on the train who talk to themselves.

Since it's an auction, it couldn't hurt to start off with the auctioneer. This is John Marion, who in 1986 made three screen appearances as an auctioneer: after this, he did an episode of The Colbys (a Dynasty spin-off that lasted two seasons) followed by the Robert Redford/Debra Winger/ Daryl Hannah comedy Legal Eagles. Eight years later, he earned his only other credit: a man named Carlos in the 1994 action flick DaVinci's War. My guess is that he was a real auctioneer, though I have no idea what to make of that last role. Anyhow, he's dressed in regulation '80s business dress for men: navy coat, white shirt, red tie. The matching pocket square (which in this era wouldn't even be a "pocket square" but a proper handkerchief) adds a little something, and the pinkie ring is a surprise, but really there's not much here that I would consider noteworthy. He does serve to remind us of the perils of huge grandma glasses, though. Today's twentysomethings, take note: you look in the mirror and see a fashionable, cleverly ironic artist. I look at you and see this man.

It's so lovely having a huge house for all our expensive things.

These three all show up at the auction as well. We'll work from the left. That first dude is Stephen Oxendine, whose character goes unnamed. This episode is his only credit of any kind on the IMDb, and a Google search turned up no other professional information. He just showed up one day, wore a blue suit with a tie I don't like, and then vanished. Next to him are the rich people. Like, basically the millionaire and his wife after they got off of Gilligan's Island. David O'Brien, the nameless husband, died three years after this episode aired. His resume shows a solid background in television, plus the occasional theatrical release, dating back to 1961. Betty, his wife, is portrayed by Eileen Letchworth. She's done television work here and there, including appearing as herself on an episode of Donahue for reasons not immediately clear to me. Regardless, they're doing a solid job of looking wealthy, though that pastel sweater is too of-its-time for me. I think a classic look is the best way to suggest aristocracy: well-made and expensive is better than current. And if you must go new when dressing your 1% characters, go runway. She wouldn't shop at Macy's, she'd have her assistant pick up the Ralph Lauren original from his studio, you know?

The saddest part of Annie Hall's legacy.

Michelle Pierce plays Darlene, Theo's arty love interest for ten minutes. It's later implied that her father is the dude with the mustache in the frame above. Like him, she has no other acting credits. Her style is clearly meant to convey both her social status (wealthy enough to have a pearl neck brace at 15) and weirdness (strange enough to dress like Diane Keaton, Private Investigator to the Stars). There's a lot that's going well for her , all things considered. She's playing with the right shapes and taking good risks. The overcoat with the contrast cuffs is a catchy concept, and there's something about the flared bottom of the jacket against the tapered ankles on the high-waisted pant that all sort of gels for me. Then the grown-up blouse with the excessive jewelry and precocious purse complete the look in a real statement-making way. Her neckline in particular has a lot of interesting things happening: beyond the necklace onslaught, there's the shirt's cowl neck and the lapel-free opening of the trench... it's all heading in a fabulous direction. The proportions are a little off throughout, though: she's swimming in this. I'm disappointed that she didn't belt the pants, but more disappointed that there's so much olive drab being thrown around. It's a great complement to that rich purple, but either the trousers or the coat should be a different shade. I also think the black of the cuff is a bad call. Basically: silhouette, yes; tailoring and palette, no.

Baking a he-cake in the man-oven.

Elvin is in that liminal space between regular and guest star, so we'll use his outfits to transition us into our look at the show's central figures. His first contribution has an old-fashioned air to it. The boxy plaid feels like something Dr. Huxtable might wear. I wonder if the generational discord is meant to parallel his outdated attitudes toward gender roles. (He's in the kitchen baking a cake to learn about "women's work.") At the same time, the flashes of pink bring him back to a more collegiate space. And he's wearing jeans that may as well be Theos's. Did they really just make one cut of jeans in the '80s? Am I just forgetting that fashion denim came, like, a decade later? Why do all the men have that same mid-toned, straight-legged look? Anyhow, I'm realizing as I write this that I can't stop looking at that little tuft of chest hair peeking out from Elvin's collar. I think I might have a crush on Geoffrey Owens circa 1986. In fact, I'm sure of it. This blog has forced me to confront terrible truths about myself.

Tension makes his face visibly wider, it would seem.

He's a little less adorable here, but he's nervous because Clair is present, and he's learned the hard way that crossing her is a bad call. But he's all dressed up to go to the auction with her. So sweet! His styling here is pretty spot-on except for that distracting neon stripe through his tie. It's the kind of detail that instantly ruins a classic look by throwing in a hint of the worst contemporary sensibility. That pink has no place in this color story. Otherwise, he's clearly wearing the nicest clothes he owns in an attempt to impress his future mother-in-law. Smart move, dude. This lady will make you work. She's worth it.

Yup.

Since I shun her so harshly most of the time, let's take a look at Rudy first. I mean, we have to face facts: this getup is killer. Pink and yellow? Old man cardigan? Matching striped layers? This is just the most precious thing I've ever seen. And seriously, her presence on this show is golden. I'm glad they nominated her for an Emmy, because we couldn't find a cuter little girl even if we spent years building one in a lab.

The best.

Yeah, I can't really talk about it. It's just too perfect.

Sweaters, go-getters, and jet-setters.

We'll start with Vanessa here. The skirt is from episode #2.7, as are the (out-of-frame) matching flats she's wearing. This look exemplifies her aesthetic: lots of yellow, lots of pattern. At the same time, it's a little more pulled together than usual. I wouldn't say it's dressy enough for the occasion based on the choices made by some other family members, but it's not awful. The sweater in particular is winning me over. I wasn't on its side at first, but somehow I've come to accept and even enjoy it. This might be the same Cosby-induced brain damage that caused me to consider making out with Sondra's future husband. If this blog ever becomes a book deal that earns me serious cash, I'm spending it all on psychoanalysis and antipsychotics.

Since she's up there pulling focus, let's cover Denise next. I won't discuss her clothing at length, because she's already worn this exact outfit in #2.10, with a repeat of the gray parts in #2.11. I will say that she's tragically underdressed, though. She may as well be in a bathrobe.

When Outfits Attack.

Things didn't start off much better for Denise, unfortunately. If you're not doing aerobics, playing sports, or otherwise sweating, then maybe lay off the sweatband. That's a phenomenal shade of red, especially with the satin sheen of the belt, but it's played against one of the ugliest browns I've ever witnessed. Maybe a chocolate or espresso next time. As for how it's all built, I'm perplexed by what she might be trying to accentuate. The outfit can't be intended to flatter her body. "Hey, everyone: what do you think of my boxy Transformer torso with diagonally bisected breasts? Maybe you're into giant ham hock arms that taper into tiny doll hands? They go well with this blood-colored diaper, don't they?"

Even weirder: this is her aunt's sweater. Sarah wore this top under her jacket in episode #2.9. I'm going to assume that it was a gift, because - spoiler alert for next week - sweater theft is about to become a big deal in the Huxtable household.

He's going to bid on a lot, if you know what I mean.

I'm starting to worry about Theo. Once again, he tries to bring his A Game but chokes instead. This time, he's taken his blazer from episode #2.3 and juxtaposed it with some decidedly uninspired options. He's usually not one to play it safe, but other than the teal in that tie, he's kept his garments in the same dark, bluish color family. As a result, his look lacks definition. The individual parts end up blending together. He's a few stripes lost in an inky haze. We know that he knows how to work with brighter pieces, so why doesn't he? Where'd you go, Theo? This man needs to get his groove back.

I wish she didn't bother me so much, but she just does.

The sweater she's wearing here is the same one Denise wore in episode #1.7, judging by that telltale insignia on the chest. But there's no need to think that she didn't ask permission to wear it. For all we know, this is her sweater that Denise inherited as a hand-me-down. Either way, it's something we've seen before, but not necessarily stolen. I'm not wild about this outfit, but it's more boring than offensive. Sure, the brown belt and tucked-in t-shirt are the styling choices of a 75-year-old, but otherwise this is jeans and a red top. Jersey and denim, primary colors. Moving along.

This season's hot new look: Living Chess Piece.

It was hard to get a decent shot of her second outfit, but then again it's not much to look at. I think the turtleneck might be fine on its own. She's generally comfortable in pale robin's egg and sea green shades. But she's gone and tucked it into a criminally thick skirt that begins literally just below her rib cage. A high-waisted skirt should never be made of plush velvet curtains. It's so ungainly. I can't help but worry over how stifling and heavy it must be. Her legs have got to be drenched in sweat. The weight of the garment probably makes it difficult to walk. This is such baroque torture. Because her skirt seems to absorb light, it's tough to tell exactly how ugly it is. If you look closely, though, you can see the hint of a giant strap across the top, suggesting that further knowledge of its properties will only enhance its abhorrence. Beware.

She paints with two of the colors of the wind.

I think I liked this jacket better in episode #2.10 when it was belted. The tangerine shade is also a little much over a maroon dress. It's not terrible, but it's another one of those moments when someone is wearing two assertive solids and should have thought about patterns instead. A print could really soften this look. I hate saying this, but take a page out of Vanessa's book once in a while. (It just sounds wrong, doesn't it?) Oh, how I wish we could see this dress without the coat. I have a feeling it's fabulous. That high belt makes me think that she's probably throwing down legs for miles, and one of those long butts that were so popular in the '80s. To avoid objectifying the incomparable Phylicia Rashad, however, let's focus instead on her epic gold jewelry. You wish you were wearing a matching cutout earring and necklace set right now, don't you? You do.

Like a torso, but moreso.

There's no way to discuss this sweater without immediately jumping on the shape it makes in profile. From the snug waist, it billows outward in a way that makes him look like such a barrel. The palette isn't bad; the indigo and black lay a nice foundation for those red horizontal lines, even if the grid is a little Tron for my tastes. I dig that hint of pink shirt. But really I'm eager to fast-forward through this part of the review because oh my god his auction outfit, guys.

Oh holy mother of knitwear.

This is, without a doubt, a turning point. A line has been drawn in the sand. For the first time in the show, Dr. Huxtable has shattered the definition of "sweater" as we previously knew it. Look at everything that's happening here! A giant crosshatched (leather?) circle with a multicolored stripe rocketing through it set against a vertical black-and-white print background, topped off with full leather sleeves. I'm... I... what does one even write? This defies critique. There's no good or bad anymore. He's off the map as we know it. I can't even really say whether it matches the rest of his earthly garments, because how does one establish any sort of fashion continuity once this has entered into play? It's difficult for me to form sentences right now. Hopefully this piece is on display in a museum somewhere, because I should really make a pilgrimage to visit it. Wonder fills my brain.

By the way, leather sleeves are now happening, typically on denim jackets. P. Diddy showed his Huxtable Hotness off at the 2010 MTV Movie Awards, while J. Cole put his sleeves on display on the Jimmy Fallon show earlier this year. Looks like B. Cosby knew what he was doing with those sweaters.

As usual, I'm ending this entry by begging. Huxtable Hotness is not a source of income for me, nor do I expect it to be. On the other hand, I wouldn't mind breaking even. My expenses are minimal: just the cost of the DVDs. If you enjoy this blog, consider donating a dollar to keep it running. Even a quarter would help. All donations are rewarded with a personal message from yours truly. (I know that's a super lame prize, but really I have nothing else to give you.) Anyhow, here's the happy yellow button that magically funnels your cash into my account. THE FUTURE!


Thanks, all. See you next Monday.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Season 2, Episode 12: Mrs. Westlake

Even when we have experienced a loss, we continue to celebrate life by experiencing joy.

This season has already been peppered with references to Theo's extra-tough math teacher, Mrs. Westlake. Tonight, she makes an in-person appearance: after her ominous call to the house to request a meeting, Dr. Huxtable invites her to dinner with the family. Has she come to eviscerate Theo for poor performance on his recent test? Does she harbor even darker intent? Is she a good witch or a bad witch?

Usually, I start off with guest stars. Since so much of this week's episode is built on the suspense of Mrs. Westlake's arrival, however, I think it's only appropriate to save her for last. Instead, we'll start with Theo, since he gets two outfits this week.

I don't know. Something about Lisbeth Salander? I'm low on captions today.

He saves me a little time up front by making one of his looks a repeat. You can check my entry on episode #2.7 if you want some real talk about this sweater.

Sad, then mad, in plaid.

This ensemble confuses me. Previously, we've been led to believe that Theo is a snappy dresser. He's delivered several successful formal looks, yet this is a mess, and seems to be messy intentionally. It's the loosened tie that tips me off. The deliberate disarray of the clashing colors and patters suggests that he was working to impress his teacher with more adult stylings but missed the mark. It doesn't make sense. These choices are at odds with his usually keen eye for aesthetics. Look at how the turquoise stripe in his pants fights against the hues in his tie, which in turn battle with his purple undershirt (which shouldn't be visible anyway because the tie should be tightened around a closed top button). The taupe of the shirt is wrong against his skin and worse against the gray and black plaid of the trousers. I'm concerned not only because the outfit is bad, but also because it shouldn't be bad. Even when he's nervous, he should know how to dress himself. The story being presented to us is inconsistent with the character as we know him.

Ain't no particular sign she's uncompatible with.

Vanessa doesn't stand up today either, so we're once again discussing only the clothing visible from the rib cage upward. She wore this shirt briefly in episode #2.7, but our view of it at the time wasn't particularly clear. Thank goodness for these shiny new DVDs, which have noticeably increased the quality of this blog's screen captures! I'm loving this girl's continued love of prints. Judging by her tonal range here, she might also love Prince. Not hating on purple paisley, just pointing out a similarity. While the felty-looking jacket and headband aren't ideal, she's gone with a more subdued effort this time around, and I condone that. Her wardrobe can get outlandish, and this is positively Amish in comparison to some of her bolder contributions.

Her lower extremities have never looked more gelatinous.

With her little sister reining it in, Denise decides to go the extra mile with some Middle Eastern and North African inspiration. The shades of mauve lend some warmth to her cheeks and lips and playfully contrast traditional girlishness with the less mainstream nature of her influences. Pulling double duty, the harem pants both enhance the worldly appeal of the outfit and steer her toward a more hip-hop sensibility. The greens and yellows in the hat are just wild enough, managing to leap to the opposite end of the color wheel without being loud or showy. I'm a little dubious about the length of the earrings, but she's overall done quite well for herself here. This same point of reference made a bit of a resurgence with 3.1 Phillip Lim's menswear line this season.

 Models: unknown / Photo: Yannis Vlamos, GoRunway.com

The cut of the pants on the first model in particular has a harem-y feel; also, look at the shape of their necklines and the split in the second dude's jacket. Denise wasn't so far from here.

That book jutting into the frame is the only Rudy reference this week. Sad. 

Cliff has thrown down several cardigans this season, perhaps in a passive-aggressive effort to shame his wife for last season's theft. I envision him throwing down baiting comments in the morning as he digs through the stacks of knitwear: "Clair, have you seen that lavender cardigan? I know it's in here somewhere." He's letting her know that he knows. In terms of overall style, he's scaled it back tonight. I'd say it was because he's going to meet one of Theo's teachers for the first time, but he was wearing this before she called. His motivations will remain unknown. The textured top layer brings in a little personality, and there are a few hints of brighter color in his shirt's pattern, but mostly this is plainer than I'd like. The good doctor has more in him. Also, the placement of his belt with the tucked shirt makes him look heavier than he is. One is seldom trying to accentuate the belly.

Those earrings have been around a lot this season, too. So much stasis!

It's tough to be certain, because the lighting makes it look darker here, but based on the wrappy construction and the shape of the collar, I'm thinking this is the same top Clair wore in episode #2.9 (and also in #2.8, it seems, though I missed that in my earlier entry). This is its first appearance without a blazer covering it, though, so I'll give it a little notice. It's not my favorite of her shirts, really. The big, rectangular pockets do odd things to the shape of her chest, and the light horizontal pattern makes the fabric look cheap to me for some reason. Also, why is wardrobe not investing in new pieces for Clair? She's worth it.

Grrrrr.

OH NO THE DRAGON LADY IS HERE

Gurrrrrrl!

Just kidding.

Their love knows no hair clippers.

So the episode's big surprises are that 1) Anna Maria Westlake oozes charm and seductiveness because she has long gorgeous hair and speaks in an alluring Brazilian accent, and 2) she wants to meet with Dr. Huxtable because she'd like for him to be her obstetrician. This reveal actually brings out a third surprise: Clair speaks Portuguese in addition to Spanish and English, because she can DO EVERYTHING. In season five, I'm expecting her to build a spacecraft in the garage and change the weather with her icy glare.

Anyhow, back to the task at hand. We'll start with Jack Westlake, the handsome-enough and charming-enough but ultimately secondary half of this couple. He's played by Matt Williams, who actually isn't primarily an actor. In addition to writing several episodes of The Cosby Show, he created and executive produced Roseanne, as well as co-creating and co-producing Home Improvement. His shirt/cardigan pairing is pretty great in my eyes. If I could get away with wearing that electric blue, I'd match it with charcoal all the time. It just looks right. The pants should be a different color, though: I like that he calls the gray back when he gets down to the socks, but an outfit shouldn't be all the same shade throughout, you know? It's OK if it doesn't all match. Clearly, Anna Maria is not the kind of woman who dresses her husband.

Sonia Braga plays the episode's title character. You may remember her as Sophia Vargas on Alias or Samantha's girlfriend Maria during that arc on Sex and the City when Kim Cattrall's character experimented with bisexuality. She looks kind of phenomenal here. The goal was clearly to make her sexy: rich red top, leather skirt, seemingly purple tights... it's a very '80s version of hot, but it works. The Victorian cut of her sleeves, with the balloon from the shoulders that snaps tight at the elbow, helps build a little more class into the ensemble. The skirt looks shorter in that screencap than it really is; when she stands, it hits her knees. If the hem really landed mid-thigh, then it would be inappropriate for a first-time meeting with her student's parents. Then again, Cliff's going to get pretty familiar with Mrs. Westlake's downstairs area over the next few months, so perhaps it's futile to talk about boundaries in that context.

And there you have it, our first episode in the DVD era. I can't believe I waited to be forced into this transition. Grabbing the screencaps was much, much easier, and the quality is visibly improved. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all the generous readers who donated their hard-earned cash to make this happen. If you'd like to throw a little money into the cup to support this blog, I will put it toward the purchase of future seasons of the show. (There are eight total, and I intend to review them all.) A dollar, or even fifty cents, makes a huge difference.

See you next week, kids. Keep it hot.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Honoring The Voice.

I don't necessarily think this is the place to touch on current events or offer heartfelt tributes, but it seems wrong to post a comedic entry on Monday without first offering respect to the legendary Whitney Houston. As I may have mentioned previously, she was second in line for the role of Sondra, so her star almost shone in this very spot. If The Cosby Show shaped your youth, then I'm sure her music did as well. Her passing is as unfortunate as it is untimely, and she will be missed. I hope that you will all send your thoughts to her family. A mother should never have to bury her child, nor should a young child have to bury her mother. Remember Cissy and Bobbi and the terrible loss they grieve.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Season 2, Episode 11: Denise's Friend

I have previously discussed a key tenet of Cosbology which posits that a Huxtable's stylishness increases in proportion to that person's distance from home. While watching this week's episode, I began forming a second theorem: the funnier the dialogue, the worse the outfit. This one still needs some kinks worked out (Sondra, for instance, is routinely dressed like a school principal from the nation's breadbasket, and still has yet to utter a funny line), but there's something there. In today's story, Denise's friend asks Dr. Huxtable to check out a medical problem because she's afraid to tell her parents. After resolving the girl's issue, he calls a family meeting that quickly becomes hilarious. No one's really knocking it out of the park in terms of outfits, but it's worth a watch just to hear the family hash out their approach to difficult discussions.

It's just a bladder infection; the maternity top is a red herring.

Denise's friend, who chooses to remain anonymous, is portrayed by Stacey Dash. Now bear in mind, this was filmed a full decade before Clueless, in which Miss Dash was still playing a teenager. While I'm impressed with her ability to stop time, I'm more hesitant in endorsing her clothing choices. In terms of color, she does well with the seafoam, giving a hint of green to bring out her eyes. The details are off, though: poor tailoring gives her a dumpier figure than she actually possesses, and the bizarre collar somehow straddles the line between mock turtleneck and Peter Pan. The real standout here, though, is the shoulder-braced belt. I really don't know what to make of it. I feel that its outright brazenness deserves some credit; it's definitely unexpected. The element of surprise isn't necessarily enough to save her, though. Mostly, it just looks like she's wearing a purse, only there's no purse there. In fact, the strap actually prevents her from wearing anything else over her shoulder without looking sort of odd, which is why she's forced to resort to that handbag. It was a nice try, but I think society made the right choice in opting not to adopt this particular flourish on the regular.

A couple more things about her before we move on. One: she's in the Community Center from episode #1.23, so that's still a thing. Two: she's giving off a Whitney groove with that hair, am I right?

A graph and a diagram. SCIENCE!

Oh, Cliff. We've got to start right off by talking about those disastrous pants. I can't spare you with praise first; they demand immediate attention. I'm forced to guess here, because I don't have access to the actual garment, but it seems fairly certain that we're looking at a faux velvet or velour situation. And yes, those are horizontal indentations, and yes, that is nauseating. Stepping away from that as quickly as possible because ew, we're left with a Cosby sweater up top. It's not the loudest of his choices, but it's clearly two separate sweaters joined with a seam of largely unrelated colors, basically forcing you to acknowledge the fact that he refuses to abide by the rules of modern knitwear. Given the use of pastels in that row of diamonds, I'm surprised and a little disappointed that he didn't provide a more vibrant hue in the shirt to add contrast. A paler blue is hardly the best option. This would have been the perfect time for a yellow or coral.

Smart n' tartan.

This shirt is in the same vein as Clair's episode #1.10 sack. She's on the right track in her efforts to give the look a little more shape, but the top is still too large and ends up making her sort of lumberjack-y in her appearance. Fratboy lumberjack-y, what with the popped collar and all. I love the red belt and pants, though; her lower half is much more successful in displaying her proportions in a flattering manner. The only other thing to mention about her look is this:

Spousal abuse is hilarious.

Gold watch, silver bracelets. Bad form. Oh, side note: Cliff is being strangled for his poor memory about the night he proposed to his wife. One of the questions he failed was what color sweater she wore. Though the correct answer was white, he guessed purple. I'd like to come to his defense on that one: he's watched this woman wear a constant string of purple tops for something like 30 years. One can hardly blame him for forming the perception that Clair has only ever worn that shade. She's become practically synonymous with purple in everyone else's mind, right? It's not just me?

Shouldn't you be at Princeton or something?

Oh, Sondra. You continue to be a character on this show. How nice for us. And yet, I'm going to toss her a rare compliment: I think this raspberry/tan/hunter green palette situation is verging on greatness. On its own, I'd even offer unmitigated praise for the turtleneck. She's deep into Wrongsville with that skirt, though. It's so bulky it may as well be a towel. I mean, it's going over her sweater. There's never a reason to tuck in a top that thick. It's a decision that guarantees excessive wideness. You don't need hips that broad unless you plan on giving live birth to a brontosaurus. Also, we've seen that weird, minimalist pin before. On Clair, in episode #1.7. This girl is more than just annoying: she's a thief.

It's like a theater mullet: comedy on the side, tragedy in the front.

As it turns out, Denise wasn't wearing a gray sweater dress last week, but a matching knit top and skirt. I don't know that I love the idea of a standalone skirt that buttons all the way up the front. It's kind of Puritanical and lewd all at once. The ochre number with the black flourishes is great, but this is an instance in which oversized clothing isn't helping her. It looks too big and slouchy when paired with such comfy, loungey pieces beneath it. If she had contrasted all that richness on top with a fitted skirt that didn't practically hit the floor, I might be feeling it. Now, the hair: in profile, it's kind of killer, but then that head-on shot is just a horror show.

He spends most of the episode dumbfounded.

Theo brings back the pants (and overall palette) from episode #2.5, and the sweater from #1.18, leaving me with little to say that wouldn't be repetitious. The detailing on that collar is nice, even if the bluer shade is a little wonky against the pinker undertone in the wool. And, you know, pleats, rolled sleeves, et cetera. You notice this stuff without me saying it by now, I'm sure.

She spends most of every episode dumbfounded.

Vanessa has done the red/yellow thing a few times before. It's not foolproof by any means, but she's young and sassy and the aesthetic sort of works for her. She's giving us another one of her patterns, too, but I feel good about this one. It's understated, at least by her standards. Truthfully, I'm happy with this look. It's very '80s, from the giant red kicks to the leggings to the broad, broad top, but it holds up alright. I'm a little nervous about the black patches that highlight how heavily padded her shoulders are. Otherwise, this is sort of playful and fun, and not out of place on a certain type of youth today.

And now for the bad news.

As some of you may have noticed by now, Netflix has removed The Cosby Show from its roster of streaming options. Thus, I'll need physical DVDs to continue this blog. I hadn't intended on spending money on this project (just a great deal of time), but I'm willing to do it because... well, don't make me think too hard about it. Still, the cost was unforeseen and I'm not a wealthy man. If you enjoy this blog, please consider donating a dollar to the cause. Just a buck, really, I'm not asking you to send me a boxed set of discs or anything. Since this has officially become a place where I beg for money, I've removed the ads from the site. They weren't exactly hauling in major coinage anyway.



Thanks for tolerating this flagrant, embarrassing plea. See you next week.