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, August 27, 2012

Season 3, Episode 14: Rudy Spends the Night

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

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

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

Suitable only by comparison.

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

Slacks 'n' relaxin'.

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

She is an endless encyclopedia of facial expressions.

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

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

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

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

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

And I mean FACE.

Work.

Less face.

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

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

So very funky.

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

He's talking to that phone hard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is this awfulness? Did a pimp die?

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

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

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

The donation link below is there just on the off chance that you want to throw a dollar into the pot to help the site stay afloat. I figure it's a less intrusive option than ads. No pressure.



See you guys next Monday!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Season 3, Episode 13: Monster Man Huxtable

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

Triumph from the front, tragedy from the side.

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

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

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

I'm not ashamed of my attraction to him.

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

Would a belt have killed you?

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

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

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

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

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

Gangsters gone wrong.

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

Feel the beat of the rhythm of the nightmare.

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

Your husband needs one of those belts.

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

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

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

That hair is all Heidi realness.

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

No thanks.

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

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

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

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

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

[this space intentionally left blank]

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

Werq-out.

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

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

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

BOOM.

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

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

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

I see no sweating happening, Doctor.

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

It's time again, folks: HOW ARE THEY HIDING PHYLICIA'S PREGNANCY THIS WEEK?

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

Speaking of things that drive you crazy, here's a donation link. Think of it like a tip jar. If you feel like leaving a dollar, I'd appreciate it. All contributions will be put toward the site's maintenance and improvement. Those of you wanting to help without spending money can simply share a link to this blog wherever you can. You're also always welcome to contact me with suggestions, critiques, or questions: just post a comment, or follow the link at the top right to visit my personal web page, which includes an email link.


That's that. See you next Monday!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Season 3, Episode 12: Cliff in Charge

When Clair gets invited to Hillman College to participate in an event, Cliff asks his father to help him manage the household in her absence. Theo receives a sudden burst of attention, including cryptic phone calls, from the women of the school when he is named "Thoroughbred of the Week" on the bathroom wall, but this repeated sexual harassment holds little interest for the family even when Rudy and Kenny overtly debate gender politics in the living room. Mainly, it's an episode about Dad and Grandpa and their relationship, so everyone else takes a backseat.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Russell Earle Hyman
I get the feeling that new costume pieces for Russell are a low priority.

Russell first appears in his episode #2.23 blazer over the collared shirt he partially displayed in episode #3.6, plus a solid tie and some moss-colored pants. This getup seemed just fine to me at first, but the closer I examine it, the more I feel like it's not happening for me. Contrasting plaids can work, but the underlying khaki in both of them makes it a tougher sell. I love the blue and red, especially when highlighted by the matching neckpiece, but the individual garments don't differentiate well enough when their patterns are in the same tonal range like that. The trousers, on the other hand, are too dissonant: with competing prints on the top half, do we really need a new color family introduced downstairs? Maybe brown would have been the way to go? It's not that he looks bad, but that the inconsistencies build to form a general sense of unease in one's brain. Doesn't his outfit give you that eerie feeling, like when you realize that a painting's eyes have been following you around the room?

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Russell Earle Hyman
Yes, we make multiple jokes this episode about Cliff's pencil chewing habit.

This shirt/sweater combo was first seen in episode #2.3. It looked better last time with the khaki corduroy to support it; these slate blue pants clash with the cobalt knit.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Russell Earle Hyman
Great face. Great face.

Russell must not have packed enough clothes for his trip, because he repeats yesterday's shirt and borrow's Cliff's episode #3.5 sweater. Unless maybe he and his son own matching outfits. They might be cute like that. The black pants (which may or may not be Cliff's as well) are the right choice here. Grandpa Huxtable is best when he's not trying for showiness. That said, I think he does best in earth tones.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Rudy Keshia Knight Pulliam Kenny Bud Deon Richmond
They're here, they're dear, get used to it.

Kenny's back, everyone! But he spends the whole time in this coat, and really I don't expect that I'd have much to deconstruct about his fashion choices even if I could see them. Rudy wears two outfits, but they're both repeats and who even cares? The point is that these two are wonderful together and you should be watching them bicker instead of reading me make snippy comments about their sleeve lengths.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Vanessa Tempestt Bledsoe
That phone call looks pretty serious.

Since the kids get relatively little screen time this week, it was hard for me to capture their creations. What I can say for sure about Vanessa's look in this scene is that she has continued her proud tradition of stealing her older sister's clothes: that's Denise's episode #3.2 vest. What concerns me more than her kleptomania, though, is the area near the collar of her shirt. Look closely with me and tell me if I'm seeing what I think I'm seeing. Right above the button, there's a sort of break or seam, and then from that horizon emerges a collar that is slightly darker than the rest of the shirt. Was that piece sewn in separately? Is she wearing two different blouses layered over each other? And if so, does the top one officially have the grossest neckline in recorded history? Her lower half is easier to comprehend, at least: black skirt, gray leggings. Her real problem is that the leggings don't fit right and are clearly bunching. Truthfully, the only thing I fully accept about her entire outfit is the color of her scarf. The rest needs hefty triage.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Vanessa Tempestt Bledsoe Theo Malcolm Jamal Warner
I understand why you wouldn't make a big deal out of these outfits.

She and Theo appear briefly in the entryway at the end of the episode, but this is really the only angle we get of them, so I'll take them as a unit. Vanessa is wearing pink, but that's all we'll ever know for sure. Her brother has redeployed his swamp vest from two weeks ago, and it's only gotten greasier and grimier in the interim. I'd encourage him never to explore the contents of its many sinister pockets.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Theo Malcolm Jamal Warner
I call this one the "Trail of Tears."

Theo starts out in this frightful bathmat of a sweater, letting you know right away that any romantic attention he's receiving must be the result of deception or confusion. I don't imagine that people are capable of feeling lust in the presence of this texture. I'm drawn to the daring squiggle that shoots randomly around his torso: it's unexpected and injects a vibrant, springy palette into the sea of black. It's a concept that I'd like to see revisited somewhere other than this outfit. The size and knobliness are too much for me to overcome at this moment.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Theo Malcolm Jamal Warner
He's taking up way too much couch.

Yet another outfit given almost no coverage. How could the makers of this show not have anticipated a world in which a nobody would have the opportunity to document and dissect each item of clothing for a global audience? Play the long game, people! Anyhow, what I know for sure is that the blue blazer beneath his overcoat is neither the one from episode #3.6 nor the one from #2.18. How do I know this? Because it appears to have a subtle plaid in it, which neither of the others displayed. I'm tempted to say that the pattern would make the piece sparkle, but it might also make it ugly. A view of the whole jacket is necessary for a final judgment, obviously, and we're not offered one. Otherwise, he's leaning a little heavily on the dirty mint shade (pants or shirt, not both, Theo), and horizontally striped ties seldom work for me.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Cliff Bill Cosby sweater
Chaotic neutrals.

This is the first of four looks for Cliff, and he lifts off full-tilt with this A-grade Cosby sweater. It has all the elements: asymmetry and other disorganization, the pairing of multiple textures or textiles, contrasting or clashing colors, and the nagging suggestion of possible sentience and even malice. The application of that sky blue yarn in two different stitches, which disquiets the viewer by making it impossible to know what to expect, is an expert touch. I also want to draw your attention to the way that the purple braiding interjects occasionally to section off parts of the garment, adding to the Frankenstein's monster impact. The rest is standard for the Doctor, but this is an impressive offering from his extensive collection.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Cliff Bill Cosby
Loud is his lowest setting.

Not wanting to diminish the strength of another high-quality sweater, he follows yesterday's look with something more subdued. The colors divided by thin black bands remind me of what I saw as a child when I put my face right up close to the television screen to see how the image was made. (Did anyone else do that? Is the resulting brain damage from such an activity to blame for the existence of this blog?) To keep things lively, he contrasts the horizontal top with vertically striped slacks. Drama and intrigue at every turn with this man, huh? I'd call this solid but unremarkable: it has the guts to make me notice it, but not always the underlying taste to keep me smiling.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Cliff Bill Cosby
Yes, we're still talking about the pencils.

This is Cliff at his rule-breaking best, throwing paisley over paisley and color over color to deliver a brash yet beautiful creation. The ruby and amethyst shades that dance across his torso and arms help the chartreuse suspenders to pop, but the whole thing never feels as untamed and dangerous as one of his signature sweaters. This is how risky fashion should be done: like a controlled nuclear test. Innocent bystanders feel uneasy about it, while trained professionals eye it hungrily, anxious to see the results for themselves. With so much going on elsewhere, the khaki pants seem like a given. The pleats are also unfortunately an assumed part of the package, even though they are abominations.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Cliff Bill Cosby sweater
Lurking in the shadows like a beast stalking its prey.

Tigers need to think outside the box more often. Why are all of their stripes black? Would a little teal kill them? What's the point of camouflage, anyway? Shouldn't we be trying to stand out instead of blend in? Obviously, the laws of the jungle and the laws of fashion can differ greatly, but they intersect on this one point: multicolored tiger print is a bad idea. The shirt underneath might be awesome, though; the close shot (which unfortunately happens in low light) suggests that it's a turquoise with yellow plaid overlaid, which might be wonderful. I chose that dim view, however, because it gives us the best perspective on what I believe is an asymmetrical neckline. Does one side come to a deeper, weirder point than the other?Is that a false perception, or even just a flaw in the craftsmanship? Unfortunately, this is a week of mysteries and vague hopes. It's a metaphor for our life, during which we wander through darkness, given occasional hope by vague glimmers of truth - we yearn for, but seldom receive, complete and unobscured answers.

That's right, everyone: your time watching the Huxtables as a child instilled you with indelible angst. Let it sink in.

Or, skip that nonsensical rant and wonder HOW ARE THEY HIDING PHYLICIA'S PREGNANCY THIS WEEK?

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Clair Phylicia Rashad pregnant
This is what satisfaction looks like.

With a letter that takes her away after the first scene. Bye, Clair! This is a repeat of her outfit from the season premiere.

And another week down. I end each entry with a donation link: if you like the site, leave a buck. If you don't want to leave a buck, then share the site's URL somewhere. If you don't want to do either of those things, then just keep reading. And if you don't want to keep reading, then I apologize for boring, offending, or otherwise deterring you. Anyway, magic yellow button is below.



Oh, and one more piece of business: the comment section has been getting a little hairy lately, so I've turned moderation on, meaning that I have to approve your message before it is shared publicly. It's a measure I've implemented, hopefully on a temporary basis, to prevent people from bickering among themselves under these entries. There are plenty of other places on the internet to do that. I plan to let 99% of everything through, and the choice is not meant to discourage participation in discussion, so please keep commenting.

The end. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Season 3, Episode 11: War Stories

Our adventures, such as they are, continue when Russell brings a friend over to help him best Cliff at pinochle after last season's game didn't end as expected. As the men trade stories and insults, Vanessa prepares for a date while Theo realizes that he doesn't have one. It's a slow news day.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Jason Bernard Sergeant Major Boswell Stokes
I vividly recollect his efforts to teach Yeardley Smith a number from a
fake religious musical entitled Deuteronomy.

This week's first guest star is Jason Bernard, playing Sergeant Major Boswell Stokes. If you're anything like me, you remember him as Mr. Bracken on Herman's Head. Having enjoyed him in that role, I was sad to learn that he died in 1996, when he was only 58 years old. His final performance was as Judge Stevens in Liar Liar.

He holds an interesting distinction in Huxtable history: when he describes his battalion's capture of several German fighters, he highlights their condescending attitudes toward him and the other black soldiers, thus becoming the first character on the show to discuss racism. Even in this instance, the subject is barely raised; we're talking about foreigners from decades ago rather than modern-day compatriots. There's certainly room to explore the racial dynamics of this series, and though I'd be interested to read about the topic, that's not my jam. I write about clothes.

His overall vibe aligns well with what Russell typically throws down. He's keeping things a little more formal without seeming uptight. Using a subtle plaid in the blazer over a bolder plaid in the shirt shows bravery, and the turtleneck underneath further softens the look. I'm generally by the colors up top, but question the decisions to match gray pants with a gray jacket and gray undershirt. The navy and green aren't punchy enough to be the stars of the show here, so a monochromatic surrounding to highlight them wasn't the best choice. Plus, that puts us back into the well-worn territory of pairing shades that actually aren't the same shade. Tan slacks wouldn't have killed him.

He's a no-good heart breaker. He's a liar and he's a cheat.

Russell's usual card partner Homer returns this week. His vibe is much more laid back. Beyond the fact that he's sporting jeans rather than dress pants, he's also delivering fewer layers in general. The lightweight fabric gives him a breezier air than the heaviness of the Sergeant Major's attire. As we just touched on (and as I have said many, many times), I'm pretty particular about color combinations. If they're not exactly the same, then they should be significantly different. This shirt, in my eyes, is too close to the denim tonally. That said, the subtle pattern is fabulous and the shoe is probably divine. The tan is just right, but I'd need a closer look to know for sure. Never underestimate the ability of a person in the '80s to ruin a perfectly good article of clothing.

Don't trust a man in an ugly sweater.

I'm almost always on Russell's side sartorially. He has a good eye for pieces and juxtapositions that are mature and yet exciting. This cardigan, however, is too far overboard for me. Color blocking has its place, but this isn't it. You can't do a sharp geometric on something this loose; it just highlights how sloppy the fit is. I also have doubts the three shades being used. Maybe a green and two blues would have been better, or even just varied greens with a pattern of some sort? When he first walks in and he's wearing a coat, all I could see was that fabulous emerald collar, and I had such high hopes. Shattered! The big buttons give me pause as well. This is a miss, I'm afraid. His foundation of pink shirt and dark trousers is unassailable, at least.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Jason Warwin Tyrone
It's completely possible that he now has a child who dresses just like this.

We also have a younger generation of guest stars. Meet Tyrone, played by Jason Warwin. His two episodes of The Cosby Show are his only screen credits. The outfit he's wearing is nothing special, but it's totally current. Notice the tiny jeans and the wintery knit. I feel like these Grandma-made-it-for-me sweaters had a real moment recently. You could go to a New Year's Eve party at NYU and probably find a dude dressed like this. Or a lady; it's a unisex outfit. I want to give a special shout-out to his crimson turtleneck, which ties in with the diamonds across his chest and also frames his face with something more flattering than a drab gray.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Ermundo Russell Aaron Stokes
Things will be different once Vanessa starts dating post-pubescent dudes.

Unfortunately, Tyrone has some competition in the form of Stokes' grandson, Aaron. The actor is Ermundo Russell, who has the same number of screen credits as his competitor for Vanessa's affection. He ekes out a small advantage by also having provided a voice in the children's choir of The Wiz. This outfit is definitely intended to position him as the "bad boy" option: compared to Tyrone's tiny, conformist attire, Aaron gets a rough-around-the-edges, slouchy ensemble. Conveying the fit of those pants is difficult in a still frame, but if you saw them in motion, you'd probably like them. They're different and risky in a way that evokes some of Denise's flair. Giving him a leather jacket is a little spot-on in terms of implying rebelliousness, and as I pointed out in episode #2.14, I really hate this method of almost wearing suspenders. He's trying too hard for me to fully support him. Everything looks fine, it's just all a little presentational.

Another side note: when Vanessa's boys decide to both go on the date with her simultaneously, it's supposed to read like she gets two guys instead of just one. To a modern audience (or at least this modern audience member), however, it came across as though the two were going on a date with each other, and she was just the third wheel. The times have changed.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Keshia Knight Pulliam Rusy Huxtable coveralls
Somewhere between Strawberry Shortcake and 1984.

And on to the Huxtable clan. Rudy is throwing down her own take on Denise's flight suit from episode #2.15, and I have to say it kind of works. Her vision is more intense in terms of color choice, but she mitigates that by wearing fewer accessories. Though I might have gone darker with the belt to give more contrast, I applaud her restraint in avoiding other flourishes. She also brought back last week's purple boots, which I of course consider to be a wise decision. This isn't the kind of thing that most adults could pull off, but it's perfect for a kid. It's splashy and endearing and still seems like it was designed in a utilitarian fashion, as if it's supposed to get dirty and torn. We should put all of our children in coveralls. If I ever have little ones, there's a good chance that they'll spend the colder months dressed like a squadron of technicolor mechanics. It just plain makes sense.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Tempestt Bledsoe Vanessa Huxtable
Happy face.

Vanessa has enlisted Denise's help in creating an outfit for her date, and this is what they came up with. I see where they were headed, mostly. Eschewing her usual pattern frenzy for solid tones, she get color blocking right (take note, Grandpa) by defining the various zones of her body the same way you might paint a solid wall two different colors to denote a division in the room. She has a sort of young debutante groove going with the high-necked cardigan with the tiny little buttons, and that's usually a solid option. My main concern is the skirt, which seems too short even with leggings beneath it to prevent outright indecency. I'm surprised her father hasn't intervened.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Tempestt Bledsoe Vanessa Huxtable
Sad face.

Before Tyrone arrives, however, she has a change of heart and throws this on. These pastels are squarely in Florida retiree territory, and I can't imagine what they're doing on someone her age. She was better off with the richer hues in the previous look. The sweater is chunky and junky, the shirt underneath it looks messy next to the solid knit, and the green headband has no place in this color story. I'm going to reassure myself that her pants are rolled up because she's about to try on skates, because if she thinks that she's supposed to wear her leggings like that, then the situation is worse than I thought. Bear in mind that Denise is still helping out here, so I have to give her partial blame for every misstep, and I hate doing that. Anyway, though this ensemble is more coordinated and cohesive, it's less fashionable. Bad call.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Malcolm Jamal Warner Theo Huxtable
I hope you're calling a personal shopper, kid.

Speaking of letdowns, Theo's here to remind me just how thoroughly he's given up on ever making me smile again. The best I can say is that the goldenrod shade of this shirt is attractive on him. Beyond that, I want him to tuck it in for Lord's sake, but not into those hideous pants, which are themselves tucked into thick yellow socks because of Cockroach's bad influence. Did he throw away all his nice clothes from the first two seasons? I just don't get it.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Lisa Bonet Denise Huxtable
No, thank you.

And the parade of broken dreams continues. This just plain hurts. Everything from the waist down is alright, but then she mushrooms out into the ugliest top she's ever worn. I don't even want to talk about it. I'm going to chalk this up to her being so selfless in her attention to her younger sister's outfit that she didn't even have time to consider her own. She's like Mother Teresa.

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Bill Cosby sweater Cliff Huxtable
Don't cancel Theo's personal shopper! I can't take another week like this!

Cliff looks bizarre here. His decision to match the black-based sweater with black pants turns the rug-like design into the only thing worth observing about his clothes. The details become a sort of yarn tattoo. And if you don't like the graphic he's serving up (which I don't), then there's nothing else to latch onto. Thus, I have no choice but to give this a failing grade and move on.

It's been a rough week for clothes, and it won't get better, because all that's left is HOW ARE THEY HIDING PHYLICIA'S PREGNANCY THIS WEEK?

Cosby Show Huxtable fashion blog 80s sitcom Phylicia Rashad pregnant Clair Huxtable
Snapping peas gives her the mania.

With a table, her episode #3.7 shirt, and a whole lot of crazy eye. She's preparing a dinner that they never cook or eat, mind you, and then she's gone after this scene to teach a class at the community center. The writing suffers when Clair isn't given the opportunity to fully participate, and I long for her return to real clothes and non-stationary acting in season 4.

And that's that. As always, the tip jar is out. It's officially been a full year since I began this project, which I can hardly believe, and some of you have been reading since the beginning. Thanks so much for sticking with me on this epic, insane quest. If it's been worth a dollar to you, then the little yellow button is right there. But publicity is just as important as cash, so if you want to help without spending anything, then please use Facebook, Twitter, billboards, bullhorns, and any other media outlets available to you to let people know that you enjoy my blog. All assistance is appreciated.


And that's that. Onward to the next two years of Huxtable fashion review. Good times.