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, March 25, 2013

Season 4, Episode 18: Once Upon a Time

This week, Rudy tells her parents a story she wrote. Since almost everything takes place in a fantasy world, there's really very little to say about their clothing. Nonetheless, I committed to exploring the fashion choices made by every character in every episode, so I will attempt to make at least one worthwhile observation about each outfit, real or imaginary.

The borders for this week's screencaps are uneven and I was too lazy to fix them.

Let's start with reality, which is pretty much all repeats. Cliff does a wholesale recreation of his episode #4.14 look. I'm glad he brought it back so I can admit to being a little dense and not recognizing that his sweater is a rather obvious reference to his profession. Thanks to commenter Casey Fitzsimmons for pointing that out to me. Clair brings back the suit she wore when she put Theo on trial, albeit with a new brooch. It remains flawless. Rudy's squiggle shirt is all the way back from #3.17. but the overalls are new. They're not actually capri length, they're just riding up.

The border thing is bothering me. Now I wish I had done something about it.

The rest of the show takes place on this set. I kind of wish more sitcoms did episodes that looked like a grade school play.

Why did Rudy decorate her world with checkered boxes?

The first person we meet is the mayor, as played by Grandpa Russell. He introduces us to the aesthetic of thick, uneven, hand-drawn lines and bright, front-only colors. His style of performance also immediately establishes the heightened, presentational manner in which the scenes will be played. He wears the suit, pocket watch, and top hat that children would associate with a generic authority figure.

She put some real thought into that tiny little collar, huh?

Bonus points for the little flower in his lapel.

Even when imaginary, they're pretty boring.

Sondra and Elvin also live in this town, as farmers who grow floobaroo. As best I can tell, their crop is actually hamburgers, but everything is shot in soft focus, so it's difficult to know for sure. The commitment to a limited palette really helps sell this as something created with a box of markers: notice how their browns match perfectly, and how the blue in Elvin's shirt is the same one used in the mayor's suit.

He's sort of rapping here. But really only vaguely so.

The town crier, played by Theo, has a more up-to-date style, with a beanie hat and a midriff-baring tank top. His look is actually a little jarring; I'm not sure if I buy that Rudy would give him such trendy pieces when everyone else stuck so closely to the generic medieval fairy tale mold.

Giving the full Beyonce.

And the Emmy goes to Phylicia Rashad for her portrayal of the village songstress. She's acting with every fiber of that wig.

This is her excited face.

Rudy casts herself as the flower girl who eventually saves the day. The role allows her to wear blush, which would normally be against the rules. (Let's not forget all the trouble Vanessa got into for this sort of thing.)

Speaking of blush.

Peter shows up to lead the parade. His arrival shows us that there are multiple shades of green happening here. Rudy is probably also the only person to get those pastel blues and pinks in her outfit. I don't know how I feel about the introduction of subtler shades. We kind of had a concept going.

Fog machine!

Of course, every story needs antagonists.

The nemesis always gets the best costume.

Kenny plays the evil ruler a neighboring kingdom who conquers the nice, fun, happy people. The limited palette is back in full force for him and his minions. Bad guys usually know how to coordinate.

It's almost the Ren Faire version of a Cosby sweater.

Cliff is one of the more conflicted members of the crew, as he develops a crush on the songstress (who denies his advances, of course). The beard growth and heavy eyebrows aren't as funny on him as they are on Kenny, but I love that evil people don't shave.

Mondays are rough.

Peter's little brother Paul really nails it as the meanest of the bad guys. Look at that face.

Trying for the full Beyonce. Not even really getting to Solange.

The wizard, portrayed by Vanessa, gets one of the best costumes. The use of wire to create a gravity-defying flare to her skirt and sleeves helps to define this creation as a scribbled outline rather than a sewn garment. Also, the stars and moons on her robe are larger and sloppier than the details on many of the other costumes, which I like.

I'll maybe give her Kelly Rowland.

She does, however, get some surprisingly detailed eyeliner. It's not impossibly complicated or anything, it's just clearly finer than a child's handiwork would have been. They maybe should have given her a less dainty smear of something.

That makes this one Michelle Williams, I guess.

Our last entrant into the story is an unnamed character played by an uncredited actor. She's the foxy member of the conquering army who seduces the town crier into joining the dark side, or at least dancing with them for a little while. Her particular shade of olive does not appear elsewhere in the story. Rudy's marker collection is vast.

So there you have it: imaginary fashions of the late '80s. Next week, we'll get back to what people were actually, physically wearing. I think it'll probably be more interesting all around.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Season 4, Episode 17: Waterworks

Though Cliff believes himself to be a skilled handyman, his family (not to mention his track record) tells a different story. Thus, when a leaky pipe entices him to take a sledgehammer to the bathroom wall, Clair makes a desperate call to every plumber she can find. Hearing about the crisis, Sondra recommends some of her friends for the job. Their youth causes some doubts initially, but they do a fantastic job for less money than their estimate quoted. Everybody lives happily ever after.

I'd polo you to the ends of the earth.

This is Ted, who does most of the talking for the Princeton-educated workers. (Since Princeton does not have a major in this field, it's unclear where their collective knowledge of plumbing was gathered.) He's played by Kevin Rock, who has worked here in there in small roles. His IMDb page is notable for having an acting reel uploaded, which I wasn't aware people actually did. Good for you, Kevin Rock! His clothes make a lot of right choices in a lot of wrong colors. That polo fits decently, and the multiple shades of stripe are catchy, but the lavender/teal scheme is no good, and the use of gray in the torso makes the collar look mismatched even though it truly does use the same dye as the rest of the shirt. On the other hand, I can get into a leather bomber jacket. Some things never go out of style.

She looks like her report card might have sailed the seven C's...

Jennifer, one of three women on the team (and the only one we'll be reviewing since the rest wear coveralls), is played by Erica Gimpel. Prior to this episode, she was known for playing Coco Hernandez on the TV series Fame. She has worked consistently in television and film since then. This outfit is solidly committed to the Renaissance revival that was happening in the mid-'80s. She's got the hat, the high collar, the blousy shirt, the vest: she could be Michelangelo's particularly outdoorsy assistant. I don't know if the rustic vibe from the red plaid and denim and cotton turtleneck mesh well with the classical inspirations, but I'm happy that she has a concrete, unique perspective. Denise would do something like this, and I'd applaud wildly.

Some character actors are made, while others are born.

Josh Pais, in his first acting gig, plays Andy, the third plumber. He's gone on to have a solid career as a character actor, appearing in films ranging from A Beautiful Mind to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (he voiced Raphael). There's nothing great happening with his wardrobe right now, I'm sorry to say. The sea green isn't so hot on him, and the pairing with purple is totally of its time. And not in a good way. Beyond that, he's wearing his pants too high. Plus, a medium brown jacket with no detail is the most boring top layer you could wear. There has to be some sort of adornment you could add. Pockets? Stitching? Patches? Anything. I kind of hate this look.

I should drink more thinks out of straws so I can do this.

Rudy last wore this sweater in episode #4.14. I have to say, it looks better against the yellow base somehow. I should still hate it, but I don't as much.

She plays future sports. Which are still past sports from our vantage point.

In comparison to some of the other exemplary-of-the-decade jackets Vanessa has shown us, this one isn't so bad. Sure, it has that ridiculous Tron line on the side, but otherwise it's a classic '50s-themed piece. The red polo underneath isn't awful either. She screw it up with the pants, though, because the length and fit positively scream of a bygone era. That's the thing about super-trendy garments: they're almost sure to age poorly. If she were just in trim black slacks, she'd probably look OK here, even with the junky sneakers. Instead, she reads like a goofy relic.

She apparently also does some future knitting.

This sweater can't have looked good even back then, right? It's so Quacker Factory, especially with that dark pink shirt beneath it. Jeanne Bice would go nuts for that hue. Honestly, if the quilt-patterned wool thing were gone, this might be a passable look: blue tights, black skirt, pink top. Nothing revolutionary, but a sound showing. That's what she should have done.

No. Take it off.

Up close, I don't despise that pattern on Theo's shirt. I'm even a little intrigued by the use of text to create a print. Similarly, the cerulean and chocolate work well with the gray when you get up next to him, though I might want less (or even no) black in the mix. You take a step back, however, and the whole thing falls to pieces. It looks messy. And when your print is messy, the last thing you want is too much of it, so it's a shame that the shirt is so large. The pants have tailoring issues, too. This isn't doing it for me.

I didn't mean you shouldn't put something else on. Dude.

I realize that this isn't an outfit. The gag is that Theo, enamored with the female plumbers, serves them sandwiches in a towel. The reason I'm putting this out there is because the script never reveals Theo's excuse for not wearing pants, though it's clear that he intends to give one. I'd love to know his justification for this ridiculousness.

A phenomenon, ever and always.

Clair serves two repeats this week. The first is from episode #4.11. It's interested to see that the bauble dangling from her top, which I so loved last time, was not built into the garment. (Not sure why I thought it would be, really: that's not very practical from a cleaning and ironing standpoint.)

Even in this.

Her second look is a repeat of an episode #4.2 ensemble, head to toe.

Not one joke was made about the obstetrician being bad with plumbing!

This is a good plaid for Cliff. The brick foundation is served well by the rusty accents flecked with darker forest greens and even a vein of blue in there. I'm not sure how I feel about the material of those suspenders, however. Is that leather or suede or something? Maybe just stick to cloth. Perhaps it's just my personal background, but I can't look at a glossy strap like that without picturing fetish gear. Save the harness for your private life, doctor.

He's the conductor on the Ruining the Bathroom Train.

He spends most of the episode in overalls because he thinks he's going to help with the plumbing. He is not. After this orange shirt, he chooses a yellow one. There's no need to review t-shirts and overalls, although his use of eye-catching tones does please me.

The subdued shades show his defeat in the face of Clair's unending correctness.

His final presentation is structured but still appropriately weird. I'm not sure that I can define precisely why this sweater is strange, even though it obviously is. Maybe just because he's wearing it. There's something also about the size of the brick pattern. It's huge, as though someone zoomed in on a single frame from Super Mario Brothers or something. Also, the expected visual trend breaks down at the sleeve, which is disorienting. I'm into the soft pink collar against the monochrome top layer and charcoal pants. This is a pretty nice getup, truth be told.

Well, there you have it. Don't go to Princeton: you'll just end up working a job you could have gotten after trade school. Save your money, take a correspondence course in elevator maintenance. (Don't listen to me. Go to a good school. You don't want to end up frittering away your time writing a blog about a TV show that's been off the air for decades. When people ask what you do for fun and that's your answer, you'll receive such pitying looks! Take it from one who knows.)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Season 4, Episode 16: The Drum Major

Gender equality was a huge issue in the 1980s, huh? Beyond the constant attention given to the topic by recurring characters like Elvin and Kenny, The Cosby Show sometimes uses whole story arcs to talk about the importance of eradicating sexism. This week, Vanessa and a group of her female friends try out for drum major after realizing that the position has never gone to a woman in their school's history. When Theo finds out that his friends who judged the audition process were going to choose a male no matter what, he petitions the principal and earns his sister (and all the other hopefuls) a second chance. Vanessa still isn't picked, but at least she had a fair shot. Meanwhile, Cliff cooks a chili dinner at which Russell plans to finally pay back the $100 he has owed an old friend for decades.

It's still weird to me that Cockroach is gone.

These are the three dudes responsible for shutting out all the female contenders. They have each previously appeared on the show, but Denny in the middle has never been seen in street clothes before, so that's something. On the left, we have Gerald. He's particularly skinny, which was a hard build to rock in a decade so focused on volume. The pleated pants and ill-fitting polo fight against his frame rather than working for it. Tucking the shirt in helps in some ways (defining his waist) but hurts in others (exacerbating the impact of sizing issues everywhere else). Denny, on the other hand, serves as contrast to prove that pleats don't work on anyone. He's a broader man overall, and his pants add volume in exactly the wrong place. Donny's outfit isn't sized expertly either, but of the trio, he's closest to the mark. He also wins me over with the assertive red plaid. The other two blend too easily into the lockers behind them. They might look at girls, but with palettes so muted, the girls will never look back.

Another one not even listed on the IMDb.

This is Hazen Gifford, playing an unnamed character who works at or manages or maybe owns the jazz club that Cliff and Russell visit. I was initially put off by the blue shirt under all that tan, and then I was OK with it, but now I've come back to my initial dislike. I could see the effect working with a warmer tan and maybe a slightly brighter color beneath it, but this comes off too dirty and dusty for my tastes. Also, the sneakers have got to go. Nothing says "tourist" quite so loudly as athletic shoes worn with nice clothes. It's the trademark of someone who has begrudgingly accepted that he will be doing a lot of walking on this trip. Other than the shoes, I'd accept most of this, and with some tweaks to the color story would even call it a success.

You need some swag to match that swagger, dude.

Kenny drops by for a minute to up the misogyny ante. I hate to break it to him, but a sweatsuit with a collar is still a sweatsuit. Dismissed.

This was sewed from scraps found behind a discount furniture outlet.

Musician Slim Claxton is played by Dub Taylor, who has basically been in every Western released since 1938. Seriously, his resume is enormous. Out of respect for his prolific contribution to the entertainment industry, I'll refrain from lingering on the sheer hideousness of this getup. (But it's pretty bad, right? That vest! What the hell is that vest?!)

His manic Cajun cackle will haunt my nightmares.

Slim gets a second outfit, but it's no better than the first. This is what would happen if L.L. Bean released a line of clothes for the homeless.

Givin' you that Panthro eye.

A coral sweater over chocolate cords? Russell, you're too good to me. The collared shirt is impeccably matched, reflecting lighter shades of the colors already present in the outfit to soften up the plaid. This is gorgeous, as is just about everything he wears.

Drab bag,

The key words being "just about." Contrasting with yesterday's vibrant concoction, this is all drab and muddy. The browns, maroons, and pines (and even occasional mustards) lack any definition. Everything runs together in a soupy mess. The cardigan should never be worn again; the other pieces can be worn separately but never together.

It might be ugly, but at least you know she's got confidence.

I can never tell if Rudy's clothes have growing room or if this is just a stylistic choice symptomatic of the then-current obsession with bigness. Whatever the motivation, she looks like the world's youngest expectant mother in this. Too pear-shaped, Huxtables. Buy your daughter clothes that at least vaguely fit. Part of the problem is the extreme layering. If you look closely, you can see that she has a fuchsia turtleneck on beneath the long-sleeved polo and sweater vest.The palette suggests that Cliff had a hand in putting this together.

Back again, for some reason.

This shirt is a repeat from the season premiere.

Putting the major in drum major.

Though Vanessa is in workout clothes and I don't typically review those, I thought it would be worth noting that these are the same sweats she wore in episode #3.15.

She didn't seem that distraught in motion, but that freeze frame is SAD.

Her presentation for the day of the tryout is close, but overlooks some key factors. Usually I support the coveralls option for its forward-thinking take on fashion. Other than garage workers or certain military personnel, our main point of reference for this garment is depictions of the distant future in sci-fi movies. But her color and fabric choices here miss the mark, and the overabundant zippers and patches are the wrong way to embellish. Similarly, the belt seems like it belongs to an entirely different outfit. She's out of her league here.

I hate that coat so so much.

Her second outfit remains buried under a coat, so there are mysteries afoot. Is that a turtleneck sweater, or a sweater over a matched turtleneck? What are the black-and-white markings across her midsection? Pandas maybe? I dunno. It's not a terrible effort, but rather than wearing a long-ish top over a skirt, she should have gone whole hog and worn a knee-length sweater. Which should then have been belted. It'd be an improvement.

I'ma take your grandpa's style, I'ma take your grandpa's style...

Russell wore this cardigan in episode #3.11, and it was one of the rare times that I offered negative feedback on his wardrobe. It doesn't look better on Theo. I could debate the merits of the black pants and denim shirt in terms of how they match the sweater, but really nothing can or should match it. It should go away.

Another unfortunate facial moment.

Have we ever seen Theo in red and white before? Because I'm loving it for him. This is a good holiday sweater. I'm curious as to whether those little icons are indicating snowflakes or phases of the moon or what, but regardless, this is a quirky, cozy turtleneck that almost makes me forget that he's wearing those horrid front-seam jeans. (People are big on the turtlenecks this week!)

This one isn't accidental. She meant to make that face. And several others.

Clair appears only briefly, and while her chili-tasting performance is outstanding, her look is unbelievably dowdy. There are many small points that work against her, from the roomy fit to the color scheme to the width of the white collar. What really kills me, though, are the trims everywhere. There's a red band on the edge of her collar, a white band at the cuff of her cardigan, and another red stripe across her midsection. That mundane, suburban insertion somehow ruins this more than anything else.

It's weird that he's not the one with the crazy expressions.

This is not Cliff's episode #3.6 shirt, though it may as well be since it has all of the same problems. The print is so small that it just makes the shirt look like it's fraying or pilling. If it were a simple gray checker or stripe, this would actually be a nice outfit, not to mention a rather dapper shift from his usual style. It was a nice try. General wardrobe advice: don't have two of the same thing. Diversify. It helps you avoid wearing a uniform. Like, if you have three red sweaters, you're done: get an orange or a purple next time.

That thermos is full of hatred for this getup.

I can't get far enough away from this sweater. Our planet's gravity prevents it. Nothing more can or should be said.

Sorry these entries have been a little sparse lately. I'm writing for Queerty (a paid gig!) now, so if you watch either RuPaul's Drag Race or Girls then you should check out my recaps, posted every Monday and Tuesday. I mean, I'm assuming you watch current TV, too, and not just the classics.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Season 4, Episode 15: The Visit

Theo is scared to go to the hospital to see friend Jake, who has cancer. Elvin is lonely while Sondra is away in Boston and stops by the Huxtable household to cheer himself up. If you're suspicious as to whether such a thin plot could make a good episode, you should be: it's an occasionally preachy bore. Stick with it, though, because Elvin's Bill Cosby impression right at the end is worth it.

I'm your private cancer, a cancer for money, do what you want me to do.

This is Jake, who looks pretty vibrant for someone whose cancer treatment prevents him from leaving the hospital. Other than a sudden bout of fatigue after a fake basketball game, he doesn't seem to have any visible symptoms. Hell, he's not even going through chemo: look at that luscious head of hair! I'm not going to review his clothes because they're pajamas. The actor is Christopher Collet, who is most known for playing Paul Stephens in The Manhattan Project.

This gun's for hire, even if it's just cancer in the dark.

His caring grandfather dives in at the end to give a supremely subtle talk about how he's sure our government could find room in the budget for cancer research if everyone would just write a letter to their representative in Congress. Like, right now. Go get a pen. (This is back when people wrote physical letters with pens!) The performer is not an actor, but industrialist Armand Hammer. At the time, he was a member of the President's Cancer Panel, which I assume motivated this cameo. In terms of the look, I'm not going to come out against a charcoal pin-striped suit basically ever. Who would? I feel particularly great about the light tie and matching pocket square. Nice job, sir. Also, thanks for providing some of the genetic material that went into Armie Hammer. He's an attractive man.

Hold me closer, tiny cancer.

The nurse stationed outside Jake's room is played by Gwen McGee, who plays a lot of nurses and detectives. Occasionally she is a police officer or judge. She also has intriguing names like "Weird Sounding Lady" and "Woman Harboring Fugitive" in her recent credits. I probably wouldn't have mentioned her except that her resume is long and strange.

Salmon sweatpants.

The same bunch of Theo's friends from the last locker room episode are back, but since they all wear gym clothes, we're just going to acknowledge them and move on.

At least we acknowledge that he can't afford to buy new clothes all the time.

This is Elvin's episode #2.19 shirt paired with his #4.7 pants. He needs to tuck his shirt in tighter.

Mad sassy.

Kenny drops by for a bit, dressed like a kid. The patch proudly displaying the word "heroes" leaves me a little curious. Is that a brand name? Is he self-identifying as part of a pint-sized collective? Does he look up to the little blocks of color depicted below? I need more information.

She is eight years old and will talk on down to you.

Rudy's sweater has some sort of abstracted image on it. Like, that might be a white sunbather in a red bathing suit. And is that an upside-down Triforce? Lunacy. The stuff beneath is fine, just a matching turtleneck and sweats, but I have to caution her against rolling up her pant legs just to show more sock. You have to let people notice those little flourishes on their own.

His arms must get cold easily.

Vanessa doesn't make an appearance this week, so we'll skip straight to Theo. He visits Jake in his front-seam jeans, which give me eye cancer. That sweater on top isn't great either. The red, white, and blue scheme doesn't read "patriotic crafts sold by a maiden aunt at a rally somewhere," but that doesn't make it good. At least he obscures it with this ten-sizes-too-big jacket with... are those sweater sleeves?

Simmer down. Brooklyn winters aren't that bad.

Nope, that's a whole sweater back. Guh ross. And then look at the grisly results once his coat is removed! That print! Is his intention here to prove that the world outside the hospital isn't worth visiting?

Everything. She is everything.

Thank heavens for Clair. Does she know how to work it or what? High-waisted skirt? Beautiful. Thick belt? Stunning. Simple neckline? Tasteful jewelry? Just the right amount of drape in the blouse? Austere color choices? Killer updo? Yes, yes, all the way yes. She is a gem and I can't get enough of her.

Let the man eat his apple pie salad.

Cliff brings out yet another sweater, but this time he's sneaky about the craziness. From far away, it seems like a simple blue-green garment with a magenta band down the middle. Maybe you'd be fooled into thinking it was a cardigan over a shirt, but not for long. But the closer you get, the more it resembles television static rendered in lurid technicolor and punctuated with tangible texture. If that isn't enough to give you a headache, there's also that burnt orange collar at the top, because who doesn't want yet another shade thrown in just for kicks? It's a relief that the pants are gray. Just stare at his knees until you recover.

And that's the end. Sorry, sometimes they're quick. You get what you get. If you can't wait until Monday when the next one is posted, maybe reread a random older entry.