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, September 30, 2013

Season 5, Episode 20: It Comes and It Goes

Elvin loves going to medical school all day. Sondra hates staying home with the babies all day. Pop quiz: who's earning money around here? Neither of them? How is this... whatever, doesn't even matter. The point is that Sondra is tired. At dinner, the elders in their family give both young parents advice.

Robe 'n Thicke #blurredlines

Elvin's mother Francine is back in another broad look that I still believe is intended to weigh her down and age her. She doesn't look like a grandmother by any stretch (not that Clair does), and so the billowy top layer and matched purple pieces are used to obscure her actual body and give her more generous, matronly proportions. At the same time, the rich colors and textures ensure that she seems somewhat stylish rather than just frumpy. The long, beaded necklace is a particularly nice touch. This isn't a fantastic shade of purple for her or for that coat, but we'll live.

Leprechaun car salesman.

Lester returns, but his beard does not. He's the jovial one of the group, and his personality is accentuated by the almost clownish combination of loud coat and argyle sweater. While I like him in green, this particular one doesn't really land with me. Overall, his look seems more about broadcasting a personality trait than actually making him appear to be a reasonable individual.

Mood swings.

Anna is a shoulder pad abuser. She needs help. Someone should have staged an intervention long ago. Above is a prime example of the heights to which she has taken this unfortunate addiction. She is a pair of purple shorts away from going out as The Hulk for Halloween.

The opposite of mood swings.

Never one to buy new when he could wear old, Russell brings back his episode #2.23 jacket, paired smartly with a striped shirt and primly patterned tie in dark neutral colors. As ever, he gives the impression of a man who has his gig together.

Oh, I get it. It's a built-in throw-up shield.

Though Elvin gets two outfits, we'll only look at one, because the first is a repeat of his episode #4.8 shirt with an old pair of jeans.

Tried to caption it; fell asleep.

To dress it up for dinner, he chooses the plainest, bluest clothing he can find. Seriously, did he not have a solid navy tie? Why not just double down and go all the way if you're going to be this dull?

Busy moms can't buy new clothes. Nor can unemployed moms.

This look is a straight repeat from episode #5.13. Last time, however, Sondra wore thick leggings beneath that short skirt. This time? Sheer hose. The only way she can feel like a young, vital woman is by tarting it up a little. Honey, I know the feeling.

Reviewing kids' clothes is tough.

Here we see Kenny and Rudy, dressed as a lumberjack's ass and your grandmother's throw pillow, respectively.

I'm grading him on a curve at this point.

The college man has a date with Justine, meaning she hasn't quite come to her senses yet. Now's the time to make mistakes, I suppose. I can't fault the intention behind these clothes, but each piece is the wrong size. He needs to slim those pants, slim the shirt (and tuck it in, for crying out loud), and lengthen the tie. The hat is obviously idiotic, but there's a line about him looking like Zorro, so I have to assume that it was inserted only to justify the joke. Theo's not generally a hat man.

When she falls short, I just spend less time on her.

Oh, I get it: Rudy dressed like your grandma's throw pillow because Clair is serving Grandma's Armchair Realness. I'll give her that collar shape, though. There's something redeeming in every one of her outfits.

Hoarder. His closet must be ridiculous.

Cliff already owns several sweaters in this autumnal color scheme; he really has no need for another. The pairing of subtle horizontal bands with darker concentric diamonds is hypnotic, but in a good way. I think the patterns play interestingly off each other to become more than the sum of their parts without threatening to hinder your grip on reality. And that's always nice.

Before we wrap things up, I want to do a little publicizing. If you're a fan of RuPaul's Drag Race, then you should check out Reddit's Lip Sync For Your Life competition. This week, the final three are battling it out for the overall win, and you can help decide the outcome. (You needn't be a Reddit member to participate; votes can be submitted via Facebook and Twitter as well.) So go watch the videos and pick your favorite.

Thank you for indulging me in that. See you next week.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Season 5, Episode 19: The Boys of Winter

Apologies in advance, fair readers: this one is so short that the cast might as well have been naked. (Actually, I feel like an all-nude episode would spur a fair amount of discussion. No, never mind. I'd just post "WHY?" and move on.) The entire plot is that the family watches a video of Cliff and some of his older male colleagues playing basketball against a team made up of young women. The ladies win, and it's, like, a huge deal. Like, OMG, a girl beat a boy? At a sport?! Cliff's old basketball coach happens to be around to witness this, but it's still boring, because literally half the story is just everyone sitting in the living room watching TV. I don't need to see that, I'm already doing that, only instead of a loving family, I'm surrounded by a burrito, my Twitter account, and crippling loneliness.

His smile is too earnest. It's unnerving. Tone it down.

This is Tiger Haynes as Coach Barry. Other than the messily patterned and somewhat flaccid bow tie, he's got himself a good getup here. Since going with a pale blue shirt would have been too easy, he chose this thinly striped number that suggests the standard we're used to but is, upon closer inspection, slightly more complicated and interesting. The jacket is similarly subtle in its details, making this an outfit that rewards people who are willing to give it a closer look. He's wearing the khaki slacks a little high, but he was right to go with a subdued pant.

No, really: how?

Birdie M. Hale plays Mrs. Barry, who has apparently spent weeks preparing her hair for this gathering. That is an impressive configuration. Crown it. Her blouse and skirt are right in terms of color, but wrong in terms of print. The use of a highly contrasting paisley over a mottled background is, for my tastes, too much, especially when added to the black bands at the wrists and the complex creation at her hemline. Even if you're not interested in being subdued, there's no need to wear everything at once. A bright color and one pattern is plenty. Also, seriously 1980s: stop with the matched sets. What year did we discover coordinated pieces?

Shorts over the pants because NO HOMO.

There are four boys playing basketball in the back yard (because the Huxtables live in that weird, unattainable Brooklyn where people have big back yards), but I'm not getting into what they're wearing because ew, sweats. I guess technically Elvin is wearing jeans, but how many times have we seen those jeans? A million? Don't make me explain jeans and a t-shirt to you, you get it. Also: Lou still has that damn hat on.

Lena Dunham is their mascot. Or maybe their opponent.

We'll get both sisters out of the way at the same time here. Rudy's revisiting her episode #5.15 sweater, with a skirt instead of pants. Vanessa has opted for an all-chartreuse (we love matching!) outfit that overtly connects with the episode's plot. We've seen long shirts over leggings many times, but this creation is reminiscent of a team uniform. She's on Team Girls, get it? Because the girls beat the boys at basketball? Good color choice, but not much else.

Such a flirt! That face.

We can usually count on Clair to bring the taste and elegance, and she largely delivers here, though I have concerns. Certainly her black skirt remains impeccable, and the fuchsia of her top is on point. The small pin is odd and delightful. But what's going on with the intentional bunching in the middle? I'm all for a ruched garment, but you need to do that with a thinner fabric. This is a little too haphazard in its bunching. Also, you generally don't want to just add four or five thick bumps right across your midsection. It's not hugely flattering. She can pull it off because of how slim she is, but it still has a strange effect. This would be more boring if she gave up that flourish, but probably better.

I think I'm tapped out on sweater captions.

Cliff closes us out with a great sweater (other than the mock turtleneck part). I like when he does the "variations on a theme" thing, offering the same print in different colors to add variance to the structure. It's catchy without going too wild. This one in particular feels clean and crisp in its execution because of how it adheres to the darker hues in the leaf design, letting them all stand out equally against the gray backdrop. The pants are maybe a hair light, but I'll allow them.

And that's it. Really. End of episode. Until next week!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Season 5, Episode 18: The Dead End Kids Meet Mr. Lotus

When Theo catches Justine hanging out with another man, he gets petulantly jealous. (She rightly points out to him that they are seeing each other non-exclusively and that acting like a child isn't a fantastic way to earn her attention.) His friends convince him to get rid of the other guy by visiting Dr. Lotus, a purveyor of supernatural remedies. Of course, chicken bone curses aren't cheap, and Theo has to ask his father for hundreds of dollars to help him run the other man out of town. Thank goodness Cliff isn't as dumb as his son.

Hello! Can I interest you in some pseudo-science?

I'm glad that Moses Gunn, as Dr. Lotus, doesn't have some sort of wacky hoodoo witch doctor getup. The three-piece suit is crisp and classy, especially with the added bonus of a vest in chocolate brown accompanied by a chain that I assume connects to a pocket watch. (He doesn't seem like the type to get all Hot Topic and just throw a bunch of chains around for no reason.) Pairing browns and blacks is advanced work, but this man is prepared to take things to the next level. Also note that the collar has a soft, rounded edge rather than pointed peaks. He's all about pushing boundaries.

WAAAAAAAAALT!

Scott, the man who has caught Justine's eye, is played by Harold Perrineau. He is the second actor from Lost to appear this season (after L. Scott Caldwell turned up in episode #5.5). There's a crossover fanfic just begging to get written there. His look is pretty plain and clean-cut. I'm sure the aim was to make him seem solid but bland, the sort of perfect everyman onto whom people could project a personality. He's nice without having obvious flaws or obvious strengths, cute without being strikingly handsome or hot, and decently dressed without seeming outright shabby or incredibly rich. There's nothing there, so there could be anything there.

Let's go to a karaoke bar and all sing "Kiss From A Rose" together.

Oh, Justine, what are you doing? The '80s (or at least The Cosby Show's rendition of the '80s) seemed to be all about matching. People looooooved to match their clothes. A black base with large white roses is a pretty aggressive print. Using it to cover one's entire body with two separate garments is absolutely the wrong way to go. This is especially true given that she has nothing in the way of accessories, like a belt or a vest, to break it up in any way. The print is all this outfit has going for it, and that's just not enough.

Or maybe "You Can Leave Your Hat On."

Lou returns, still with the hat (which he specifies does not leave his head ever). He's really prepped it up since last we saw him. The palette is somber, the pieces are business casual... he's even wearing a tie! If it weren't for that lid, he could be an administrator.

Urkel's role model.

Howard repeats the outfit we first met him in from episode #5.6.

He's serving Della Reese in the face.

Some acid wash cargo jeans for Denny. Oh my. The top half is less overtly offensive, though the maroon collared shirt is far too roomy and the mock turtleneck layer beneath it is a mock turtleneck. (We've seen a lot of that lately. Let's hope that trend dries up by the end of the season.)

She bang, she bang.

To make up for Vanessa's absence in this episode, Kara drops by. The pants are basically the whole outfit, not only by loudness but also by sheer volume. That's just a whole lot of pant. Her top half shows that even whites can clash if you try hard enough, so on some level good for her for setting a negative example. I'm also pretty sure that though her outer layer has buttons, the neck itself does not unfasten and must be pulled over the head. So the capey presentation is not a choice on her part, but rather a function of the top itself. As usual, I'm distressed by pretty much everything about her getup.

The Big Bang Theory.

Also distressing: thievery. This is the episode #2.14 sweater that Vanessa borrowed from Denise without permission, and then apparently inherited outright when Denise left for school. Now Kara is using it as one of her layers as she prepares to brave the cold. Is this another instance of "borrowing," or does she have clearance for this use?

Nope.

Theo is the only Huxtable child to make an appearance this week, and he does so in the blandest possible clothing. Big gray mock turtleneck sweatshirt (and you know how I feel about overlarge garments and mock turtlenecks), plain jeans. Snooze.

Not really.

I don't think Clair has worn this specific top before, but it nonetheless telegraphs as something she used to wear. The high, collarless neckline dresses it down, the shoulder pads are perky to the point of militarism, and the color is very first season, especially when paired with a black belt and pants. Maybe this is here to remind us how much better things have gotten. She sets the bar low every once in a while as a contrast, helping us to appreciate her typical fabulousness all the more.

Maybe.

Cliff really understands how to work a weird pattern. If you're going to pair a curvy print with a blocky print, then don't also get ridiculous with neon shades and power clashing. You needn't use all your tricks at the same time. By going with neutral tones, he lets the different shapes stand out and make an impact. It's still sort of an ugly sweater, but it's the kind of thing we've come to expect from him by now.

And that's it! Lots of guest stars, but the whole incident takes place over a few hours, so no clothing changes. See you next week.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Season 5, Episode 17: Can I Say Something, Please?

Rudy's dissatisfaction with the rules of the house leads her to enter into negotiations with her parents. They agree to an experiment in which she can set her own bedtime provided she completes her homework and is not late to school. Predictably, she opts to stay up all night, which makes her grumpy and exhausted. Though the issue is never discussed again, we can assume that she learns a valuable lesson about trusting that her mother and father have her best interests in mind.

I can't really hate on red pants, even when they're this roomy.

The whole topic of boundaries is initiated because Rudy has a movie-watching party. Her friends are allowed to watch stronger stuff, while she's relegated to the children's titles. One of her guests is this blond girl, who goes unnamed in the script. Since the actress playing her is Heather Coleman, we'll just call her Heather. I'm assuming by her sipping-organic-tea-at-the-cabin getup and no-nonsense hairdo that Heather has two moms.

Tiny headband.

Kim is also back. She's rocking leggings and a sweatshirt. Sure, why not?

Huge clothes for small people.

This whole mess is partially Kenny's fault: he brought a thinly-veiled ripoff of The Garbage Pail Kids and pushed Rudy to screen it instead of Treasure Island. (To be fair, too much pirate violence probably isn't good for these kids, anyway.) He's got an OK look going; those stripes will be less defensible once he hits puberty, but they're alright for now.

Wow. Rockin' party, guys.

Peter's here too, just being Peter.

This body language says FWB.

Howard comes home with Theo after midnight; they claim they're about to start studying, but that's not why I brought people back to my room after midnight when I was in college. Regardless of what they are or aren't up to, this man has chosen the perfect color story, from the delightful teal/cream/maroon plaid of his shirt to the exactly matched turtleneck to the mahogany coat and neutral yet compelling slacks. All-around win, in my book.

There's not nearly enough discouragement of her stank attitude this week.

Rudy's first outfit has medals sewn into the top, suggesting that she has gone to battle and performed well. Perhaps she captained the Good Ship Lollipop? Well done, soldier. In the war on fashion, however, she seems to have lost some ground. Both of her looks this week feature matching tops and leggings with a skirt dividing them. Of the two, this is the less offensive, but its plainness should not be equated with quality. Too much contrast seaming happening, and the construction of that skirt is atrocious.

Was she given this as a punishment of some sort?

Of course, that outfit seems worthy of medals in comparison to this woolen vomitorium. The fact that someone made textured, embellished coral leg-sleeves is unacceptable in my eyes. I want to find and scream at that person. The matching sweater is reaching into my brain and turning off the parts that feel joy. And then a denim skirt because everything is terrible. I have to move on before I take my own life.

Of all the repeats in the world...

Vanessa's first appearance is brief, but it doesn't matter because we saw this exact outfit in episode #5.15 (except for the coat, which comes from #5.13).

Did you ever think I'd be telling you dress just like Vanessa?

I'm going to voice a great deal of support for this creation. The palette is surprisingly cohesive, the proportions are unexpected but flattering, and the pieces are mature without seeming elderly. If you were to make some slight tweaks to that sweater, you'd have yourself a serious piece of work here. You could go to a party dressed like this and turn some heads. Please use this as a template for future outings: high-waisted, flowing slacks, collared blouse in an assertive hue, short cardigain in a complimentary shade. Happy fall!

Just and loyal.

Theo is a Hufflepuff?

Clair went to Beauxbatons.

Clair's episode #5.14 taupe skirt never had it so good. That patterned orange wrap top with the tiger necklace is ideal, and it turns this whole outfit into another reminder that she is the best person that has ever set foot in Brooklyn and everyone else should just stand back and admire. I'm sad that she was in pajamas for the rest of this episode, because this high-impact blouse is changing me.

St. Mungo's all the way!

Cliff starts off in a really lovely, subtle outfit. The use of multiple khakis can often come off as boring, but their configuration and varied texture help to create a more dynamic visual. He also employs small bursts of dark blue and palest green to shake things up just enough. This is neutral done right.

OK, no more Potter references. Maybe ever again.

He closes us out with black trousers (cut a little too broadly) and a gray-striped shirt. The nehru collar is new for him, and isn't bad, though is looks too constrictive when buttoned at the top. Given his usual eye for style, this presentation feels lacking. Where's the spirit? Where's the fun?

And so it goes: the end of another episode. Forward, then, into September, toward season 6 and beyond. Stick with me, kids.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Season 5, Episode 16: No Way, Baby

One of Cliff's patients is a young single mother, and the only relative who responds when he calls to notify them of the impending birth is her grandfather who she has not seen for many years. (So many, in fact, that she has to be told who he is when he arrives.) Cliff later figures out that the grandfather cannot read. (Actually, Clair figures it out because she claims that a former coworker couldn't read, which causes me to question the hiring and performance monitoring practices at her law firm.) Anyway, that's pretty much the whole plot: old man can't read.

This show nabbed some prime guest stars in its day.

It's more exciting, of course, when the old man is Sammy Davis, Jr. He's such a tiny man, but he comes from an era when clothes are cut smaller, and that shows in how they dress him for the most part. The jacket and shirt here are both a little bulky, but the pants are surprisingly slim. Also, he may well have needed that hat custom made; I bet a regular one would be huge on him. I'm not loving the use of multiple browns over a black-based outfit, though, and the shirt is a little scruffy.

Now that's what I'm talking about.

He cleans it up for his return to the Huxtable household, though. This is how you do it, folks. I love that the suit has a definite '70s feel to it with the brown and golden tan pairing, the creamy color of the shirt, and the size of the collar, tie, and lapels. Nonetheless, it's a cohesive palette, and the tailoring is impeccable. Again, he's a little guy, he can't buy stuff off the rack. There's good character information in the fact that these are older pieces. He peaked over a decade ago when this was the height of fashion, and though he hasn't been in a situation to update his look since then, he's still wearing his absolute best to come see the doctor.

At least she got to lie down all day at work.

His granddaughter appears only once, and she's wearing a hospital gown. The actress is Leticia Herrera.

Even her genuine smile is a little salty.

Her nurse is the pink-loving nurse that threw all that bitchface at Elvin in episode #5.7.

Mad turtlage.

There's also this dude, who the proud grandfather meets in the waiting room. Turns out he's an English professor! The script suggests that he can thus teach Sammy Davis, Jr. to read, but that doesn't seem right to me. If he's used to working at the collegiate level, then he has probably never had to give someone tutoring that basicl. They should have made him a grade school teacher. Anyway, he has an intentionally silly look going with the big glasses and the tiny bow tie and the bright colors. It matches his kooky voice. (Arnold Stang, the actor, is known for his work in cartoons.)

I need more words for "no."

Oh Rudy. No. Absolutely not. Like, where to even begin? Tiny dots and huge stripes: no. Matching shirt and leggings: no. Long-sleeved shirt tucked into shorts: no. Shorts over leggings: no. Contrasting socks over leggings: no. Built-in belt: no. There are at least five other "no" options here. Like, it's all a "no."

Wild horses couldn't drag her away.

Vanessa is wearing the shirt Amy wore to Theo's illegal party last week. This context is actually pretty similar to how it was just worn: this robe/coat/blouse thing isn't quite as busy, but it's still oddly patterned, poorly fitted, and tough to define with a specific name or purpose. At least she stayed vaguely cohesive with the palette (the pants are barely shown but also black). And the wardrobe people gave us a real throwback with that belt, which first appeared on Sondra in the season 2 opening credits sequence.

Trying something.

Since Theo does not appear this week, we'll jump straight to Clair. When she first showed up behind the counter, the width of this garment made me assume that it was a fancy bathrobe. But it seemed to be an odd time of day for her to still be in last night's clothes, and sure enough, when the doorbell rang, she answered it without an once of shame. Then Sammy Davis, Jr. complimented her on her outfit repeatedly, saying that it would have fit right in with the attire of Josephine Baker and her compatriots in Paris. Honestly, it looks as though the effort was made to give her something particularly forward-thinking to wear in direct response to that scripted comment, but I'm not sure this is what I would have chosen. For one thing, it's very different from her usual style, which makes on wonder why she's wearing it at all. And secondly, I debate whether it actually looks like something to be worn in a bohemian Parisian night club, though I guess I'm not an excellent judge of that.

Overall, I think this outfit does precious little for the woman wearing it. There are too many shades, not all of which assist each other, and it doesn't feel flattering or coherent. On the other hand, the Josephine Baker reference gives me an excuse to refer to this video. (In case the link doesn't do it automatically, skip to 3:55 for the relevant section.)

Always sweatered, never sweating.

Cliff is quite structured in his sweater-made-of-sweaters presentation this week, choosing to deliver the various colors and textures in four uniform squares against a flat gray, almost as though they were art pieces hanging on a gallery wall. It's a compelling approach, and I love the meta quality of his body showcasing clothes that in turn showcase other clothes.

Sweet lid.

The episode ends with the proud grandpa giving Cliff his hat, which I guess was regular-sized after all.

After last week's marathon, a light episode like this is a dream come true. Especially on a long weekend. Enjoy your Labor Day, kids.