Monday, October 13, 2008

TV Style Icons: The Huxtables

The entire Huxtable clan was always beautifully turned out. From matriarch Claire's stellar separates, to her husband's vivid knits, the family that styled together stayed together. The Cosby Show was full of characters with fully evolved personal taste; the dernier cri in Brooklyn Heights. While the episodes taught us the importance of honesty, ethics, and living up to our potential, a lot of us took our sartorial cues from the Huxtables.

Of the children, Denise captured the mid-80s most brilliantly, both as a pacesetter of style and as a designer. And then there's Rudy. Remember the third season episode where she schemes to wear a summer dress to a party during the fall season? Her mother was the voice of reason. Even when she's stern, giving her youngest child a lecture on weather-appropriate dressing, Claire Huxtable is polished and fashion forward.

In an episode from the previous season, the power of clothing makes itself apparent again when Vanessa purloins Denise's sweater to wear to a school dance. The sisters come to blows over the plum-colored sweater coat, almost knocking out their father.

Cosby Show costume designer, Sarah Lemire, created a fashion time capsule during the period the show aired (1984-1992). Other than Dynasty and Miami Vice, I can't think of another program from that era that captured the aesthetics of the time. In the past decade, Sex and the City came close for the late 90s and the early-mid noughties. But Patricia Field's concept was more hyper-reality than that of The Cosby Show. Unlike the characters in the aforementioned programs, Cliff and Claire were parents to five kids. He was an obstetrician and she, an attorney. Their wardrobes had to be more believable because of their roles.

Today, with the Internet, people have easy access to designer collections minutes after the shows take place. Twenty-five years ago, fashion footage was limited to glossies-and they only came around once a month. With Claire and Cliff and the kids, at 8:00 PM every Thursday night, it was like being in the front row.

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