Rarity: Aren't you going to tell me to change something, too?
Rainbow Dash: No, I just want my dress to be cool.
Rarity: Do you not like the color?
Rainbow Dash: The color's fine; just make it look cooler.
Rarity: Do you not like the shape?
Rainbow Dash: The shape's fine, just make the whole thing, you know, cooler. (pause) It needs to be about 20% cooler.
Rarity: *Head Desk*
Rarity's hard at work on a personal project: a dress for the Grand Galloping Gala. When Twilight shows up to have a loose button sewn back onto an old dress of hers, Rarity gets the inspiration to design a set of customized dresses for the entire mane cast. She also decides to throw a little local fashion show to drum up business for the shop.
Her friends are initially grateful and excited... Too excited, as it turns out, for when they see the dresses Rarity's made for them, they're not quite satisfied with them. Rarity graciously puts her original work aside in favor of the dresses her friends really want, even though their tacky, overly-critical, or vague suggestions result in ridiculous creations that strain her artistic sensibilities. To make matters worse, Spike informs Rarity that the famous fashion critic Hoity Toity will be coming in from Canterlot to attend the fashion show.
Needless to say, the show is a disaster, and Hoity Toity's scathing criticism of the dresses leaves Rarity utterly humiliated, driving her to lock herself in her room for days to wallow in "whatever it is ponies are supposed to wallow in." Feeling guilty, Rarity's friends manage to cook up a scheme to cheer her up: first, they put Fluttershy's knowledge of sewing to use putting the finishing touches on Rarity's own Gala dress, then trick her out of her room long enough to show it to her.
Rarity: No, I don't like it...I love it!!
The second, and more important, part is convincing Hoity Toity to take in a private showing of Rarity's original dresses...and proceeding to knock his horseshoes off with a spectacular fashion show. Hoity Toity is impressed enough that he offers to showcase Rarity's designs at his Best of the Best Boutique in Canterlot... then proceeds to place a rush order for six dozen dresses.
In the end, Rarity has learned that you can't please everypony, and her friends have learned not to look a gift horse (or a horse's gift) in the mouth.
- 20% More Awesome: The Trope Namer (see above). Rainbow Dash wants her dress to be "20 percent cooler" and the vagueness of this statement drives Rarity mad.
- Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: "Rainbow Dash" and "intimate details".
- An Aesop:
- Even if you're doing something as a favor for someone else, don't compromise your talent and good taste.
- If someone gives you a gift of their labor and talent, receive it with appreciation.
- Listen to the expert if your suggestions for something arenít going to be a good idea.
- Biting-the-Hand Humor: The Unsatisfiable Customer theme in the second act, according to the DVD commentary, was directed at Hasbro.
- Brutal Honesty: Rainbow Dash during Rarity's breakdown.Twilight Sparkle: You're not a laughing stock, Rarity.
Rainbow Dash: [none too quietly] She kind of is!
- Busby Berkeley Number: Rarity's song has elements of this. Namely, using her telekinesis to spin mannequins, sewing tools, and bits of fabric around herself as she sings.
- Call-Back: Rarity originally used dress designs to try to get Twilight Sparkle to take her to the Gala before she got enough tickets for all her friends.
- Cat Up a Tree: The only thing the ponies could think of to get Rarity out of her house was to put Opalescence in a tree.
- Chekhov's Skill: Rarity forcing Fluttershy to tell her honest feelings about her dress sets up Fluttershy to have a surprising well of technical sewing knowledge that comes in handy later.
- Complaining About Things You Haven't Paid For: The other ponies treat Rarity like a sewing machine on hooves and cut off her design objections because it's their dress. Oddly, part of the song is a line about the "budget". What budget?
- Continuity Nod: Applejack shows her lack of mathematical skill again when she has to count up all the ponies to figure out that six dresses will be needed.
- Crazy Cat Lady: Pinkie Pie is afraid Rarity will become one during her Heroic BSoD.Twilight Sparkle: She only has one cat.
Pinkie Pie: Give her time...
- Damned by Faint Praise:
- Rarity's friends' reaction to the original designs is tepid.Twilight Sparkle: They sure are... um... something.
Pinkie Pie: I love something! Something is my favorite.
Fluttershy: It's... nice.
- Rarity does the same regarding the redesigns, which she's privately declared the ugliest things she's ever made; she has to resort to claiming that she's happy that her friends are happy with them.
- Rarity's friends' reaction to the original designs is tepid.
- Dark Reprise: The second version of "Art of The Dress" serves as a 'Stressed Reprise' for lack of a better term. Even the lines that are repeated are sung in such a stressed and strained tone of voice as to change the meaning entirely.
- Didn't Think This Through: After going under the spotlight, the ponies start to realize some of their design ideas aren't quite as elegant as they thought.Rainbow Dash: Do you think we overdid it?
(Applejack gives a quick glance at her dress, consisting of mega-sized boots and ten gallon hat)
Applejack: Okay, maybe a little.
- Distracting Disambiguation:Rarity: Leave me alone! I vant to be alone! I want to wallow in...whatever it is that ponies are supposed to wallow in! Do ponies wallow in pity? Oh listen to me; I don't even know what I'm supposed to wallow in. I'M SO PATHETIIIIIIIC!!!
- Early-Installment Weirdness: Fluttershy specifically references "French haute couture", and Hoity Toity mentions "Dutch apple pie", which imply that France and the Netherlands respectively exist in the MLP universe. Later episodes would start the convention of giving real-world cities and countries "ponified" names (Saudi Arabia = Saddle Arabia, Manhattan = Manehattan, etc), so Fluttershy using the demonym of a real country comes off as odd.
- Eat the Camera: Rarity does this during "Art of the Dress", holding a note as the camera collides with her swinging uvula.
- Empathy Pet: Opal purrs and curvettes around the first dresses, but hisses and growls at the redesigns.
- Eyelash Fluttering: When Rarity imagines herself showing up to the Grand Galloping Gala in a beautiful dress she made herself, she pretends to receive compliments on it and bats her eyes at the imaginary crowd.
- Fashion Show: FiM is noteworthy for making an episode about a fashion show into a parody of the fashion industry (also seen in "Green Isn't Your Color"), instead of having it look like a bunch of children playing dress-up.
- The first fashion show in this episode is a blatant parody. The amateurish dresses essentially designed by Rarity's friends may be ridiculous, but they look familiar enough in context of the stereotypical image of a fashion show.
- In the second show, Rarity gets to show her real designs to Hoity Toity at her boutique. Some effort is put into making it quite watchable without the earlier irony, with Rarity providing magical special effects to introduce each pony and her outfit.
- When Rainbow Dash crashes into the Boutique at the start of the episode, a few bolts of cloth come unraveled and drape across Dash, making her look like she'd fit in at a toga party. This inspires Rarity to exclaim "I-DEA!" and envision the design of what would ultimately become Rainbow Dash's Romanesque Gala dress.
- Fluttershy gives the most specific and direct criticisms of her dress, pointing out things like stitching that don't meet her approval. This foreshadows her talents for stitching, which helps the ponies finish Rarity's prototype dress late in the episode.
- Girly Bruiser: This episode highlights this trope. The Mane Cast can defeat eldritch abominations, save the world, and still have girly interests like the 'ideal dress'.
- Heroic BSoD: The failure of the fashion show causes Rarity to lock herself in her room for days and consider running away in exile.
- Hidden Depths: Fluttershy turns out to have a "freaky knowledge of sewing", as demonstrated when Rarity browbeats her into giving a critique of the dress Rarity designed. Subverted, however, in that everything she says is pure gibberish and her dress ends up just as tacky as the others.Fluttershy: All right, since you really want to know, [deep breath] the armscye's tight, the middy collar doesn't go with the shawl lapel, the hems are clearly machine stitched, the pleats are uneven, the fabric looks like toile, you used a backstitch here when it clearly called for a topstitch or maybe a traditional blanket stitch, and the overall design is reminiscent of prêt-à-porter and not true French haute couture.
Fluttershy: But... uh... you know...um... whatever you want to do is fine...
Rarity: [Stunned Silence]
- Impossibly Tacky Clothes: The clothes the ponies ask for, without considering any sort of aesthetics.
- Fluttershy's dress has her wearing a bird's nest on her head.
- Applejack's include a top hat, denim overalls and galoshes.
- Pinkie Pie has a cupcake for a hat and a ruff around her neckline.
- Informed Ability: Fans who sew have pointed out that Fluttershy's "freaky knowledge" of sewing can qualify as this — among other things, machine stitching is generally better, more regular and less obtrusive than all but the most delicate and time intensive manual stitches, and topstitch like the one she wanted is a machine stitch, and in particular one only used for decoration.
- Ironic Echo:
- Hoity Toity demanding to know "who is responsible" has an entirely different tone after the second fashion show than the first.
- "Dress-making's easy" in Rarity's song: lightly and with enthusiasm the first time; exasperated and ironic the second.
- It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: The five ponies were ecstatic about getting their dresses made to every detail. When they finally try them on in public however, they realise their ideas weren't quite as elegant as they thought.
- Jerkass Realization: The other five ponies succumb to one after making a laughing stock out of Rarity and realising their desired dresses weren't nearly as good as on paper.
- Job Song: "Art of the Dress" is about Rarity's job as a fashion designer and seamstress, sung as she's making gala dresses for her friends. After they don't like the end result, it gets a Dark Reprise where she has to make new ones while dealing with their various demands.
- Dressmaking's easy, every customer's call
Brings a whole new revision
Have to pick up the pace, still hold to my vision
- Kitchen Sink Included:Hoity Toity: Oh, those amateurish designs look like a piled-on mish mash of everything but the kitchen sink!
(Rarity quickly pushes a kitchen sink offstage)
- Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Fluttershy is proved this when she shows freaky knowledge of sewing and stitching - but her demands result in a dress that's just as ugly as the rest. Fans have analysed her comments and found that, while she knows sewing, she knows absolutely nothing about design.
- Large Ham: Rarity in full breakdown mode.
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Make sure that it stays within our budget." What budget? They're getting the dresses for free. The only reason for this line seems to be to maintain the song's Take That! subtext.
- Madness Makeover: Rarity's mane becomes progressively messier the more stressed-out she gets.
- Musical Pastiche:
- Rarity's song "Art of the Dress" is closely based on the Barbra Streisand version of "Putting it Together" from the musical Sunday in the Park with George.
- The music during the second fashion show is a rapid-fire medley of sound-alike musical motifs; "Also sprach Zarathustra" for Twilight's dress; Aaron Copland's "Hoedown" for Applejack's; "I Want Candy" (originally by The Strangeloves) for Pinkie Pie's; the Westminster Chimes for Rainbow Dash's; Claude Debussy's "L'Apres-Midi d'une Faune" for Fluttershy's.
- Mythology Gag: Rainbow Dash always dresses in style.
- Newspaper Comic Effects: Rarity emits these (flying sweat drops from the head) when noticing Opalescence stranded in a tree.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The groups' attempt to get the dresses made exactly how they want them nearly destroy Rarity's career.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Hoity Toity is an impression of Karl Lagerfeld, down to Lagerfeld's signature fan as his cutie mark — but with the voice of Tim Gunn and the snarkiness of Michael Kors.
- Oh, Crap!:
- Rarity, first after hearing Hoity Toity is looking at her revised dresses, and later when he places an order for six dozen of the originals.
- The other ponies after realizing what they are wearing.Twilight: Oh dear...
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: When Rarity forces Fluttershy to tell her what she really thinks, specifically on her last seven "Tell me"s. Retroactively justified; Rarity's accent is shown to be an affectation later in the series.
- Orphaned Etymology: Fluttershy's use of the French fashion terms prêt-à-porter and haute couture, not to mention armscye (or "arm's eye").
- Parental Bonus: Rarity goes through a lot of the woes of the customer-service person.
- Pimped-Out Dress: The dresses Rarity makes are all stylish, and "The Art of the Dress" is basically "Pimped Out Dress: the song".
- Real Women Don't Wear Dresses: Averted. When Rarity suggests the fashion show, tomboy Rainbow Dash is just as excited about doing it as Twilight and Applejack. Applejack asks for something "not too frou-frou-y" but is just as insistent on her 'ideal dress' as the others.
- Rarity's rant on how her life is ruined includes the lines "I used to be somepony," and "I vant to be alone!".
- Blink and you'll miss it: the pressing iron has a grille at the bottom, a V-shaped red detail, and a shiny, domed metal top. Now where would we have seen something like this?
- Shown Their Work:
- The lyrics of "The Art of the Dress" refers to parts of the body that are critical in proper dress design. Or more specifically, proper anatomical parts of a pony body that would be important for a pony's dress.Making sure it fits forelock and crest
Don't forget some magic in the dress.
Even though it rides high on the flank
Rainbow won't look like a tank!
Piece by piece, snip by snip
Croup, dock, haunch, shoulders, hip.
- Fluttershy's "freaky knowledge" is not just random nonsense but consists of appropriate terms of art for the fashion industry... just one that don't have anything to do with the actual matters at hand.
- Hoity Toity says "brava" instead of "bravo" when talking to Rarity, the correct feminine version of the term, instead of the usual, but strictly masculine, "bravo". He, and by extension the writers, seem to know their Italian.
- In-universe, Twilight demands the star patterns on her dress be accurate constellation maps.
- The lyrics of "The Art of the Dress" refers to parts of the body that are critical in proper dress design. Or more specifically, proper anatomical parts of a pony body that would be important for a pony's dress.
- Suddenly Always Knew That: When pressed for her thoughts about her dress, Fluttershy launches into a perfect fusillade of technically-accurate sewing and fashion terms. It's never explained how she knows any of it.
- Stylistic Suck: The dresses used for the first fashion show are deliberately made tacky by the episode's writers to show the difference in style and taste between the people wearing them and the one that made them.
- Take That!: The majority of conflict in the episode stems from too many people providing input into design and creation who are not creators. It might very well be a satire of the entire studio production process. Did you catch that, producers? Sure, we'll introduce more characters with marketable accessories if you like, but just remember that creative works turn out the best when they're driven by the actual creators!
- Taking Advantage of Generosity: The episode's Aesop is that one shouldn't be fussy or demanding when a friend is doing you a favor because it stresses them out and damages the relationship.
- Tempting Fate: To her credit, the first five dresses weren't hard for her. It was when they started making changes to the dresses that everything fell apart.Applejack: So...all you have to do is make a different, stunning, original, amazing outfit for (counts) one-two-three-four-five plus yourself...SIX ponies, lickety split?
Rarity: (confident laugh) Ohohoho Applejack...you make it sound like as if it's going to be hard.
- Twitchy Eye: Rarity gets this after learning Hoity Toity will be attending the fashion show... then gets it again when Hoity Toity makes a big, demanding order.
- Unsatisfiable Customer: The other five morph into these over the new dresses, with lampshades hung everywhere; see the page quote for one of the more frustrating examples.Rarity: (singing) Don't you know the client's always right?
- Your Answer to Everything:Twilight Sparkle: Now what do we do?
Fluttershy: Uh... panic?
Rainbow Dash: That's your answer for everything!