With Spike's assistance, Rarity is walking through Ponyville hanging fliers. Upon approaching Sugarcube Corner, Pinkie Pie inquires about the fliers, which Rarity explains are for potential submissions to her fashion showcase for up and coming designers. She recounts her own difficulties getting started in the industry so hopes to use this showcase to pick the best and the brightest to feature at the Carousel Boutique. For judges, she's selected noted fashion critic Hoity Toity and fashion photographer Photo Finish to help judge, with the final slot being filled by an unexpected pony: Applejack!
This garners some surprised reactions from Spike and Pinkie, along with Applejack herself, who happens to be walking by at that moment and is just finding this out for the first time. Rarity rationalizes her choice because of Applejack's eye for practicality, contrasted against the other two judges' focus on design and color. Applejack objects but Rarity insists she at least sleep on it.
Later Applejack is working the apple fields with Big Macintosh and Apple Bloom. While Applejack explains why she thinks she's a poor choice, Apple Bloom is struggling to catch the apples Applejack is bucking off the trees. Finally Apple Bloom trips on the bow of the large hat she's wearing, which Applejack observes is what's slowing her down. She undoes Apple Bloom's bow, which makes a big difference, and then comes to the realization that she does in fact have the talent to critique the fashion show in the areas Rarity is looking for.
She heads over to the Carousel Botique to volunteer her services just as the other judges also arrive for the contest. The other two judges inform Rarity that Coco Pommel is debuting her own line of clothes in Manehattan and Photo Finish provides some pictures to Rarity. Applejack pipes in and gets introduced by Rarity before being presented the photo of Coco's clothes by Hoity Toity. Applejack scoffs at the strange design, comparing it to a disco ball, which does not earn her good favor from the other judges.
Rarity takes the judges into her workroom to introduce them to the contestants: Lily Lace, Starstreak, and Inky Rose. They each explain their entries, which impress both Photo Finish and Hoity Toity but perplex Applejack's different sensibilities. Eventually Applejack openly expresses her criticisms, which again upsets the other two judges and causes the participants to become disheartened. Applejack begins to doubt her thoughts are being appreciated but Rarity reassures her that this is why she was brought in.
Unfortunately, Applejack's critiques continue to act as a sore spot among the contestants. She dislikes Inky Rose's decision to put prefabricated holes into her clothes, says Lily Lace is using far too much fabric and will cause the dress she's making to collect dirt off the ground, and thinks the mane-do that Starstreak is giving to his model is a mess. Applejack and Rarity leave the botique with everpony else getting sick of her opinions. Upon encountering Pinkie at Sugarcube Corner, Applejack thinks her contributions are doing a lot of good but Rarity is getting frustrated at all of Applejack's commentary.
The day of the contest arrives but Applejack is no less disapproving of the contestants' work. She calls out Inky Rose's design for containing far too many buttons, destroys Lily Lace's hat for being impractically covered with feathers, and mocks Photo Finish and Hoity Toity's idea for adding a belt to Starstreak's outfit by noting that the belts each of them chose are mostly identical. Rarity agrees both look good but this pushes Applejack over the edge and causes her to declare fashion is "ridiculous". This acts as the final straw for the judges and the contestants, who all leave angrily and ruin Rarity's fashion show.
Rarity runs outside and stops construction of the stage. Pinkie Pie arrives and asks what's wrong and Rarity angrily blames Applejack for destroying her hard work. Applejack refuses to recant her opinion just because the judges and participants don't appreciate it so Rarity decides to demonstrate her point. She takes Applejack over to Strawberry Sunrise's house and asks for Strawberry's opinion of apples, to which she says they're nothing compared to strawberries, and in fact considers them disgusting. Applejack gets highly defensive and finally grows offended by Strawberry's frank disapproval, stating that she works hard to make her apples as perfect as can be... which suddenly leads her to realize that Strawberry expressing her opinion without consideration for Applejack's hard work is what Applejack was doing to the contestants, telling them that their work is meaningless if she doesn't like what they make.
Applejack decides she has to make up for causing so much distress to Rarity and the others, so she tracks them all down and brings them back to the Carousel Boutique (in her own Applejack kind of way). She apologizes to Hoity, Photo, and the participants, and says while she still finds their work confusing, it was no excuse to shoot down the work itself. While the contestants resume their contest pieces, Applejack helps rebuild the stage and works with the contestants to get a better understanding of things from their point of view.
Pinkie Pie surprises Rarity with the completed stage and the fashion show goes off without a hitch. When the judging commences, Rarity picks Lily Lace's designs, Hoity Toity leans towards Inky Rose's, and Photo Finish gives Starstreak the nod. Applejack is then charged with deciding a winner between the three contestants. Ultimately, Applejack doesn't pick a winner at all and all three contestants go on to feature their work at the Boutique. While they tour Rarity's design for laying out the three contestants' designs in her shop, they come across a dress Rarity was working on. Applejack tries to critique it, but struggles to find the right words until Rarity simply explains that the dress was a failed experiment, with which Applejack heartily agrees and the two friends laugh about it.
- Ad-Break Double-Take: Spike, Pinkie, and Applejack let out a series of Big Whats before the opening theme. Applejack lets out another one after the commercial break.Rarity: You already said that, darling.
- An Aesop:
- Be tactful. Honesty is appreciated, but be mindful of your phrasing because it may undermine someone's hard work and commitment, even if the final product wasn't to your taste.
- Truth is a double-edged sword: It can hurt and it can be necessary for improvements and decision-making. The trick is to find a good balance between the two effects.
- Artistic License Music: Rarity shreds out some heavily distorted metal riffs on an unplugged acoustic guitar. Not to mention that the guitar has four tuning pegs and only two strings, but Pinkie can still be heard strumming six-note chords.
- Awesome, but Impractical: One of Applejack's main criticisms about some of the designs, having some decent points in a few cases, like a dress that is so big it will collect too much dirt, or Applebloom's hat being totally impractical for work.
- Backhanded Apology: After Strawberry Sunrise calls apples "disgusting", Applejack orders her to say "sorry" and Strawberry does say she's sorry — that Applejack actually bites into "those tasteless, mealy worm-filled things".
- Berserk Button:
- Applejack hits a hard one when she says that "fashion is ridiculous". Naturally, Photo Finish and Hoity Toity are indignant, as well as the stylist trio.
- And, to teach Applejack a lesson, Rarity makes Strawberry Sunrise hit Applejack's button by telling her that she doesn't like apples and that strawberries are better.
- Big "WHAT?!": Pinkie Pie, Spike, and Applejack herself react this way when Rarity announced her choice of picking Applejack as judge for the fashion show.
- Black Sheep: Downplayed, but it's pointed out that Apple Bloom is the only member of the Apple family who has an interest in fashion.
- Brutal Honesty: Deconstructed. Applejack learns how hurtful honesty can be, especially if you don't make any effort to be polite.
- The Bus Came Back: Both Hoity Toity and Photo Finish (as a pony, since her Equestria Girls counterpart had a main role in the "Photo Finished" short) return in speaking roles since their initial debut way back in Season 1.
- Character Development: In the first season, Rarity was desperate to impress Hoity Toity and Photo Finish, who could make or break her career. Now she greets them as old friends and equals, showing how far she's come.
- Continuity Nod:
- Applejack mentions her closet full of identical hats, as seen in "Somepony to Watch Over Me".
- Coco Pommel (still referred to as "Miss" Pommel) is mentioned, having held her own fashion show in Manehattan.
- Hard Hat is part of the construction ponies building the runway for the fashion showcase.
- Rarity's failed dress was an early experiment to try and mix green and brown together. Guess what Rarity had been forced to wear in Magic Duel? An awful dress that used green and brown◊.
- Defensive "What?": After the three Big Whats from Applejack, Pinkie Pie, and Spike, Rarity responds with a defensive "What?" as Applejack gives her a look.
- Didn't Think This Through: Rarity picking Applejack, who despite being Honest considers dresses to be "Fru-fru", to be a fashion judge. Justified in that Rarity specifically picked her to provide an outsider's perspective and never would have expected her to be so rude about it.
- Does Not Like Spam: Strawberry Sunrise doesn't just like strawberries much better than apples, but considers apples to be tastless and a home for worms.
- Dramatically Missing the Point: Designer clothes aren't supposed to be practical, they're supposed to look cool. It's like peacock tails. Likewise, Gothic fashion is supposed to be depressing and slightly old-looking. Applejack doesn't know this and doesn't (initially) care.
- Everybody Laughs Ending: The last shot is Applejack and Rarity sharing a laugh at Rarity's awful dress.
- Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: How Applejack comes to realize she was much too harsh on the fashion designers when explaining how upset she is about Strawberry Sunrise's opinion about apples:
- Expy: Inky Rose is a gothic pegasus pony with braided pigtails who is all about the simplicity and subdued emotion of black. Doesn't that remind you of Wednesday?
- Fainting: Photo Finish faints after Applejack makes fun of a disco ball dress.Photo Finish: I faint!
- Forgot About His Powers: When Applejack has to forcefully bring the three designers back to the Boutique, Inky Rose, a pegasus pony, is the one suggesting to run away instead of trying to fly herself.
- Gone Horribly Right: Rarity asks Applejack to be a judge for the fashion show because she doesn't know anything about fashion, and so will add a contrasting viewpoint based in practicality. Furthermore, judges should be honest and nopony is more honest than Applejack. This to leads to Applejack being so honest about her opinions on fashion and insisting so much on practicality that she insults both the other judges and the designers.
- Got Volunteered: Rarity didn't ask Applejack if she'd be a judge for the fashion design contest; she makes the announcement to Spike and Pinkie Pie while Applejack is barely within earshot and expects Applejack to accept.
- Goth: Inky Rose wears all black, designs in black, acts stoic, and her designs are praised for their "sadness" by Hoity Toity. It's possibly a Shout-Out to Wednesday Addams, particularly with the pigtails.
- Hammerspace Hair: Pinkie Pie stuffs her guitar into her forelock.
- Hidden Depths: Pinkie suggests Rarity to relax by strumming a bit on a guitar. Rarity plays a few moments with an intense metal guitar solo. She does this on an acoustic guitar, somehow.
- Innocently Insensitive: Applejack is well meaning for the most part, if a bit overzealous, but ends up escalating and being insulting.
- Ironic Echo: Used by Rarity after Applejack gets angry because of Strawberry Sunrise's insults towards apples.
- Irony: When Applejack is mulling over Rarity's offer to become a Fashion Judge, one of the reasons she's skeptical about it is a concern about not being able to make any relevant comments. When she does become a Judge, she ends up making abrasive comments in her insistence on practicality.Applejack: But I still wouldn't know what to say.
- Jerkass: Strawberry Sunrise's only scene in the episode is of her mocking apples in front of Applejack and then "apologize" for Applejack actually eating them. Granted, this is done to show Applejack how Brutal Honesty is hurtful, but there is nothing to show that Strawberry was put up to this.
- Jerkass Ball: While initially more tactful when she first starts judging, Applejack soon gets overzealous. Normally, she would be sufficiently smart enough to understand the difference between expressing an opinion and an offensive statement (particularly since her experience in a previous episode contrasts sharply against her behavior here, as she spent that episode biting her tongue when she really shouldn't have). Possibly the worst example is when she removes all the feathers from Lily Lace's hat (despite hearing Lily say it took her "for-literally-ever" to stitch them all on).
- Jerkass Realization: Applejack, big time, when she realizes that by insulting all fashion, she's insulted all of the effort that has gone into it.
- Limited Wardrobe: Applejack admits that her closet consists of twenty versions of her regular hat.
- Palette Swap: Strawberry Sunrise is Carrot Top, but a pegasus and with different colors.
- Reveal Shot: Applejack has to lasso the three fashion designers to get them back to Carousel Boutique. Cut to Applejack apologizing to them inside the boutique, asking them not to walk out on Rarity's show. Lily Lace agrees, on one condition, which Inky Rose clarifies as: "Untie us." The camera pulls back to reveal that AJ still has them tied up.
- Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: Photo Finish greets Rarity European style with "Kiss! Kiss!", shouts "I faint!" before fainting, then "Gasp!" when Applejack shakes all the feathers off of Lily Lace's hat.
- Serious Business: All of the fashion designers in the room are outraged when Applejack calls fashion "ridiculous". Applejack later gets this turned on her when another pony mocks her for saying apples are better than strawberries. In both cases, it's given some leeway since the offending ponies are effectively disregarding all the hard work that goes into fashion and apple farming, respectively.
- Shout-Out: The debate over the two (seemingly) identical belts that leads Applejack to finally decry fashion as "ridiculous" is remarkably similar to this clip from The Devil Wears Prada. Both scenes feature the "outsider" character (Andy and Applejack) laughing at the idea of the belts being different, only to be scolded for making fun. The overall message of the episode—that fashion is Serious Business to those who do it, affects everyone in some way, and represents a huge amount of creativity and manpower (horsepower?)—is summed up by Miranda Priestly in the clip as well.
- Straw Character: Ironically enough, Strawberry Sunrise, a character who exists solely to like strawberries, hate apples and be a Jerkass about it to illustrate Rarity's point to Applejack about excessively Brutal Honesty being harmful.
- Suddenly Voiced: Strawberry Sunrise, previously just a background pony, gets her first speaking role.
- Take That!: Applejack's critiques of ensembles designed for the fashion runway are similar to those of non-fashionistas in real life.Applejack: She looks like a disco ball! Did they have to roll her down the runway? I can't believe anypony would actually wear this!
- A Taste of Their Own Medicine: After Applejack insults all fashion as "ridiculous", Rarity takes her for a healthy dose of brutal honesty from a pony who hates apples.
- Technically a Smile: Inky Rose pulls a very awkward-looking smile when Hoity Toity votes for her designs.
- Too Important to Walk: Photo Finish has a pair of porters who carry her around on a platform everywhere she goes. This is even lampshaded when Hoity Toity is hitching a ride on her platform:Hoity Toity: I'm going to have to get one of these!
Photo Finish: It is the only way to travel!
- Valley Girl: Lily Lace speaks in this manner, complete with liberal use of Like Is, Like, a Comma and the word "literally".
- What Is This Feeling?: Inky Rose reacts this way when Hoity Toity votes for and compliments her designs.Inky Rose: You've... made me so... happy?
- You Keep Using That Word: At the end, Applejack expresses this opinion regarding Lily Lace's constant use of the word "literally", even paraphrasing the quote that follows the trope-naming line:Applejack: I don't think that word means what you think it means.