Emily S. Whitten: SDCC’s Her Universe Fashion Show

Fashion ATB

Tomorrow is the last day for the public to vote for a winner in the Her Universe fashion show that I was fortunate to see live at the San Diego Comic Con (and that you can watch as the finale of its own docu-series on the new on-demand streaming network Comic Con HQ). So what better time for my fashion show recap?

But first, a little background. The fashion show, now in its third year, was started by Ashley Eckstein of the women’s geek fashion company Her Universe to bring true haute couture to geek fashion. The show is very professionally done, with video clips of the designers talking about their inspiration and works-in-progress; models (who may also be the outfit’s designer, and who are of all different body types, which is cool) strutting their stuff on the catwalk; and a DJ to keep the party going. It also produces something that probably isn’t as tangible at regular fashion shows – a feeling of delight at seeing not just elegant, clever, or beautifully designed clothes, but also incredible homages to the geek properties we love. I’m sure I would be awed by the beauty of many designs at a regular fashion show. However, I know that the excited, happy feeling and constant smile I have while stunning fashions that demonstrate a passion for geek properties are paraded before my eyes at this show are unique.

After the show, the audience and judges each vote on their favorite design, and thus two winners are chosen. The year’s winners are then given the opportunity to collaborate on fashion lines that we, the public, can buy (yay!). The first fashion show’s winners brought us the super-successful Marvel Avengers fashion line done with Her Universe and Hot Topic (I own it, I love it, I’m overjoyed that this is a yearly thing now). After last year’s show, we got the awesome Star Wars line (when are they bringing the sweater and the Finn jacket back so I can buy them, whennnnnn??). And although we don’t know what we will see after this year’s winners get to work, I am sure the next line will also make it into my wardrobe.

Fashion L1As you may be aware from past columns and my coverage of last year’s show, I have long felt the need for better geek fashion for gals, and am super excited to be seeing more and more options. And the yearly fashion show and partnership of Her Universe and Hot Topic has definitely upped the couture aesthetic of the geek clothes available to us women. Not only do we no longer have to, e.g., wear man-shirts to let our geek flags fly, but now we even have these upscale options that wouldn’t look out of place in our daily wardrobes or even at a cocktail party. On top of that, what’s so cool about the Her Universe fashion show is that it means that we the consumers have at least a little say in the style and vision of the resulting mass-marketed pieces. That’s fairly unique in fashion.

This year’s fashion show gave us a group of twenty-seven amazing new designs to vote on, and featured a celebrity panel of judges including Cindy Levitt (Senior Vice President, Merchandise & Marketing, Hot Topic), Nathan Sawaya (World Renowned LEGO artist, and co-creator of Ashley’s dress this year), Brinton Parker (Assistant Editor of Trending and Viral Features at POPSUGAR) and last year’s fashion show winners and designers Leetal Platt and Kelly Cercone.

The judges’ winner was “Oh What A Gown…What a Lovely Gown” by Hannah Kent, inspired by Mad Max: Fury Road’s Imperator Furiosa; and the audience winner was the “I Solemnly Swear I’m Up to Couture” gown by Camille Falciola, inspired by the Maurauder’s Map in Harry Potter. These were excellent choices. I absolutely adored the way the cut of the Furiosa dress evoked both strength and severity and a feminine aspect in the tightly fitted upper body and sweeping skirt, and the use of a gradient to make the neutral palette, which completely fit with the movie’s setting, more interesting. I also loved the makeup and arm jewelry that echoed Furiosa’s look in the movie. The Map dress had a classic and flattering cut, and at first looked fairly plain, but then, through the use of ink heat technology, the Marauder’s Map appeared, producing a much more interesting design, with map accents in the right places to enhance the appeal of the cut (plus, that is a really, really cool idea and use of technology).

Although those are the winners so far, all of the designs at the show were cool and unique in their own ways. It was incredibly hard for me to choose who to vote for (while trying to consider all of the important factors like overall design aesthetic, cleverness, uniqueness, geek factor, wearability, and style); and I’m happy that at least one other designer will also be chosen through this year’s new feature of the internet audience vote. I highly encourage anyone who’s into this sort of thing to take a look at the remaining choices and cast your vote for the final winner; and to that end, I’ll share a few notes about the other creations that really landed for me (along with my photo album from the show, which has additional views of at least some of the choices).

“Diana on the Town” (Wonder Woman) by Adria Sanchez-Chaidez

A classic take on a classic character, with a modern twist. Wonder Woman is iconic and this dress went for a pretty straight homage to her costume; but I liked the retro-classic elegance of the gown offset by the shorter red skirt underneath. And of course the colors are vibrant and striking.

Yang Xiao Long: From Ballroom to Battle (RWBY – Yang Xiao Long) by Carina LaViolette

I don’t actually know this fandom; but from a purely fashion standpoint, I liked the mix of fabrics (airy and light plus leather), the visually interesting layers and accessories, the neutral to green and purple palette, and the steampunk feel.

Report to My Division (Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Captain Phasma) by Lindsay Hamilton

Well I always love silver and shiny things (and I kind of love Captain Phasma, too). But I also loved the contrast of shine with the more understated skirt; that very flattering long corset fit with the red ribbon back lacing, and the great side cape to add more to the silhouette.

Ode to the Goblin King (Labyrinth – Jareth) by Sarah Rader

Fashion LI liked the airy material and tattered layering of the light-colored dress, which had great delicate color contrasting; but I absolutely adored the contrasting blue jacket with the silver wings on the back. I’d like one, please!

First Order of Fashion (Star Wars: The Force Awakens – General Hux) by Rose Ivy

Red and black are always a great combo; but my favorite part of this outfit is that it’s sassy, fun, and fashion-forward but also something I could see myself wearing not only out somewhere cool, but also maybe even to work – a well-tailored  and skewed take on a “power suit;” which is perfect considering the source material.

The Force is Strong in Her (Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Kylo Ren) by Judith Armas Orellana

Well I definitely couldn’t wear this one to my work – but I liked the silhouette, the contrasting kinds of black, and the layering that made it look full of attitude but slightly off-balance, just like Kylo Ren. And it’s also very flattering.

Rage On (28 Days Later – The Rage Virus) by Elissa Alcala

This dress is almost disturbing, which, you know, makes sense in context. The contrast between the elegant and sparkling plunging front and the tattered skirt that is reminiscent of bloody bandages is unsettling, and I’m sure that’s what the designer intended. Although I might not know offhand of anywhere I’d wear it, I liked the way the source material didn’t take a backseat to the high fashion concept.

My Kind of Crazy (DC Comics – The Red Hood) by Lauren Andrews

I liked the contrast of the slim silhouette with the gauzy pants and elegantly draped hood on this outfit, as well as the complicated bodice. There’s a lot going on here but it doesn’t overwhelm, and it’s striking.

The Always Dress (Harry Potter – Patronus) by Selina Zawacki

I super-love everything about this outfit, and would like one now, please. The plunging neckline combined with the elegant high-low cut and simple belt accent are beautiful, and the button back is a great understated reminder of the Professor’s robes – not to mention the old-fashioned boots. The subtle green underskirt and boot laces (for Slytherin!) add good color accents. And on top of all of that, the elegantly and sparsely-lit doe patronus on the skirt is a perfect match for the design, that brings the theme home. Plus, I always like clothes that light up in cool ways!

The Car Gotham Deserves (Batman/Batman Returns – Batmobile) by Cynthia Kirkland

Okay, this dress is definitely unusual. And I have no idea where you would wear it. But the fact that someone designed a dress based on the Batmobile, and it does actually really evoke the car (plus the steering wheel accessory!) is just fantastic. Also the red under the shoulder-pieces (I think it lit up, too) was a great way to hint at brake lights on a dress that is also a car.

TARDIS Through the Wormhole (Doctor Who – TARDIS) by Lynne Marie Martens

This dress is over the top in the best way. All of those ruffles! That train! The great feathery back! The subtle lights interwoven through it all! And, of course, the actual TARDIS on the underbust corset. I love it. The colors, lights, and details of the dress really do bring to mind a wormhole; and the whole thing wouldn’t be out of place at the coolest cabaret ever.

Define Couture (Wall-E – Wall-E) by Laura Cristina Ortiz

This. Outfit. Is. So. Adorable. I love it. It’s spunky and fun and full of attitude, the color palette works well together, the skirt is too cute, the glasses are totally Wall-E and fashionable at the same time, and the overall look is very unique. Plus there’s a part in the back that lights up! It’s a perfect mix of fabrics and accessories, and looks totally modern and wearable while still referencing the source material. It’s visually interesting, and with a whole that is greater than its parts. I want!

Expecto Patronum (Harry Potter – Patronus) by Erica Williams

What an elegant, beautiful gown. The shape and fit are very classic, but with details and sparkles to make it interesting. I feel like Guinevere would totally covet this dress. And although the color palette is monochrome, the mix of fabrics makes the dress in motion more interesting than it looks in a photo. Also, the tiara of horns is the perfect finish for this Patronus dress.

The Story that Lived (Harry Potter – Book) by Tanya Apuya

A dress based on the actual book. I love it! I also love everything about this cute and clever outfit, from the “book cover” bodice to the amazingly folded and layered and swingy  skirt of text-covered pages. A great concept and execution, with cute little accents of a witch hat and wand, too.

Now that you’ve reviewed the choices, make sure you vote for a winner before midnight Pacific Time Thursday, August 11 so that you, too, can have a say in next year’s geek fashions.

And until next time, don’t forget to check out my previous SDCC coverage and photos of Nick Animation (including TMNT); American Gods; Kings of Con; and Animaniacs Live!, stay tuned for even more coverage, and Servo Lectio!