Like so many aspects of geek culture, women once found it hard to find themselves represented in the fashion created for their favorite fandoms. They may have wanted to display their love of franchises like Star Wars while at San Diego Comic-Con and elsewhere, and looked for items at the various booths selling merchandise in the exhibit hall, but there would be nothing made with them in mind. Luckily, the time of women having to wear a boxy T-shirt made for men to show they’re a fan of something has for the most part passed. Last year it was clear geek fashion had become an integral part of the convention experience, and this past weekend showed in the exhibit hall and beyond that increasingly companies are filling the gap that has existed in geek fashion for women at Comic-Con.
While some areas are still in need of improvement and there are still booths selling the typical T-shirts, walking around San Diego Comic-Con this year proved that things are looking up for women interested in adding geek to their fashion. It wasn’t just what was inside the convention center that showed geek girl fashion at comic-con is on the rise either. It was also present a number of ways beyond, as in the Game of Thrones: Hall of Faces experience located in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter.
At the Hall of Faces, attendees were able to view the new jewelry collection inspired by the character Daenerys Targaryen. The MEY for Game of Thrones line created by costume designer Michele Clapton in collaboration with Yunus Ascott and Eliza Higginbottom brings the Mother of Dragons to life in stunning high-end sterling silver pieces that focus on dragon imagery like scales, eggs and the creatures themselves. Clapton told Blastr that the line started when, for a scene, she wanted to create for Daenerys a strong iconic piece that showed her strength and removal from the situation. She was introduced to Yunus and Eliza, and the three clicked. Clapton commissioned two more pieces and they began discussing doing a possible range.
“We thought her pieces can be worn by modern women because I think her character relates a lot to modern women, both men and women like her. It’s not just some girly thing, but we also realized not everyone was going to be able to walk around with a huge necklace on so it was a way of sort of showing an allegiance and putting interesting bits of her into interesting bits of jewelry,” Clapton said.
The resulting line includes replica pieces that fans will recognize as having been worn by Daenerys on the show as well as more everyday pieces that have not been on the show itself but are inspired by the character. The everyday items Clapton hopes to perhaps use on the show one day though, on the people surrounding Daenerys, to show their allegiance in a subtle way.
“I know the big dragon pieces aren’t subtle, but the other pieces often are and you have to really look and we started to really abstract the dragon shapes,” she said. “It’s a little bit like Cersei’s crown this season. It doesn’t have a big lion on the front. It’s actually abstracted out and you can hardly see the lion, but hopefully you know it is one.”
Clapton hopes that the range will appeal to lots of different people and called it “as much an experiment as anything else.”
“Obviously a lot of shows just do replicas of pieces, but I think because we actually enjoyed doing her pieces so much that all three of us felt it would be something really interesting to just expand out,” she said. “It is obviously linked and HBO gave us a license which is amazing but it’s actually also a little bit more creative than that. We’ll probably add to it as well and hopefully it will be symbiotic that we’ll add to it and some pieces will also be worn on the show so hopefully the partnership will go forward and who knows? We might take other characters and develop those as well.”
Many of the pieces don’t exactly fall within the affordable range for fans with prices from about $95 to $2,730. However, it is filling a niche for nice, high-end jewelry that has yet to be filled much in geek fashion for women at comic-con. As Clapton said, there have been replicas in the past but a whole line like this on display at the convention is something there needs to be more of. In the exhibit hall there were a few other impressive jewelry showings like an official Borderlands collection at Badali Jewelry’s booth and a piece from RockLove Jewelry’s Star Trek 50th anniversary collection on display at the ThinkGeek booth. Hopefully these are just the beginning of more options finding their way to comic-con so women can buy geek jewelry to wear to everything from work to formal events to comic-con itself.
Cosmetics was another area with an exciting showing at the convention this year thanks to MAC Cosmetics’ installation for its new Star Trek line. MAC has been present at Comic-Con in the past to promote lines inspired by Marge Simpson and Archie Comics, but tackling Star Trek for the 50th anniversary is another story. Star Trek is a huge franchise to bring to makeup and MAC went all out to give fans a closer look at their products along with demos to give them a try for a presale before the line becomes available in a wider release Sept. 1.
MAC senior artist Dominic Skinner told Blastr the collection has been about two years in the making and they took their time to make sure they could get the products and their facts right. They were given access to the CBS archives where they researched all the information, videos, episodes, scripts, and artwork for Star Trek. Featuring prominently in the artwork for the line are four women from the series: Uhura, Deanna Troi, Seven of Nine, and the Orion girl.
“There are so many strong women within Star Trek. The whole show was really a women’s liberation. It really showed women as key people within a team, key people within a crew, leaders, far beyond any other show at that time,” Skinner said. “But we chose these four because they really did represent the idea of all ages, all races, all sexes. They show off various skin tones even green, but also each one has a very different background [that] really helped tell the story even more.”
The collection is a beautiful line that offers a range of options from nail lacquers to eye shadows with names like “To Boldly Go” and “Enterprise.” During a demo, Skinner showed me one of their powders which was quite striking and I was able to get an even closer look at the line when walking through the installation with fans. Each group of fans was brought to a display showing the entire collection with a person who stood nearby to answer questions and help you try out samples as people dressed as characters like Uhura and Spock walked by and someone else snapped photos of those attending.
It was an impressive installation, and fan response was positive since many of the items were sold out by Sunday. Trying out one of the lipsticks convinced me to take the leap and make my only purchase at comic-con this year, buying two lipsticks called “Kling-It-On” and “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” It was fantastic to see that there was finally a way to show a love for Star Trek in a subtle way through makeup. Female spaces like this have been ignored for too long, and seeing it at comic-con in such a big way with a recognizable company felt like a huge step forward.
MAC wasn't the only mainstream brand to tackle a recognizable franchise this year. It seems there is more interest now in the bigger companies to visit these areas in their products when before it was only smaller brands like Espionage Cosmetics, who had a booth outside the convention center in Petco Park, fulfilling this need. To Skinner, there’s been this change recently in beauty and fashion because the industry is finally realizing that “geek culture is not exclusive to a very small minority.” Geeks are not just the stereotype some people still think of.
“Everyone has a geek in them. Everyone has a fandom and I think what we are seeing is people really using their geek to show off their individuality,” he said. “It’s a statement. I am, this is me, this is what I’m about, and this is what I love. It’s different from what you love but that’s cool. I think it really does represent this sort of underlying movement about respecting individuality and respecting each other’s differences. Things that I like versus things that you like may not be the same, but I respect you for loving what you love.”
The biggest showing of geek girl fashion strength though was probably the Her Universe Fashion Show held at the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel Thursday night. For the third year in a row designers took to the stage to showcase their unique couture fashions inspired by fandoms like Doctor Who, Harry Potter, and more to see if they could win the chance to design an exclusive collection with Her Universe for Hot Topic. Two winners -- a judges’ winner and audience choice winner -- were chosen from the 27 designers present, and a third will be decided by a vote online when the show is aired on Comic-Con HQ. The room was packed and the fashions shown were even more creative than previous years.
Women enthusiastic about geek girl fashion were not hard to find at the show. Attendee Hannah Black was dressed in a Mass Effect-inspired look she made. This was her eleventh Comic-Con and she told Blastr she thinks at first geek girl fashion started with just T-shirts and costumes and there wasn’t really anything in-between. Now there are options between the two.
“Personally I’m really into the subtle geek fashion movement. So you have hints here and there about your look like with my Commander Shepard idea, am I blatantly wearing armor? No, I’m not. Do I blatantly have a giant Mass Effect logo? No, I don’t,” Black said. “So I really like having the subtlety of having it slightly fashionable. You can wear it to work or you go to a con and people freak out and say ‘I recognize that.’”
Jamie Smith, who was wearing a dress made out of purple Her Universe tote bags, has attended Comic-Con the last few years. She’s noticed that now at comic-con there are more everyday cosplay options among others for geek girls.
“I’ve just seen a lot more stuff readily available and that’s really awesome. The thing I love about comic-con and other conventions [is] you kind of wear your heart on your sleeve and now you’re seeing that more in the streets walking around,” she said. “You can see what other people are really into and you can have an instant bond like ‘oh I love Doctor Who.’ An instant friendship forms.”
Smith would like to see more cons have the amount of fashion that San Diego Comic-Con does while Lynn Marie Martens, one of the designers featured in the show who created a beautiful Doctor Who TARDIS inspired gown, would like to see a certain niche filled at the convention. This was Martens fourth year attending comic-con and she’s seen geek fashion for women get “bigger and bigger every year.” Yet she does think there needs to be more 1940s and ‘50s style geek fashion. It’s what inspired her to create her own shop called Classy Looking Nerf Herder.
While the state of geek girl fashion is better than ever at comic-con there are certainly areas that can be improved and can offer more options to geeky women. The fact that there are still areas that can be improved has not escaped the notice of Her Universe founder Ashley Eckstein, who is also the voice of Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. She first attended Comic-Con in 2007 and remembers seeing nothing available for women.
“Honestly it really was a sea of what I call ‘His Universe.’ It was just a lot of stuff for men and boys and I think I bought a couple toys if I remember correctly,” Eckstein told Blastr.
Between the fashion show, its booths, and more, Eckstein's Her Universe has been working since its launch to help fix that problem at comic-con and beyond. Once again the company could be found in two locations with a booth in the Star Wars area and another elsewhere showing their other licensed fashions. These booths joined the likes of Loungefly, WeLoveFine, and others in the exhibit hall who were offering apparel and accessories with women in mind. It was a very different world than it was years ago.
“Now you walk through and you see so much. You see for women, for little girls, for kids, and it really is themed for both genders and honestly as a fan it makes me so happy because you see everyone with bags full of stuff made for them,” she said. “It’s always been an all inclusive place. I never felt judged for being here because I was a girl, maybe back in the day that was the case I don’t know, but ever since I came in 2007 I never felt uncomfortable but I wasn’t able to buy things. Now it’s all inclusive even with the merchandise.”
To Eckstein, geek girl fashion has continued to increase at Comic-Con because of the power social media gives fans’ voices. The explosion of outlets like Twitter give fans a strong platform to directly reach the heads of studios and retailers alike and they in turn have realized they cannot ignore the female fanbase. Between now and next year, Eckstein thinks there will be changes to what we’ve seen at comic-con both from Her Universe and everyone else. She believes as product categories expand, the offering will expand.
“For example we are mostly known for our apparel, but now there are shoes and more jewelry and bags and Her Universe [is] expanding into publishing. We didn’t really have a publishing presence here this year because we’re still just getting up off the ground but as more product categories expand hopefully all of those products will be available as well,” she said. “I’d say look for more of that to come so you can not only buy an outfit, but you can literally dress yourself from head to toe and have a book or bag or anything to go with it.”
She sees Comic-Con as the perfect place for nicer items as well.
“The booths are known for their T-shirts [but] this is the place where you can really have those nice exclusives,” Eckstein said. “Those leather jackets, those suit blazers, nicer dresses, and to get more of the high quality items as we get older and have more disposable income to have some of the items that you can wear to work [and] you can wear to nice business meetings. I think that’s the direction it’s going.”
Add to all of this how geek girl fashion was on display in other ways as well such as models showcasing the items in Hot Topic’s Suicide Squad-inspired collection at the DC booth and fashion being the topic of programming (full disclosure: I hosted two of those fashion-related panels, “Inside the World of Geek Cosmetics” and “The Business of Geek Fashion”) and it’s clear geek girl fashion isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. In fact the future for geek girl fashion at Comic-Con seems quite bright as more companies acknowledge female fans and finally try to fill the gap that has existed far too long at the convention.