Ashley Eckstein and designers standing on stage at the Her Universe Fashion Show in 2019.

Her Universe Fashion Show: Top 5 Looks From the 2019 Runway

The power of fashion shined brightly during the 6th annual Her Universe Fashion Show at San Diego Comic-Con, leaving audience members in awe of the talent displayed on the runway.

Every year, 24 designers from various backgrounds come together to share their creations with the world, each inspired by a fandom of their choosing. The audience loved every moment, from Ashley Eckstein’s dress transformation to the announcement of the winners.

This year, only 2 winners came out on top: Adria Renee (Judge’s Winner, Isla Nublar – Jurassic Park) and Sarah Hambly (Audience Winner, Bodak Green – Marvel’s Loki). Together, they will be designing a Wonder Woman 1984 fashion collection with Her Universe for Hot Topic. More information about that collection will undoubtedly drop at WonderCon 2020.

Until then, we looked back and selected our top five favorite designs from this year’s Fashion Show.

5. He’s No Good To Me Dead (Star Wars)

The "Boba Fett" outfit by Heather Smith walking down the Her Universe Fashion Show runway.
Credit: Jennifer Cappuccio Maher

Heather Smith is a Star Wars fan through and through. She’s also a self-taught seamstress. Put those two together and she’s a Force (pun intended) to be reckoned with.

Last year, she designed a Rogue Leader dress based on the iconic X-wing pilot flight suit. At Star Wars Celebration Chicago, she wore a Lady Luke dress that featured an incredible lightsaber detail on the back. And at this year’s Her Universe Fashion Show, she walked down the runway in a Boba Fett inspired look. From the cape with the mythosaur skull to the Swarovski crystal-encrusted Han-Solo-in-carbonite clutch, Smith’s “He’s No Good To Me Dead” design would make any Mandalorian proud.

What also makes the design special is how she modeled it herself. Getting on top of a stage in front of hundreds of people is an intimidating task, but she did it with grace and style. Not only that, but she also passed on these much-needed words of encouragement to her followers on social media.

“I’m going to be honest and say I wasn’t happy with my weight during this show and took lots of courage to model my own design,” wrote Smith on Instagram. “With that being said, I knew that I would only be letting my doubts and fears win if I didn’t own the runway at my current size. Geek fashion and couture is for all shapes and sizes, and love yourself because confidence, beauty, and power isn’t a size, it’s a persona!”

4. Oogie Boogie’s Winter Ball (The Nightmare Before Christmas)

There are less than 100 days until Halloween, and almost everyone I know wants this puffer jacket and dress combo to celebrate the occasion. Costumer and avid Disneybounder Wes Jenkins turned out a beautifully wicked design and certainly captured our attention with his glow-in-the-dark approach.

“Inspired by Oogie Boogie from The Nightmare Before Christmas, this look is meant to be worn to the Halloween Town Winter Ball,” said Jenkins on Instagram. “The puffer jacket is made of neon green ripstop in three shades with a glow-in-the-dark bug lining. Her ruffled party dress explodes from the unzipped jacket like bedazzled bug guts. The custom print of her dress glows in the dark and glitters from small rhinestones outlining the creepy-crawly details. Her snake-eyes shoulder bag features a striped snake strap.”

The attention to detail still has me picking up my jaw from the floor, especially since this design has an outerwear look and a dress underneath. It simply doubled the wow factor for me, especially under the UV lighting.

“One of the biggest components to making this look work were the custom-printed fabrics,” he added. “They were all printed by Spoonflower from images I created on my iPad in Procreate. I went through four iterations of the main bug print before settling on the colors. Then, I had to add a fluorescent green glow-in-the-dark paint treatment to each bug to get the special effect I wanted. Tedious? Yes. Probably other options? Definitely. You live and learn. And although the presentation of the dress only highlighted the UV reactive nature of the bugs, they really do glow in the dark.”

3. Heart of Kyber (Star Wars)

The "Heart of Kyber" dress by Kimberly Burns walking down the Her Universe Fashion Show runway.
Credit: Jennifer Cappuccio Maher

Last year, Kimberly Burns won me over with her “Seamstress Sally” design, and this  year, she did it again with a look inspired by a galaxy far, far away.

According to her biography in the official Her Universe Fashion Show booklet, “She believes geek couture is an important part of the future of fashion because it allows us to embody the characteristics we admire in our favorite characters and inspire ourselves and other through the community it builds.”

Her “Heart of Kyber” design reflects that belief perfectly.

“I love dreaming up and creating couture pieces based on my favorite stories,” she wrote on Instagram. “This look is inspired by Jyn Erso’s journey of self-discovery and friendship in Rogue One. Jyn is one of my favorite heroines because of how capable she is. At the beginning of her story, she isn’t sure about where she is going or what she stands for, but by the end of it, she has learned that there is strength in community and to fight for what’s right. She is so relatable and just the hero we need.”

As if the silhouette of the dress isn’t gorgeous enough, what makes me love her design even more are the subtle details. To the average person, these small references simply look beautiful and hold no meaning. To fellow geeks, however, these details enhance the overall design. Take her belt, for example.

“My belt was inspired by the shapes on the data card carrier that Jyn steals from the tower on Scarif (silver rings, center front) and the shapes on the data card that hold the Death Star plans that, because of Jyn, make it into Leia’s hands and represent hope for the entire rebellion (gold rings). I love including subtle details like this that on first glance don’t scream GEEK, but upon learning about it makes you go “Oooh yeah!” I love fashion that opens up discussions and makes people think and I try to incorporate this into all of my designs — whether it’s discovering a common interest and chatting about your favorite characters or discussing the more profound nature of a story, such as Jyn’s journey of self-discovery through her relationships with others.”

2. Bodak Green (Marvel’s Loki)

The "Bodak Green" outfit by Sarah Hambly walking down the Her Universe Fashion Show runway.
Credit: Jennifer Cappuccio Maher

Sarah Hambly’s “Bodak Green” takes Loki to a whole new level. It does such a fantastic job of grabbing inspiration from performance and stage wear and paying homage to a fan-favorite comic book character.

“For my look this year, I really wanted to bring the drama, and I was inspired by Thierry Mugler’s many corseted, over-the-top, campy pieces from the 90’s,” wrote Hambly on social media. “Loki, as with everything, is a performer of his own, a trickster who likes his audience. We meet him seeking validation and attention in Thor, and then again in Avengers looking for that attention, that royalty. I picked this style for this character because of its over the top, over exaggerated look that I knew only Loki could really, truly, pull off.”

To complete the look, Hambly looked to the Her Universe and Hot Topic for the perfect pair of Loki-inspired shoes. That wasn’t enough, though. To create a dramatic effect on the runway, she attached rhinestones, giving the pair of shoes the perfect touch for a more cohesive look. Overall, the design has over 150,000 crystals!

“I knew in my heart when I began designing Bodak Green that the look would be special but had no idea exactly how special she would become,” she said. “When Ashley [Eckstein] said follow your dreams, I felt that deep in my soul, and look where it’s led me now.”

1. Destination: Isla Nublar (Jurassic Park)

The "Destination: Isla Nublar" outfit by Adria Renee walking up the Her Universe Fashion Show runway.
Credit: Jennifer Cappuccio Maher

Adria Renee’s Jurassic Park inspired design captured Eckstein’s “Power of Fashion” theme in a way I hadn’t experienced before at the Her Universe Fashion Show. From the margarita performance down the runway to the epic shawl reveal, those few seconds managed to transport me right back to the days those iconic moments happened on the big screen.

“For this look, I was really looking to bring a bit of romance to an otherwise really rugged property! What better way to do that than to give it the proper vacation treatment?” she wrote on her Instagram. “I’d like to imagine this being worn for a nice night out on the island… Leaning on a latin-inspired resort wear aesthetic. I created a simple bias cut gown adorned with island imagery and a few clever girls hidden throughout the foliage, a burnout satin shawl of the iconic banner that is pulled down in the visitor’s center, and an island-boutique-gift-shop worthy purse featuring the classic logo!”

I don’t know about you, but the shawl was my favorite part. I had literal chills when Renee walked back up the runway. At the same time, it also had me facepalming because it’s such a simple and obvious concept. How is this shawl not currently in stores for fans to buy?

“No vacation outfit is complete without the perfect cover up, and for me, that meant I had to have a shawl to finish the look! White-on-white satin burnout turned out to be the perfect technique to elevate the iconic visitor’s center banner and create something both sophisticated and visually striking.”

Something else I loved about Renee’s design? The fact it emphasizes the age-old saying, “Less is more.”

The Power of Fashion

“The theme for this year’s Her Universe Fashion Show is the Power of Fashion,” said Eckstein in the introduction of the Her Universe Fashion Show booklet. “Inspired by She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, tonight we celebrate geek couture designs that are influenced by powerful characters, stories, and themes. We also celebrate the power of friendship. Just like the Princess Alliance, over the course of six years, the Her Universe Fashion Show community has become a supportive alliance of designers. It’s a community that empowers, inspires, and works together to left each other up.”

Not only was that evident on stage, where contestants were hugging and congratulating each other, but that genuine sense of camaraderie and friendship can also be seen on their social media platforms.

“[Adria] is not only an amazing designer, but a sweet and inspirational person and my mentor!” wrote Smith (“He’s No Good To Me Dead” – Star Wars) on her Instagram. “My fashion master to this padawan in my journey to my first time in the Her Universe Fashion Show! I’m so excited she got Judge’s Winner, and deep down, I had a feeling she would!”

Ultimately, Eckstein’s goal for the night was for everyone in the audience to leave the show feeling inspired by the power of fashion. “I hope the designs evoke emotion and remind us what we are all on the edge of greatness.”

I, for one, came away feeling more encouraged to go after my own goals and aspirations because creativity is contagious. Activities like the Her Universe Fashion Show push us to continually reach for greater heights, so if you’re looking for a dash of inspiration, watch the full highlights video from Hot Topic below.


Featured and Winner Photos: Mark Edwards
Runway Photos: Jennifer Cappuccio Maher

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