Every year, designers from various backgrounds come together to compete in San Diego Comic-Con’s Her Universe Fashion Show, an event popularly known for showcasing wild amounts of creativity. Geek inspired garments are sent down the runway, where they are evaluated by an experienced panel of judges and an audience with an eye for talent.
This year’s Fashion Show featured 25 designers with a passion for expressing their fandom—ranging from beloved animated movies to popular video games—through fashion.
I was there to watch it all unfold, and now that some time has passed, I think I’ve finally settled on my top 5 favorite outfits from this year’s Her Universe Fashion Show.
5. “Ohana Means Fashion” by Tanya Apuya
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love Disney’s Lilo & Stitch. I love it so much that it was the theme of my 18th birthday party before I went off to college. Needless to say, when I saw Tanya Apuya’s dress walk down the runway, I was in a Lilo & Stitch themed heaven.
“The silhouette, sleeves, and fabrication is inspired from traditional Filipino dress as a nod to my own personal ohana,” Apuya wrote on Instagram. “The fabric is called ‘jusi’ from the Philippines and made from banana leaves and hand dyed “watercolor red” by me to match the watercolor backgrounds from the movie. The leaves are custom embroidery and hand rhinestoned by me and beaded by real pearls from the Philippines. The entire gown in inner lined with sequined fabric to give her a subtle sparkle as we walked down the runway with the long bell bottom sleeves lined in sequins [as a] nod to Lilo’s love of Elvis. The camera purse and floral headdress custom made by me!”
4. “Annville’s Revival” by Sarah Hambly
I’ve only ever seen one episode of AMC’s Preacher, and although it didn’t grab my attention enough for me to start the show from the beginning or read the comic, I thought Sarah Hambly’s Preacher inspired dress was out of this world.
“‘Annville’s Revival’ is a dress made entirely of silks with each piece quilted together and then stitched onto black fabric. 100 yards of rhinestone chain embellish each character’s ‘panel’ and frame them beautifully in this skirt. The bodice is all hand beaded, with silver cups to match Jesse Custer’s silver tips. A ‘Saint of Killers’ choker necklace adds that final touch to create this polished look,” she wrote on Instagram. “I am very proud of the Geek Couture piece and look forward to seeing it displayed or photographed in the future. Thank you to everyone who helped make this piece possible.”
3. “Wayfinder” by Sam Skyler
This show featured not one but three Polynesian inspired garments! While all three were absolutely gorgeous and expertly constructed, the dress that won my heart was the one designed by Sam Skyler.
“I’m honoring a part of Moana’s journey that closely reflected my own, and it has been a very emotional build for me. I’ve always had a message with my previous dresses in the fashion show, and this year, I will share a very personal one,” she wrote on Instagram. She also added, “I named my design ‘Wayfinder’ because creating this dress, pushing myself and learning new things, helped me move past my grief, fear, and self doubt. I re-purposed the sequins and beads from my Grandmas dresses and incorporated them into my design, to pay homage to both my grandma and Moana’s grandma and the journey she takes.”
2. “Tano Couture” by Rachel Roth
Rachel Roth took Ahsoka Tano’s costume from the latter half of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and transformed it into a garment that made my jaw drop. I think it was also brilliant that she combined soft, feminine detailing with harder and bolder elements. It truly elevated that battle-ready look into a wearable work of art.
“My design is inspired from my favorite spunky Jedi, Ahsoka Tano,” Roth said in her designer bio. “I took a lot of inspiration from her last look in The Clone Wars.”
1. “Sorceress Supreme” by Rose Ivy
Normally, I don’t tend to agree with the judges or the audience’s choice, but this time around, I think the judges were spot on. Now, I haven’t watch Marvel’s Doctor Strange, but from the bits I’ve seen, the “Sorceress Supreme” outfit captured all of the iconic details of that character in a subtle and sophisticated way. It wasn’t a direct translation and it wasn’t an over-the-top piece that only belongs in a museum. It was an outfit that was both runway ready and easily accessible.
That, to me, is the key to catching the eyes and attention of the judges. It’s not just about the flair, but it’s also asking yourself, “What would this character outfit look like if Hot Topic were to design a version for the everyday fan?” After thinking about it detail and looking at it closely, I truly think Rose Ivy’s outfit answered that question perfectly.
“When I saw Doctor Strange in theaters, I instantly fell in love with the costume design, his specifically,” she wrote on Instagram. “It had been brewing in the back of my mind, and as soon as submissions opened for the show, I got to work. I love to watercolor my fashion sketches and that inspired me to hand dye all of my main fabrics. Everything you see (minus the lining which was custom printed) came to me white/neutral colored and went through 2-4 rounds of dyeing. The toughest was definitely ombré dyeing the pants and shirt in boiling dye over a hot stove with no [air conditioning], but dyeing it myself gave me complete control over the color palette and I couldn’t be happier.”
What do you think? Did some of your favorites show up in my top 5 list? Share your favorites with me on social media (@BlueJaigEyes)!
Special thanks to Brian Sims for the use of his photos. Visit Brian’s website for more pictures from the Her Universe Fashion Show and San Diego Comic-Con.