Simply Chic Simply Chic Blog Home

Geek Girls Demand — and Receive — Recognition in Fashion World

By The Look on TODAY Style Aug 6, 2012 8:22PM
By Lisa Granshaw, The Look on TODAY Style

A not so long time ago in a store near you, a girl would have to settle for a boxy, ill-fitting T-shirt made for boys if she wanted to wear something that represented her favorite band, movie or other pop culture obsession. For those unwilling to make do with those unflattering cuts and sizes, the interesting, quirky world of DIY shirts, dresses — and even bras — made by women in the same situation was the only alternative.

Luckily, times are changing. Women with adventurous taste have more fitting clothing options than ever before. Actress Ashley Eckstein has seen and welcomed this change first hand. The enterprising 30-year-old is the founder of Her Universe, the first merchandise line designed exclusively for female science-fiction fans.

“As short as four years ago, companies looked at female fans as an afterthought,” Eckstein, who voices a character on the animated TV series "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," told TODAY.com. “Companies designed 20 shirts for men and would say maybe we need a shirt for girls and throw a pink shirt in and call it a day.”

It was a problem Eckstein was quite familiar with. She'd been a devout "Star Wars" fan since she was a child, but only had one T-shirt design option open to her, while her equally obsessed husband had no fewer than 10 different varieties to choose from. After researching the issue, Eckstein discovered that almost half of all sci-fi fans were women and about 80 percent of consumer purchases were made by women, yet there was a huge lack of any genre-specific merchandise specifically tailored to female fans.

“I scoured the Internet thinking, more [T-shirts] existed, but I didn't find anything and I knew I was not alone [in my search] because of at Comic-Con and 'Star Wars' events women were everywhere.”

In an effort to fill the gap, Eckstein partnered with The Araca Group and started her own clothing company in 2009. At first featuring only "Star Wars"-themed merchandise, Her Universe has since expanded to include collections based off of Syfy network shows like "Battlestar Galactica" and just this year signed deals with CBS Consumer Products to sell "Star Trek" merchandise and BBC America to sell products inspired by the British television show "Doctor Who".

Female fans finally get noticed

Eckstein’s company isn’t the only one moving in to cater to the ladies. Over the last few years, a number of stores have expanded their pop culture collections for women, including Hot Topic.

Denise Vasquez -- Move over, boys! More women are starting to attend events like San Diego Comic-Con and are trying to show off their geeky passions through fashion.

A store well known for its affinity for pop culture, Hot Topic tries to listen to what the growing community of fans wants by attending conventions and events across the country. In particular, they’ve seen a growing number of women at San Diego Comic-Con, which is a big change from the early days, according to Cindy Levitt, vice president general merchandise manager for Hot Topic.

“We’ve always had female interest, but the direction has changed in the last couple of years,” Levitt told TODAY.com. “We used to girl things up, but they don’t want Catwoman on a shirt. They want Batman. Girls may want it on a cute dolman sleeve T-shirt, but they want the images to be kind of what the guys have been wearing.”

According to Levitt, women seem to be more interested in sci-fi and comic books than ever before, leading Hot Topic to partner with companies like Her Universe to fill the blossoming demand for related products.

ThinkGeek, a website with products for "technophiles and geeks," has also partnered with Her Universe to try to placate the increasing need.

“True [female] fans have always been there, and with a resurgence of geek finding its way to the mainstream, more fans -- both men and women — are being introduced to those things,” Steve Zimmermann, press manager for ThinkGeek told TODAY.com.

So why are female fans suddenly more open about what they want?

"I think we are now starting to wake up and say 'no, we don’t want to deal with this anymore' and if we do speak up, people will listen and it’s becoming more accepted to like sci-fi from a social standpoint,” said Eckstein. “We finally opened our mouths.”

Proving skeptics wrong

It also helps that companies like Her Universe are proving the stereotypes wrong. According to Eckstein, a number of companies told her that female fans just aren't interested in and don't buy science fiction and similarly themed merchandise. It is the primary claim she's striving to debunk. "We said we'll prove you wrong," asserted the actress, "and we did."Her Universe

Eckstein, seen here in one of her new

Her Universe -- Eckstein, seen here in one of her new "Doctor Who" T-shirts ($28 at Her Universe), believes a love of sci-fi and anything else geeky should be celebrated rather than ignored.

Growth of geeky DIY
The idea of 'do it yourself' fashion is nothing new, but it's been growing in pop culture-related fashion as women try to fill the void that companies are finally noticing. You can find a lot of pop culture-themed DIY items on Etsy, from underwear to jewelry.

Ashley Mertz started making her own 'Geek Chic Fashion' items and selling them on Etsy via her store Go Chase Rabbits because she felt there was a lack of options for women. Ashley Mertz
Level-up with this Mario Brothers-themed Yoshi skirt made by Ashley Mertz.


Ashley Mertz -- Level-up with this Mario Brothers-themed Yoshi skirt made by Ashley Mertz.

“I wanted to create everyday options for girls to wear,” Mertz told TODAY.com. "I honestly didn't know how much it was going to take off once I started and have had so many requests it's hard to keep up sometimes.”

While her initial aim was to craft everyday clothes that showed off a love for certain elements of pop culture, Mertz has been fielding requests from customers looking for clothes to wear to events.

“Many customers request skirts for the conventions, which have become so widespread and 'cool,' which is what's great about how things are changing so that geek is the new chic.”

If you're looking for something a bit more personal, the Etsy store SceeneShoes sells hand-painted shoes, as well as the ultimate girl item: bras. Design-themes range from Super Mario Brothers to Hello Kitty.

Bree -- Get personal with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by wearing this hand painted bra.

Eckstein encourages DIY, having felt that desire to create something that she felt was missing in the market. She believes mixing homemade designs with store-bought items completes an outfit. It’s part of the reason she hosted a panel called “Are You a Geek Girl Trendsetter?” at San Diego Comic-Con on July 14.

“I also wanted [Her Universe] to be a community for female fans, a safe place for female fans to come out of hiding,” said the entrepreneur.

When asked if she will ever expand to making clothes for men, Eckstein simply replies by saying the rest of the world is "his" universe.

TODAY.com writer Lisa Granshaw is happy to have been able to gradually shove all the boxy guy T-shirts to the back of her drawers, replacing them with “Star Wars,” “Doctor Who” and other geek-wear made just for women  


beauty tips and style advice

  • Nike Free, courtesy of Amazon

    Comfortable (and stylish) walking shoes for travel

    Finding stylish and comfortable shoes for your trip abroad is easier said than done. Check out these 5 shoes that will save your feet during your next trip.

  • Unforgettable celeb dresses

    Forget me nots: The most talked-about dresses of the past 20 years

    Stylish dresses made unforgettable by the famous.

  • Transition summer fashions into fall

    13 ways to transition summer fashions into fall

    Don't pack in your warm-weather favorites just yet!

  • Altuzarra

    What Kate Middleton should wear for her second pregnancy: 6 looks from the spring 2015 runways

    This week’s surprise announcement about Kate Middleton’s pregnancy has already sparked speculation on what the Duchess will be wearing with her soon-to-be spare heir. What’s more, the spring 2015 collections in New York are providing Middleton with plenty of maternity-friendly ideas for day and night. Here, we pinpoint six looks that should carry the Duchess through her third trimester.

  • Power couples

    Get the street style look of 7 Fashion Week tribes for under $100

    Style inspiration doesn’t just come from the runway. Every Fashion Week, we look far beyond the shows themselves—from the designers and the traveling troupes of editors to the models, photographers, and showgoers, all sorts of style tribes are out hitting the pavement. To refresh our fall closet, we look to eight chic cliques, from the front-row power couples to street-style bloggers. Even better? Getting the look of your favorite tribe has never been easier—everything we’ve pulled is $100 or less.

  • Lucky

    5 fall fashion must-haves

    Autumn is upon us, and we’ve got sweaters, coats and booties on our minds! Below are the first things we’ll be buying (or have already bought!) to kick off next season.

  • Fall boot guide

    The ultimate fall boot guide

    As autumn approaches and the opportunity for days spent lying by the beach begins to wind down, there comes a time to trade the sand-strewn sandals of summer in for the bright, shiny new footwear of fall. And what’s the best way to kick off your closet in preparation for a brisk temperature drop? The boot. From animal print to glittery, hiking to fringed, our fall boots include everything you need to start the season off on the right foot.

  • Great jeans for adults

    The best back-to-school denim for grown-ups

    No matter what the era, denim is always a staple. From blue to black, acid-washed, studded, and shredded, there’s a denim to fit any mood (or body type). For this fall (and back-to-school month), we’ve rounded up our favorite picks of this all-American classic: Whether we are inspired by a nineties Kate Moss, Rihanna’s affinity for fringe, or model off-duty looks, our elevated denim guide is guaranteed to refresh your wardrobe just in time for the new season.

  • s1

    Upgrade your hair game with these get-gorgeous tips

    Beachy waves, soft strands—you can have the dream locks you've always wanted.

  • Z Zegna fall\winter 2014\Umberto Fratini\Indigital Images; MP Massimo Piombo spring\summer 2015; Antonio Marras spring\summer 2015\Yannis Vlamos\Indigital Images.

    11 style rules to break right now

    You already know wearing white after Labor Day is cool. But menswear is reinventing itself rapidly, leaving some long-held mandates by the wayside, not to mention a bunch of men with a lot of questions. Sure, some style laws are truly inviolable. Showing a quarter-inch of cuff will always be crucial, but with designers and dandies flaunting so many former taboos it's hard to tell what's in play these days. So we thought we'd take this opportunity to let you know which rules no longer apply.

  • Update your outfit with embellishments

    The ultimate under $100 guide to fall trends

    With every changing season, our shopping lists seem to grow and grow and grow . . . and yet our bank accounts somehow stay exactly the same! But don’t fret, you can capture all the best fall trends straight from the runway without breaking the bank. Whether you’re yearning for cozy knits, statement necklaces, or bold graphic pieces, our Fall Fashion Guide gives you the best looks—all for less than $100.

  • A.P.C. and Vanessa Seward

    Fashion Week A to Z: Vogue’s guide to spring 2015 shows

    Allow us to be frank: Fashion Week is a bit of a misnomer. What with the global sprawl of shows—from New York to London to Milan to Paris—it really should be Fashion Month. (Or Fashion Forever.) Either way, what better way to kick off the marathon of shows, after-parties, flights, and appointments than with our comprehensive A-to-Z guide to all things Fashion Week? Here, find out what to do, eat, see, wear, and keep your eye on this season.

follow us
follow us follow us on facebook follow us on pinterest follow us on twitter
buzzing now on msn living
about our blog contributors
style videos
editor's picks