So You Think You Can HUFS:  An Insider Guide to the Her Universe Fashion Show

The Her Universe Geek Couture fashion show is an incredible fashion design competition that has literally changed my life.


As stated on the official Her Universe website: The Her Universe Fashion Show is the epicenter of the geek fashion movement as designers compete with their original “geek couture” designs to win the ultimate prize – the opportunity to design a Her Universe fashion collection with Her Universe founder Ashley Eckstein for Hot Topic. 

My 2015 entry, the Empire’s Style’s Back, inspired by the Empire from the original Star Wars trilogy.

My 2015 entry, the Empire’s Style’s Back, inspired by the Empire from the original Star Wars trilogy.

Designers from all over the country compete on the first night of San Diego Comic Con, bringing fandom fashion concepts to the runway for what Rolling Stone has deemed one of their top 25 things to see at SDCC for 3 years running!

I started from the bottom. Literally, in 2015 when I first entered I was so self taught, I had no idea what I was doing! My mom is a seamstress by trade, so I grew up sewing, but I never had any technical training. I just figured it out as I went. I made a great look that year, the best thing I had made at the time, but it wasn’t a top look by any means. 

My 2017 entry, The Upside Down Dress inspired by Stranger Things. Photo by Brian Sims

My 2017 entry, The Upside Down Dress inspired by Stranger Things. Photo by Brian Sims

In 2016, I had the burn of defeat when I didn’t get selected as a finalist. But I brushed myself off and applied again in 2017, after finishing a fast track year of fashion school at the Fashion Institute of Technology (which I was inspired to attend after my first year in HUFS). I designed the hardest most out-of-the box piece I could think of at the time. I did the very best I could to create it with my busy schedule that summer. It wasn’t perfect and I was finishing it hours before it hit the runway, but it was a great accomplishment for me after not getting in the preceding year. I am proud at my growth that year.

Finally, in 2018 I set goals at the beginning of the year for my look. I came up with my concept in December and began work and research at the beginning of the year. I watched Aliens over and over again to absorb the visual style of the film as I designed. I made 3 full muslins of my jacket before starting on the final. I practiced my sewing techniques over and over to make my piece the best constructed thing I had ever made. Looking at the previous year’s winners, I knew that I not only needed a great concept, but impeccable execution. And it sure paid off, because I WON.

My 2018 winning design based on Ripley in the Power Loader from the movie Aliens.

My 2018 winning design based on Ripley in the Power Loader from the movie Aliens.

Now I want to give back. Winning was incredible, but just being PART of this event is wonderful on its own. I want to help other designers in their journey to SDCC. Therefore…

Welcome to the first of a seven part blog series covering the HUFS experience from all angles!

What to Expect:

Every single person that makes it as a finalist for Her Universe Fashion Show puts in their blood, sweat, dollars and tears into their looks. 

Like any competition, if you have more time, energy, and financial freedom, you may have an advantage. But not always! There have been winners who have literally put their looks together within a month, for less than a few hundred dollars in materials, or in a hotel room while on set for another project. There’s no perfect formula. That said…

Competing in the show is a lot of work. Ask anyone who has participated: you will be putting a lot of hours in perfecting your design. Many designers have sleepless nights coming up on the deadlines in order to fully achieve their visions. Some work full time while working on their looks in the evenings, weekends, and days off. I personally was able to work on my piece full time for most of the construction period, but I usually worked full days on weekends too. 

Competing in this show is expensive. You may spend a few hundred dollars, or over a thousand *cough*, depending on what your look entails. Be prepared for it. Creating a look for this show and attending San Diego Comic Con can be a financial burden for some! Staying in San Diego during this week is also very expensive. However, never fear, there are definitely ways to cut costs and/or raise funds for your look and trip which I will cover in a future blog. 

Remember that if you get into the show that it is a privilege to participate. Many more people submit than walk the runway (over 300 entries were submitted last year and only 24 finalist selected). The money you spend or the hours you put in do NOT guarantee a win. Also, you may make something that is literally the best thing you’ve ever done and still not win. There are no guarantees. But for me it was an amazing way to measure my growth year over year as a designer, and I encourage other designers to do the same.


The greatest part of this show for me has been the community! Check out The Workshop group on Facebook. Created in 2018, the group is an awesome way to meet other hopeful designers and to share ideas, designs, and inspirations as you work on your looks. It is a safe space for critique as well. Veterans to the show can answer questions about pretty much anything! Some former winners are also open for one-on-one critiques. As far as networking, this group is incredible. I would say at least half of my major connections in the last several years have traced back to someone I met while competing in the Her Universe Fashion Show.

I hope this introduction has gotten you excited for your HUFS application this year! 

But WAIT! There’s more where that came from. In the coming weeks, I’ll take you on a journey of pushing your design concepts and strategy to the max. I love this competition and by sharing my knowledge I hope to help you push yourself to places you didn’t think were possible.


Upcoming Blogs:

Creating A Concept Part 1: Push the Drama
How do you even begin to design? This section will provide tips on brainstorming a concept based on a fandom, choosing or inventing a unique silhouette, and making it fashion.

Creating A Concept Part 2: Submitting Your Design
As you design for the Her Universe Fashion Show, you may wonder how to best to fit the criteria of the competition and still showcase yourself as a designer. Highlights include presentation tips, competition strategy, and how to design to GET IN.

Getting in: Construction, Execution, and Project Management
So you have the perfect design! This section covers tips on bringing your ideas to life in a professional way through construction and execution, planning your time, and planning and raising funds for you trip.

Presentation: The Runway Experience
Many designers have never exhibited on the runway until the show. This blog will cover bringing the complete look to life on stage, as well as what to expect when you step in front of the judges.

Photo by Mike Edwards

Photo by Mike Edwards