From 1928 Jewelry's Captain America earrings and Lazy Oaf's Batman dresses to Black Milk's Star Wars bathing suits, the famed characters of comic books and genre films have been making fashionable waves and Angeleno Mandie Bettencourt has the scoop. For just over a year, her Geeky Glamorous blog has been keeping readers updated on the latest in licensed apparel and crafty finds that are a far cry from your run-of-the-mill Green Lantern t-shirts.
Saturday night, Geeky Glamorous took over Melrose Avenue boutique/art gallery Japan LA for a show dedicated to the girls that inhabit the world of the superfan. The show featured work from artists like Camilla d'Errico and Mr. Toast and even boasted a Millennium Falcon dress made by crafty Star Wars fan Jennifer Landa. Bettencourt says that "Geeky Glamorous: The Art Show" has been a big boost for her blog's readership. "People are more curious about fashion," she says. "They didn't realize that there were all these vendors who specialized in the kind of things that they wanted, whether it's skirts with Mass Effect or Minecraft or whatever their fandom is."
Born and raised in Orange County, Bettencourt has spent the past decade going to fan conventions like Anime Expo and San Diego Comic-Con. "I got addicted to them," she says. "I had to go to any convention, whether it was anime or video games or comic books."
These events provided the seeds for Geeky Glamorous. Initially, Bettencourt had intended to simply document her adventures at the cons. Soon, she was reporting on "geek fashion," the unusual appropriations of beloved franchises that you'll see in convention booths and online.
Bettencourt considers video games her "number one nerd love." The first character she ever cosplayed was Rikku from Final Fantasy X. She recalls her first attempt at cosplay with a laugh, saying "I don't want to think about it." Last year, she turned up at San Diego Comic-Con dressed as a gender-bent version of Mega Man. And, after a year at fashion school in New York, she returned to Southern California to earn a degree in video game design.
Even with a few video game internships and jobs under her belt, Bettencourt realized that she still had a keen interest in fashion. She wondered how she could combine her two loves. With Geeky Glamorous, she's able to do that. She even launched an accessories line that includes jewelry based on the game controller that serves as the Geeky Glamorous logo.
Up next: the state of female fandom
That Geeky Glamorous exists is a sign of changing times within the randoms for video games, comic books, science fiction and fantasy. Companies are actually taking notice of female fans. Bettencourt jokingly recalls the days when fan fashion was essentially limited to "men's XXL t-shirts."
"It forced a lot of girls to get creative," she says.
Now, after a few years of seeing the women at conventions taking their interests beyond standard costumes, making outfits that resemble Death Stars, TARDISes and even Jayne's hat, fashion designers are responding. "I think that they realize that there is this huge untapped market," Bettencourt surmises.
While there certainly is a contingent of women clamoring for Black Milk's Star Wars items or Galaxxy's Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt line, geek fashion isn't quite mainstream yet.
"I think we kind of live in the Internet, the geek girls," says Bettencourt. "You go to message boards or on Tumblr and you think that there are all these girls who are into it."
She continues, "I don't meet so many girls on the street that are into it. But, then I go to a convention and I feel like I'm home."
Bettencourt makes an important point. The things that rack up Facebook likes and Tumblr reblogs don't necessarily spill over IRL. "I do feel like there is a stigma attached to being a geek, being a nerd, so people don't really embrace it," says Bettencourt. She adds that some women might feel like wearing geek finery on the street might attract the same sort of "con creepers" that exist at the big events.
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That's where events like "Geeky Glamorous: The Art Show" come into play and it's for more than just fashion, more than the knowledge that some companies may now see the lady geek as a viable demographic. It's the repeated image of female fans inside JapanLA's tiny gallery that is incredibly powerful, whether the girls are sobbing over an episode of Doctor Who or spending who knows how many hours making a dress that looks like the Millennium Falcon. These things that are so often thought to be the territory of guys really aren't.