Sunday, September 03, 2017

Dress Obsessed: Shopping For Your Inner Geek

My friend and co-worker Kristi is always wearing the most unique dresses.  I asked her if she'd write a guest post about her favorite places to find her amazing outfits.  Thanks for sharing, Kristi!

When I was a little girl, my fascination with Disney animation easily translated into adorable dresses and cute printed blouses fit for a princess. Little girls had plenty of options to feel comfortable while also sporting a look that showed off their current interests. My parents often filled my closet with clothes that showcased my love for Tinkerbell, Mulan, Belle…believe me, this list could go on forever if I continued.

But as my interests expanded, it was difficult for me to find clothing I would consider “adorable” or “cute” when it came to comic book icons, Japanese animation, etc. Even Star Wars, which holds one of the most iconic characters for me, Princess Leia Organa, was in short supply of outfits for those who were interested in showing their passions in the form of dresses. And as I was growing older, I was breaking away from Disney’s prime audience for those princess collections. I was no longer a teeny human and therefore the expectations of fashion sense and personal interests were expected to change.

Well, my interests didn’t change. I was still exploring the realm of “geekdom” but with a much more limited wardrobe. I sported printed t-shirts and hoodies regularly to let the world know, “YES, I’M A GEEK AND I LOVE IT!”  The t-shirts were my canvas…but even though these outfits were comfortable enough, I never felt the same as when I was a little girl wearing my princess dresses. I felt my outfits were just something I threw together to get me through the day, not something I enjoyed.

For me, I had low self-esteem and my wardrobe wasn’t helping me overcome those judgmental stares. I compared myself to those around me, assuming it was so much easier for them to find a personal style. Many of them were prettier than I was, braver than I was. And I harbored this constant insecurity throughout high school.

College came and went.  I typically wore pajama pants and hoodies (unless of course I had to go in front of the camera, then you bet I was in a nice blouse) to class. And as I began my career in Public Affairs, I was slowly trying to develop a style I could call my own…however, apart from the nice blouses and dress pants, it was boring to me. I wanted to showcase my interests; I wanted to feel pretty for myself.

Fortunately, we were entering a time when body types were celebrated instead of ignored. Women of all shapes and sizes could find clothing that fit their needs and their style. Lady geeks no longer had to struggle to find the fashion for their interests because more designers were coming forward knowing the struggle so many faced growing up. For we who wanted to be all dressed up and proudly showing off our geek pride, it was our time to shine.

My dress journey began sometime in 2012 and has become somewhat of an obsession. My outfits helped me break out of my insecurities, allowing me to feel proud of who I was. I was no longer afraid to walk out into the world and show everyone just how much of a geek I am. Even in my constant struggles with being a plus-sized woman and trying to better myself, I can still feel beautiful in what I wear and how I present myself.

And let me tell you, the first time I wore one of my Disney dresses out in public and people were coming up to me and sharing how amazing I looked and how awesome my dress was, it felt…AMAZING! Each dress I wear, more and more people come up to me to tell me they love what I’m wearing and to say how awesome it is to see such cute outfits that showcase the geeky side of life. Many of them ask where they can find such clothing for themselves and I’m thrilled to point them in the right direction. I want more and more women to feel how I feel every single day. Empowered to look amazing and be the geek they are.

Hot Topic

It’s never shocking to me when I mention Hot Topic in a conversation about clothing, someone immediately goes, “isn’t that the punk store in the mall?” Why yes, yes it is.

“Hot Topic is the destination for music and pop culture-inspired clothes and accessories, plus fashion apparel for girls and guys.”

Started in 1988, this place continued to develop into one of the biggest pop culture paradises for teens and even adults.  Licensed merchandise cycles in from the most iconic bands, Disney, Harry Potter, Dr. Who, Star Wars…again, I can go on and on. These guys know how to cater to my fellow geeks.

I’ve got to admit though when I was browsing the Hot Topic website one day and came across a section of dresses, I was shocked and a little unsure if I wanted to jump in and make a purchase. Many of these outfits I couldn’t find in the store (mind you, this was 2012) so I couldn’t just try them on and see how they looked on me. And of course there were the prices…for some, $50+ for a dress isn’t a big deal but as someone who wanted to make sure that what I was getting was actually going to fit, I really was unsure about putting money down.

However, something amazing happened. A SALE POPPED UP THE NEXT DAY! Really, that’s not so amazing, because let me tell you Hot Topic is having new sales each week. Literally just checked this morning, 20% off select styles throughout the store. I saw this sale and thought to myself, “Well, if it doesn’t fit my style, I’ll just return it.” If you get something mailed to you and it doesn’t fit, you can either mail it back for a return or exchange or go to your local Hot Topic and return or exchange it. The worst that could happen is that it didn’t fit me so what did I have to lose.

Well, I ended up losing a lot of money…because I fell in love and thus went on a shopping spree. The thing about these dresses at Hot Topic is that each style is made to fit a variety of body types. The designers of these dresses want to ensure women are able to find something related to whatever interest they hold, something cute and appealing that they could cherish in their collection. Materials and styles range from casual to fancy. I literally had to pull myself away from buying a very beautiful Disney Princess dress because I probably wouldn’t have worn it anywhere (it was meant to be a prom dress).

Nowadays, these dresses can be found on the racks in your local Hot Topic. And more and more are popping up every day. Best advice I can give for those interested in checking out Hot Topic: check in frequently to see what new sales are popping up. Sign up for their electronic newsletter; they’ll let you know what’s available in the store that week due to your specified interests. Also join their HT Guest List program. It’s free to use and you’ll get points towards your purchases (this is for everything in the store, not just the dresses). Get enough points and you’ll have money to spend in the store.




The Dress: Limited Edition Alice through the Looking Glass Alice Adventure Dress

One of my favorite dresses I’ve ever bought from Hot Topic is this limited edition dress from the Alice through the Looking Glass collection inspired by the costume designs of Colleen Atwood. Now this dress was a constant battle for me because I kept thinking to myself, “would I ever wear this dress?” I’m a big fan of exploring other cultures, especially those of Asian origin. I fell in love with the purple satin design and the intricate detailing, many of which would not have noticed the Wonderland symbols in the fabric. But again, at the time of release the price of this dress ranged at around $80+ and through my own personal monologue I decided to step away and let this one slip by me. Within a few weeks, most of the sizes were gone and I figured this dress wasn’t meant to be.

In May of this year however, a huge sale occurred in the Hot Topic online store. I decided to search the available inventory and by my surprise I found this dress once more gracing the lineup of dresses…for $20. I dared to see if they had my size and by god…there is was. I don’t think I’ve ever clicked checkout so fast on a site before.

Slipping the dress on, I noted how comfortable it felt and how easy it was to slip on. The material itself is a polyester/cotton/spandex blend. The back zipper is handy for those that need it, the sweetheart neckline is a fun style I enjoy, and the color is so bright. My only real nitpick of the dress I received was the collar. It may just be a defect in the one I own but the collar almost always flips itself and needs to be adjusted to ensure it stays on correctly. This style of dress is also meant to fit your specific size that you ordered, so when it comes to my weight loss journey, there will need to be some adjustments made to the dress in order to continue to fit me.

This is just one of many dresses you can find at your local Hot Topic store or online at www.hottopic.com.

Torrid

Until probably 2014, I had no idea what Torrid was. I didn’t frequent malls as much and I had only just begun really searching for Plus Size specific stores to do my shopping. An affiliate of Hot Topic, Inc., Torrid is a store that inspires plus size women to be stylish and confident.

“Torrid's collection of trendy plus size clothing - including the latest apparel, plus size lingerie and accessories - is inspired by and designed to fit young, stylish women who wear sizes 10 to 30. From party-ready cocktail dresses and curvy maxi dresses to shirts-and-jeans outfits, our stores and online shop are the best place to find a large selection of hot, hip and trendy plus size fashion styles. Our fashionable plus size apparel stimulates self-confidence and encourages a woman to feel sultry and downright irresistible.” 

When I first read this statement, I was taken back. I was still reeling from my time growing up where having different body types other than the norm was considered problematic.  If you didn’t look the norm, you were expected to fix yourself in order to meet the standards. You were expected to fit the perfect image, or practically die trying.

And then there’s Torrid, a collection of designers developing fashion who understand what it is like not being able to feel stylish or beautiful because your body types might not fit the mold. The designs of the various articles of clothing are made, like Hot Topic, to fit a variety of body types. In addition, though there are quite a few geeky designs featured in their pop culture section, they feature various designs to look your best whatever your interests may be. You want to show off your geeky side? There’s a collection for you. Want some florals or colored prints? Got you covered! The possibilities for what you’ll find at this store are endless.

Plus, just like Hot Topic, sales are FREQUENT! I always make weekly checks in the online store to see what’s next and exciting. If you join the Torrid Insider program, you will collect points with your purchases which can equal out to money back to spend on future purchases. And depending on how much you spend in a year, you can be upgraded to Platinum for even more benefits. Plus monthly coupons help you save even more money and can be emailed to you or mailed to your door.  And of course if you need to return anything, you can mail it in or go to your local Torrid store for exchanges or returns.



The Dress: Black and Blue Floral Dress

This was one of the first floral prints I bought at Torrid in late 2015. This polyester/cotton/spandex blend makes the dress super comfortable to wear for a day at the office or for a night on the town. It’s a lightweight material and with the open back it’s perfect for those spring and summer days.

This dress is definitely a personal favorite. Even though I’ve owned and worn this dress repeatedly for two years, the colors still pop as if it were brand new and the material hasn’t suffered at all from use. This is the type of quality I expect from Torrid and there hasn’t been a moment where I’ve been disappointed in what I’ve purchased from them.

Her Universe

One of my all-time favorite designers is Ashley Eckstein, an actress and entrepreneur known to Star Wars fans as the voice of Ahsoka Tano on Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. A fellow fan girl with a dream to create fashion for stylish geeks, Eckstein brought her vision to reality. And as someone growing up and not being able to find the style that fit my personality, her brand creation known as Her Universe has truly captured my heart…and my wallet…time and time again.

“Founded in 2010, Ashley launched Her Universe with the mission to create stylish, fashion-forward merchandise for female sci-fi fans. Her Universe is a place for fangirls to step into the spotlight and be heard, recognized and rewarded.  Ashley’s goal, from the beginning, was to build the company into a stand-alone entertainment and merchandise brand and, today, Her Universe is leading the way. Hoping to change the perception that science fiction and fantasy is just for boys, Her Universe has joined forces with some of the biggest names in the sci-fi/fantasy world to create fangirl apparel and accessories for such well-known names as Star Wars, Doctor Who, Star Trek and Marvel.”

Her Universe is now a stand-alone subsidiary of Hot Topic, Inc. and many of the limited edition collections can be found at stores such as Hot Topic and Torrid for purchase. Eckstein’s “geek couture” fashion has captured the hearts of millions and has become a popular fashion destination at conventions as well.

This year at D23, a Disney expo for all things Disney, Her Universe featured an exclusive line to the convention and also shared plans to feature exclusive fashion at the Dress Shop on Cherry Tree Lane (something I’ll be talking about shortly). In addition, Her Universe hosted a fashion show at San Diego Comic-Con which not only featured new designs from Eckstein and team but also budding designers in the industry. There was also an exclusive collection featured at San Diego Comic-Con, featuring Star Wars, Marvel, and DC designs to name a few.

The Her Universe brand features a variety of styles and licenses that are made to fit a wide range of body shapes. Its products made for the fans, by the fans. If you’re shopping directly from heruniverse.com, prices range typically from $15 to $80+. However, similar to the other Hot Topic, Inc. businesses, sales are frequent. Each Monday there’s a certain product featured as the weekly deal for the shop. In addition, if it’s not something exclusive to the Her Universe site, you may be able to find the specific fashions you’d like at the other Hot Topic, Inc. stores.

Also, be on the lookout for purchases that come with free gifts. I’ve noticed typically with the hugest sale events of the year (Black Friday and Christmas time for example) Her Universe will offer gifts for those who are purchasing from the site or the stores. These gifts are perfect for the collectors at heart.




The Dresses: My Neighbor Totoro Maxi Dress and Star Wars Comic-Con Exclusive Jakku Print Dress

My geek heart is always aflutter when a new dress or collection is announced by Her Universe, especially those exclusive to licenses you rarely see elsewhere in the states. Studio Ghibli, an animation studio in Japan, is one of those licenses that unless you were importing from overseas you would never see the merchandise in stores. That is, until stores like Hot Topic found that there was indeed a huge anime following in America.

This dark green floral maxi dress has been my go-to dress of the summer. It features a cold-shoulder sleeve design, side slits, and an all-over floral print that also features the familiar spirit of the forest Totoro and his friends. It’s a cotton/spandex mixture and has a wide array of sizes for all body types. It’s comfortable, gorgeous, and surprisingly easy to maneuver in (and that’s saying something for me…I have the worst coordination ever).

As I’ve stated previously in this post, I’m quite a fan of Star Wars, and when it comes to exclusive clothing from that license Her Universe is tough to beat in my opinion. A huge geek for Star Wars, Eckstein has brought many styles to the forefront related to that galaxy far, far away. And some of the best styles are created for the biggest geeks events throughout the year, including San Diego Comic-Con.

This limited edition Jakku print dress was created for the massive event, providing memorable images of The Force Awakens movie. It’s a cream colored cotton/spandex/nylon/polyester blend dress that meshes well with most skin tones. The printed fabric features Rey, BB-8, and the Millennium Falcon. The neckline is a sweetheart design with a lace inset and cold shoulder sleeves that flutter in the wind. And the best part…IT HAS POCKETS! I love pockets in my dresses.

Now being as this dress was exclusively released online for the event, many of the sizes sold out immediately. I had to hop into the fray to ensure I was one of the lucky owners of this dress. And thank goodness I snagged one because I absolutely love this dress. It has become my absolute favorite of my collection.

Lane Bryant

Are you a plus-sized woman looking for fashion that’s a little more high-end or classy? I would suggest your local Lane Bryant store. Part of the Ascena Retail Group family, Lane Bryant is typically my go-to for dresses I use for business or classier events. They aren’t someone to go to if you’re looking for geek fashion but what Lane Bryant does supply is wonderful fitted clothing that works with various body types.

The clothing itself in the store is a bit pricey, many times ranging from $60+ to $110+ for a single article of clothing. Similar to the Hot Topic, Inc. shops however, we’ve got sales frequently popping up. In addition, the shop also has its real women dollars program. With each purchase made, points go towards your account. The more you spend, the more money you get to have access to later for future purchases.


The Dress: Pink Lace Dress

This is probably one of my oldest dresses in my closet, purchased towards the beginning of my dress journey in 2012. This pink dress is a nylon/spandex/polyester blend that is a solid fabric underneath a lace design. This high-neck dress as a unique design compared to most of my other dresses and is used typically for business rather than venturing out in town.

The material itself is quite comfortable; however, I find the actual fabric gets caught in EVERYTHING. I walk through a door, my dress gets caught. The quality of the dress is pretty good though, it’s still holding up well despite the years. Lane Bryant is known for having higher quality clothing for the plus size figure so I would recommend them for those who want a more business or elegant look.

The Dress Shop at Cherry Tree Lane 

Now you want to talk exclusive designs? How about exclusive Disney designs?

The Dress Shop, an apparel and accessories collection created specifically for Disney Parks, is located at Cherry Tree Lane in the Marketplace Co-Op at Disney Springs. It was first introduced in the spring and has become a hit for all visiting guests at the resort. There were 10 original dresses featured when it launched, with inspiration from famous Disney attractions and characters like the Haunted Mansion, Enchanted Tiki Room, Tower of Terror, and more.

I took a trip with my family in July and was thrilled to find there was still some stock left of these widely popular attire. I was able to secure two dresses in my size, the Haunted Mansion dress and the Minnie Mouse dress (which I’ll be talking about below). The prices for the dresses ranged from $60 to $110+ depending on the specific style. The variety would be typically those 10 original designs and accessories to match but as I said the shop was widely popular and having difficulty keeping up with the demand. At the time of my arrival, the Minnie dress and the Haunted Mansion dress (as well as the Tower of Terror dress) were the only ones available that seemed to have a good assortment of sizes for the newcomers searching the shop.

Now since then they’ve begun expanding the collection. In addition to new dresses appearing now, there’s also going to be a Her Universe line coming to the shop as well. However, unlike the other stores where you can find their fashion online, these dresses are exclusive only to specified Disney resort locations (dresses featured here can also be found in Vault 28 at Downtown Disney District at Disneyland Resort).

As far as I’ve researched, sales aren’t frequent at this particular shop if they happen at all. However, if you are a Disney Chase member, you will be getting a discount on your purchase. Prices may be a bit much for some but I can attest to the quality of these dresses, they are built to last and are super comfortable for the wearer. I’m looking forward to seeing what new styles they showcase in the coming months as I’m an avid Disney fan and a frequent customer of Walt Disney World.


The Dress – Minnie Mouse Inspired Dress

I’m a sucker for anything Disney; you guys should have caught that by now. So when Disney announced this exclusive dress shop for Disney Springs at Walt Disney World, I hopped at the chance to explore during my summer adventure with the family. And when I found out they were also selling plus sizes, something in days past Disney would rarely have offered, I nearly destroyed the sound barrier I was screaming so loud.

I found this Minnie Mouse inspired dress amongst the collection and since its purchase I’ve worn it quite a few times to work and in town. It’s a normal enough print that it blends well for any occasion and the material used is quite comfortable. The store also paired accessories with each dress, this one recommended with a pair of lacy white gloves, Minnie wears, several types of bows, and a black leather purse accented with red and white polka dot fabric. My only hope is that there’s a chance for lower prices in the future as well as more supply to meet the demand. Being in such an exclusive spot, there’s the chance that those who vacation to Disney would not have the opportunity to browse the dresses since the supply has been known to hop off the shelves quickly.

Find The Dress That’s Right for You

My journey has helped me find the dresses that filled my obsession and I’m continuing to find more and more options each day to add to my collection. It was a long road to get to this point and it’s never going to be over as more and more interests mean more canvases to showcase those interests.

For your own personal journey, know your body type and your interests. Do your research and find what styles makes you feel the most comfortable. Also don’t be afraid to go beyond the brands well-known by all. There are people who create beautiful dresses at self-run online stores, including Etsy, that are homemade and can be made specifically to your specifications. There are more options out there than ever before.

I hope you can all feel empowered every single day, no matter where your journey takes you. Love yourself and do things for you. That’s the best advice I can ever hope to give someone.

Well…that and keep an eye out for them sales. Happy hunting lovelies!

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