Fandom and fashion are colliding in the designs of Adria Sanchez-Chaidez.
A University of Nebraska–Lincoln graduate student in textiles, merchandising and fashion design, Sanchez-Chaidez is passionate about paying homage to her favorite movie, TV and comic book characters in her clothing designs.
“Growing up I was always very girly,” Sanchez-Chaidez said. “And very geeky.”
Fashion has long been a part of Sanchez-Chaidez’s life. Even as a social sciences major at San Diego State University, she often found herself creating lesson plans related to textiles and designs for her practicum students. And, it was San Diego’s famed Comic-Con International convention that helped Sanchez-Chaidez find a path toward fashion design.
Held annually since 1970, Comic-Con draws tens of thousands of visitors — many of who dress as their favorite character — to attend panels featuring famous actors and creature creators; learn about new projects; purchase the latest toys, clothing and related goods; and learn about all the coming attractions in comic books and beyond. The convention also hosts Her University Fashion Show, an annual couture extravaganza which caught Sanchez-Chaidez’s eye.
“With that I totally kind of found my little niche,” Sanchez-Chaidez said.
The competition calls for designers to create a couture fashion piece based on a “geeky” subject matter of their choosing. And, it opened a door that inspired Sanchez-Chaidez to let her imagination to run wild. By the fifth year of competition, her talents were honed and she strutted the catwalk wearing an award-winning Jurassic Park-inspired look.
She also crafted a Wonder Woman design, which started as a seemingly normal 1940s frock but then magically morphed into a stars-and-stripes-clad ballgown as she turned down the runway. There was the a flowing green gown inspired by Disney’s “Moana” and the time she paid homage to the Star Wars film “The Last Jedi.” And the piece that sparked it all — a Doctor Who-driven dress and coat, which revealed an inner lining reminiscent of the title character’s “bigger-on-the-inside” TARDIS time machine.
Winning the Her Universe Fashion Show competition was much more than a personal victory — it was a career launchpad. With the victory in 2019, Sanchez-Chaidez earned an opportunity to design pieces for Hot Topic. Her line was released in coordination with the 2020 film “Wonder Woman 1984” and was inspired by the titular character.
Now, as a University of Nebraska–Lincoln graduate student, she’s planning a grand finale, cumulative project built on all things nerdy. Described as a “love letter to fandom and to women in fandom,” the body of work — titled “The Force is with Us” — is Sanchez-Chaidez’s profession of adoration for the nerdy things that make her, her.
“I think there’s power in reclaiming those things that have been kind of shamed from you,” Sanchez-Chaidez said. “Too often we resign ourselves to not caring about things because we don’t want to look a certain way. But ultimately, there’s a lot of power in owning that, and reclaiming that, and kind of setting that stage.
“The more space that you take up or show up, the more welcoming it will be to the next person.”