The Force is With Rodarte

by Brontë Mansfield, Contributing Writer

The finale of Tuesday’s Rodarte show was out of this world.  The show concluded with five gowns graced with images from the perennially popular science fiction franchise, Star Wars.  Fan girls and fashionistas of the world can both rejoice as this collaboration seems to speak to a greater trend of the assimilation of geek-culture into the mainstream.

From left to right: Luke Skywalker, the Death Star, Yoda, the sky of Luke's home planet, C-3PO and R2-D2.
From left to right: Luke Skywalker, the Death Star, Yoda, the sky of Luke’s home planet, C-3PO and R2-D2.

The designers—sister team Laura and Kate Mulleavy—cite their ’80s childhood as inspiration, but their gowns look like they could have made cameos in the Star Wars movies themselves.  Alternated studded and flowing pieces of silk coupled with a variety of strange textures give these gowns space-age feel.  Asymmetrical waist lines even nod to the later films in the franchise: the gowns are faintly reminiscent of the costumes donned by Padme (a character from the prequels), which marry past Earth’s medievalism and the futurism of a galaxy far, far away.  The only thing the collection was missing was an Ewok-fur purse.

Fendi beat them to it.
Fendi beat them to it.

However, there may be more to Rodarte’s choice in collection capstone.  Not only is there a continuation of the Stars Wars franchise on the horizon (filming begins in May), but there is a contemporary exultation of “geek culture.”  More and more, things that would have been on the fringe ten or twenty years ago—like Star Wars, Dungeons & Dragons, and Comic Con—are being lauded as cool.  We live in a culture where the question “Marvel or DC?” is not met with a puzzled look, but an enlivened debate about whether Tony Stark or Batman wealthier; a culture where the biggest blockbusters originally came from the minds of Stan Lee or Joss Whedon; a culture where “geek chic” is a fashion trend, and lens-less glasses are an accessory.

This assimilation of geek culture into the mainstream owes much, interestingly, to women and fashion.  Zooey Deschanel gave us “adorkable” and Felicia Day took it further, becoming the quintessential gamer-girl and poster child for the hot nerd girl.  Cosplay, or costume play, has become an avenue for self-expression for women and men alike, as well as a lucrative industry (for example, costumes on this site devoted to Star Wars run upwards of $160)—not unlike the fashion industry at large.  Clothing and design have become ways into the geek-world, as more people attend conventions and create fan art.  The geek-world, in turn, is perceived as new and unique, and assimilated into the greater popular culture.

This could all be symptomatic of our cultural climate at large.  When the Hipster Generation realized that everyone owned a record player and their beloved indie bands had sold out, it was a logical move to claim the discarded D&D manuals of our parents, and watch obscure sci-fi shows for their novelty.  Either way, the acceptance of geek culture could not have achieved as much of a stronghold in the mainstream as it has without the proliferation of people using clothing as a medium for engaging with comics, movies, and television.

This begs the question then, is Rodarte’s collection being unique and cutting-edge?  Or is this Rodarte capitalizing on our culture’s current celebration of all things geeky?  Check out the rest of the collection here.

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