While strutting the runway at the Her Universe fashion show for Comic Con in San Diego, Adria Renee recalled her early days in elementary school strutting down the school hallways.
Back then, Renee didn’t carry herself as confidently as she does now.
Wearing her mother’s old clothes and clothes from thrift stores back then wasn’t as accepted as it is today.
Being raised by a single mother also didn’t leave much room for new back-to-school clothes for Renee.
“I was a bit ostracized for the way I dressed and that way I ended up leaning into fashion. I stayed true to myself and didn’t give in to any pressure or bullying.
It was while working at Old Navy while in college that she realized the power of fashion.
Renee spent her days at Old Navy style co-workers and it was then that she began to realize how many women tend to downplay their femininity.
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She had never given much thought to it before since she leaned into hers through fashion from an early age.
But the feelings other women had about their femininity were the same as Renee had when it came to her own geekiness.
“I think as women we tend to belittle ourselves because over time people dampen our enthusiasm,” she said. “You don’t want to appear too conceited or too frivolous, so we tend to downplay our interests or our femininity.”
After community college, she studied social science at San Diego State University, which qualified her to teach high school history, economics, and political science.
She also found a way to incorporate fashion into her lesson plans.
“Looking at rationing during World War II, I used actual clothing from the era to show how rationing was implemented and what we could understand about society at the time by looking at the clothing” , she said.
Meanwhile, being the first woman of color to win the Her Universe fashion show led her to pursue her Master of Arts in the Material Culture program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
UNL offered her an assistant position, and Renee moved to the Midwest, which she describes as a bit of a culture shock, but in the best possible way.
Now in her final semester of the graduate program, the self-taught designer is working on her next line, which she calls, “A Woman’s Place is in Resistance.”
The line focuses on female fandom and fashion as a means of fan expression.
She plans to use Star Wars as a specific case study for her inspiration, examining how women are using fashion to navigate fandom. Her designs will be similar to some of her previous geek sewing work.
Going to social media platforms and discussing favorite quotes, images and moments with her community is another part of her design process.
“You have to take up space to make space,” Renee says, and that’s why she intends to honor women in fandom through this line.
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