Houston Community College Brings Couture to Comicpalooza

Houston Community College Brings Couture to Comicpalooza
Photo by Erik Mclean / Unsplash

The line between a superhero costume and a fashion statement is razor thin and, at Houston’s Comicpalooza, it will disappear entirely thanks to a joint venture between Houston First and Houston Community College.

Comic Couture is a competition between HCC design students for an opportunity to showcase their talents at the comic and pop culture convention this Memorial Day weekend. Comicpalooza regularly draws over 40,000 visitors a year, making it a perfect chance for creations to be seen by a wide audience. Designers are encouraged to draw from popular superheroes, anime, and other geek properties to create couture outfits. 

Attendees will vote throughout the weekend on the best outfit. The winner will walk away with $1,000 grand prize.

“It’s just a different perspective on things,” says Andrea Bonner, Chair of Consumer Arts and Science. “I think a lot of people say fashion, and people think immediately ready-to-wear. One thing that I always tell students is to think outside of the box. So, I was really glad that they approached us about this. Comics, anime, all of those genres are huge, and you know. I’m hoping that some students will be inspired.” 

So far, it looks like that wish will be granted. Denise Arredondo is finishing her second year at HCC, balancing her fashion dreams with being a mom to three kids. Her creation is a high fashion goth outfit inspired by Alastor of Hazbin Hotel. The dandy demon is a fan favorite of the animated hit Netflix show because of his charming manners and sartorial flair. He reminds Arredondo of her own father.

“He’s always smiling, whether all Hell’s coming or good time,” she says.

Arredondo’s outfit is a satin top in various shades of red, accented with large billowy sleeves, a skirt that opens in the front, and a small waist cincher. She acknowledges that it looks like something one would buy at the Renaissance Festival but is proud of having made it.

“I feel like the opportunities are endless,” she says. “Like, when I was drawing out my design for Alastor, I was having a lot of fun with it. I’ve not made anything from a sketch that I made personally, so this has been a really big challenge.”

Bailey Reber is coming at the challenge using one of the most beloved superheroes of all time. Her short red dress is overlayed with floor-length black webs, and is meant to imitate Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. 

Reber herself is not much of a Marvel fan, but her husband is, and Spidey is his favorite. Because of that, she’s seen all the films and grown very familiar with the wall-crawler’s style. Her vision was for Gwen Stacy or a gender-swapped Peter Parker to have something appropriate to wear for a fancy event.

“I’m just picturing her at a gala, or a Spider-Man appreciation night,” she says. “I’m so excited. This is so much exposure that I otherwise probably never would receive. 

Reber will be heading to Spider-Man’s traditional home of New York City next June to finish her bachelor’s degree at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She hopes to follow in the footsteps of Yves Saint Laurent and open her own house.

“I know it’s big and lofty, but I want to do it,” she says, echoing a sentiment expressed by many a superhero. 

The competition will be fierce. Bonner will be closely watching the submission to make sure HCC is well represented. Those designs that are displayed at the convention will showcase that the community college can and does produce impressive fashion creators.

“I think a lot of people aren’t even aware HCC has a fashion program,” she says. “We have a lot of students that will go and work for the ballet, the opera things, like that. Superheroes are perfect for them to learn that.”

Comicpalooza is May 24-26 in Houston at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Tickets and more information can be found on their website.