Ashley Eckstein's work on The Clone Wars inspired her to create Her Universe, a Star Wars clothing line for women. "When I first started working on the show," she said, "I scoured the Internet and the stores looking for female Star Wars merchandise, and really I found a lack of it... And so I started doing my research and found that there was a lack of merchandise across the board for all things sci-fi. And I thought that we had to do something about that, because I've met so many amazing women [who] wanted to show off their fandom as much as the guys did, and they wanted to wear something that was made and designed for a woman."
Her Universe, which launched in June 2010, currently sells Star Wars T-shirts, earrings, and even Boba Fett underwear. The line will be branching out into other sci-fi franchises, said Eckstein, which will be unveiled at the 2011 San Diego ComiCon. "We have some new jewelry pieces coming out," said Eckstein. "Right now we have a pair of earrings that are in the shape of the Imperial logo. What I think is so great about that is that if you're not a Star Wars fan, you look at those earrings and you think that they're snowflakes... That's kind of the goal of our line, is to bring sci-fi symbols and images onto a piece of merchandise that you can wear every day. You can dress them up and wear them to a business meeting, or you can wear them on the convention floor."
Kid-sized Her Universe T-shirts will first be available at Star Wars weekends in May and June, where Eckstein is hosting the behind-the-scenes show Clone Wars: Behind the Force. "Because of The Clone Wars, there are so many young girls that are now fans of Star Wars," she said. "And so they're going to be able to show off their Star Wars pride as well. Because right now, there's nothing for the little girls."
Eckstein was one of many Star Wars fans who reached out to Katie, a young girl who was bullied for liking Star Wars. "I think we all can relate to her," she said. "I was different in school. I was a tomboy, I was the only girl on the baseball team, and I definitely got taunts for that... It was amazing to see the fans reach out to her, and I was so proud to be a Star Wars fan during that time, just to see how we all rallied around her."
So what is it that attracts women to Star Wars? Is it different than what attracts male Star Wars fans? "I got a lot of questions," said Eckstein, "when I said, 'I'm making a Star Wars line for women and girls.' People asked me -- one of their first questions was, 'Really? Girls like Star Wars?'... They would say, 'Well, what do girls like about it?'; and my question back to them was, 'Well, what is there not to like about it?'... [It's] a story about hope, and a love story. I don't know why wouldn't a girl like that. I think it's been labeled as a boys' property for so long, but if you look at several of the elements, there are several elements of the story that speak directly to women."
Not that women can't also love all the lightsaber fights and space battles in Star Wars. "I was one of them," Eckstein said. "I didn't want to play My Little Ponies with the girls on the playground. I wanted to play tag with the boys. I was much more of a rough-and-tumble, never brush my hair, never wear a dress type of girl. Playing a stormtrooper on the playground was more my style. And I think you have a lot of girls that are like that today, that would rather play Star Wars: The Clone Wars on the playground than play with their Barbies with the other girls."
Eckstein credits Ahsoka for attracting more young, female fans to Star Wars. "This is the first Jedi that's been focused on as a lead character that's a girl. There's female Jedi all over the movies, but they're never put in a prominent, lead role position. And now that there is a female character that [the girls can be], when they play Clone Wars on the playground... I think that giving that character for the girls to relate to and the girls to root for has really bridged the gap and opened up the door for more young girls to be Star Wars fans. It's something I'm really excited about, and I wish I had the character of Ahsoka to play when I was a girl."