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Revenge of the Nerds: Geek Chic Fashion

Scottish actress Karen Gillan's character Amy Pond on the cult sci-fi show Doctor Who encourages style that isn't just limited to Comic-Con; Luella's Spring 2008 collection showcased designs inspired by indie graphic-novel-turned-movie Ghost World; Natalie Portman on the set of Hesher channels major nerd style

Bow ties. Thick-rimmed glasses. Cozy sweater vests and suspenders. These are the fashion choices that in middle school would have you branded as unstylish, and possibly gotten your books knocked out of your arms in a crowded high school hallway (à la every teen movie ever). Every few years, designers choose to embrace the "geek chic" look in a major way, like Tracy Reese's Fall 2009 collection, full of preppy knee-high socks and horn-rimmed glasses. Even makeup guru Bobbi Brown's Tortoise Shell Collection from last fall drew inspiration from collegiate style. And of course, there's J.Crew creative director Jenna Lyons, who embodies the quirky-glam girl look like no other. And so do her collections.

"The past few years in fashion have been just as much about quirkiness and borrowed-from-the-boys geeky styling than they have been about bodycon silhouettes and overt sexuality," says Shannon Davenport, Editor of Women and Juniors trends for Stylesight. "Right now, lots of designers are interested in re-appropriating menswear for women, and this works well for a school-boy type style."

Geek chic on the runway mainly consists of these preppy bowtie-and-blazer looks, and dressing as though intellect itself were a fashion accessory. The current trends in fashion point toward menswear as womenswear, a cornerstone of the nerdy-cool look, and the style is as easy to emulate on the street as throwing a fitted blazer over a dress or slipping into a pair of heeled Oxfords. The women's collections of British fashion darling J.W. Anderson, for instance, consists of mostly traditional school boy looks, including stiff button-up collars under fuzzy crew neck sweaters, paisley tie fabric (used in dresses), and lace-up boots. While his clothes are special, they're not difficult to draw (more affordable) inspiration from.

Yet geek chic off the runway seems to take two very distinct types of style: there's the aforementioned collegiate look that designers seem to adore, but also fashion that takes its inspiration from the nerd culture that sprung up in the early '90s and still means something today. (Like Poké Ball-shaped purses, LEGO adorned sunglasses, and crop-tops emblazoned with your favorite superhero's face.) Now it's difficult to find a girl who can't point to one pixel-patterned accessory in her closet that's totally reminiscent of early video games.

So whether your style icon is someone like self-proclaimed geek and Harvard grad Natalie Portman, or maybe her Star Wars character Queen Padmé Amidala instead, there's no wrong way to be a proud nerd.

Samantha is an Emerson College student whose own style icons include Doctor Who's Amy Pond and Ghost World's Enid Coleslaw. You can check out her geeky blog at doctorwhoproblems.tumblr.com

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