Interview with designer Catherine Elhoffer

Elhoffer Design - Rebel Fighter dress (modelled by Jessica LG)

Today’s Mos Eisley Marketplace article features Star Wars fan and geek fashion designer Catherine Elhoffer, of Elhoffer Design. Catherine currently has three Star Wars inspired dresses available on Etsy – the Jedi inspired ‘Galactic Knight’ dress (see our earlier feature here), the Rey inspired ‘Galactic Scavenger’ dress, and the X-Wing pilot inspired ‘Galactic Fighter’ dress. All three are available in sizes XS to 3XL – Elhoffer Design can ship internationally!

As well as the above designs, Catherine also works on customer commissions, and has made some truly stunning Star Wars dresses inspired by Captain Phasma, BB-8, C-3PO, First Order Stormtrooper, Kylo Ren, Poe Dameron, and more! You can contact Catherine via her website here, if you’re interested in commissioning a garment.

Elhoffer Design was founded by Catherine Elhoffer to create higher-end apparel for high quality geeks. The geek fashion world is saturated with clothing, but there are still gaps in the market that she hopes to fill by designing and sewing pieces that flatter the body, pulling from modern fashion trends, and helping her fellow geeks of the world to be both stylish and chic (and maybe to fit in amongst the muggles). She prefers a subtle geek nod in her designs, using silhouette, color, texture, and lines to tell the geek story. Catherine hand-makes her custom pieces in her Los Angeles-based studio. Every now and then she can be lured into the menswear world as well, often with cookies.

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elhofferdesignlogo Ehoffer Design - Galactic Scavenger dress (modelled by Sam Skyler)

I recently had the incredible opportunity to ask Catherine a few question about her geek fashion label Elhoffer Design, her favourite Star Wars fashion items, and her design inspirations. It’s wonderful to see a talented Star Wars fashion fan creating garments that look amazing on people of all sizes, with a skillful blend of costume inspiration and real world wearability. Read on for the full interview – and photos of her amazing work!

How long have you been creating Star Wars inspired fashion?

I’ve been making pieces inspired by Star Wars for… a while. I know Force Awakens really launched my brand into the stratosphere, but I’ve been making my own personal pieces for years. I used to wear pieces in high school that reminded me of Mara Jade and Jaina Solo, my two favorite EU characters. My current pieces I’ve been making since December of 2015.

Elhoffer Design - BB-8 dress (modelled by Jessica LG) Elhoffer Design - C-3PO dress (modelled by Jessica LG)

What inspired you to start designing and creating geek fashion?

So I’m a bigger girl, generally an XL. There hasn’t been much made for my size in the geek clothing world; most everything is Juniors sized (Which, since I’m short, can work, but I have to go a few sizes up) or plus sized, which is too big for me and often is made for women with a much larger chest than I have. So I started making my own pieces. I’m a huge geek, always have been always will be. And I want to be able to show off my love of the characters and universes I want to live in, which I think is what draws us all into the geek fashion world. Thankfully, I’m a pretty strong seamstress, so I’ve been able to make the pieces I’ve sketched out, which then only makes me want to make even more. It’s a vicious cycle.

Elhoffer Design - Captain Phasma dress (modelled by Lauren of 'Castle Corsetry')

What are some of your favourite Star Wars fashion items in your wardrobe or wishlist (can be something you’ve made/plan to make)?

I have a hat coming from Korea that has me SUPER excited. It’s from 59fifty, and it’s Poe’s Helmet as a snap back! It’s so clever and when I saw it I DIED! And I have some Han Cholo pieces to accessorize my subtle looks. I think I’ve tossed out all the pieces I used to wear with screen print, as I just don’t like print like that. And I have an Empire Strikes Back shirt that appeared in my wardrobe after a visit to the laundromat, and I think it’s the only Tee I wear.

Elhoffer Design - Poe Dameron inspired dress concept sketch Elhoffer Design - Rey inspired dress concept sketch Elhoffer Design - Kylo Ren inspired dress concept sketch Elhoffer Design - BB-8 inspired dress concept sketch

Do you have any particular favourite Star Wars fashion brands (licensed or fan made)?

So I adore Volante Designs, who make amazing outwear and menswear, and they have an amazing piece that is perfect for modern Jedi and Sith. And I love what Musterbrand did with their Star Wars jacket collection. Most every other licensed company uses too much print for my tastes. I don’t like wearing things with ‘Star Wars’ across my chest, or rebel symbols all over. I’ve been told I’m a very picky person when it comes to fashion.

Elhoffer Design - Rey inspired dress concept sketch Elhoffer Design - Kylo Ren inspired dress concept sketch Elhoffer Design - X-Wing pilot inspired dress concept sketch Elhoffer Design - Stormtrooper inspired dress concept sketch

Some of your recent designs include Rey, Poe Dameron, Princess Leia, and Captain Phasma dresses. Do you take inspiration from your favourite characters, or are you more drawn to specific costumes?

I’m incredibly drawn to costume over character. I’m a trained costume designer, working for years in film/web/theater, so translating a costume piece back to the fashion world is just second nature to me. I’m not a huge Boba Fett fan, but I was flipping through the new Star Wars costume book that came out, and I came to a turnaround of his look, and the dress that I needed to make just flashed in my mind. I sketched it, and made it, and I’m thrilled. I love Han Solo, but I can’t seem to come up with a piece I’m excited to make inspired by him. So I can’t always make pieces for the characters I love. When I made the bulk of my Force Awakens pieces the movie hadn’t even been released, so I was going just based on visual inspiration.

Elhoffer Design - Boba Fett dress concept sketch Elhoffer Design - Boba Fett dress (modelled by Chloe Dykstra)

Do you have a personal favourite design from your own range of Star Wars inspired apparel?

I really love the dress I’ve made based on Rey’s vest at the end of TFA. It’s so simple, just some shoulder detailing and princess seams, but the fabric (a thick, double scuba) and the clean lines are just everything! I love pieces that can fit in around people who may not be avid fans, and I think that dress is the epitome of subtle Geek fashion, as I’ve had a ton of people telling me that they’d wear the dress just because it’s a great shape and fit, and when I tell them it’s based on Rey’s Resistance look, they get even more excited. I also have both a Leia and Padme inspired dresses I’ll be making soon, and they’re going to be really cool. Oh, and I made a Trooper hoodie that I also really loved. Actually, I really love all the things I’ve made. It’s hard to pick a favorite!

Elhoffer Design - Galactic Scavenger flared skirt dress Elhoffer Design - Galactic Scavenger flared skirt dress

Your designs all appear very comfortable to wear, and look great on women of all sizes – what sort of fabrics do you typically use for your garments?

Thank you!! Comfort is important to me, almost as much as making pieces that flatter a variety of sizes. I actually really hate modern fashion, and when I watch a fashion show I just want to roll my eyes. Very rarely are there actual wearable pieces that you can walk down the street in, and if you’re over a size 6 it’s a crap shoot if you’d look good in it.
As for my textiles, I’m really drawn to techno scuba, as it’s a stretchy but thick fabric, and has a really cool drape for skirts and capes. I am making a blazer and matching dress out of a heavyweight Ponte Roma, which is another stretchy fabric but it’s very soft yet strong.

Elhoffer Design - Rey inspired dress Elhoffer Design - Rey inspired dress

Can customers commission you for custom garments inspired by their favourite character, even if you haven’t created a version yet?

Yes! I charge a design fee to sit down and sketch up an idea (if I haven’t already), and that also is because I’ve had people run off with my designs and try to get someone else to make it. Then, if they like it, I quote them a construction price and bring it to life! I don’t think I’ve had a single client upset by this system, often they’re shocked by how I made it happen. There are times that I’m just not inspired by a character or look, and I tell the client up-front. If I’m not inspired, then there really isn’t much point pushing forward. At the end of the day, if I’m not feeling it, I don’t want to make it. I like to think of what I do as ‘fun’, not work. I tried ‘work’, it was horrible and beat me down both in body and spirit. I like to keep this as fun, even if it’s paying my bills, because it just makes life more enjoyable.

Elhoffer Design - Couture Vader concept sketch Elhoffer Design - Couture Vader (modelled by Geek Piñata) Elhoffer Design - Couture Vader (modelled by Geek Piñata)

Which is the best way for fans to get in touch with you regarding purchasing an item?

The best is through my website, as I have a little form that helps me understand more about the client! I have a small stock of items for sale on my website, too! I’m always happy to reply through social media DM, too, but email is the best.

Elhoffer Design - Stormtrooper inspired dress Elhoffer Design - Stormtrooper inspired dress (modelled by Sara Cimino)

Many thanks to Catherine for her time in answering my questions. I’m just in love with her collection, and can’t wait to see what new Star Wars designs she will create. With style, comfort and subtle Star Wars influence in each design, every fan needs a Elhoffer Design garment in their wardrobe!

Elhoffer Design - Kylo Ren inspired dress  Elhoffer Design - Kylo Ren inspired dress

Photos supplied by and belong to Catherine Elhoffer/Elhoffer Design.