Jedi trappings complete the fan
Ashley Eckstein takes on her character Ahsoka's unique Jedi look.
March 6th, 2012
12:10 PM ET

Jedi trappings complete the fan

Editor's note: Ashley Eckstein, founder of the Her Universe line of apparel and accessories for fangirls, is a huge fangirl herself. Her devotion to "Star Wars" extends far beyond the four seasons of voice acting she's logged on "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," which airs on Cartoon Network. The show's season finale will air March 9 at 8 p.m. ET/PT. (Cartoon Network, like CNN, is owned by parent company Time Warner.) Eckstein's love of the character she plays in the cartoon series, Ahsoka Tano, fostered a growing desire to dress up as Ahsoka. This is her account of reaching that goal.

For kids, it’s completely normal to dress up in costume.

When I was a little girl, I used to dress up all the time, and not just for Halloween. We had a giant dress-up bag full of costumes! My sister and I would tear through that bag during playtime, and every day we were different characters.

We had beautiful princess dresses, a pirate costume, a Punky Brewster outfit, a Cousin Itt costume from "The Addams Family," an authentic Disney Alice in Wonderland dress (my favorite!) and, as seen in the photo below, a Karate Kid costume. I was a total tomboy and for my school pictures, I insisted on wearing my Karate Kid uniform.

Why, then, is it considered nerdy, weird or socially unacceptable by the general population for adults to dress up as their favorite characters, outside of Halloween?

As any true fanboy or fangirl knows, dressing up in costume is called “cosplay,” and, as adults, many of us take this hobby very seriously. We spend hours perfecting these costumes and find a lot of pride and joy in debuting our works at local conventions or events. Go to Dragon*Con in Atlanta and you will behold some of the most amazing costumes you’ve ever seen, complete with a parade through the downtown streets showcasing the meticulous work of many hardcore fans.

I bring this up because, at times, I feel as if I live in two separate worlds that seem completely different but the fans are actually more alike than they think.

My husband, David Eckstein, played Major League Baseball for 10 seasons, and during that time I probably went to about 1,000 baseball games. I live the life of a sci-fi loving fangirl and also the life of a passionate sports fan.

Eckstein dressed as the Karate Kid for a school portrait.

Almost every time I tell someone outside of my geeky world about the fact that I go to sci-fi conventions, I am usually met with a rude comment similar to, “Do you see a lot of freaks dressed up in costumes?”

Excuse me!? Why is this freaky? Why is it weird? I cannot even begin to tell you all of the creative ways I’ve seen sports fans dress up at games. I’ve seen guys who body paint their bare chests with their favorite team’s colors, people dressed up as their team’s mascot, lots of face paint, temporary tattoos, crazy hats, wild color-coordinating outfits. Some fans practically look like clowns the way they are decked out head to toe in support of their favorite team.

So I ask - Please tell me how this is any different than a sci-fi fan showing up at a convention in costume. The difference is that one form of dressing up is widely socially accepted and the other is not. However, both types of fans are passionate about the genre that they love, and they want to express themselves through what they wear. I actually see a lot of common ground between the two fan bases, and there is no difference to me. I fall into both fan bases, and I have elaborate sports outfits for all of the teams my husband has played for.

I also enjoy dressing up as my favorite characters, and I had the ultimate cosplay experience a couple of months ago.

For the first time, I got to dress up as Ahsoka Tano from "Star Wars: The Clone Wars." For those of you who don’t know, I am the voice of Ahsoka for the hit animated series on Cartoon Network, but I am also a major "Star Wars" fan.

As the voice of Ahsoka, I simply go into the recording studio and record my lines for the show. There is no need to ever dress up as the character, because they only need our voices to bring the character to life.

However, I am also a fan, and year after year I have been going to conventions, seeing hundreds of girls dressed up as Ahsoka, and secretly wishing I, too, could someday try on the costume. Well, with the help of my friends, my wish was granted, and I got to dress up as Ahsoka for the day! This was just me, as a fan, having fun!

All of a sudden, I reverted back to when I was a little girl. I wanted to have a light saber battle and help save the galaxy! I really felt like I was a Jedi. I felt strong, and it was very empowering.

Then it hit me: As a little girl, I could only dream about being these fantastical characters and saving the world, but as an adult, I realized I could actually BE a real-life Jedi and do great things. For example, the 501st Legion and The Rebel Legion are both worldwide groups of "Star Wars" fans who dress up in costume, raise an enormous amount of money for multiple charities every year, and attend all sorts of events bringing smiles to everyone they come in contact with. They have taken their love of cosplay and turned it into an opportunity to change people’s lives.

Unfortunately, I don’t own the Ahsoka costume in these photos, and sitting through four hours of makeup is not something that I can do on a daily basis.  But being in costume for the day made me realize that I don’t have to just dream about being a superhero  I have the power to be a real life superhero. I have the power to control my destiny, make my own decisions, do so much good with my time, and live my life the Jedi way.

You don’t have to dress up as your favorite character to change the world; however, it’s certainly more fun in costume!

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    My home is in New Haven, Connecticut.

    April 17, 2012 at 12:07 am |
  8. Margaret

    JP, this was a really hard list to come up with for me, bsaucee I know so few geeky costumes! However, some runner ups were Leeloo from 5th element and one of yours, 7 0f 9. Both of which, I have no idea who they are. hehe

    April 14, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
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  12. River Song

    Great Costume!!! My daughter loves your character and I want her to be proud to dress up as Ahsoka and any other character that empowers her!

    April 3, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  13. goblinmoon

    Thanks Ashley! You're a wonderful example to people, both 'mundane' and fan. As an older female fan who dealt with a lot of grief for liking geek and 'boy' things, I do really appreciate the fact that this seems to starting to change.. finally.

    March 26, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  14. TK1945

    Thanks for sharing these pics! You look amazing! I'm only disappointed we couldn't hear you speak in this costume.

    You should really consider getting your own costume and trooping with us 501st and Rebel Legion members. I'm sure you would make some Make-a-Wish kids very happy.

    Oh, and ignore the comments from juvenile internet trolls.

    March 12, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Just a Dude

      I'd hit that

      March 21, 2012 at 10:53 am |
  15. Deadpool, AzA/ECA

    Indeed !!!
    We are so happy that you got to do this !
    Perhaps you shall be able to cosplay with us on a regular basis !!

    We agree about the 501st and the Rebel Legion, both are fantastic groups to be able to do Good things with cosplay.
    We have the Avengers Initiative, a Superhero group that does the same.
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    We hope to see you out and about soon !!

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    March 10, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  16. Robert

    Jenna (the dog) is telling Ben (the dog) not too look at me. So he bites his neck.

    March 8, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • Robert

      I mean she bites he kneck, because he a stubborn chocolate lab

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  17. YodaMac

    Best Ahsoka costume I've seen so far. Well done! (and your Clone Wars acting aint bad neither!) Yay Ahsoka!
    :)

    March 7, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
  18. Mycroft_Holmes

    Please let there be a video of her, in character, in a lightsaber duel.
    My inner fanboy would probably pass out from excitement
    Oh, and thank you for a great post Ashley!

    March 7, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
  19. Reece

    Thank you for this article. I have always harbored the thought that people wearing official sports jerseys are cosplaying too, even if they don't know it.

    March 7, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  20. Stompy

    I got to work with Ashley at a sci fi convention in Irving TX and can tell you she's such a sweetheart.

    March 7, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  21. Mr. Myxlptlkx

    She should have painted a large "L" in the middle of her forehead. That would be FOR LOSER!!

    March 7, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • JediPug1

      Well...You're the only loser I see around here, so where do you have your "L" painted?

      March 7, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • Mike

      Takes all kinds, my man; takes all kinds...

      March 7, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
      • Pasquale

        Kat, thanks for the kind words! Yes, this list was hard for me. I posed the qutseion on Facebook and Twitter and got lots of responses where I was like, What? Who is that? I like to let people know which ones I was actually familiar with and which ones I had no idea who they were! I'm with you on costumes like Wonder Woman.Costumes like the Black Widow, # 10, were picks from Facebook. I have never seen Iron Man though!

        April 8, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • Roarin1

      This from a guy who uses a comic book character as a screen name. Sarcasm much?

      March 7, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
      • Yossarian

        It should just be a matter of getting him to say his own name twice. Then he'll disappear again.

        March 7, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • Matthew

      Try and be polite, if you know what the word means....

      March 7, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • fretlessbass

      Thanks for explaining yourself Mr. M. We may have never caught your drift otherwise...

      March 7, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
  22. Oh my

    Ahsoka is probably the one character that Ashley would be told she's too fat to portray in real life

    March 7, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  23. Very slick

    Great job, would love to know what she shelled out, or at least what the value of it cost as she probably got it done for free, for a makeup job like that is. Only issue, and a small one, is that the hair makes it look cartoonish. I would have preferred a more real life interpretation of a cartoon character. Oh, and does Ahsoka really ever really use 2 light sabers? :)

    March 7, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Actually

      Looking at it again, the makeup job is actually well done, but pretty simple. Not sure what exactly took 4 hours to do. My sons Darth Maul for halloween was spot on and only took about 30 minutes.

      March 7, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Baxter

      This looks awesome and I'd wondered if Eckstein had done this already.
      Clearly some people don't know anything about and haven't seen Ahsoka. Yes she has used two lightsabers, and there is no hair on her head, and just because your kid's Halloween costume took 30 minutes to slap together for some trick-or-treating instead of a picture that would be scrutinized by thousands and look really good, doesn't mean any make-up job would only take that amount of time. Jeez.

      March 8, 2012 at 2:33 am |
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  24. Jon

    Talk about worlds colliding, my son and I are huge Clone Wars fans and I have been a fan of the Pest since his days with the Angels! Had no idea you two were married! Love the article and couldn't agree more. We just took our son to see the 501st (Vader, Boba Fett & Storm Troopers) at a local library, where they were collecting non-perishables for a local soup kitchen. What a nice bunch of guys, great with the kids and doing what they love to benefit charity. Keep up the good work on our favorite show!

    March 7, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  25. star warrior

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    March 7, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • fretlessbass

      because Superman isn't real

      March 7, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
      • Chris

        and Jedi are?

        March 23, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  26. Sir

    Sportsfans don't think they can save the world with their mind. Jedi is a made up profesion with amde up skills. Sportsfans just like being off their rocker.

    March 7, 2012 at 9:53 am |
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  27. RAGE against the Machine!

    Wait till you see a 500-lb slave Leia at dragon-con. then you will know how ridiculous these nut jobs are!

    March 7, 2012 at 8:55 am |
  28. Reds

    I'm one of those "freaks" at dragon*con. And I don't care. It took me years to embrace my geekiness, and I'm proud of the fact that I am a fangirl. I dont think the fact that I am able to recite LOTR, Disney, Indiana Jones or Star Wars lines is any different than a sports fan who can tell you the entire history of one player. It's all how in how you tick. I was able to meet you and Tom Kane at D*Con in 2011, and it was definitely a pleasure. Ashley - thank you for what you are doing. I wish I would have had a role model like yourself when I was playing in the driveway with lightsabres when I was 7, or even when I was picked on by a guy I was dating at 23 because I was a fangirl. He didn't last long. ;)

    March 7, 2012 at 8:21 am |
  29. ICloner

    I love Star Wars , this Asoka Tano is beautiful

    March 7, 2012 at 8:07 am |
  30. Grumpster

    The chic in the pic is hot...but I can't wait until some fat slob Star Wars nerd puts this on and looks like the total doofus he/she really is.

    March 7, 2012 at 8:07 am |
    • CN Red

      Yup, totally hot.

      March 7, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • Leo

      Just like those fat couch-potato football fans look like complete fools when they go to games shirtless, with their bodies painted crazy colors? Seriously, get a grip, and let us geeks have our fun. If you don't like it, go elsewhere.

      Also, many of us cosplayers are aware of "costume to body type." We find costumes and characters that work with our body types. For example, I'm short, and I've become well-known for cosplaying short male characters, including Frodo and Harry Potter. My wife is tall and curvy, and instead of trying to squeeze into a ridiculous anime schoolgirl costume (she's too smart for that), she cosplays as Princess Fiona from Shrek, and she looks amazing.

      March 7, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  31. Buzzzzzz

    I'm a bee.

    March 7, 2012 at 7:44 am |
  32. Autumn

    OH MY FORCE! So much epicness!! You look amazing, and I agree. COSPLAYERS AND ROLPLAYERS ARE THE BEST. ;) If sports fans can be crazy, we can be CRAZIER!! :D Ashley is my favorite actress, and my role model. AND I'M 16!! Who cares about Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus as role models; ASHLEY ECKSTEIN, MATT LANTER, and JAMES ARNOLD TAYLOR ALL THE WAY!!!!!

    May the Force be with you all, and I'll see you at Celebration VI (in costume, of course!!)!!

    Autumn
    (aka Tahiri Veila)

    March 6, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
  33. samacwns

    It is Ashoka!! You look terrific!!

    March 6, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  34. Andrew Greeson

    Cool a great article thanks to Ashley. As a proud member of the 501st it is always nice to be recognized for what we do and not just as those nuts in costume.

    March 6, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
  35. Andrew555

    Ima tweet this out to all my followers. I have an old TNG-era Star Trek uniform (command red, of course) with captain's pips. I also wish I had the time, energy and money to put together a World of Warcraft paladin "Judgement" outfit.

    As for the author, bravo, great article, and I enjoyed the photos. You can be sure I will fap to this when I get home from work tonight. Cheers.

    March 6, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
  36. Maverick

    I get laughed at because I have a Starfleet uniform hanging in my closet and I have an avid interest in Trek. But you know what? I don't take antidepressants. I am not emotionally unstable. I have a job AND don't live in my parent's basement.

    The point? We may dress and act like characters (when appropriate), but we're normal, healthy, productive members of society. We contribute, we are successful, and we love it.

    And we feel sorry for the straight-laced tight-as*ed realists who cannot stretch beyond themselves and have FUN!

    March 6, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  37. Crosis101

    Every year, it seems, GENCON is held during the the weekend that is usually the first Indianapolis Colts home practice game. Down the hallways the Links, Batmen and Jedi pass people in blue and silver paint, wearing jearsies of teams they will never play for. Both groups pass eachother and look at eachother like "you are the weirdest people I have ever seen" and I laugh. On my jacket I have an Apollo 11 patch and an Enterprise patch among others. When people ask I say it is like wearing the jearsie of my favorite team, I may not ever play for them, but I admire them, and instead of winning the Supervisor, my team went to the moon.

    March 6, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  38. Lila

    Great article even though I'm an Asajj Ventress fan myself.

    March 6, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  39. AnokWati

    Awesome article! It's sad that you are correct: It's socially acceptable to emulate sports figures (many of whom lead deplorable lives) vs. dressing up as someone aspiring to be the best they can and helping people (as Ahsoka). But people who want to BE like such characters are the same people who do their best to make life better for others, again as you referenced in your article. Keep up the good work explaining to the "close minded" ones what it means to try to emulate a hero (whether real or imaginary) vs. tearing down those who wish to be better.

    March 6, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  40. IMAJEDI

    Wow, looks like a character straight off the silver screen!

    March 6, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  41. vel

    Great look! Ahsoka is the only reason to watch Clone Wars. I do hope that the story has that she and Rex & Co. depart the known galaxy, leaving the rather clueless Jedi and Empire behind.

    March 6, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  42. That80sGuy

    Thanks for summing up how many of us adults feel about our costumes and our fandom. You look great in the costume. BTW ;-) Seeya around the con!

    March 6, 2012 at 1:53 pm |