“I was seeing all these amazing costumes around me,” explains Charlotte Baker (Char Cosplay) on her first experience to a convention. “It made me want to improve and create bigger and better cosplays with each convention I went to.”
After attending her first convention in 2010, Charlotte was motivated to make her own costume for the next one she attended the following year and has been cosplaying ever since. She has cosplayed characters such as Alois Trancy, Princess Tutu, Princess Aurora and Princess Peach. She is also a member of the dance group Cinnamon Purin.
Our interview was conducted at MCM London Comic Con, where Charlotte was cosplaying as Ariel from Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Upon meeting her I went along to a photoshoot she had scheduled. She later changed out of her cosplay, but kept the theme of the character present, wearing a T-shirt that said, “I’m really a mermaid.” She was in good spirits as we talked about how she started her cosplay journey, the reactions she has had when cosplaying, and starting a princess party business.
Who have you been cosplaying at MCM London?
Ariel from The Little Mermaid.
You’ve been cosplaying since May 2011.
Yes, it’s been such a long while. I actually cannot believe it’s been so many years now. Really, it just flies by.
What was it that got you interested in cosplay?
I think it was more that I just really wanted to bring to life the character. The first convention that I went to was in 2010 and I was just surrounded by all these amazing costumes. I really hadn’t been exposed to [something like that]… coming from Surrey. There was nothing in Surrey for cosplayers (laughs).
So in May 2011, it was my first MCM. I decided to cosplay Yuuki from Vampire Knight. It was such a rubbish cosplay. Looking back now it was like the worst thing ever, but at the time it was like the best thing. I felt really good at the time.
What was the reaction and experience like for you when cosplaying for the first time?
It was really surreal. This sounds really sad, but I remember for a week or two before [the convention] I’d be constantly trying it on and wearing it casually around the house (laughs).
Okay, what was the reaction like at home?
My mum was like, ‘What are you doing? This is quite strange.’ But she was the one helping me sew everything, so I was trying to be really nice to her. But my dad was quite supportive of me. He’s got quite a geeky side to him, whereas my mum really has nothing to do with that at all, other than just sewing in general. She was like, ‘Why do you want to spend money doing this thing? Making a costume?’ (laughs). I was like, ‘Just let me do this one thing and then you’ll see.’
From the actual convention, [my dad] took me to my first MCM convention in 2011. His feedback was really positive too when we came back. He was just talking about all these different, amazing cosplays and so was I. My mum finally realised that it’s not just me being really weird, but there’s a whole community of us doing it together. I had no idea there was such a massive community. I thought it was really tiny. It’s really strange looking back now. It’s so odd (laughs).
Because I’m a student, I don’t want the whole of my student loan to be taken up buying expensive fabrics, even though that’s what I really dream to do (laughs). I’ve got other things to save up for. I try to not cheapskate the outfit, but I try to budget. Not like cut corners, but try to be the most cost effective I can.
Rather than buying really expensive accessories that people from Etsy have made, I try to recreate them myself. My Princess Aurora cosplay, the crown and the necklace, they’re not as perfect as I wanted them to be, but it was so much cheaper for me to make them myself and learn the skills with that rather than buying it off Etsy for £50 (laughs).
In the future, are those accessories something you would remake again?
I definitely want to remake Aurora. Pretty much every cosplay I’ve done, afterwards I’m thinking, ‘I want to remake that again and make it a lot better.’ Because I’ve learnt so many skills making it, I won’t mess up so much making it the next time (laughs).
There have been some outfits where I’ve learnt a lot, mainly the princess ones. With my last three cosplays I feel like I’ve really learnt the most and I’m more motivated to sew it myself rather than ask for help. I used to rely on my mum a lot for help, but now I’ve motivated myself to learn properly how to sew. So… that’s good (laughs).
What has been your most expensive cosplay to create?
(Long pause) I’d probably say Ariel. I bought the wig and then I bought loads of wefts to go in it and then all the accessories. I’d probably say Ariel also was the most time consuming one I’ve done. Sewing on all those little pearls was so painstakingly hard and just… urgh. Yeah, Ariel was the most expensive and required the most amount of fabric.
How much would you say it came up to?
You never thought about it?
No, I haven’t! It’s really strange. You buy all these things and you’re like, ‘Oh, that’s alright for that piece of fabric.’ I probably should total it all up. Um… (laughs). I don’t know if it would even be like £100. It’s not like a ridiculous amount. Most of it is just the time it takes me to make everything really (laughs).
Is that still your favourite?
I don’t know. Ariel was really fun to wear today. But I have worn Siesta 00 the most. But it’s also quite bad, because that’s one of the only cosplays that I’ve actually bought, surprisingly enough. At that time I didn’t have enough time to actually make a cosplay, because I was doing A-level finals, but I still wanted that cosplay (laughs).
I’m going to say Ariel is now my favourite to wear. I think Ariel’s creeping ahead.
What is it about Ariel or her costume that stands out for you?
(Pauses) I like to think Ariel’s quite over the top, with her over the top hair, like the eyebrows (laughs), the puffy sleeves. Even though it was a bit of a nightmare to wear today, it was still so much fun. With Siesta 00, it’s more like a military style, with the bunny ears. Who doesn’t love bunny ears? But then, I really like Princess Peach too (laughs).
With Peach and Ariel, do you have an affinity towards cosplaying princess characters?
I really have started getting into princesses. I don’t know whether it’s just the interaction with people [when I’m cosplaying] a princess.
Well, you have said, “Cosplaying princesses at conventions makes me want to start up a princess party business.”
Yes, I did say that! It was after I was at another convention (laughs). I met with this sea of photographers taking pictures of me as Peach and this little girl did not care, she just came straight through the crowd, just to come up to me and talk to me. It was so sweet. It’s that sort of interaction that really just makes me want to cosplay even more, to bring these characters to life, for me as well as other people.
Because you had that happen to you, does that motivate you, where you start to think, ‘I hope I get that kind of reaction with this cosplay. I hope I get that with Ariel’?
Sort of, yeah. I had it loads today. It’s just such a sweet moment that you’ve brought this character to life for this little child. When I was a child growing up, I went to Disneyland once when I was five, but I can barely remember it. I wish I could have come to conventions and met princesses (laughs). That would have been really cool.
So is a princess party business going to happen in the future?
I don’t know, maybe (laughs). I have been contemplating it.
You mentioned how when cosplaying as Nerine from Shuffle you had a guy crying over you. What happened?
Oh my goodness. It was like the sweetest thing ever, but a part of me was… more sort of shocked as to this guy’s affection over this character. I completely understand it, obviously. But it was the fact that he was just projecting it so emotionally on to me and my shoulder (laughs). It was really sweet though. That is like a moment that I’m never ever going to forget (laughs).
It’s quite an obscure anime too. That someone loved the character as much as I did was just really nice to see. I think I was the only Nerine that year (laughs).
How does that feel for you, knowing that your cosplay reduced a man to tears?
(Laughs) Obviously it feels really good, because I’ve hopefully done the character justice that he feels obliged to cry (laughs). I always hope to do a character justice so that people have some sort of reaction to it. I really just want to connect with people I guess.
What would your number one dream cosplay be?
I don’t even know (long pause). Is it really strange that I haven’t actually thought about that? Seriously, I don’t really think about an ultimate cosplay. I feel like every one that I do is my next dream cosplay to do (laughs). I don’t really know. I feel like a couple of years ago there would have been one. Like, ‘Yes, I must do that.’ But now it’s just moving onto the next goal. It’s really strange.
To be like the spitting image of every Disney princess, that’s the dream goal (laughs). To have the best fabrics and to be above the quality of Disneyland park (laughs). (Emphatically) That is the dream.
You’re also a member of the dance group Cinnamon Purin.
Yes, I am.
How did that come about?
It’s been like… years. Before [I was in Cinnamon Purin] they had me as a guest performer. So I wasn’t officially a member of Cinnamon Purin, but still performed with them. I guess being a member of the cosplay community you get to know all these different types of people, not just people that are into cosplay, but people that are into idols, K-pop, and you just mix and match what you really like with different people. So, I’ve become more interested in idols recently, but equally with cosplay.
You’ve said that personally making cosplay by hand is half the fun. So, what part of cosplaying do you find the most fulfilling for you?
Probably, as I said, interacting with people at the convention. Just making myself up. Even getting up at five o’ clock in the morning, like this morning, and sitting there with Netflix on in the background, making myself into this princess (laughs). It’s really fun in a really satisfying way, even though I am depriving myself of sleep. Then, making my way to the convention, interacting with people, getting photos, chatting, just networking with people, it’s just so much fun. I enjoy it so much. When I meet someone that really connects to the character I’m cosplaying, that’s probably one of the best things.
What are your future cosplay plans?
I really want to do Meg from Hercules, which is still within the Disney realm. She’s not technically a princess. But her purple gown… it’s just something a lot more different. Because I do big dresses, so it’s quite a different style of dress and with the massive ponytail and everything. So that’s going to be a challenge for me I think… my next one (crosses fingers), hopefully in May (laughs).
Thank you to Charlotte for taking the time out for the interview. You can follow her on her Facebook page (Char Cosplay).
Thank you also to Papercube for arrangement and photos. You can check out his work on his Facebook page.