|(Chartles Battersby in costume)|
I had the opportunity to cover an article at the Japan Society on the Lolita community that congregates in New York City, a community that can only be described as...thriving. You may be wondering what I mean by Lolita, but I assure that it is an all ages and most important, legal, event that caters to a subculture of people known for wearing Victorian dresses and garments. At the center, I was surrounded by an array of colorfully dressed girls in cotton candy wigs, covered head to toe in Bo Peep fashion and lace. While brushing elbows and petticoats, I had the chance to meet playwright and Lolita Charles Battersby.
Charles Battersby: I learned about it as an extension of goth culture. I think the old term was "Elegant Gothic Lolita." I used to work in a costume store in the 90's and we had a huge gang of goths that hung around the store so we were immersed in the Goth/ Lolita / Victorian communities.
TPL NYC: What do you feel the Lolita community offers you that other communities don’t?
CB: A lot of fashion subcultures are centered around noisy nightclubs or crowded conventions, but Lolita has a quiet and polite nature to it, usually based around tea parties, picnics and fashion shows. Lolitas are also whimsical and playful, it's a break from the constant attitude of "I'm a very serious adult doing terribly serious grown-up things."
CB: Lolita isn't necessarily a costume, and that's what separates it from cosplay. Some "Lifestyle Lolitas" dress in Lolita clothing every day. Other people might just wear a single item as an accessory to an otherwise ordinary outfit. It isn't necessarily about wearing a costume and role playing.
CB: There are smaller meet ups almost every week, and a larger gathering about once a month. Lolitas can also be found at any major Anime/ Cosplay/ Manga event. Recently most Japanese cultural events like Japan Day in Central Park, or Sakura Matsuri in Brooklyn will have Lolitas and other forms of "Street Fashion" present.
CB: The tea parties can range from just a handful of friends getting together for lunch, up to mini-conventions with over a hundred people. New York has quite a few restaurants that specialize in tea parties.
TPL NYC: How do you go about putting a costume together? What catches your eye when you see an outfit?
CB: As an actor / cosplayer I have a wardrobe packed with outfits accumulated over decades. I tend to buy pieces individually then put them together when an event approaches. With Lolita it's not hard to make an outfit since almost everything is pink, white or black.
As a relatively older Lolita I try to be as elegant and streamlined as possible to avoid looking like I'm wearing a costume. The "Sweet Lolita" style of being covered in pink ruffles and glitter from head-to-toe is better suited to younger people.
TPL NYC: Is it hard finding the clothes for your body since you are a guy?
CB: Yes. Most Lolitas are young women, and the most popular brands are from Japan, so the clothing is tiny. Almost everything I wear is either custom-made, or extensively modified by me for the right fit. I'm small when compared to the typical American man, and I wear corsets that bring my waist down to about 22 inches, but I still have a hard time finding dresses and blouses that fit my shoulders.
TPL NYC: Are there many men that participate in the Lolita fashion?
CB: Not many, but there are a few. They usually dress in period men's outfits when they join their female friends at Lolita gatherings.
|(Defying convenstion even amonsgt the unconventional)|
TPL NYC: You seem to play with the gender roles in this community, which is interesting. Do the women ever wear masculine fashion in the community?
CB: There's a subculture called "Brolita" and there are usually a couple of boy wearing Lolita clothes at any large Lolita gathering. It's also very common to see girls dressed in clothing that would have been intended for men in the 19th Century. The men's styles back then were very feminine by today's standards.
TPL NYC: What do you like most about the Lolita community, and what is the most fun part?
CB: The food! Any Lolita gathering is awash with cookies and cupcakes!
TPL NYC: Have you faced any challenges by being a part of the community? Is there any discrimination from inside or outside this community?
CB: Inside the community, no. The people I meet at Lolita events are usually happy to meet another person who shares their interests. I've never had the sense that I'm unwelcome.
TPL NYC: What does your family and friends think of you being a Lolita?
CB: Most of my friends are actors, cosplayers, or creative types so they're fine with me throwing on a victorian ballgown every now and then. They're accustomed to seeing me dressed in all sorts of outfits when I'm acting in a show or cosplaying, so Lolita is just part for the course.
|(The famous Lolita Captain America)|
CB: I've been cosplaying since before we had the term cosplay, and a few of my costumes have had Lolita influences. I'm well-known for my "Lolita Captain America" costume which was one of the stock images used by news agencies to cover the New York Comic Con.
CB: I act, I write plays, I direct and produce (Sometimes all at once, Ed Wood style!) In the past I performed in lots of Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway shows, and did bit parts in movies and TV shows, but the last few years I prefer to perform in projects that I write and produce myself. I'll usually write in a role that I intend to play.
I'm currently writing the "Fallout Lore" webseries for Shoddycast.com, and I have a play reading at the Penny Arcade Expo in Boston in April. The play is a romantic comedy about a married couple trapped in a bomb shelter built for one. It's called "That Cute Radioactive Couple".
I'm also planning a production of a new play called "The Astonishing Adventures of All-American Girl & The Scarlet Skunk" for later this year.
|(Defeating the Red Skull)|