By Rebecca Drew
MEET THE anime obsessed woman who has spent TENS OF THOUSANDS transforming herself into a LIVING DOLL whose looks can include wearing FOUR PETTICOATS, FOUR SETS OF HAIR EXTENSIONS and FORTY HAIR BOWS at a time.
Marketing strategist and living doll, Katie Castles (27) from Los Angeles, California, USA, became interested in becoming a living doll after watching the Japanese anime cartoons; Sailor Moon, Rosen Maiden and Chobits as a young teenager.
Katie was particularly taken in by the beautiful porcelain dolls in Chobits and started to think about how she could incorporate this into her fashion.
When she was 17, Katie started to experiment with Kawaii fashion, Kawaii is the culture of cuteness in Japan, and she soon fell in love with the challenge of transforming herself into a ‘magical and elaborate’ version of herself.
When she isn’t channelling her inner living doll, Katie describes her look as ‘androgynous’ and says that some people don’t even recognise her outside of her doll look. Katie dresses like a living doll around four times a week, and when she does, she is used to the stares she receives in the street and having people stop to take pictures of her sensational look.
Pictures show Katie in a whole host of quirky Japanese fashion and whilst she doesn’t know the exact figure, she estimates that she’s easily spent tens of thousands of dollars on her look.
A new dress can cost up to £230 ($300) and at one point she owned 68 at once but now she owns just 12 after slimming down her collection. Her most expensive dress was a Scarlet Primavera Waltz which cost £1,693 ($2,200).
“Japanese fashion helped me appreciate small designers/care into making clothing. The dresses I wear have a lot of brilliant details and I think the small intricacies make for such beautiful pieces,” said Katie.
“I attribute my interest in kawaii art and culture to have been born from seeing an installation by Takashi Murakami —Japanese contemporary artist known for his colour-saturated, psychedelic work— when I was around 12 years old visiting my sister in New York City – and my love for fashion and interest in becoming a living doll to watching Japanese animes, such as Sailor Moon, Rosen Maiden, and Chobits, as a young teenager.
“Chobits in particular is my favourite because in this series, the world lives in tandem with artificially intelligent supercomputers that resemble women whose features take on that of beautiful porcelain dolls.
“It’s so part of my life at this point that I forget I look weird or not like other people so I’ll be like that person sure is staring at me do I have something in my teeth and then I’m like, ‘Oh wait no I look like a giant pink blob’.
“I always ask my friends if they mind if I dress up because the staring can be anxiety inducing for people not accustomed to it. I don’t really notice anymore. People take a lot of pictures but I don’t really mind because I like taking pictures too, if I saw someone who looked like me on the street I would want to take a picture too because it would be so unbelievable.
“For my signature big hair, it often takes more than one wig or sometimes even four ponytail clips to achieve the volume and sometimes even like 36 to 40 individual bows I think that was the most I ever wore at once because I had people guess the number.
“I always try to balance the volume of my skirt with my headpieces. If I’m planning an outfit, I like to plan it around one particular item, theme, or colour. But most of the time for example if I’m wearing a pink dress for example, I’ll just pile up all the pink accessories I have and start putting them on until I run out of room. I also wear petticoats to achieve the bell-shaped look of the skirt, sometimes up to four at a time.
“I spend around one-and-a-half to two-hours getting ready. I like to spend a lot of time on makeup because in my opinion I’m not very good at it, so that’s what takes the most time other than affixing bows and clips to my head in a sort of Tetris-like arrangement.
“I love challenging myself creatively to transform into this magical and elaborate form of myself. Outside of my living doll look, I look quite androgynous and love different types of alternative fashion so the duality in choosing who I want to be that day is very fun! A lot of people don’t recognise me outside of my living doll look.”
Katie shares her incredible sense of style with her 68K followers on Instagram under the handle, @katiebabydoll. She spoke about how much she has spent on achieving her dream of becoming a living doll over the years.
Her ultimate dream would be to one day be recognised for her style on the front cover of Vogue magazine.
“I remember when I started getting really interested in being a living doll, I was an accounting student at university and started feeling like I should try to dress more conservatively like my peers,” she said.
“Around that time there are a couple of photos that were taken of me where I look like a very normal human being, but it makes me feel weird to look at them because I look like a completely different person and mainly because I can tell that I’m very unhappy.
“I ended up with a marketing degree and learning more about social media strategy throughout my own exploits than the classroom, as throughout university I was modelling alternative fashion and unknowingly learning how to promote myself as well as the brands.
“I still cannot believe companies want to work with me, big and small, because they like my look and my photos and send me things in the mail to wear. Sometimes they’re designers I’ve admired for years and sometimes they’re just as excited to meet me as I am to meet them.
“It’s honestly so unreal, like opening Christmas gifts as a child from your favourite relatives. I’ve been to so many different places and have met so many amazing people through fashion and art. The best part is always when you’re invited to a cool event or something exclusive.
“I’ll know I’ve made it when I’m on the cover of Vogue and the front page of People of Walmart.
“I’ve been interested in Japanese fashion and becoming a living doll for over ten years and since it’s still a relatively small community throughout that time I’ve done been a lot of buying, but also selling of clothing.
“Usually a dress runs around $260-300 new, although that number will fluctuate based on the rarity or intricacy of the garment, sometimes up to around $1000. I think the most I’ve owned at once was somewhere around 68.
“I own around 12 now, I don’t know why I was hoarding so many. The most I ever paid for a dress was called Scarlet Primavera Waltz (you can google it) and that was around $2200. I ended up getting photographed for one of the most popular Tokyo street fashion magazines at the time wearing it and that was wonderful. Total spent easily in the tens of thousands. But like I said my wardrobe doesn’t really reflect that now.
“I actually rarely have a negative reaction when I’m dressed like this. Children absolutely adore it, as do the elderly. I’ve definitely come across people that think its sexy or alluring but to me it’s the most un-sexy thing ever because it’s tons of layers and frills and it’s not always the most comfortable thing to wear either.
“If you don’t like how I dress, then don’t look at me and leave me alone.”
For more information see www.instagram.com/katiebabydoll