Exclusive Interview: Kelly Carnes with Trove Costume Rentals
Hello, Outright Geekery readers out there. Thank you all for coming back to read our many articles posted on our beloved site. Today’s post, we have a special treat in store for you today, a bit of a doubleheader if you will. My guest is a fellow cosplayer for bringing an interesting idea and brought it from the depth of her soul to a working and functioning website. Her name is Kelly Carnes, Northeastern native, who absolutely loves cosplaying strong female characters throughout her career.
It wasn’t until she noticed a lot of her accessories and apparel began to accumulate after spending a good chunk of her money sitting in storage boxes inside her closet that she had her “aha” moment. Suddenly, the idea of out-sourcing her items in such a fashion that would allow the owner to rent or sell their cosplay outfits, apparel, or props online. Thus a child of ingenuity was born and she named it Trove Costume Rentals and Outright Geekery has the story.
OG: Welcome Kelly Carnes. Thank you so much for doing this interview and chance to know more about Trove Costume Rentals. We absolutely love to hear how someone is taking on the challenge of changing the cosplay world into a new direction.
KC: That you for the compliment. I really appreciate Outright Geekery making this interview happen. I love the cosplay world and hope this new and innovative idea can bridge the gap closer together. Cosplay is for everyone and this site makes it accessible to buy, sell, and rent fabulous creations.
OG: Wonderful. May the wind be on the back of all of your sails. Let’s get started and ask the obvious question, can you tell our readers about yourself? Don’t hold back on the details, please.
KC: I was born in Okinawa, Japan, but I am a U.S. citizen. My dad was in the Marine Corps, so as a military brat I moved around constantly as a kid and am not from one place. I’ve lived in Denmark, Florida, Virginia (3x), and North Carolina, before settling as an adult in Washington, DC. I’ve now been in the district for 15 years so I’m a solid transplant to our Nation’s Capitol!
OG: As many places you’ve traveled, how many languages do you speak/write?
KC: I only speak English fluently, and unfortunately, speak and write passable Spanish. When I was younger, I could get by in Danish and Kiswahili but haven’t kept up those language skills (although I keep vowing to revisit them someday!)
OG: I’m sure readers also love to know the color of your eyes?
KC: My eyes are a grey-blue, that change color to more blue, grey or green depending on what I’m wearing. My hair is a green-teal so they look pretty light green these days.
OG: I’m hoping this is true. Most cosplayers, in real-life, love listening to Dorky music. Would that be true for you?
KC: This is super dorky but my music of choice is inspirational movie soundtracks. You put on the “How to Train Your Dragon” soundtrack and I can literally do anything…run a mile in 4 minutes, lift a car, whatever…that music makes me feel invincible.
OG: OK. Let’s get this it out as well. Are you a movie nerd too?
KC: I am a HUGE movie nerd. Honestly, I don’t know how my husband puts up with me because when we watch movies at home I won’t SHUT UP. I am constantly critiquing technical stuff like editing, and lighting, and cinematography and consistency…etc. I should really only watch movies with other cinephiles.
OG: Is there are a particular genre movie you love to watch?
KC: So, to answer that question there isn’t one type of movie I like, but “GOOD” movies and those are hard to find and can be from any genre, and hit you differently depending on where you are in your body and mind and emotions when you watch them.
OG: What’s your social life like and does it involve loving animals?
KC: I’m obsessed with animals! When I’m not cosplaying or working on Trove, I’m usually hanging with my nerdy husband and our two stinky dogs and spooky cat. I’m a vegetarian and I would have a farm full of Pitbulls if my current pitbull would let me, but she’s rather protective. We love to drink wine, play board games, read and watch movies as a family and with friends. We also love to travel, and I’m an avid yogi.
OG: Being you’re a Northerner, you strike me as a late seasonal person. Is that true?
KC: FALL, hands down, all the way. We call the beginning of the Renn Faire season here (last weekend in August), through DragonCon (Labor Day) through Halloween in Salem, MA our “Spooky Season” and we live for it and look forward to it all year long.
OG: Are you a fan of anything Anime or Manga you enjoy watching? Has it become a part of your life?
KC: I’m a pretty big fangirl of Korra from Legend of Korra. She’s totally badass of course, but as a yogi, one of the things I also adore about that show is that they incorporate meditation into the storytelling as an action point. When she gets stuck, she drives the plot by meditating and by coming to peace finds her clarity. I aspire to that and think we could all use a little more of that practice in our lives.
OG: Are you an introvert? Or simply just an outgoing, misunderstood spotlight kind of gal?
KC I’m not just outgoing, I’m a pathological extrovert. I can’t be alone for 5 minutes or I feel like my batteries are depleting. The best thing I can do for myself when I feel down is walking into a huge crowd of people and recharge, which is one of the reasons I love going to conventions so much. The peopling!
OG: Did your childhood dressing up as a kid influenced you becoming a cosplayer?
KC: I absolutely loved dressing up as a kid. My first cosplay was a “Mr. Potato Head” according to my mom, which basically meant at 2 I stuck the Mr. Potato Head glasses on my face, and plastic tongue in my mouth, and voila! A cosplayer was born!
KC: My favorite “toy” was my costume chest that I used to don dresses and veils and shoes that were too big for me and clomp around the house getting into my mother’s makeup. That carried over into dance costumes, and then eventually theater. I lived for Halloween then and now and the joy I found in dressing up to play just never went away.
KC: Then about 10 years ago I discovered the Maryland Renaissance Faire, through a friend, and immediately started building out medieval garb to wear around Revel Grove.
KC: When I discovered Renaissance Faires and conventions as an adult, it was like light shining in the dark. I could wear costumes all year round! That same friend then introduced me to DragonCon in 2014, and that was it for me.
OG: Would would have never guessed your first time cosplaying was Mr. Potato Head. I would have picked a fairy princess kind of gal. What’s been your favorite outfit worn?
KC: My fondest outfit memory was my wedding dress. My husband and I eloped to New Orleans for our ceremony but had a huge party back in DC with our friends and family that was in a cemetery, and voodoo-themed.
KC: I worked with a custom dress designer for more than a year on the gothic red gown, which wasn’t actually a gown but 2 pieces. So, halfway through the evening I dropped the skirt in front of the crowd and was wearing a red, sparkly jumpsuit to dance the rest of the night away.I traditionally held an epic Halloween party, and a themed birthday party every year and those were my two big costume tent poles.
OG: How did your 1st cosplay experience pan out? And since then what’s changed?
KC: The first year I closet cosplayed with what I had, but my second year I spent an irresponsible amount of money to custom build my Poison Ivy cosplay…and I call her my “Gateway Cosplay” because after that I could never go back to casual costuming again.
OG: Would you consider yourself to be a professional cosplayer?
KC: I’ve never been a professional cosplayer in that I’ve never been paid, but that’s what I would consider my first professional cosplay outfit, and I commissioned the suit from a maker on Etsy and found the perfect matching wig in the DragonCon vendor hall.
KC: I don’t call myself a cosplayer or artist. If anything, I’d call myself an entrepreneur for starting Trove.
OG: Have you ever purchased an outfit rather than make one due to certain conditions?
KC: Sure, every once in a while I don’t have time to fully build something out the way I’d really love to – like for example I once wore a Korra I just bought on the internet to my friend’s wedding (she got married at AwesomeCon as Wonder Woman, to a Deadpool), but a photographer still asked me to pose for him because it was his favorite character.
OG: Has the world of Cosplaying has become more competitive and less enjoyable?
KC: That’s something I think can get lost in cosplay sometimes…there is a minority out there that make it competitive, or exclusive, and that’s not the point. The point is dressing up as something that brings you joy, and celebrating when it brings others joy too – no matter how much time or money you invested in it. Not everyone has the funds, creativity, skill, time, or mobility to create the world’s best cosplay, which is one of the reasons we built Trove so that high-quality cosplay can be more accessible to everyone.
OG: Has there ever been an outfit you won’t do that clashes with your personality?
KC: Someone recently asked me if there was a type of character I typically cosplay and started to say no, but then as I flipped back through my memory I realized there was indeed a pattern: strong female-presenting characters. Poison Ivy, Lagertha from Vikings, Catra from the new She-Ra, Marvel’s Dark Phoenix, Daenerys Targaryen, etc. I definitely have a type, and it’s no surprise to me when I think about it, as a female entrepreneur who has started two companies, that it’s badass boss babes.
OG: On this question, I get many different responses? As a beautiful woman, does the body-size of a woman matter (The Height, Bra Size, or weight) when performing a character?
KC: Ah, hell no. Does anyone still think that? Some of the best portrayals I’ve seen of characters are that much more creative because they are embodied by someone who looks different than that character traditionally looks, or they are cross plays or mashups. The most important thing is the joy they share by bringing a character they love to become. If they are feeling confident and having fun, that is contagious and you will too.
KC: When I first started to cosplay I thought the point was to get as close to looking like the character as you could – just straight imitation – so that’s how I started, just trying to mimic them as closely as possible.
OG: And now?
KC: My style has evolved and now I find way more challenge and joy in curating a look together that channels the spirit of that character, without replicating it. For example, I have a Sarah Sanderson cosplay from Hocus Pocus and not ONE piece of it is screen-accurate. It is a combination of things I’ve found online and at the Renn Faire, and yet everyone always recognizes here and then gushes about how much they loved that film growing up. THAT’S THE SPOT AND SPACE, I want to live in as a cosplayer.
KC: The fact that I tend to choose strong female characters to cosplay is no accident, that is a reflection of my personality. But, I once heard a mask maker say “the point of masks is either to “conceal or reveal” so I do also think there is a more pure part of you that can be unleashed when you cosplay and are channeling the values and traits of a character you admire.
OG: Is Body-Paint something you are willing to do?
KC: I have done a little body paint, but not that much. It’s not something I’m great at and would rather outsource it to a body painting artist if I’m going to try. I have Mystique on my cosplay bucket list and I would definitely work with a professional for that.
OG: With the ever-changing scope of Cosplaying, what’s your opinion of Lewd cosplaying? Is that for everyone to do?
KC: Since I’m such a fan of costumes, I’m more drawn to cosplay that includes more clothing than the skin, since the creativity of costume-building is what I’m interested in seeing. But I also support everyone’s right to cosplay whatever brings them joy. So, as long as folks are in the appropriate spaces that they aren’t impacting anyone else’s enjoyment there is space in the community for every type of cosplayer to express themselves authentically. We are blessed with so many artists who are more talented than me. What I can contribute to the community, is a platform that supports these artists and their creative exchange. My calling is to help make cosplay more accessible and beneficial to everyone.
OG: What would be loved to be recognized? Cosplayer or Bass Ass boss?
OG: Oftentimes, cosplayers work through the late hours of the morning finishing their outfit or net surfing for hours to find the right accessory for the right price. Is that how Trove got started?
KC: I will go down a cosplay hole online basically anytime I have downtime. I used to be on Etsy ordering expensive commissions that sometimes fit the bill and sometimes failed, but now that we have Trove I’m renting costumes or curating cosplay together for a fraction of the price, and in support of the artist who owns the piece. I’ve connected with so many cool people on the platform and even met up with them at events, it has served as both a treasure Trove of cosplay as well as a rich community of potential friends who share the same passions.
KC: It started with my closet. After a good 10 years of investing in high-quality cosplay, I had a closet bursting at the seams with amazing pieces that it was only worn once, or once a year. The rest of the time they were gathering dust in storage and not bringing anyone joy unless my friends were borrowing them for free. As we all know, these pieces are expensive and there’s always an appetite for more so I was trying to figure out how to monetize what I had in my closet and floated the idea to my friends of renting my stuff out on a site.
KC: They not only supported the idea but asked if they could list their items, as well as they wanted to earn money from the collections they’d built, and make their cosplay accessible to others.
OG: How did you get the name, “Trove”?
KC: It’s named after a “treasure trove”. I wanted the name to be short and something that could easily be made into a verb or title like, “Yes, I Troved this,” or “Yes, I’m a Trovian!” It’s also no accident that the word “Trove shares 3 letters with the word,” Love “” 🙂
OG: When was the inception of Trove was born?
KC: We launched the site at DragonCon, Aug. 29, 2019, so it has been in operation now for 5 months. Since then we’ve had hundreds of users upload more than 400 pieces so far, with new additions, rentals, and sales happening every day!
OG: What sort of items can users find, rent, or purchase at this site?
KC: You can find full costumes on the site, accessories, shoes, wigs. You can browse by type of item on the main page by type of item “costume,” “headwear,” or “accessory.” Or by a few inspo genres on the browse page like “fantasy,” “anime,” “sci-fi,” “historical,” “drag,” “superhero” or you can go to the search page and search by any keyword, category, type of item, price point and even location if you’d prefer to pick something up than handle shipping.
OG: Can the user see something they want to purchase, can they?
KC: Items available for purchase are listed in the “Trunk Sale” portion of the site.
OG: How can people look for a specific item? Can they place a request in hopes someone out there has what he/she needs?
KC: See the above for search options. Right now we don’t have the capability to post requests, but that’s the feedback we’ve gotten a few times from the community, as well as from makers who want to build collections specifically for renting out on the site, so it’s something we’d like to add in the future.
OG: Does your site offer various sizes in order to accommodate?
KC: Yes, the site is open to any and all sizes and we’ve had multiple requests for more plus-size cosplay to be listed, so if there is something gathering dust in your closet I recommend putting it to work for you so it can make you some money!
OG: Who’s responsible for shipping cost?
KC: Like any other online purchase, the renter/purchaser handles the shipping to and from.
OG: Is there “Damage Insurance” available?
KC: A 10% insurance fee is added to every transaction so that Trove can cover damage and replacement of items, which, fortunately, we haven’t encountered thus far! Since most people on the site are cosplayers, they are sensitive to handling each other’s cosplay with care and treating it like they would their own.
OG: If someone has any questions, is there anyone I can ask for help?
KC: We have a helpdesk that you can contact anytime on the site, which can handle not only insurance claims but any question you might have, issue, or even if you just want to send us feedback on what we could add to the site so it serves the community even better.
OG: Are there any restrictions on what sort of accessories or weapons can be posted to your site?
KC: There are restrictions on posting post-WWII weapons that aren’t fantasy weapons, for everyone’s safety and those guidelines can be found in our FAQ.
OG: What is in store for Trove in 2020?
KC: I have so many ideas and plans for Trove! I would love to build out the community-aspect of it so we can connect folks going to the same conventions who want to meet up, or folks looking for photographers, makers, makeup artists, wig stylists, etc. for special commissions, etc.
KC: We are only limited by our imagination and the support and feedback we receive from our community so we’d love to know what else you’d like to see, that would help support your cosplay journey!
Time we ask the CEO of Trove Costume Rentals our, “So-Far Outright Just-Geeky questions!”
OG: What would be the worst thing Kelly Carnes wears during a corporate meeting?
KC: I have worn vampire teeth for more than one corporate meeting.
OG: What is the #1 thing people notice about Kelly Carnes at a photoshoot?
KC: My emerald hair.
OG: Can I rent out my 100% imitation replica of Michael Jackson white glove? It’s ambidextrous ready?
OG: What cosplayer outfit would absolutely break the internet if Trove Costume Rentals offered to sell from a famous cosplayer?
KC: We actually use the example all the time of Captain America’s shield.
OG: Are undergarments strictly off-limits?
KC: Not strictly in that we don’t want to limit the community and there are plenty of legitimate undergarments used in cosplay, especially historic re-enactment, but we’ll keep monitoring this one and evolve our policies as is appropriate for the community.
KC: We are human and building something from scratch, so we admit that we are always learning and are looking to co-curate this platform with our cosplay community.
OG: What is the #1 movie that will always make Kelly Carnes cry uncontrollably?
KC: Braveheart. Mel Gibson might be a POS, but it’s my medicine movie that I play when I’m sad and my husband knows to leave me alone – or give me a hug – when he comes home and it is on.
OG: If NetFlix offers Kelly C. her own Hot-Tub Special, what celebrity guests would she invite for this historic event? (5 Only)
KC: Barack Obama, Dolly Parton, Marilyn Manson, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Tom Hanks
OG: What special talent or special ability can Kelly Carnes do that no one knows about?
KC: I have 3: 1. I can hula hoop for days. 2. I can bake the perfect pie from scratch, including the crust and whip cream and 3. I am a human IMDB
OG: What is the drink of choice on those days you need a pick-me-up?
KC: I’m strictly a wine and whiskey woman.
OG: Is your “Big Toe” your second biggest toe on your feet?
KC: No, I’m not an animal! (j/k) 🙂
OG: What is Kelly’s Biggest Pet Peeve?
KC: People being late.
OG: What was the nicest thing a fan ever offer as a gift?
KC: Her tears. A woman once cried when she met “the founder of Trove” she was so excited. It made me cry too!
OG: Can Kelly Carnes predict who will win this year’s Puppy Bowl?
KC: “Crumpet,” because I love Pitbulls and am a proud pitbull mom myself!
OG: What Disney princess would be your BFF?
KC: I hope Mulan would hang out with me…you know after defeating the Huns and saving China and essentially defining feminism for my generation.
OG: What villain character would you love to cosplay as?
KC: All of them, I love villains! But I’m working on an Ursula right now!
OG: Will any of your past cosplay outfits be available for rental/purchase?
KC: All of my previous cosplays and accessories are available for rent on Trove. I have more than 300 items in my personal inventory!
OG: Do you consider yourself to be an open book or a Dark Elf using your elf magic to disguise your plans of world domination?
KC: I probably shouldn’t be but I’m an Open Book. I believe in honesty and authenticity are more efficient pathways to peace, success, joy, and meaningful relationships.
OG: What part of American past History would you change for the better?
KC: The 2016 election. #sorrynotsorry
OG: What is the total number of pets you own ( Includes boyfriend/husband or small trolls)?
KC: I have 2.5 kids: A sweet and stupid beagle named Lion, a protective and precious pitbull named Atlas and a sassy and spooky black cat named Binx. All rescues, all adorable.
OG: After Trove Costume Rental becoming a worldwide success, would sky-diving be your next big challenge in life?
KC: Nah, I went skydiving in New Zealand once and wasn’t a fan, but I did love bungee jumping…so that’s always an option?
OG: What word would best summarize your entire life so far?
OG: The most hated question a cosplayer would hear, “Can I get a Hug”?
KC: “Can I get a photo?” [WHEN YOU’RE STUFFING PIZZA IN YOUR FACE]
OG: Thank you, Kelly Carnes, for allowing Outright Geekery to see your side of the story to our readers. If I could ask one more question, where can our readers go to find more about Trove Costume rentals? I for one am looking for a plus-size corset for personal reasons of course.
KC: Of course, I would be happy to give that information and thank you Outright Geekery for being a great site to offer myself and my company. By the way, we have fabulous corsets on the site!
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