Rowan Derryth's Virtual Adventures
Apparently, I’m plump.
Now, I always knew I was curvy compared to most female avatars, and this is of course on purpose, since I designed my own shape. Rather than complain about content creators penchant for designing clothes for stick-thin women, I’ve always enjoyed the fact that I usually have to spend some time making my skirts fit properly over my hips and bum; and that some tops I simply can’t wear with my voluptuous chest. As well, I’ve been rather fascinated at what this says about our larger conceptions of female beauty.
The advent of mesh, which I’m sure is NOT news to the majority of readers, has blown this body issue wide open. Vaki Zenovka has written a great post about this, and as well, Strawberry Singh has made a fantastic comprehensive post of links on what mesh is, where to see it, and how you can get it. I don’t want to rehash that here, but rather give you my take on mesh fashion from the perspective of a larger-than-average avatar (shorter too), for what it’s worth. To do that, you get to see me in various states of undress!
So, take a look at my body (you know you want to). As you can see, I don’t have a particularly small waist like many with large curves, and my sliders are set to 10% body fat, which seems to be incredibly high for the average avatar. From the side, my belly is flat, but not concave, and if you could, there would be some flesh to pinch. I’ve no gap between my thighs, and my shoulders are quite boxy. This last is the ‘one thing I hate about my body’, which I have deliberately kept to add an element of realism both to my look and to my virtual psyche. Besides, I think shoulder joints are one of the flaws of avatar construction, and smallish ones look odd to me. I get lots of compliments for looking ‘real’, although my skin isn’t hyper-real (it is from Redgrave, btw, and I’ve had it since my first month and can’t imagine wearing something else). In fact, I only switch shapes and skins for ‘play’, like fancy dress parties, wearing a different shaped avi for fun; otherwise, I’m pretty committed to Rowan.
Right, now on to mesh. First, the very basics – you have to have the right viewer to see it (see Strawberry Singh’s post for the latest). Otherwise it looks like the image at right. So this is the first problem – if you care what you look like to the diehards who won’t give up viewer 1, then you can’t do mesh. Likewise, if you are one of the diehards, more and more people will look like this. Time to switch, my friends.
Now, as a friend of the devilishly creative Maxwell Graf of Rustica, I was treated to a sample of his mesh purse from his new BITCH line of clothing, which he had ready to go the moment mesh went live. Now, I wasn’t alone in receiving this, many of his female friends were squeeing over their fantastic new bags (even those who don’t ever wear them). The first sample is a cleverly done handbag which shows the influence of classic Louis Vuitton, but in fact with the skulls & crosses it is more Alexander McQueen, and ALL Max Graf, (and I like it better). The bags truly are gorgeous, and it prompted me to conceive of a marketing campaign for him: “Bitch Bags: Why wear anything else?”
Heh, he liked it. I told Max he was ‘the mesh pusher’, as he was tempting us with one so we’d come buy the others (I did indeed go buy his houndstooth version!).But he is also the mesh pusher in that he has been the voice of it all over the web, proselytising its merits and being frank on its foibles, including the making of a JIRA which I am very much in support of, especially as a curvy girl. Or, rather, plump. Let me explain.
Last night I decided to try some mesh demos, and I’d heard some good things about the ones at JANE by Janie Marlowe. I’ll jump to the happy ending: after an incredulous start, I went back to the store and bought three things. But here is basically what happened.
Mesh clothes come in different sizes, because you cannot resize mesh. This is the big problem for mesh clothing, and, in a nutshell, what Max’s JIRA is about. It is possible, but SL has not yet implemented the tools. Many creators are doing the whole sm med lg thing, but for most of her clothes, Janie offers four sizes: petite, fair, luscious, and plump. Now I went straight to luscious, both liking the sound of it and figuring thats where I would fall. To the right, you see the result.
Now I should disclose that these are reconstructions, and that the first thing I tried on was a hoodie, and the result was much more scandalous. So I opted for plump, and while it fit much better, my curvy bits were still poking through. So, according to Janie, I’m one step beyond ‘plump’, a size I suppose she was too polite to name (or make).
I’m really not having a go at Janie here – as I said, in the end I bought some pieces (which you see in these pictures) because I finally figured out how it works (keep reading). But I do find these sizes a fascinating symptom of the average avatar body. Rowan is plump? Well, I’m ok with that, but look at her in the bikini pics again. If that is plump, BRING IT.
So it was only after trying on several pieces that I clued in to the fact that there was, in fact, and alpha texture in each folder, and then I remember from chatting with Max that this was how the body size issue was being dealt with.
I was resistant at first – I want clothes to fit me, not me to fit clothes. But if I’m happy to hide my feet to make my flip flops work, why am I not ok with doing that for my hips to wear these incredibly cute clothes (and I adore these trousers, btw, I want them for real). Fine, I put on the alpha texture. Miracle of miracles! The pants hug my curves, and really, although there is obviously some ‘trimming’, I am still pretty close to my curvy shape.
I had equally funny, then successful, results with the maxi skirt. Not exactly the look I was going for at first. But again, the alpha hides my J.Lo bum (in some ways, a shame), and still creates a lovely, sensuous curve. But what I really love is the way the skirt moves and stretches with me, and THIS is the awesome part about mesh.
The coolest thing about mesh, for me and many others, is the realism in movement. Your clothes – and their textures – move with you, whether you are walking, sitting, jumping, dancing, or turning cartwheels. No longer will your flexis fall through the furniture, your clothes bend with your body as they should. For this final test, I chose to cuddle up on my new Margaret Outdoor Bed by Isla Gealach of Cheeky Pea, wearing the JANE striped Maxi Dress. But first, the foibles of the dress sans alpha, because I again want to make the point about body size, and also, it’s kind of funny. The first picture shows the luscious size, and the second, plump, which oddly while it fit better, you can see it had even worse issues in certain areas. In the end, I settled on the plump version, because I thought I looked too thin in the luscious. The girls certainly are smaller in this, but the horizontal stripe helps with that.
But I was amazed when I sat tucked up on the day bed, and this is really what sold me. Seeing how it moved and stretched with me is simply cool. So I decided that, despite labelling me plump, I’d go over and throw a few lindens Janie’s way. And unlike getting the latest tech in RL, many of these items are going quite cheap – for now! Max just made some awesome geek-chic glasses that he is selling for just $1L! I think we need to support these early adopters, because what they are making is fantastic, and they are paving the way for what will be the future of SL.
However, please do also go and vote for Max’s JIRA, as being able to wear clothes that fit our body – and not the other way around – is an important part of avatar identity (something I’m not quite sure Linden Labs have their head around). Meanwhile, I’ll run around in my fabulous new clothes, and hope that people have the proper viewers to see me do it. And embrace being fabulously, fashionably, lusciously plump.
UPDATE: Further to my conclusion that MAXWELL GRAF is a mesh pusher, he sadly came out last night to admit he is a mesh addict! His cautionary tale can be read here.
Special thanks to PJ Trenton for suffering through the photoshoot.
Additional designer credits:
Hair – Truth Hawks for Truth Hair
Glasses – Koguma Kumaki for Kumaki
Shirt – by OMGWTF Barbecue for This is a Fawn
Bikini – Lani Long for BOOM Clothing
Flip-flops – Onyx LeShelle for Maitreya Gold
Bare Feet – Siddean Munro for Slink
Margaret Outdoor Day Bed – Isla Gealach for Cheeky Pea