Is Second Life a Good Place to Prototype Real Life Fashion? Not When Most SL Style Just Follows RL Trends
Designers United 5 is chock-full of head-turning surrealism-inspired virtual fashions, including the wriggling koi backpack above from Beetlebones, as well as the animated dress from The Secret Store that I wrote about last week. There are a lot of clever, cool, and undeniably unique products for sale there, and many of them are excellent examples of the almost limitless potential of virtual fashion.
When I wrote about that beautifully animated dress, Hamlet asked me if animated dresses were becoming a trend in Second Life. There's talk of integrating displays into real life clothing, so is it possible that Second Life would be a good testing ground for that?
My answer was pretty blunt.
We'll ignore the fact that that the idea of having displays integrated into a dress still feels a bit too close to the retrofuturist fashion innovations from the past that you can laugh at on YouTube today. There's a big difference between what's technically possible and what's actually affordable/sustainable/desirable for daily wear. The fact is that the majority of SLers, myself included, still wear our jeans and our tank tops and lounge around our "Pinteresting" sky apartments full of twee bookshelves and breakfast nooks... These reality-bending fashions certainly interest us, and many of us will buy them, but will they ever make it into our regular rotations? Probably not, at least until we start seeing animated dresses and wriggling backpacks between the pages of Vogue.
Let's get a little more specific, because these days I don't wear jeans or tank tops anyway; I wear lacy dresses and ruffly petticoats and fluffy pastel hairstyles more than anything else, and those certainly aren't what I wear out and about in real life. Second Life is full of weird and wonderful fashions and subcultures that are far less visible in real life. Hamlet's rebuttal cited those electrical tape nipple covers you'll notice all over the place on slightly edgier SL fashion blogs-- you certainly don't see those the streets every day. True, maybe you don't see them on the streets, but a quick search on Tumblr reveals thousands and thousands of people experimenting with taped nipples. It may not be mainstream, but it's still popular and well-recognized within certain communities. Even the pouty scowls and canyon-like thigh gaps are exaggerations of RL trends. This can be said for just about every style in Second Life, even down to furries who are often inspired by the artwork within their community. Art, anime, comics, tv shows... They all play a part. Of course a lot of these styles work way better in Second Life than they would in reality, due in large part to relaxed physical and social limitations, but most of what you see in Second Life isn't so far removed from its real life inspiration, whatever that may be.
There are still amazingly unique and ground-breaking designs being made in SL, things that you're not going to see in reality any time soon. They draw crowds and inspire events, just like Designers United, and that is outstanding. Yet most of us want what we idolize, and we idolize what we see, whether we're looking at Vogue or Tumblr or Pinterest or DeviantArt. Until we see those items somewhere else first, it's an uphill battle for them to rise beyond novelty status in our virtual lives.
Then again, this is all just my opinion. What do you think? Is Second Life a good place to test out bleeding-edge fashion innovations, or has our eagerness to recreate RL put is behind the curve? Let me know in the comments!
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Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.