Thursday, August 16, 2007

Skins Off My Back

The entry below shows most of the normal realistic skins I use in Second Life. This one is about novelty skins, imaginative creations that I can't use often but like to have on hand now and then.

The best of these is the one to the right. It's toned specifically to reflect the skin shading in black-and-white movies. Matched up with the right hair, clothes and eyes, it makes me look like I stepped out of a Bogart film ... a very cool effect.

CJ Carnot is the skin's maker, and it comes with one good set of matching eyes. It was available at Tete a Pied, but it was created as a fund-raising item for Relay For Life and is no longer there. However, the creator tells me a new version and a whole new line of skins will be available shortly.

I had put some thought toward trying to make a a skin like this myself, but I was inhibited a bit by, well, knowing absolutely nothing about making skin and also, having little in the way of artistic talent.

The one skin I have made was simply a matter of taking one of the stock SL newbie skins and coloring it for a weird alien shape I'd made. It's amusing, but hardly anything to brag about.

Possibly my next favorite novelty skin, even though it really serves no purpose but to freak people out, is the anatomical muscle skin. Bizarre Berry, who also leads the Second Life Unitarian Universalist group, made this one. What I like about it is the level of detail and also the fact that, when worn where nobody is execting such a thing, it really does freak people out.

Bizarre Berry has a few other skins available, all of them, well, bizarre. I have a couple of others but use them so rarely there's no need to picture them here. They're all available in Modesta

I have a friend in-world with a skeleton avatar (I actually have one too, but he created it.) We should work up some kind of comedy duo bit with the bones and muscles.

The Demon Skin can be used with a normal human shape, but the most effective use I've found for it is as part of the Unicorna from 6ixth. This really incredibly detailed avatar has a unicorn torso and head, but with a simple command that disappears to reveal the human torso underneath, including the skin and hair of choice. The demon, from InsideOut, is the perfect complement.

Like many newcomers to SL, it took me a little bit of time to figure out how much difference good skins make to the avatar look. As you can see from these two entries, I still don't have a big collection of them. But they really are important for anyone who doesn't want to forever look like they just stepped off of Orientation Island.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Skins I'm In

After yet another skin purchase tonight, I took stock of those I've accumulated in my inventory over the past few months. I've noticed that I tend to wear a new skin set until I get something new, and then the older one gets "retired" and not used much or at all afterward.

Since well-made skins can cost a lot, that probably isn't the best approach. Running through what I have may help with making better use of the older ones.

Second Life starts you out with a very basic newbie skin that almost no features to it at all. I am not sure how long it took me to buy my first improvement to it, but the earliest one I recall buying is this one from PixelDolls, and the file properties tell me I acquired it about two months after first signing up.

This is a decent skin, though not outstanding. After my early days, I began trying to stay away from the body-builder look -- the skins with tightly cut abs and bulging pecs look too action-movie cliche, and far too common in Second Life. Here you set yourself apart by being a little less than ideal. This one has subtle muscle definition, but the level of feature detail is not what it could be. I have two versions of this skin, this one and one with sideburns in addition to the goatee.

(The goatee is another look I've largely shied away from, this one skin excepted. Not because I don't like it, but because for a while it seemed every skin I looked at that had facial hair had a trendy goatee, or soul patch. Finding skins with a full beard took some searching, although they seem to be more available now.)

I also have three skins from Dragonfly Designs. The one pictured here, with the beard, was the one I used for my "Professor" look, although I had a slimmer body shape to go with that. I have the same skin clean-shaven, and also clean-shaven with red eyebrows.

The muscle definition on these is about as far as I prefer to go toward the body-builder look. The nipple detail is nice, and the area around the neck and collarbones is well done. The only real drawback is the tone, compared to some other skins, looks a little yellowish to me. I don't know if it really is or was just some trick of the light the one time I noticed it, but these served me well for a good long while.

Dragonfly also offers a good range of facial hair. They were the first place I found to offer a good full beard, and the eyebrows are not as overbearing as those I've seen on some other designs.

I used these up until a couple of months ago, when I decided I wanted an image change. The Professor look I liked (and still do), but the slender body shape was starting to seem limiting. In real life I am not so slightly built, and Morgana and I have been trying to keep our most frequent SL look somewhere in the ballpark of our real selves. So I ended up getting a new shape, and tweaking it carefully, and that of course called for a new skin.

I hesitated for a couple of weeks before spending the money for Second Skin Labs' Adam. I plan to get a lot more use out of these, even with tonight's new acquisitions. They are very detailed, including a great amount of attention to the back -- shoulder blades and spine -- that many skin makers simply gloss over. And the body and facial hair is the most realistic I've seen. The designer photo sources at least some of the layers in these skins, and while that technique does not always work well, here it does.

Morgana showed me the ones I picked up tonight. They are part of the new Hunter line from Nora Entice. The particular trio I picked up are designed for the older man, with crow's feet around the eyes and wrinkles in the forehead. The same skin comes in a more youthful version and I may pick that up soon too, but the older look appealed to me -- partly because it's rare and partly because these are well done.

The one pictured is called "Grizzled," with the five o'clock shadow. The set also includes a clean-shaven version called "Aged," and another clean-shaven one with less pronounced wrinkles, called "Mature." The three of them give a good range of ages, and I can further enhance the effect with a good choice of hair.

Skin choice in Second Life is about trade-offs. I love the richness of Adam's skin tones, for example, but it doesn't have a bald head option, so any hair I choose has to either completely cover or blend into the hair it comes with. The Hunter line offers a less callow look than many skins, but it lacks body hair altogether, except for pubic hair, so the body looks a little sterile. The Dragonfly skin gives me a good full beard option, but also has abs that I'd prefer to be more subtle. Having a range of options, even though it can be costly, is the only way I know to deal with the inability to find the one perfect skin set.

I am sure women have it as bad, or even worse, as makeup options are hardwired into female skins the way facial hair choices are for men.

Along the way, I've picked up a few novelty skins, things I can't wear often but have been glad to have on hand when they're needed. I'll post another entry soon about those.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

I Heart Aries Celestial

This is so overdue.

I post so irregularly and Mickey and I don't only talk fashion (though admittedly, I like doing so), so I have never thought of this in any way as a 'fashion blog'.

I don't think I'm reviewing clothing here - I'm just a clotheshorse that likes to brag about what I've bought. I started it mostly as a way to record what I'd picked up - since SL is virtual space and all we're buying is pixels and bits, this adds a tiny bit of permanence to the items. Well, as permanent as any digital recording of digital imagery can be, I guess.

But my point is... I have never put this on any of the fashion feeds, I am not linked to any of them, I don't even sign the url to comments I post for fear of someone mistaking this as a very lame attempt at 'fashion blogging'.

So, imagine my surprise (and yes, little squiggle of pleasure) a few days ago when I logged in to find a box of review copies had been dropped on me by Aries Celestial Designs! The excitement quickly turned to trepidation - I'd never thought about this, so I definitely have no 'policy'. What if I hated this stuff? What should I do?

A quick scan of my inventory reminded me that ACD and I have a happy history - this is the company that makes the silver and gold sandals I've owned forever (or at least, six months or so) which I always wear when in ROMA. I've recommended them in the past when people have asked about those sandals, so there should be something good in here, yes?

Turns out... yes. No, YES. Not everything was to my taste - there was a set of silks that seemed well made enough, but they are silks. And pink... so pink that Mickey and I started riffing on the idea of Ava Gabor doing a sort of Gorean Green Acres. (No slur at all on the outfit.... we have strange minds. And these were pink. And silks.)

There was also a nicely made cross jewelry set that I'd happily recommend to anyone looking for some good cross jewelry - but it's not something I'm likely to wear unless I'm playing a nun who doesn't believe in that vow of poverty thing.

But none of that matters, because I struck gold with the Silver Texture-Change Heart Birthstone Set. These are lovely, flattering, non-blingy and the stones have twelve scripted options so they go with just about everything. The picture only shows the choker and earrings, but the set also comes with a bracelet, armcuff and ring. I've been wearing bits and pieces of this for days, and haven't gotten tired of it yet.

This may be the last review copy I ever get, but it led me straight over to the store to see what else I might snag (and I wound up with a very nice amber sun-themed jewelry set I might take pictures of at some point) and I hope I'll remember to check back now and then. Between the jewelry and the sandals, this is one of the few stores that has never disappointed me.

Jewelry: Aries Celestial Designs - Heart Birthstone Set
Hair: Sinsation - Carlie II Chocolate
Skin: Naughty - Alina Eye Shadow Smokey, Red Lipstick

Is Summer Over Yet?

This outfit makes me long for the cool drizzle of fall and a few leaves to kick through.

The skin is Naughty Alina in Pale Beige. The Alina line is at the top of my list of favorite skins - it seems to be a skin that creates strong feelings and seriously does seem to be one that requires a particular facial shape to pull off. It does great things for me, which makes up for all the lovely skins out there that don't suit my shape even a little.

The hair - oh man, how much I love this hair! It's Bewitched Britney in Brown. That was very much real-life me for a long time, and it's nice to see full and fluffy that doesn't look teased in SL. Curly hair like this requires a lot of alpha texturing and that does create alpha issues, but I'm willing to put up with that to get this effect. The hat is adorable and scripted with a bunch of different textures. I strongly wish that a no-hat option had been included, but even so, I'm very happy with this the way it is.

The showpiece of this outfit is, of course, that adorable open trenchcoat with the ties hanging loosely at the sides - the Nomad trenchcoat from Sinistyle. There is a sense of weight to this coat that is very realistic. I went to Sinistyle initially to go pick up one of it's Heroes inspired trenchcoats, but was so charmed by this open version (with optional shirt and pants to match) that I bought this one instead.

I don't recall the jeans I was wearing, but the boots are by Shiny Things and the tank top by Celestial Studios and both qualify as required basics as far as I'm concerned.

Hair: Bewitched - Britney Brown
Skin: Naughty - Alina Pale Beige
Boots: Shiny Things - Old Lace Up Boots Brown
Jeans: unknown
Top: Celestial Studios - Trixie Tank in Wheat
Trenchcoat: Sinistyle - Nomad

80s Glitz

It should be apparent by now that my intentions outreach my follow through - I want to post, oh yes I do, but it's haaard...

This past month, I managed to get some pictures taken, with every intention to show off a few lovely purchases, but then I got no further than that. I am so not the person to see about the latest offerings in SL, but fortunately good outfits don't stop being good a few weeks after the fact, so without further ado:

This just makes me happy from head to toe. The main elements are all from Veschi, although I switched out the skirt - the 80s Child set comes with a very large and colorful Cyndi Lauperish skirt, but this Bubble Skirt... oh my. It's the bottom part of the Shwank outfit (which itself comes with a glitzy sleeveless top). Not only is the skirt terribly cute, but the prims are worked in such a way that it looks good while moving, posing - you name it. The skirt is a must have.

The jacket isn't what you'd call a basic, but it's a lot of fun too - bright, flirty, pushed up prim sleeves that don't turn into strange prim bits when you raise your arms.

The shoes are by Solange! and have long been favorites of mine, but they have enough shiny gold in them that they require a high wattage outfit to avoid having them overpower the rest of the look. This outfit was made for these shoes.

Finally, the hair that everyone's been blogging, and with good reason - Cake's "Rumor" which seems to work perfectly with everything and everyone, in every color I've seen it in.

I don't think I want to see 80s fashion come back on the RL scene, but it sure is fun to dress up this way in Second Life.

Hair: Cake - Rumor (Currant)
Skin: Mojo Au Naturel - Tone 3 - 07
Shoes: Solange! Legacy Stillettos - Black/Gold
Skirt: Veschi - Shwank Bubble Skirt
Top: Veschi - 80s Child Dress Top
Jacket: Veschi - 80s Child Orange Jacket
Neck Scarf: Canimal - Flower Choker (colorable)
Stockings: CGBG Thigh Highs, Tintable with Backseam