We are seeing a new direction or more realistically several directions designers are taking in making mesh clothes. I’ll cover where we have been and where we are along with where I think we are most likely going. For those with little time, jump to the Summary.
Rigged mesh clothes started a revolution. In my estimation rigged mesh received only a mediocre reception. Because of the issues with shape and fit many simply would not purchase rigged mesh clothing. Designers decided to create the 5 Standard Shapes …sizes if you will… to make a better attempt at fitting the shapes people prefer. The Five Standard Sizes subject saw its share of discussion and drama.
Rigged mesh is the type of clothing that follows the avatars movements, like an arm or leg bending. The rigged mesh item will also bend. But, changing the avatars shape, like adjusting body fat, has no effect on rigged mesh. Changes like height and other adjustments that change bone shape do affect rigged mesh.
The result is if one wants a more full bodied shape, call it plump, they are mostly out of luck. So, it is clear rigged mesh is only a partial solution.
But, rigged mesh clothes can take advantage of Second Life™ Materials and improved mesh layout. The advantages allow designers to use more patterns and prints with less distortion as the avatars move. People like that and rigged mesh clothing sells. But, how well? I think we have no hard data to say. But, it seems reasonable to say it is by some measure less popular than it could be.
I try on lots of rigged mesh – standard size clothes – every week. Some items do fit and I have some clothes I like well enough to tweak my shape so I can wear them and have them fit as I want. The result is I have more and more tweaked shapes that are part of an outfit.
I suspect merchants can see the demos going out and sales being only a percentage of the number of demos tried. That would suggest a problem to me if I were trying to see which items sell best. I think it tells the story that people like an item and are considering it for purchase. If it fits, they will likely buy it. This process is very much like RL. We see stores stock more of an item in popular sizes. They know what is popular by what sells. They add more sizes and watch sales of those added sizes and then adjust inventory stock for future items based on that information. Not something we can do in SL… we can’t know what size the customer wanted, we can’t track specific sizes as all sizes are bundled in SL. It is far too complex to add sizes on a whim. Especially when we cannot know which ones are popular.
In striving for a solution to these problems and after a two-plus year experiment with plenty of drama the Mesh Deformer was dumped and we saw the arrival of Fitted Mesh.
Fitted Mesh responds to more shape controls and is affected by changes to settings like Body Fat. But, still there is a fit problem. The avatar responds to shape changes by using a 3D animation technique called morphs. But, fitted mesh clothes don’t morph. They scale. The result is morphing tummies does not change shape at the same rate scaling changes clothing. The result is we still have poorly fitting clothes and a need for sizes. I’ve speculated that Small, medium, and large might suffice. But, things seem to be going a different direction.
Designers, at least some, have seen the problem. Clothes and avatars are based on such different systems we will never easily get well fitting clothes. One result is the arrival of mesh bodies as an attempt at a solution. The advantage with a fitted mesh body is it scales the same as as fitted mesh clothes, neither use morphing. It should be easier to make clothes that fit mesh bodies.
I think the basic concept is good. Replace the avatar body with a better body. That is what we have been asking the Lab to do for years. Now they have provided a way for us to do that. Designers are working on mesh bodies and clothes for those mesh bodies.
I guess one could think this would eliminate the need for various sizes. Some time ago I had that hope. We should be at the point of one size can fit all. Especially when one considers that setting shape for a plump mesh body will also set clothes to fit a plump shape.
So, where are we going with mesh bodies and clothes? What does a designer plan for? What do new designers learn to make? What sells best?
I had not thought much about this problem until Kyriakos Collas sent me a sample of what Alpha Lab is doing. Kyriakos founded Alpha Lab in 2007. Historically Alpha Lab makes and sells full perm clothing templates to designers.
The templates being now being made and placed in the SL Market Place show the direction Kyriakos is taking. For an example see: Full Perm Womens MESH T-Shirts (Shape Revolution).
Kyriakos is providing 10 shapes in the packages being assembled now. When selling to a designer that has to meet the demands of the market, variety is a big plus. That is because our SL market has become so diverse.
Once upon a time… we had system clothes that fit everyone and some sculpty and prim add-ons. Get a set of Chip Midnight’s clothing templates and you were good to go. With GIMP or Photoshop you were set for most clothes making.