This article was originally written for and published in “Elements of Style,” a blog aimed at showing new designers how to take their skills to the next level, and helping consumers discern high quality content.
Before I launch into my topic, I should probably introduce myself. I’m Bourbon Zenovka, and I’m a fashion model. (Sorry if that sounded a bit 12-step.) My point is, I am not a designer, and I feel a little awkward contributing to a blog about design quality. I certainly cannot tell you designers how to work your craft. However, I can bring to you the perspective from the runway, hopefully with some thoughts about the marketability of your products. So with that, I would like to discuss fitting a garment. I will focus mainly on attachments, but also touch on clothing layers.
How will your customer experience that delicious moment, when she unpacks the box and tries on her new garment for the first time? Will attempting to fit it leave her frustrated, or will she be dying for your next release?
In the Bourbieverse, the ideal garment allows me to move, resize (along each axis separately!), and rotate each individual prim of an attachment. It is SO important to have that level of control over the fit of the garment, because our shapes can be so different. My casual observation is that at least 95% of our avatars (female, anyway) have tall, statuesque figures, so I suspect that is the shape most designers work with. “Tall and statuesque” sounds narrowly defined, but there is a fair bit of variability. For example, although my avatar stands a towering 2.0 meters in heels, many full-length skirts disappear into the floor when I first wear them. Small differences between the customer’s shape and the designer’s shape can render a poor fit out of the box. Needless to say, a designer cannot create a one-size-fits-all attachment. However, it would probably be helpful to have a variety of shapes on hand. You can up the odds that your attachment will be workable with your customers’ shapes, and you can make necessary adjustments before release.
Given our diversity of shapes, the customer will most likely have to make some adjustments to attachments to get a good fit. There are several ways a designer can approach this. The simplest solution is to sell the garment (the attachment, anyway) with mod permissions. I understand why designers are reticent to take this approach. Truly, I am disheartened each time I hear that someone’s creation has been stolen. So the common alternative is to build the prims with a resizing script, which Raven Haalan discussed in detail in his Sep 19 post. However, you might be interested to know that in a recent round table among models, there was a decided preference for modifiable, rather than scripted hair. I’m just saying.
But if you must use a resizing script, please make the item copyable and include a kill script.
There are other options to consider, too. If you can afford to provide that level of support, offering a custom fitting, as Bax does, can give your customers a nice boutique experience. Or what some hair designers do (Sirena and Zero Style come to mind) is to include several sizes of the item in the box. Another option to consider is to use the alpha layers of viewer 2. I have worn alpha layers under hair (sure beats fussing with a zillion individual prims); we will see how clothing designers will implement them.
As a last resort, you can include a notecard that lists the parameters for the avatar shape that the item was designed around. (Tukinowaguma does this, for example.) Occasionally while preparing for a show, frustrated at being unable to fit a garment to my shape, I have modified my shape to fit the garment. Using any trick in the book to fit a garment is part of what I am paid to do as a model. But I think most customers would feel put out if asked to modify their shapes.
To this point, I have been discussing items under the customers’ control. Clothing layers, however, are another matter; they are constrained by the avatar mesh. Yes, I’m a big fan of décolletage, and Harper’s recent post was spot-on. What follows is perhaps a footnote. When designing the décolletage, be aware that all nipples are not created equal. Nipples are painted on the skins, and some will be larger, some smaller, irrespective of breast size or shape. If it is your intention to show some nipple peeking above the garment, well and good. Otherwise, consider trying your garment on a variety of skins, to cover your bases, so to speak.
For sure, most of your customers are not going to be as anal about a garment’s fit as will be a veteran model. But they do remember which stores sell clothes that consistently fit well and look attractive, as well as where they bought clothes that, “well, just don’t look right on me.” During the design and construction phase, you may predispose an item for good fit, but in the end, the customer will usually be making the adjustments. So give the customer as much control as possible over the size, rotation and position of each individual prim. When she is finished, she will stand in front of her virtual mirror, look with great satisfaction at what she sees, and exclaim to herself, “Perfect fit!”