Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Skirting the Issue

We’ve discussed hair and shoes in Second Life, and how these things, while mundane in Real Life, have funny sorts of technical complications in the virtual world. Skirts are not quite as bad, but even so, I wear pants in SL a lot. Here’s the lowdown on SL skirts.

There are two kinds: prim skirts and system skirts. The system skirt is a clothing layer, and its symbol is a little skirt in your inventory. System skirts can make acceptable miniskirts, pencil skirts, and skirts for sheath-type dresses, but they stay fairly close to the body. They can’t be used for any sort of very full skirt type.

System skirts have some additional limitations. For one thing, when you move your legs apart, their texture can become very distorted. But their worst shortcoming is that the skirt mesh actually floats a little way away from the rest of the avatar mesh. The result is that most system skirts make your hips and derriere look much plumper than normal. Or, as one of my friends once put it, “I look like I’m carrying a puppy under there.”

The solution to this is to have a special version of your shape that you wear with system skirts. Just take your normal shape and narrow the hips and butt a little bit, then save that shape with its own name, like “LindalSkirtShape”.

Prim skirts are like prim hair…they are an attachment rather than a clothing layer. Most prim skirts these days are made with “flexiprims”, prims that appear to flex like cloth in response to your movements, and can be affected by wind and gravity. These skirts can be made very full…whether they are short, like a tutu or a poodle skirt, or floor length like an elegant ball gown.

Prim skirts, though, have their own limitations. Most of them require editing to fit properly at your waist. The ends of the flexiprims may stick out away from your body, or be too deeply buried inside. But the worst thing about prim skirts is that your body can pass through them. All avatar attachments become phantom when they are worn. This is generally a good thing, but it means that in many poses and animations, your legs will poke through the skirt. Because of this, prim skirts have a second part, “glitch pants” that are textured the same as the skirt fabric. This helps preserve the illusion of the skirt fabric draping over your limbs.

But not in extreme cases, such as sitting down. When you sit, your long skirt hangs straight down, exposing your legs most immodestly. A very few skirts have a “sit script” that tries to rotate the skirt to a different position when you go into a sit pose. I’ve found these to be only partially successful and require a great deal of editing.

One other type of script that can be found in a few skirts is a “rip/strip script”. This allows another person to remove your skirt, which can be fun in several sorts of roleplay.

One last type of prim skirt attempts to overcome the bulge-butt look of system skirts. Some very tight miniskirts consist of two parts…a pair of glitch pants and a “filler” made of one or two prims that is positioned between the legs. These look pretty good, but require some editing and some compromises to get the edges of the filler prims to line up with the edges of the glitch pants in different poses.

So now you can see why pants are “in” this year.

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