Thursday, July 23, 2009

Stiletto Crazy After All These Years

Second Life has an enormous fashion industry—and I realize that statement probably seems like a tremendous oxymoron to anyone who isn't familiar with virtual worlds. And the notion is kind of preposterous: who would pay real money to put virtual clothes on an avatar?

The answer is "plenty of people." Clothing, accessories, and avatar items like hair and animations are probably the dominant "content creation" field in Second Life. After all, not everyone needs vehicles (everyone can fly and teleport!) and not everyone has land and therefore needs a house or abode (I've been in SL almost a year and have never owned or rented land). But everyone in Second Life has an avatar, and there can be tremendous social pressure not to "look like a noob." And Second Life is festooned with stores offering clothing, accessories, and parts of outfits. Some emulate real-life fashion like jeans and chucks or going off in fanatistical directions and offering complete avatars—I've seen huge dragons, robot spiders, tiny rodents, the occasional mythical creature, and much more—or offer clothing for Victoriana, faerie, steampunk, cyberpunk, medieval, and countless other themes. While there are tremendous amounts of "freebies" in the SL fashion industry—promoting a few free high-quality items is apparently the most common way to bring traffic to a store—it's possible to spend real money on Second Life clothing. A reasonably hip outfit can easily run $1,000 to $1,200 Lindens from head to toe—say $4.50 to $5 CAN—that may not include hair. Separates typically run anywhere from $50 to $200L apiece; lots of people (myself included) mix and match pieces to get more mileage out of the clothing we do have.

But there is definitely "high fashion" in Second Life—and it is not cheap. Some designers leverage SL's unique capabilities and create things that would be difficult to impossible in real life. Others take their cues from real life fashion. For instance, check out this shoe:

Stiletto Moody puts its best foot forward

Yep, that's a closed-toe stiletto heel—complete with foot!—crafted by Stiletto Moody, one of SL's high-end footwear designers. The foot is an interesting twist: the default feet on Second Life avatars can be altered and deformed (even into heels) using shaping controls, but they're seriously blocky and chunky. That's fine if the entire foot is going to be encased in a shoe—no one will see it—but when a well-formed foot is part and parcel of a shoe's design…SL avatars aren't up to the task. So designers are working around this problem by using 3D prims—specifically, "sculpties" created in programs outside Second Life—to create more detailed and elegant artificial feet. Avatars then wear these shoes—feet and all—over their default feet. The shoes also use prims with transparent textures to hide the default blocky feet from view. One upshot to crafting an entire foot out of prims is that one can more easily accessorize the foot: toe rings, painted nails, tatoos, and other elements that can't be done with default feet (or at least can't be done well) are all possible with fake feet. All the exquisite detail SL builders can put into, say, prim jewelry is suddenly an option. Sometimes shoes just include fake toes (often called "toesies") that just hide the front portion of an avatar's foot: other times—like on the pump above—the entire foot gets replaced.

Oh. Here's the pricetag on that shoe:


That's about $45 Canadian. Yes, I'm sure it does all sorts of tricks—Stiletto Moody's shoes are famous for having all sorts of accessories (chains, bling, charms, and accouterments), and I'm pretty sure that price includes the shoes in every available color. But it also represents more money than I've ever spent on clothing for my avatar after almost a year in Second Life. And I know where I can pick up some swell shoes here in town for under $45…and hold them in my actual hands.

4 comments:

  1. It doesn't seem preposterous compared to offline fashions. People want it online for the same reason as the real stuff. It helps them develop an image that shapes people's perception of them. They are still people when they're online. The implication that because something is digital it's not of value is an insult to "regular" musicians, moviemakers, gamemakers and content creators in VWs who spend hours, days , weeks or even months working on something.

    Besides, $11000L is nothing compared to what I pay for shoes RL! ( http://tr.im/tGh1)

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  2. Chadd, you're proceeding from the assumption prices for offline "high fashion" aren't preposterous! ;)

    I never said digital or virtual goods don't have value; however, I *do* think the nature of digital production and distribution makes virtual and digital economies fundamentally different from the real world. Seems like the "value" of digital goods and/or content is far from settled yet, but many trends don't look promising for many types of production or content creation.

    As for the Loriblu's...jah! I think those really bring out your feathers! You *did* go with the red version, right? :)

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  3. Perhaps I shouldn't have given you that Stiletto Moody landmark...

    I have spent around 20,000$L on shoes in SL. I would put shoes in a group with hair and skin of stuff that is very hard to make well and is consequently expensive. Good jewellery is also very hard to make but there is a lot less demand for it, although the most expensive fashion item I have ever seen in SL was a piece of jewellery costing $116-US.

    All the money I have spent in SL has been money that I have “earned” it is too much effort to cash it out for smallish sums so I might as well spend it on something. Although my most expensive shoes are from Stiletto Moody they are not the best made nor are they my favourite ones (there is only one shoe shop in my picks). Despite all my designer shoes my most valued status symbol is something linden-dollars cannot buy - my Buccaneer Bowl Champions tag (well unless maybe Lette is open to bribery).

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  4. You forgot to mention that it's actually impossible to tp whilst wearing the new shoes and that they lag you even by wearing them.....why spent $2k linden just to lag when you could go to a sandbox and lag for free....

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