More than Just a Girl

In early September, Hybrid Ansar threw down the gauntlet by challenging webloggers to oversize their female and, it also turns out, their male shapes.   As I mentioned in an earlier post (“Muscling in on Identity”), this meme and Botgirl’s post on changes of identity through time caused me to feel the impact of FL cultural messages — not only the messages themselves but also the mechanisms (traditional media, new media, the collective we, individuals, you, me) that – without even realizing it – may be shaping-reinforcing messages of desired identity.  Afterall, none of us lives in a vacuum.  With the explosion of media, how does an individual drill through the ever-increasing density of cultural messages?  This meme — oversizing and styling our shapes (the meme says “not chunky”…I’m not sure what that means, so I took it to mean over-muscling) — really brought all these twinges and questions to the forefront for me.  

It took a bit of fussing with the sliders.  (To some degree, this was for me also about learning slider skills, because at their different levels, the overall sense of proportion didn’t always jive with what I expected.)   I also wanted to create a confident style, one that worked identically on both shapes. 

 More than Just a Girl

More than Just a Girl

My height is at the 100 mark — which is probably as tall (if not taller) than Barbie (scaled from doll to human form).  The same Barbie — the Mattel-branded “utlimate” in idealized physical identity — whose shape has not changed one iota in 50 years.  (She’s also the original ADD poster child with her 700 careers.)  Yet despite her idealized identity in all ways, it stikes me how very much more powerful we are…we have choice in all worlds.  Too, in SL, we can hold our shapes constant like Barbie.  But unlike Barbie, we also have the power to change our shapes radically on a whim.   For this meme, I amped up pretty much all of the sliders, including the size of my head and hands.  The only slider I didn’t touch were for the feet and only because shoes are made to fit a size 0, so they stayed a 0.   With the trenchcoat, I didn’t adjust the collar or belt; you can see they’re not as prominent in the first two pictures as they are on the last two pictures.

More than Just a Girl

More than Just a Girl

I like that the collar and the belt also show the difference between the images.  If I knew how to photoshop the pictures together, I would have done that to show the differences in height and shape along the same visual dimensions.   But since photoshop is still a mystery tool to me, my learning how to do that will probably take some time.

So what does my oversized shape “say” to me?  It confirms to me that presence — an easy, confident presence — is very powerful and sexy.  In all shapes.  Really, more than anything else, I think it has much more to do with how well we know and like ourselves through all the variables that make us uniquely us…and how well we deal with the time-driven “work in progress” of bringing out our best, in thoughts

 a11

and in physical manifestation, which includes actions.   And which reminds me…I might have to try this meme on my work-in-progress male shape too.

Meanwhile, if Barbie could talk, she might actually be singing this with Gwen…

 

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Beguiled by Gita Rau

Many months ago, good friend L shared with me information about a new jewelry designer, Gita Rau, and her jewelry line “Beguiled.”   (Gita also happens to be a wonderful photographer.)  Gita and her Beguiled line would have been a perfect fit for the Shengri La Vintage Marketplace apprentice-designer program.  Her wonderful personality and talents reveal themselves in cleanly crafted pieces that meld together an array of jewel tone colors, classic metal tones, and contemporary shapes.  

For the past year, I curated the Shengri La Vintage Marketplace, which was created by Shenlei Flasheart, highly regarded FL and SL fashion designer, author, teacher, and creator of the thriving Debutante line of romantic fashion as well as the now-retired Prim & Proper line of victorian apparel.  At the time that I became aware of Gita and her talents, the Vintage Marketplace was transitioning from a 6-month mentoring program into a 6-8 week inworld design course, complete with a fully articulated curriculum.   Note:  applications are being accepted now for the Fall course which will begin on October 5th, so do apply!  I shared this very briefly in a wonderfully pleasant conversation with the lovely Gita when we spoke months ago, but over time I lost the thread of my initial conversation with her.  That has been bothering me.  Then, I recently learned that Gita had opened her first shop for Beguiled, and so it is with genuine delight that I share a sneak look at the creations of this wonderful and geuinely nice new talent.

Beguiled can be found in the Misali sim and is located inside an invitingly rustic building called “The Stone Shop.”   The Stone Shop feels more like an old-world (and rather large) veranda that is flanked on one side by a gentle riverbed and on the other side by grass-covered hills.  The surrounding area is blissfully serene, with the building at-one with the nature surrounding it.  Water undulates down from giant vases that bloat the rooftop edges, putting a luminous honey-colored wax on the stone facade of the shop.  This is probably the most gently compelling and lovely setting for a shop that I can remember coming across.  It happens to reflect perfectly the loveliness of Gita’s jewelry.

Beguiled Jewelry by Gita Rau at The Stone Shop
Beguiled Jewelry by Gita Rau at The Stone Shop

While you may expect to see antiquities upon entering Beguiled, instead you will find a wonderfully clean aesthetic that is surprising in its depth of power that stems from a masterful mix of subtlety and directness.  Those of us who love jewelry with an elegant yet unmistakeable presence and a variety of metal choices and colors will be in heaven here. 

Concentric Circles from Beguiled Jewelry by Gita Rau
Concentric Circles from Beguiled Jewelry by Gita Rau

Gita uses an assortment of precious metals throughout her collection.  You’ll find pieces with silver, gold, or a wonderfully rich raspberry-copper metal — and you’ll also find boldly-refined colors in her enameled pieces that reflect the vibrant stone and jewel tones of tiger’s eye, tourquoise, garnet, emerald, amethyst, sapphire, and pearl.

Beguiled Jewelry by Gita Rau
Beguiled Jewelry by Gita Rau

I’m very fond of all of the pieces in Beguiled and adore the clean, refined statement they make.  These are confident, classy pieces of substance that skip the candy-fluff of twinkie-like jewelry, which can be fun, no doubt. 

But when you want to make a powerful statement just by entering the room, that’s when you want to wear Beguiled.

Beguiled Jewelry by Gita Rau
Earrings from Beguiled Jewelry by Gita Rau (the necklace is from another line)

“Muscling” in on Identity

I’ve been inworld for nearly 3 years (hard to believe), and for the first time,  I felt the issue of “virtual or avatar identity” make its presence known.  The timing of  Botgirl’s latest, always thought-provoking weblog entry is fairly ironic with its revisit to the topic of identity but with a twist:  changes in identity through time.   Some of those changes are physical.

I’ve been thinking lately of a meme (my apologies for not yet finding its originator) that is going around.   The meme challenges those with female shapes to oversize their shapes and to style them.  When I first read the challenge, I thought “great idea!”  I still think that…not only to experience a shape other than my own but also to create a style that goes beyond my usual “boho” casual aesthetic, both of which I am quite fond. 

Then, a feeling of  “uh-oh” came over me.  What I didn’t realize until I began moving the sliders around was not so much how real the notion of identity is — because, at the risk of oversimplifying a very complex topic, this is something I tend not to scrutinize.  “This” being the question:   “is my virtual identity really me.”  For me, the answer is yes…I know it to be so on a primal level, although I realize many others take different views about this for themselves.  For me, the “true north” of identity is a person’s core values.  Because in the face of different shapes, different worlds, different increments of time or fashion, we tend to bring to them all a fundamental set of beliefs that drives us and that shapes our thinking.  (A simplification, I admit, but definitely a huge element in this overall picture.)   Whether or not we agree with each other’s belief systems is something different.   Whether or not we challenge our own thinking so as to learn and to grow is also an important, different question.  And while I do agree that identity may be more organic and living than unmoving or set in stone, I do also believe that its basic foundation comes from individual core beliefs however those might be arrived at.

Moving the sliders around for this particular meme brought to mind how very much society influences how we think about ourselves even on a subconscious level.   Reactions to Odalisque come to mind.  Of course, I know this intellectually, as we all do.  We’re hit constantly with images of what society calls “beauty” or “acceptable”  (“do” or “don’t”).   To varying degrees, that can be interpretted by some to mean everything from “desired identity” to “good” or “evil.”   This also reminds me of a great read that can be found in Mahala Roviana‘s weblog entry “The Truth About Furries” on her weblog Second Slice.

But, something inside twinged with me, causing me to realize the territory shifted from that of a theoretical discussion of identity into something decidedly personal.  And the personal here I think is the way in which society labels “woman.”  It’s amazing, in a way, that an abstract idea called “society” can yield such a powerful inner-personal impact.  Even in a world where anything is possible and the conventional FL rules are thrown out, making way for some new interpretations, new ideas of what is acceptable and what is not, new ways for how we treat each other and how we don’t, for defining what is in and what is out, for using judgement or not.   It’s always a far greater challenge to create new metrics, so much easier to apply the known.

I realized that something about greatly enhancing my muscularity for this meme might rattle some idea of what it means to be female.  That was odd to me, this feeling of challenge within this context.  In FL, I am and have always been unmistakably female while at the same time athletic (despite a serious sports-related knee injury).   In SL, I have a gazillion skins that I enjoy.  I also have a male shape; I don’t wear it all that much, but I do slip into it now and then.  I was curious what it would be like to be in a man’s shape (not an alt, but a shape) and how others would behave with me and I shared that thought with v amazing wonderful friend Dale, who is such a generous brilliant soul and teacher, both, in so very many ways.  I admit that the first time I created my male shape it felt odd…not only to see myself in male form but also because I was at a loss when it comes to behaving like a male.   I didn’t know how to “be” a male.  I still don’t know how to, but as Dale said, “just be you.”  And that’s exactly what I do because being me is, well, natural, and authenticity is something I value highly.   Plus, I like me.   The odd thing about wearing a male shape was feeling a little bit less sure about how to create a sense of overall proportion.   Even at the 50 mark on some sliders and even less than 50 on the muscle and body thickness sliders, my male shape looked a bit too broad shouldered, a bit too overscaled (my male shape is not a screamingly tall one).  It took several appearance edits over a span of time to arrive at a point where I finally felt like my male shape was built proportionately, was pleasing, and yes, was buff or athletic but not in any over-the-top way.

So why would oversizing my female shape create a twinge to such an extent that donning a male shape didn’t?   Well, I don’t over-muscle or over-heighten even my male shape, there is that for one.  But still this question served itself up like a big ole plate of spaghetti, one that I have been twirling my mind around like a fork, trying to find where the question begins and where it ends.  

I think it all comes down to this.  Within my fiber as I moved the sliders, I immediately sensed society’s snap judgements.  In this context, about females…specifically, muscular females.  “Roid injected.”  “She-Dudes.”  Somehow not allowed to be female.  And why?  The issue that bothers isn’t the different shapes that are in the world.  The issue is something else.   Perhaps it’s the fact and the process by which we’ve been fed images by some goliath (ironically enough) Ad Agencies who bless this or that as “good” and then for years decide to shove their verdicts in our collective faces over and over again.  Irrespective of one’s feeling about the meme, what I felt twinging at me with this is how powerful societal-marketing messages (from traditional institutions and us now?  since we now “own” the medium?) have been — and are — subtlely and not so subtlely shaping-manipulating “desired identity”…and that includes creating all the value judgements we have been taught to attribute automatically and unquestioningly to certain notions.  Not necessarily because we want to, but because we were told to by some clever marketing or social mechanism that said “this is good” but “that is bad.”

As to physical identity, I love my very curvy shape, in both worlds.  It is part of who I am, and in the atomic world it will continue to be as long as I can defy gravity.  Still.  This particular meme is, indeed, a really great meme.  It brings a sense of gravity into the digital world and how we deal with it on multiple levels.  It sparkles with the promise of challenging preconceived notions.  In this case, of reclaiming the fullness of the definition of what it can mean to be woman…including very curvy shapes and very muscular shapes and a whole heckuvalot in between.   So, I’m going to keep moving those sliders for a bit because my goal is to oversize and stylize my shape for this meme in a manner that directly defies — or at the very least challenges — society’s ancient and now putrefied caricatures. 

I realize that judgement, often binary judgement, is part of our nature.  At the same time, it’s important for us to challenge our own assumptions and to examine some of the things that might be influencing us from some value system other than our own for some other purpose. 

Besides that, as my mother used to say before she passed, “The world would be pretty boring if everyone was exactly alike.”

“Pearls of the Ocean”

I couldn’t resist sharing a sneak peek of another amazing mer-gown, one that I will be modeling during the “Pearls of the Ocean” fashion installation on Sunday, September 13th (8:00 AM SLT, Shengri La 81.68.253).  “Pearls of the Ocean” is a showcase of mer-apparel by Misteria Loon, creator of Pas De Deux fashion.

Misteria’s gorgeous “Black Pearl” mer-gown is sublime.  Take a look in the photos that follow as I float joyfully otiose along the Shengri La seabed. 

Pas De Deux fashion by Misteria Loon
"Black Pearl" by Misteria Loon, creator of Pas De Deux fashion
Even in a photo you can just about feel the heavenly movement and gentle glow of “Black Pearl.”   As with all of Misty’s gowns, she creates them with such rich swirling hues…luxurious and evocative enough to cause a cherub to blush.  Truly a marvel is her eye for color and light along with her graceful hand in creating such a grand sweep for each design.  Misty’s gowns — from formal, fae to mer — are so wonderfully organic that in wearing “Black Pearl,” for instance, you almost feel as if the gown is a gorgeous flower gracefully overflowing from a gently curving translucent vase. 
"Black Pearl" by Misteria Loon, creator of Pas De Deux fashion
"Black Pearl" by Misteria Loon, creator of Pas De Deux fashion

The notion that one could find a designer who consistently melds a heavenly and organic aesthetic into each creation might have seemed unlikely before.  But now, with Misty’s wonderful artistry, the naturally divine is found in all of her creations.  Which means that we can have our strudel and eat it, too!  (I must be hungry…the plants on the seabed remind me of strudel moreso than cake!) 

"Black Pearl" by Misteria Loon, creator of Pas De Deux fashion
"Black Pearl" by Misteria Loon, creator of Pas De Deux fashion

 

But better yet is experiencing these creations in person.  Be sure to use the Shengri La coordinates 81.68.253 on September 13th at 8 AM SLT and helicopter into the “Pearls of the Ocean” fashion installation, which is masterfully created and hosted by SL and FL fashion designer Shenlei Flasheart (owner of the Shengri La estates).

Gorgeous Mer Fashion

Pearls of the Ocean Mer Fashion Installation

Sunday, September 13
8 am PDT/ 11 am EDT

Shengri La 81, 68, 253

 

I am so honored and thrilled to be able to share news of a fashion installation featuring the gorgeous creations of Misteria Loon (creator of Pas De Deux), who last spring graduated from the Shengri La Vintage Marketplace program which was created by Shenlei Flasheart and curated by me.  Misty’s range and talent are both incredible and evident in all her creations, from elegant gowns, fantasy fae fashion to ethereal mer fashion.  “Pearls of the Ocean” showcases Misty’s mer fashion designs.

You are invited to attend “Pearls of the Ocean,” during which Misty’s stunningly gorgeous mer creations will be displayed in an innovative and beautiful fashion installation masterfully created by SL and FL fashion designer Shenlei Flasheart.  Do plan to attend!  You won’t want to miss this for all the reasons stated above (and shown in the picture below) but also because you’ll be joined in attendance by FL designers:  “Pearls of the Ocean” is part of first-life’s New York Fashion Week, with many first-life apparel designers planning to be inworld to attend the show. 

Pearls of the Ocean, Shengri La fashion installation of mer designs by Misteria Loon

 

From the official “Pearls of the Ocean” invitation:

The ethereal fashions of Misteria Loon, designer of Pas de Deux, will be showcased in this special event sponsored and presented by Fashion Research Institute.  Eight lovely mer beauties and four handsome mermen will display Misty’s work in a unique, innovative fashion display in the Fashion Research Institute’s Second Life Shengri La estate. 

“Pearls of the Ocean” will be part of New York Fashion Week and will be streamed from within Second Life to an audience at an independent designer fashion event held at New York University. 

 

How cool is that!  Who knew there were mers in SL and Bryant Park, but now there will be!  Do join us in what is sure to be a wonderful experience on so many levels:  from breathtaking mer creations by a fast-rising talent as shown in a wonderfully innovative fashion exhibit that brings together the creative forces of inworld fashion with those from New York’s Fashion Week.  Such a combination is a rare, rare gem indeed…and, thankfully, one that we all get to share in! 

See you there!

Doll Face by Andrew Huang

 I just came across the “Doll Face” short film (from a posting in Facebook), which I understand went viral on YouTube in 2008.  I hadn’t seen Andrew Huang’s work before.   “Doll Face” is a powerfully compelling and hauntingly thought-provoking exploration of virtual identity well worth revisiting or seeing for the first time.  

The short film plays with the highest clarity from Huang’s beautiful website; for the sake of expediency, the YouTube version follows:

 

Sometimes a Revisit

Tonight, I returned to Sometimes They Rise, AM Radio’s latest build where I learned that the build is meant to change on a frequent basis.  This time when I arrived wheatfields whiskered the ground around the trees.  Snow sparkled its way gently down the skies, blanketing the horizon in gray-white ripples, and a HUD cast a wonderful old-worldly even other-worldly view of the build.

Sometimes They Rise viewed through the Sometimes They Rise HUD
Sometimes They Rise viewed through the Sometimes They Rise HUD

I found and wore a wonderful Dryiad outfit that I had forgotten I had.   As it turned out, several visitors approached me to study me when I was posed.  Realizing that they thought I was part of the exhibit, I politely shared with them that I was not part of the art installation.  But come to think of it…I think we all are part of the art when we interact with it and take pictures of the feelings that the creations stir within us.  To interact in this build as a Dryiad was my good fortune.  (I think I’ve had that skin and attachments for quite a while and completely forgot!)  I’ve always loved trees…so being in and amongst the miracle of nature is instinctive, even if we don’t understand the full complexity of it all.

Sometimes They Rise in windlight, as viewed with the HUD
Sometimes They Rise in windlight, as viewed with the HUD

In a nod to the Impressionists painters, I played with the light by trying different windlight presets.  The nice thing is I could stay in the HUD while clicking through the environmental presets:

Sometimes They Rise in windlight, as viewed with the HUD
Sometimes They Rise in windlight, as viewed with the HUD

And I could just as easily return to the standard sunset setting, one I love for its lovely warm glow:

Sometimes They Rise as viewed with the HUD
Sometimes They Rise as viewed with the HUD

“Sometimes They Rise” is a definite must-experience visit…even moreso now that the installation will morph frequently as the trees rise through the Fall season.