On Mesh

Sometimes I feel like everyone is completely bought in to mesh, but then I leave my immediate circle. There is still a lot of misinformation and apprehension about mesh. Ask anyone, and I’m sure they’ll have an opinion about it. I have had some very interesting conversations on the topic, so I decided to do a blog post to tell you how I came to my own stance on mesh.

Last winter, when I came back to Second Life after my almost-year-long hiatus, I started asking my friends what was new in SL. The biggest new thing I kept hearing about was mesh.  Everyone told me how cool it was, and that it moves with your avatar, and that it’s so much better than prims and sculpts, and they just couldn’t say enough good things about mesh! Honestly, I wasn’t sold. First off, I had to download a new viewer to even SEE mesh, and even then it was hit or miss. Sometimes people would appear to simply be missing sections of their bodies (due to them wearing alphas, but their mesh not showing up for me). I went and tried a few mesh things on, and none of it really fit me. There was always something sticking out here or there or some gap or… ugh! It was frustrating.  I learned that rigged mesh is actually attached to the skeleton of our avatar, so it stretches according to the “structure” of our avatars, like width or height. What makes fitting tricky is the “fat” content of our avatars.  I am no expert, but as I understand it, the clothing is rigged at a certain distance from the skeleton to create curves and whatnot. The problem is, everyone was rigging these clothes to certain shapes, but no one knew what these shapes were.

I was told that in order to fit mesh, I would have to change my avatar shape. I was definitely apprehensive about that. First of all, I made my own shape, and I put a lot of work into it. I had spent a lot of time perfecting my shape. My shape is my own, not store-bought. I actually carried it over from my original avatar, and I’ve since modified it to continue to have the exact look I want. After almost 5 years of tweaking, I really didn’t want to lose my uniqueness.  Secondly, change what? Do I have to have giant boobs or be super thin or… like, what do I even change? I didn’t see the point of making all of these changes to fit mesh. Why go through so much effort for some clothes!?  I liked my system clothes and I was used to sculpts.

Even though it seemed sort of complicated, I decided to keep an open mind about it. This was mostly because so many of the new mesh releases I was seeing were absolutely gorgeous and I was starting to feel really sad that I didn’t own them.  For every good looking mesh item, though, there seemed to be a not-so-great one.  Mesh was still really hit or miss in my eyes, and I wasn’t ready to make a commitment to changing my shape for every single thing I bought.

I continued to talk to my friends about mesh and the reasons I wasn’t wearing it. I actually really wanted to wear mesh, but the uncertainty about how exactly to mod my shape and still be “me” is what most made me shy away. During one of these conversations, I was told about a new system called Standard Sizing that a few designers came out with. Through some research, they had figured out a few averages for avatar shapes and would now be making clothing according to these averages.  Their system allowed people to modify their shape just once, and then fit into all clothing made by these designers.

I found the Standard Sizing package here on the Marketplace and read the notecard. It answers these questions:

– What is Standard Sizing?
– What is the purpose of Standard Sizing?
– How do you know the Standard-Sized shapes are accurate?
– Where are female XL and XXL?
– Won’t we look like a bunch of clones if we’re all using the same 5 shapes?
– Where can I get these shapes and how much do they cost?
– What if my own personal avatar size doesn’t match one of the Standard Sizes?
– I am a creator. How do I make use of the Standard-Sized shapes, and how do I let my customers know I am using Standard Sizing?
– How do I let my customers know what Standard Sizing is?
– I create and sell shapes. Can I use the Standard-Sized shapes as a base for shapes that I sell?

It also gives you the 8 relevant slider numbers that will allow you to fit into every size from XXS to L. The package was recently updated to include male measurements as well.

I took the plunge and modified my shape (I even blogged my new shape). I chose to go with Standard Size XS because it was closest to my own shape. I did have to make my boobs and butt bigger, but a lot of the other numbers were within 5 of my original numbers anyway. I have since enjoyed wearing mesh very much. I still wear system clothes, and I still wear sculpts. I even wear a few non-standard items and slightly mod my shape to fit them. I have realized that what really makes my avatar unique isn’t those 8 particular numbers. For me, the clothes I choose say more about my style than my avatar’s breast size. I can still change every slider that pertains to bone structure. There are 5 standard sizes to choose from, and they will look different on every person depending on how they choose to move all the other sliders available.

I will show you how the different standard sizes look on my avatar, so you can see that Standard Sizing is not about enforcing some model shape or stick figure look (which is an argument I hear very often). My height is set to 25, and the only numbers I changed from photo to photo are the 8 that pertain to standard sizing. (Click image to view larger.)

Can I get really mooshy and cliché here for a minute?  I understand that our avatar is how we choose to represent ourselves in Second Life, and therefore we get attached to the way they look. We also tend to judge other avatars based on appearance. I am quite guilty of this myself. Let’s all take a second to remember what ACTUALLY makes each avatar unique, though. Behind every little pixel Barbie or Ken or Skipper is a real person with a real heart and a real mind and a real story. I hope that no matter what side of the mesh or Standard Sizing (or any other) argument you fall on, you (and I) continue remember that and treat each other like people, not pixels. ❤

Photo credits:

Top: coldLogic top- flynn
Jeans: JANE- sweet n low jeans
Nails: Sexy Mamas- Sculpted Prim Nails
Lashes: Beetlebones- Mesh Lashes
Eyes: MONS- Shocking Eyes
Hair: [elikatira]- Away
Feet: Slink Womens Natural Barefeet (Mesh Rigged)
Skin: Glam Affair- Giselle
Shapes: Mine
All Poses: (pda)

If you want more information about keeping your own shape while still fitting mesh, Luna Jubilee did a fantastic tutorial on fitting mesh here. Strawberry Singh also recently posted some links in one of her recent blog posts that are relevant to the next new thing being discussed in mesh, called a mesh deformer. As I understand it, this is something that will make it possible for mesh to fit any shape. It is still in very early testing stages, but it is a very interesting development. Just like all things in SL, mesh is just going to get better as more smart and creative people develop new fantastic ways to make it work for everyone!



  1. I really hope we don’t leave prim design behind. So far I haven’t been able to see how I can refeflict movement in my photos with the use of mesh. There is something so dreamlike and whimsical about a swirl of a prim skirt photographed in just the right light. But like you, I have adapted somewhat to mesh but I can’t see myself leaving “prims” behind.

  2. Maribel, thank you so much for this excellent article!! I have the same reservations and concerns you had, so far I only have some mesh furniture and a bunch of mesh demo clothes I have been too chicken to try on!!! So it was great to read your thoughts – thx for the links to standard sizing on the mp and other relevant blogs too. ❤

  3. Thanks for this thoughtful post. Like you, I have painstakingly, lovingly created my own shape and have done only minor tweaks to it in the past five years. For film, it’s essential that I use the best-textured, most realistic-looking items. For me, mesh is hit or miss. Some mesh items look just barely textured, compared to their shadowed, wrinkled, colorful system counterparts. Frankly, I’m holding off on a mesh-buying frenzy until the deformer arrives.

    1. I definitely know what you mean. Some stores make beautiful mesh items and some aren’t doing as well. Just like other products in SL, you just have to find who’s making the items that are up to your personal standards and fit your taste. I found that altering the few little things in my shape actually didn’t kill me like I was afraid it might. Have you considered saving your current shape then just tentatively making a standard shape just to see how it looks? I am also looking forward to the mesh deformer once they have the bugs worked out.

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