Mesh : A beginner’s guide.

Mesh bodies. They’re coming, for all of us. But for me, not just yet!

Why? After seven years of living in Ella’s skin and body shape it feels comfortable. To radically alter that would be to undergo surgery at the hands of Doctor Frankenstein, I think. I’m just not ready for that, particularly as mesh is in its (relative) infancy and isn’t either (a) widespread as yet and (b) affordable.

Yes, it does seem to be getting cheaper,  and the mesh designs are becoming more widely available and much better than they initially were, but I do still have some reservations about mesh bodies/skins, just as I do about mesh clothing (we’ve previously written on how mesh clothing does appear to be a little bit of body fascism if you choose to wear ‘plus’ sizes: the same sort of body fascism available to girls (and guys) above a certain size in RL).

For me, it should be incumbent on mesh clothes designers to be offering sizes that might more accurately reflect an avatar’s RL size, should they choose to wear that size and accurately reflect the diversity of shapes and sizes out there in the real world.

Big-girls

 

It’s something the same with mesh too, or so I’ve found in an early experiment with it. Currently, for me, it’s an exercise in the homogenisation of the SL shape and size.

Meet Eve (again). She’s my rolled-out-twice-a-year-alt held back specifically for exercises such as this.

eve1 no mesh_001b

 

Forget the blue hair…I can’t remember what I last did with her that required blue hair! 🙂

‘Eve’ doesn’t reflect the real me in any way, shape or form. She’s just an alt that’s useful to have lying around for some occasions.

We’ll strip Eve down to her bare essentials…

eve1 no mesh2_001b

 

OK…she looks fine. But I discovered that ‘The Shops’ has a mesh body that is essentially free. (Thanks to SLN photographer Diane Toxx, via SL avatar Susannah Ironside, for this information).

mesh

 

There are limitations, of course. The free body doesn’t have compatibility with other elements of mesh, and the ‘deluxe’ version is the only one that appears to allow you to buy your already bought mesh clothes. Priced at L$5000, the ‘deluxe’ version is going to be financially restrictive for many avatars, and the ‘basic’ version, priced at L$3000, isn’t any less restrictive.

As with other elements of SL, designers need to remember that not every avatar around the globe works from the same economic model as north America and Europe. We’ve seen  the relative lack of diversity in sim builds due to the fact that, for example, a user in Mumbai won’t have the same disposable income as one in Maine, or in Munich, or in Manchester, restricting their capacity to re-create their home city for the rest of us to experience. We’ve also seen the relative lack of skin colour diversity in SL. Yes, of course you can buy some terrific black skins (not so much terrific Asian skins around, mind you) but it’s rare that you will encounter a terrific looking black skin offered as a free group gift, thereby limiting the options for diversity in SL. It becomes an overwhelmingly ‘white’ experience, and an overwhelmingly Euro-American shopping mall experience as opposed to a culturally diverse world that, in the hands of talented sim builders, would allow us to experience a much more diverse Second World.

Note that in the example skin I’m using for mesh, it’s only by buying the deluxe version that ‘ebony’ skin tones appear to become available (although there is a wide range of darker tones within the free version), and the extras include ‘busty’.

Well, as someone who isn’t ‘busty’ and has never run a ‘busty’ avatar and has no desire to run a ‘busty’ avatar, I find that once again there’s a homogenisation of shape in mesh. What about us flat chested girls? Doesn’t mesh cater for us? Apparently not.

It’s a negative, for me. Given the flexibility of mesh, it’s disturbing that mesh designers appear to be interested largely in a certain type of shape or size, particularly where breasts are concerned.

Oh, of course there is an element of mesh breasts that I think are terrific, their capacity to maintain an ‘elasticity’ or ‘perkiness’ is certainly different and reflects some RL shapes (particularly in younger women).

So let us add the free mesh skin to Eve.

eve1 no mesh3_001b

 

You can immediately see that Eve’s breasts are fuller and more shapely. The shape is terrific, but they’re too big (for me and for Eve and many other avatars) and I found that a bit of breast reduction surgery 🙂 using the sliders simply reduced the mesh skin below the original skin, so that a smaller boobed model simply wasn’t achievable. Of course, I could continue experimentation, by  reducing the original skin’s breasts to a zero setting, and seeing how that might work.

And no, Eve isn’t wearing gloves so she can handle exquisite diamonds or rare books, in the pic above I left the hands, which need to be applied separately (as do the feet) in their original mesh state, so you could see how the full effect was pulled together.

I’m fairly certain hands and feet are applied separately so that ‘Slink’ attachments can be applied to the avatar. ‘Slink’, for the uninitiated, is hands, feet and heads compatible with mesh to allow some variation to a mesh look.

There’s a slight variation between the mesh skin tone and Eve’s original head. There are a variety of tattoo layers that blend these together better, and I found that with a little experimentation a seamless join between neck and body was possible, so top marks for that. Again, I’ve not applied the tattoo layer to the photo above in order for you to see ‘the join’.

nipples_001b

 

The ‘full body’ shot of Eve suggests that there’s not much definition to the nipples either, but this is a trick of the light. The photo above shows that nipples do indeed have proper definition, but I’m not convinced they look any better or worse than nipples on a free skin. I’m assuming -I haven’t checked this yet- that prim nipples could be applied to a skin, and that different skin tones may have some element of offering different types of areola.

On balance, I’d say that this free, essentially ‘demo’ version of mesh is more than fine, but I maintain reservations as to just how flexible it is, or just how flexible the current mesh designers are making it.

Of course, it’s very early days in me buying into the mesh revolution, but I’m guessing it’s time is fast approaching for many of us. I recall that when ‘flexi hair’ began there were few doing it, in a limited number of styles, and thus early renditions of it didn’t feel like ‘me’. Ditto mesh hair. Of course, now there’s a wide range of flex and mesh hair at affordable prices and few of us do without it. Mesh skins and bodies, I think, will do the same thing.

Would Ella wear a mesh skin? Probably not right now. I’m content with how I’ve got my avatar to look. Will I be saying the same thing in a year’s time? Probably not. I would not pay L$5000 for mesh, but the range will expand and prices will come down and when they do I expect many of us will join the mesh revolution.

As SL naturists, our skin, our shape, is how we introduce ourselves to the SL world, and so it’s something that I’m particularly keen to see develop and something we shall continue to report on as the mesh phenomenon builds.

I think it’s a couple of years ago that we conducted a brief experiment (abandoned) with one of our models regarding prim breasts. Again, the ‘join’ between the main body and the prim breasts was always problematic and unrealistic. It just didn’t look real (not that prim breasts ever look ‘real’ anyway!). I shall attempt to contact that model and ask her to adopt this mesh body for us and see if a ‘real’ effect is more readily achievable utilising mesh.

Ella

 

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