Designing Clothing for SL-Part 1-Understanding Standard Sizes

Okay, so let's get started.....



I am sure there will be those who will disagree with my assessment, but to me, from my personal experiences and observations, one of the most important things I think any good designer has to be aware of when making layered clothing ( more so when creating mesh), like Real Life, there is NO standard size or shape Avatar (AV) in  Second Life (SL). Oh, there may be some self imposed or collaborative standards between a few creators, but on the whole, there just aren't any "true" standards.

 SL Residents come in all shapes, sizes, and genders.  Residents can look like a variety of animals, Elves, fairies, trolls, ogres, Jedi, robots, anime characters, super heroes, vampires, historical figures, and aliens. You can make you shape such that you look like a small child or,  you can be hulking giant.  You can be fat, pregnant, anorexic, or, somewhere in between. The list of what your body shape will be is what anyone's imagination can stretch to. 

Variety is a wonderful thing and is what makes Second Life  unique in comparison to other social networking or gaming platforms.  Where else can you go in virtual reality and have as much variety and diversity as you can in Second Life?  Diversity is a wonderful thing but, it can and does poses unique challenges to all Creators not just those that design clothing.

Questions, Questions Who's Got Questions 


Another question I think we need to answer for ourselves is...who are we going to be designing for?   Are we going to be creating for ourselves?  Creating for family and friends?  Will we sell our creations to other Residents?  Are we creating for humanoids shapes? Or, are we creating for a specialty genre, such as furries, petites, or non-humanoids?

Once we decide who we are going to be designing for, we can then start to plan.  I know working with templates is probably your current goal, but a designer needs to look at global planning of an ensemble long before they sit down to work creating the actual clothing layers or mesh.

 "Plan...we don't need no stinking plan!"

True, you are the Artist and the Creator.  You do not have to have a plan at all if you don't want to.  But making careful, thoughtful, and logical decisions BEFORE you start to work can save you tons of time and lots of headaches later on.  Believe me, I impart this to you from personal experience.

Here are a couple of things to consider if your do decide to have a plan.

  1. Will your design include both an underwear and pants layer or, just offer one? 
  2. Will you make a jacket layer, shirt, and undershirt layer? 
  3. What permission will you use on your layers?  
  4. Do you need glitch pants? 
  5. Will that flexi-skirt  require a re-size script or be modifiable?  
  6. Will you be including accessories such as, shoes, belts, jewelry, etc. 

Creating good quality clothing is much more than learning how to work with the layered clothing templates. Gone are the days of no accessories included!

We will try to answer all the aforementioned questions in a later blog, but for now, you need to be aware that creating clothing entails much more than simply Photoshopping or Gimping the templates.

So let's go back to discussing Avatars. 

Looking Back: Where we were

"Ruth" In all her Magnificence. 

When I first joined SL eons ago, there was sort of a AV standard; she was called "Ruth".  When you signed up for an  account, you began as a derivative of "Ruth", whether you were male or female. You rezzed In-World at one of several Help Islands at the time, and hopefully, you were lucky enough to be contacted by a scrupulous Help Island Mentor.  This Mentor would try to help you become acclimated to your new would and more often than not  helped you change from that horrible looking AV you signed up with to something more palatable.

Yes!  There use to be actual REAL LIVE humans that helped you through Orientation.  Okay most were human  though there were lots of trolls too! Those mentors volunteered their time to help other understand and enjoy their new virtual surroundings.  While most were above board, there were some shady characters there, which  lead to the demise of Help Island.  Now, we have Orientation Island, when new folks must flounder around in alone and try to figure out our complex world.  No wonder Linden's retention rate for new folks are so low!

I was fortunate to be contacted by Frodo Harturian, a wonder mentor from Australia, who still pops into SL from time to time.  Frodo set me on the right path showing me how to walk, fly, rezz and unpack boxes, dress myself, etc. while giving me advice on the pitfalls that often occurred to new Residents.   Immediately, he helped me change my appearance with "Free" clothing, hair, shoes, and a skin from Creators, who were kind and generous enough to help out us Newbies.

Frodo was always willing to answer questions, no matter how stupid they were, and helped me in whatever way he could. I owe much to Frodo and his patience.  I remember one time I asked him how could I ever repay his kindness because I found SL so overwhelming?  He told me the best way I could repay was to spread that kindness back to others.  I still try to do my part to help others, especially new folks.  I hope each of you do as well.  Okay, I wandered from the path again.  Back to the subject at hand...AVs.


I am not sure how she received her name, but Ruth was a simple, rather plain looking, unisex character with badly drawn skin and atrocious hair, who was dressed in a very unbecoming outfit with shoes...well shoes that were more like blobs.  I think, at the time, the female version wore a dress with one of those awful SL Slider Skirts.  She looked neanderthal compared to the starter AV you find today.

There really wasn't a lot of difference between female and male "Ruth" AVs.  Both had the same coarse features, bad skins, no AOs, and poorly made clothing.  The only real difference that I remember was the male version was taller than the female; whereas, the female had some underdeveloped breasts.  Talk about a Barbie and Ken horrible nightmare!


Ruth was around for so long, I can't remember when she was retired. I checked out the Second Life Wiki to see what I could find and, it looks like Ruth was finally retired when the Linden Lab's Viewer 1.20  was released.  Ruth was finally put out to pasture and replaced by the ethereal cloud we all now familiar with.  If anyone is interested, I have posted a direct link, under resources at the bottom of the page, to the wiki for anyone wishing to find a bit more out about Ruth.

As a side note, I am sure some of you have heard the term "Ruthed".  Back in the old days when the system was much less stable than it is now ( was much worse than it is now), oftentimes, your AV would revert to a "Ruth" state or the original AV. I still think it does this from time to time or, mine does with Phoenix 1.23.   Men would often rezz up looking like a female Ruth (breasts and all) until viewers caught-up in loading the AV information. There was lots of snickering and cursing going on during those times.

Today's Starter AVs: Where we are now

If you create a new account today, you have more choices than ever in what type of male or female pre-made Avatars (AV) you can choice from to begin your journey in Second Life. At one time, I believe there was even a Robot and Fox AVs available, but didn't see them a moment ago when I looked at creating a new account.   While they still are not the BEST you can do with your AV, they are far superior to the "Ruth Era."

I will have to look to be sure, but I believe that each of these starter shapes can be altered by SL Residents.  Meaning you can alter your height, foot size, arm length, neck, and the rest of your body   to achieve a particular look that suits your individual tastes.

I think if we stay in SL, after a time, we learn a few things and decide to give it a whirl and edit our shapes and refine them more. We fool around with height, and width, and muscle size.  Some of us may go on working our AVs till we get them just the way we want them.  Some of us will go for extremes in our heights and be towering giants, while others will base our height on RL proportions. We will fiddle and fool till how we look till we are satisfied.  Oftentimes, it can take a long time to get it perfect, and when we do we keep that shape forever tweaking it a bit here and there now and then.  I know it took me close to 5 years to get my AV just the way I wanted it.

Now, some people don't wish to go through all the hassle  or, muss and fuss of creating their own AV shape. They will decide heck with it and purchase a shape that suits them from one of the many variety of Shape Merchants in SL.  Depending on the Creator, the same shape may come in 1 or more heights. 

Back to Standard

Can you see where I am going with this?

With all the adjustments a person can make to their AVs, it is impossible to have a one size fits attitude when it comes to creating clothing.  This is especially true if you delve into creating mesh clothing.  Any thought of an SL standard size goes out the window when a Resident start fooling around and customizing their shape.

"Hey, wait a minute! I thought when you made clothes you used a standard template for all AVs"

Yes,  there is a standard set of clothing templates that all layered clothing is created based upon using a set of standard UV texture templates from a standard Linden Labs AV.  However, that standard AV is not really used in SL because we can alter out shapes and sizes.  If we were restricted to one particular size for all AVs, then yes, we would have a standard everyone could work from and there would be no problem with fitting attachments or having distortion on AVs of with different shapes.
 So yes, there IS a standard template for clothing creation for all AVs; however, if your AV is exceedingly tall or plump, short or, grossly thin you will find the UV maps stretching/compressing more and more out of shape. A good clothing designer needs to be aware of the areas that distort/compress and use a few tricks to compensate as much as possible.
These UV texture maps are based on a single AV that Linden Labs created long ago.  Like creating textures for today's mesh, the basic SL AV had the seams marked in the modeling software and flattened so the AV was a 2D representation of the 3D model.  Once the "skin" was unwrapped from the wire frame (think of paper mache or clay being applied over a wire frame to create an object), UV texture maps were created saved and exported with software and "Ruth" was born.

Layered clothing is nothing more than applying a texture over the AV mesh.  These UV texture template are used to create everything from skins to shirts and pants and everything in between.  Once we create our clothing texture, we apply these textures to special clothing layers we create in SL (shirts, skins, socks, pants, etc.) in the Appearance Editor.

All this goes out the window when it comes to rigged mesh, which is fitted to a specific sized AV model.  It is why mesh clothing designers either use the old standard "Ruth" type AV to design their clothing or they export their particular AV shape or create one that is their ideal to make clothing with.  Having no standard shape is a nightmare for mesh clothing designer and, is one of the reasons why with mesh, many of us have to wear an alpha layer to hide parts or bits of us because our AVs are outside the parameters used when the mesh clothing was created. 

So, while yes, there IS a standard clothing template we all use when making layered clothing it is a one size fits all with problems due to the ability to change our shapes and sizes.  But really, there is NO standard AV size in SL. 


A Bit About Shapes


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