What Not To Wear

So, yesterday I did a post on Shopping Cart Disco about how unattractive ego can be. The designer I was talking about, Vanilla Sola, put up a blog post to ask me, basically, ‘What the hell, bitch?

And Mrs Iris Seale if you got any complains about our design please mention the name of the dress and the problem

Well, it seems I’ve been appropriately “Missus’d” (even though the lady is old enough to be my freaking mom), so I guess I’ll have to do as she asks. For those of our readers who are not vengeful, young and full of spunk, take this as a guide to what a fashion blogger looks for when they consider items for review. Who knows, maybe it’ll help you out when you’re shopping.

I didn’t buy anything from Black Moon, so I’ll be using the ad shots from Vanilla’s blog. As most of us know, getting a sale will rely heavily on your ad. Here is one of Black Moon’s latest releases, Canzone.

When I look at an ad, I look not only at the outfit, but also how it looks with the designer’s selected lighting, skin and hair. Since it’s an ad, I’m assuming that the designer has gone all out to show me exactly how great the outfit can be. The lighting here fails miserably. A lighting setup that lights you evenly is fairly easy to make; the six-light version being the most used. You want to set up lighting so it showcases the details in your outfit. The light reflecting off the prims seems to be a yellow-orange in color, so I’m going to assume that this shot was taken in Windlight settings at sunset. While this light is generally most flattering to your avatar, this is one of the worst times to take photos for an ad in natural light. The light reflects off your avatar and changes most of the colors of your clothes. It can also wipe away delicate details like wrinkles. In this case most of the light is falling on the avatar’s chest, it seems, with little to no light on the dress and face where light belongs.

The skin is also a very poor choice. It looks like something from 2006 and the makeup is far too harsh. Look for something with better detailing (like a collarbone) that upholds the standards you want to project as a brand. The hair is far too light for the skin and distracts the eye from the entire rest of the ad. Now I’m looking at her hair, not her dress. When you choose your skin and hair for an ad, think of them as the canvas for the outfit. You want to capture the spirit of what you’re selling, but not overpower your product.

Now let’s talk about the dress. Interesting. A good concept, but poorly executed. There is no visible shading at all on these textures. In fact, there’s no texture on these textures. Yes, I understand that half your dress is black and therefore cannot be shaded, but using a dark grey would give the impression of black and be able to be shaded. Satin, what I’m assuming a dress like this would be made of, is highly reflective. Fabric wrinkles and forms to our bodies, so a fabric texture should reflect that. Look for realistic shading when you’re out shopping. The white half of the dress looks like the tile on my bathroom floor, if my bathroom floor had no depth.

Clothes are made from fabric. It goes to reason, that a fabric texture should look like fabric. There are many, many ways to achieve a realistic fabric texture, most of which can be found in online tutorials for SL. The tutorials will show you the basics until you develop your own style.

The dress has a white halo. This is caused by the alpha layer (what makes only the clothes appear and not the entire template) not being exactly met by the texture and creates an outline of white pixels. This can be solved by using the Solidify B plugin from Flaming Pear. It makes an alpha layer for you and floods the space with color matching the texture.

The use of the system-skirt with no backup is also a bad idea. Many shoppers (myself included) will not wear a system-skirt if it was lined with cocaine and diamonds. A designer should ideally offer a backup prim version of the skirt, as well.

The prims at the bottom are a good idea. I love mermaid dresses! The problem with these prims are that they don’t take the alpha-glitch into consideration. It’s impossible to get the full effect of a nice, full mermaid skirt with the back prims showing through the front ones. While there’s no cure for the alpha-glitch, there are a lot of workarounds. One popular way is to apply a clear texture to all faces of the prim and then apply your skirt texture to only the face you want showing. It doesn’t cure it completely, but it does cut it down. And is that plywood I see on the sides of those prims? Tsk, tsk, tsk.

I wanted to take one of Vanilla’s dresses and see what I could do with it in under a minute, so I used this ad:

My goal was to apply the things I’ve been discussing in this post to this ad. I gave myself 60 seconds to do that. It’s still not amazing, but I think it’s an improvement. Right click-View Image for full-size:

It takes less than one minute to shade and add texture to your work, so why not try it?

–Iris

29 Responses to “What Not To Wear”

  1. It’s too hard, Iris. Way too hard. K thx bai. :)

  2. Awesome post, Iris!

  3. Your post is interesting, but don’t you think touching up the ad photo is a bit deceitful and misrepresents the product that you are actually purchasing??

  4. Perhaps the Mrs. reference has to do with respect, or tradition in her home country and has nothing to do with age?? You Think??

  5. Racky, I meant to show what the dress would look like if the designer took the time to properly shade and texture it in photoshop before uploading and light the scene, not just to touch up the ad.

  6. /me stands up and applauds!!!! See, we CAN judge quality based on existing, relatively universal standards; imagine that. GREAT job Iris.

  7. Tiffy Vella Says:

    Iris- great tip for cleaning up haloed edges….always something new to learn :)

  8. A wonderful and gracious response, Mrs Iris Seale. Instead of being pissy and taking her down with personal insults you offer genuine advice after a thoughtful critique. Kudos.

  9. Thanks for the explanation Iris. I do appreciate your artistic eye….I can see now what you were doing and I applaud you for helping us all make our creations better.

  10. Great article, Iris. Out of curiosity, what did you do to the blue dress to give it that additional texture and saturation?

  11. I love this post! I think this is constructive critisicm at it’s best, and hopefully this designer, as well as others, will take this advice. And, out of curiousity, how much does Black Moon charge for this miserable designs? They look like they belong in Freebie Island.

  12. Another note, looking closely at the blue dress, I’m seeing a ghost line along the edge/hem of the skirt prim. An easy way to get rid of this is to leave more empty alpha space under the texture of your skirt and then set the vertical repeats to something like 0.950 rather than the default value of 1.00.

  13. “The use of the system-skirt with no backup is also a bad idea. Many shoppers (myself included) will not wear a system-skirt if it was lined with cocaine and diamonds. A designer should ideally offer a backup prim version of the skirt, as well.”

    I don’t understand the importance of this part. Tell that to designers like Ivalde and Artilleri.

  14. Francisca Biederman Says:

    awsome post iris!

  15. SarahTheRed Says:

    Well. I was expecting OMG-it’s-a-train-wreck-and-I-can’t-look-away-Drama, when I began reading this blog entry. However, I was pleasantly suprised to see such a fantastic and practical critique. Your constructive criticism, focusing mostly on the product, not the person, highlights what we should all be looking for in quality products — designers, bloggers, and buyers alike.

  16. this is a wonderful post iris! i love how you used evidence to make your points, and how you offered suggestions for improvement. it looks as if the designer of blackmoon is stuck in the past, and isn’t working to evolve her craft. remember folks…change is good!

  17. p.s. plurk rocks!

  18. rezit sideways Says:

    she is perhaps not as modest as many people would like but if she believes she is very good at what she does, in her heart and mind, she will be successful by her own measure. sometimes folks have to tell themselves they are so great in order that they can become great. i dunno i think it’s called self fullfilling prophecy or something like that. in any case, i hope she toughs it out, i would like to see the changes you mentioned. her designs are ok.

  19. Best post I’ve read from the sl-fashion-blogosphere!!! Congrats Iris <3!!!

  20. I was so afraid I’d come off as the snobby bitch that I know in my heart I am. I’m glad my actual intention came through.

    Arya, the texture is just a little piece of paper towel I scanned and overlayed onto the image. The rest of the detailing pretty much came from burning and dodging the image.

    I just checked out Black Moon in-world. I’d been banned, but I cammed through and saw that pretty much everything is priced from 600-1500L for dresses. The most expensive thing in my shop is 250L :)

  21. Marvelous post, Iris. A wonderful response to a strange and silly situation.

  22. I’ve read the recent exchanges with interest. They’ve crystalized a lot of thoughts I’ve had about the “fashion blog industry”.

    There are admittedly many things about fashion blogs that I don’t understand. I’m sure there are requirements which must be met in order to qualify somebody to pass formal public judgement on others. I mean people wouldn’t be expected to read and follow the dictates of any old blogger. :)

    So having said that, I stipulate that you have all the necessary skills, experience, training and background to carry out this endeavour. But I have to say my opinion of the recent exchanges between you and the designer isn’t quite the same as your other commenters.

    I don’t remember – did this whole thing start because she asked you to review her work – or did you just decide to pick her as a target for your column? Once she objected in her own blog of course you could then respond by reviewing her work – or in this case her advertising (I’m sure that’s part of the fashion bloggers’ scope).

    I think if you were truly interested in providing somebody (who works hard but still has a lot to learn) with help and advice – you would have done it privately. But to give you the benefit of the doubt – maybe you were trying to provide that help and advice to the industry at large and thought this would be a good way to do it. I doubt your target would agree.

    The lowest blow though was in your recent comment – the one where you compared her prices to yours. Thus reminding all the readers that you sell clothes – that they are less expensive (but since you’ve established yourself as the expert they must be better) and made her look over priced.

    There are a lot of people in SL learning to build, design, create. They work hard and learn more everyday. They develop support networks of friends and clients and their success depends on all of them.

    Some do so well they set themselves up as teachers and mentors to others. Putting a hand back to lift others up.

    Others go on to set themselves up as the “experts”. They also try to establish their bona fides by trashing others. After all, the lower you make others look the better you can shine.

    I’ve seen a lot more of the latter than the former in fashion blogs. This is truly unfortunate.

  23. So now the ”O My God I Can’t Believe How Mean You Are” postings start to come. I’ve read how some are worried about new designers being picked apart.

    This isn’t a new designer in SL. And she claims to be “THE” designer of SL. When she aims high, she better deliver quality to back up her words. So she was treated badly? Tell me, have any of you who cry out now really read her blog, the Black Moon blog? Notice that she mention Blaze here. I say no more.

    Friday, August 29, 2008:
    There are some new designers offering dresses for 50-250$ and trying to collaps the SL market that already suffers badly by the dollar going down. Besides the fact that the dresses look only on the pics nice and that the designers might even cause that some good designers leave SL, they won’t survive for long because noone can seriously want to buy any more expensive items from them when they see before how simple and sloppy the designs were made by buying the lowpriced ones. Cheap means always also that no love was put in and that the designer just trys to make fast money. Of course I bought also already some real cheap stuff, but seriously most went to trash. At RL it is not any different, only very few things that are real cheap got real quality. A designer got not to feel a bad consience or guilty if he sells you crap at a cheap price, you may even not complain, he would tell you: What do You expect at this price? And he is right.
    We have had a flood of crapdesigns and still have it at SL and it is now hopefully getting better when the people just don’t sell their crap anymore because less people spend much money and most discover the difference between quality and crap after being at SL for a while.
    As I came to SL it was hard to find any nice gown for less than 1000L$, we have offered the dresses including accessories and heels cheaper than this and have been one of the reasonable priced designs at SL for a long while. Most of our dresses are about 500L$ and less, but I won’t join the new trend to sell at a loss, because my designs are not fast made crap and extremly detailed painted. Thanks to all those awesome people who support our design and love our quality our business is not half as much down as most others and even at a time when shops as Blaze who really tryed to be exclusive and told the magazines they’d live at real life by their design earned not even a quarter of what we earned, so I won’t complain ;-) And a very big THANK YOU to our customers, who never did let us down! And by the way I wonder how they lived of what they earned, because truly, they can’t ;-) That’s just a nice story. Sl design is not enough as only job if you want to live well :-) at least not if you only design and don’t rip people off.

    More posts from August 2008:
    This blog is about my design but also about me and so I will use it also to tell how I feel about some things at SL. You might have a different opinion or the same one, that’s ok for me, I don’t expect everyone to agree.

    Why is this design extraordinary?
    Just because You won’t find this kind of dresses at this quality anywhere else. As I already mentioned a lot of my ideas get used by other designers, but You’ll never find this detailed work and the original is always the best. If I catch people imitating my work I give them the same back till they stop, if needed I even make those clothes freebies after designing them. I am a fighter and as I started having a bigger shop at SL a model asked at a SL magazine for fashion if they’d like to write about my design. She talked to some lady who’s name was Doolittle, I won’t mention her complete name, but I will mention what she said. She seriously said: No we won’t write about this design because You do only ugly costumes and no fashion!
    At this point of time I didn’t design any different to nowadays and if you look up my shop you’ll laugh about every single word that this lady said. Meanwhile we are everywhere mentioned as one of the best shops and designs in SL. It is hard if you have to work with people who are totally imcompetent but run any magazine that deeply believes to know about fashion. It’s a true shame for SL! Sorry to say this but it is definetely the truth!
    Look up some of my dresses and make up your own mind and opinion.

  24. Rosie Shark Says:

    I can see how it might seem distasteful for a writer (who is also a designer) to compare the prices in her shop *favorably* to the over-priced wares of a *competitor* – in some people’s opinion. What it’s important to remember is that most SL designers are shoppers too. Because they can find their way around layers and shading, does this now mean they can have no opinion on pricing in SL? I agree with Iris’s disbelief in the pricing at this particular store. Many of us know what quality can cost in SL, and apparently some think quality is relative.

  25. Elizabeth Hallstrom Says:

    @rezit – ditto

  26. norritt Xi Says:

    Quote:
    “It takes less than one minute to shade and add texture to your work, so why not try it?”

    Hello Iris,

    I just took a look at your comment on Vanillas designs and your ideas to improve it. I think in this particular case its is not the problem to do the 2 mouseclicks to add a surface structure to a texture, or to add another layer and use the brush/opacity to add paint some shadows on the dress. It is more a matter of your design philosophy. Personally I don’t see how distorting the texture by using the Photoshop filters ultimately enhances the designs quality, but only generates a worn, washed-out look of an originally nice design. I can see that many try to artificially force a pseudo-realistic look and for sure I know that this kind of style has fans, but this is neither the only way nor the most desireable way to design clothes in SL. Less can be more sometimes and unless the SL client doesn’t support a proper bump-mapping/material surface rendering system, scribbling on the textures with brush and rendering filters is far more away from professional design than working without these techniques. Vanilla choose a good way to focus on creating sharp clean textures and accept the fact that the SL engine doesn’t offer the proper functionalities to generate surface structure effects.

  27. i think you gave her good points but WHAT AN EGO omg

    this guy also has an ego my laugh of the week the copying really is blatant

    http://rigrunnerrang.blogspot.com/2008/11/dear-ole-ralexander.html

  28. Kira McCallen Says:

    I’ve been interested in creating my own clothes for a while now. It would be fabulous to have someone with an eye, and knowledge of SL glitches to look my stuff over and give such thorough critique. You should consider writing a tutorial blog.

  29. Whimsy Winx Says:

    Bravo well done Iris. Honest, true, kind, and informative.

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