I like mesh. I like mesh quite a lot. Mesh - for non-SL users - is the stuff that avatars are made out of, a literal kind of wire mesh, and previously, clothes had to be made of what were essentially cardboard boxes, textured and coloured and cut-out to hang from the avatar's body. But now clothes can be made out of mesh, too, and they can bend and move with the avatar's body in a way that a cardboard box cannot.
(If you're an SL user, you might want to skip this bit. Jump ahead to "Sort of". It'll be on a line of its own, you won't be able to miss it.)
This is great. Prims - the cardboard boxes - would often fight with the mesh and stick through the avatar's body awkwardly. The worse items for this, in my experience, were long hair. You must have noticed, on more than one occasion, Kitti's hair sticking through her arm or something where it shouldn't be. Mesh doesn't solve this completely, and mesh can still fight with other pieces of mesh, but it is much better than it was, and the quality of the texturing of clothing and hair has gone through the roof with mesh. There are some really beautiful clothes out there in the virtual world now - like Kitti's jeans in the image above, for example. They look pretty damn realistic to me.
The main problem with mesh is that it doesn't exactly cling to the avatar's skin - it replaces it. To wear a pair of mesh trousers, you must first make your legs beneath invisible. If I took a picture of Kitti without those trousers on, there would be nothingness between the top of her hips and her ankles. This is achieved with what we call an alpha layer.
A sizing system had to be created to market mesh, since it does not just snap to an avatar's shape - a sizing system that works exactly the same way sizing systems work in real life, only the clothes don't have the tiniest bit of elastic in, so you can't squeeze into this shirt, or cinch those trousers in with a belt. If they're too long (a common problem for the 5ft2 writer of this blog), you can't turn them up at the hem. You have to find mesh that fits your avatar shape, so that the hips the mesh trousers give Kitti, for example, follow neatly up to the tops of her real hips and her waist, without massive gaps or leaving a massive, shorn-off shelf of skin above them - that wouldn't look natural.
There are alternatives to standard sizing and I find, despite the system, that what one shop calls a medium is not necessarily what another shop calls a medium, even when both claim to use standard sizing. Finding mesh to fit Kitti has been difficult, but then I stumbled on a shop called coldLogic, and bam! They are beautiful clothes and they fit my avatar.
To get some of the shirts to fit, Kitti had to have a breast reduction. She had to have a boob job. The alpha layer only makes invisible what it really has to, i.e. the main part of the body where the mesh is going to go, but where there are collars of open shirts or whatever, the avatar's flesh needs to be visible at the opening. These are the bits - around these collars, for example - where Kitti's body fights with the clothes, and where I find myself resizing Kitti's chest to make sure that it doesn't poke through the fabric of the shirt or the dress.
And I have messed around with all of the shape sliders. Not only have I shaved ten points off her breast size, I've also lowered them - why were they so high, anyway?! - and pulled them a little closer together. From the front, Kitti looks great, but her profile seems to have lost what little curve it had. Kitti doesn't have a particularly curvy shape to begin with. You might note that Kitti isn't wearing a mesh top with her mesh trousers in the above picture. I decided she needed a break there. Poor, poor avatar.
This makes me sad. I don't want to reach a point where Kitti's shape is a factory-line reproduction. Nobody in SL really wants that. And I am a little offended, when I try mesh on from just about everywhere, and even the smaller sizes require a shrinking of her breasts, or the thinning of her arms. The worst offenders here are skirts, and as a result, I refuse to dress Kitti in them. Even in the bigger sizes, the sizes that leave great gaping holes between their edges and Kitti's hips, the skirts cut into Kitti's legs. To where them, I'd be forced to slim down her thighs, and that seems like the final straw to me.
The boob conversation is an old one. It isn't nice, but I kind of expect it in a dull way. Kitti's chest is hardly huge, and I have to shave half of it off to fit her into these mesh clothes. OK. I don't like that, but I'm used to that idea. I'm used to the idea of being too small or too big to fit into clothes. But I am not used to the idea of having fat thighs.
Kitti does not have fat thighs. I will not shrink them down to fit into itsy bitsy mesh skirts. I'm drawing the line. But how long will I hold out?