Thursday, July 3, 2014

A long response about hips

This post started out as a reply to a comment made on Google+ about this post, essentially wondering "What's the deal with the shattered pelvis look in Second Life?".
That response ran SUPERLONG, as evidenced below, and so I decided to make it into a blog post. You're all so welcome.


Well, while I can't speak for the more extreme and deliberate examples, I can theorize that there's a number of reasons why it's showing up more lately.

Firstly, real-life trends. The mainstream fashion of the last few years has tended to accentuate not just the hips, but the entire upper-abdomen, with high waistlines and fitted styles around the hips, with a lesser emphasis on the chest (these trends are echoing the late 80s/early 90s, which in turn were inspired by the late 40s-mid50s, because fashion will cycle like that, usually as an adaptation of the current young generation's parents' young fashion).
Secondly, there lately is a greater degree of body acceptance in women, and a rise of curvier women in the media. Kim Kardashian's popularity is an obvious example of this, but likewise the rise in prominence of South American aesthetics has risen through latin women, and the natural body shapes of many black women coupled with this are all contributing factors to the fact that currently, womanly curves are in, even for us pale girls.

Now, Second Life mirrors and expands on real world trends in many ways, but it also has the ability to exaggerate those trends, which is a partial explanation for what you might see in the fashion postings lately, but it's not the full story.
The other part of it is the limitations of the Second Life avatar mesh itself, which is highly outdated, having been in use since Second Life's first days, 11 years ago. The designers of that mesh could not have hoped to foresee the visual advances content creators have made in that time.
The limitations in shapemaking with regard to the current trends are as follows: Simply adding weight ("Fat") to the avatar leads to highly undesirable results, dramatically altering the look of the face, and bypassing the concept of curves, and running straight to what I would describe as stoutness. So to achieve the "curvy" effect, we need to use some of the other sliders at our disposal.
The "Saddlebags" slider is useful but unglamourously named and comes with its own limitations, which I will come to later. Which leaves us with the "Hip Width" slider. The Hip Width slider works by setting the legs further apart on the avatar skeleton, rather than adding extra flesh. On a normal human woman, this would be balanced by bigger thighs, but of course each body part is treated more or less separately, so changing the hips has no effect on the legs. Sadly, there's no leg fat slider, only "Leg Muscle", which has a very small range of usablilty, between famine-victim thin with knobbly knees, and weird square balloons. So most women have little choice but to keep their legs between around 30 and 60 points, which does not fit nicely on the broad hips required for the desired silhouette.

In traditional proportion, a woman's pelvis is supposed to correspond roughly to the width of her shoulders, approximately the same or wider. For an hourglass shape then, with the top half of the figure being about the same as the bottom, with a slim waist, to have the avatar's thigh's touching as with a human woman, the absolute smallest the Hip Width can be is around 30 points. That's with the shoulders at 0, and the legs at the thinnest they can be before they deform. And it looks bad. So the broader the shoulders, the broader the hips need to be, and the broader the hips are, the bigger the gap, and not everyone wants to be a twig. This issue is exacerbated even further when you try for the currently-fashionable Pear Shape, which I personally tend towards.

So initially these were just the constraints we needed to work within to achieve a curvy figure, but as with many things, it became adopted and embraced as a stylized preference in Second Life, just like the ultra-frowny mouth, and tiny-tiny hands. To whit, designers of mesh clothing will often essentially build this trait in to their clothing, so that even those with an "ideal" shape end up with thinner, further-apart legs than their avatar's true shape. Previously I mentioned the Saddlebags slider. Previously this was the best way to add extra size to hips, however, with standard rigged-mesh clothing, this slider was not taken into account, and so Saddlebags needed to be taken down to accommodate many clothings waistlines. Now Fitted Mesh is on the scene, things are not much improved, since from what I can tell as a non-creator, the Saddlebag area is considered as much a "bone" as anything else, and becomes incredibly exaggerated accordingly (as was the case in my original post's photo, plus the "built-in gap" the pants already had).

Though there are numerous other factors I could touch on, including the influences of certain styles of comic-book and anime artwork, and male expectations of the female shape (for instance, the importance of the "box gap"), these are the main technical/societal factors in the matter as I, a non-expert, see them.

Apologies for the long and rambling nature of this post, I am not an essayist by nature, but since it was asked, I figured I would give it my best shot as a proper answer.


Hair: Saltgrass - Lancy - Reds
Top: Schadenfreude - Skelebeater - White Noir
Knickers: Sakide - Slide Panties - Dino
Shoes type wotsits: Noodles - Harmony Peace Foot Rope - Gold
Nails: Action - Nouveau

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