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It’s a good thing for everyone involved that I don’t treat my boyfriends and girlfriends the way I treat my wardrobe, because I’m constantly falling in and out of love with outfits. I’m not sure whether this is the universal Way of the Fashionista or my particular thing, though, because for instance I hear a lot of mention of people getting outfits or items and then never really wearing them. That generally doesn’t happen to me (maybe because my inventory’s pretty well organized, with a separate folder for newer things that I’m looking for an opportunity to wear).

Regardless, it’s a funny thing psychologically. Except for the occasional lovely freebie, I’m paying First Life money to get these things. Why should I buy *another* dress when I already have, I don’t know, at least 150 other dresses? Is it compulsive, addictive, delusional, maladjusted? Or is there some benefit to it? How much is it like the First Life tendency of people to value new things over older things? (For instance, isn’t the New Releases section of a movie store far more fascinating than the rest of the movies they have available? But why should that be? Is it just that we’ve already cherry-picked the movies that were out and are ready to cherry-pick the new ones? It certainly can’t be because they suddenly started making good movies only 6 months ago.)

When we’re putting down our hard-earned Lindens for a virtual fashion item, are we getting our money’s worth, or just giving in to an unhealthy and worthless urge? When we buy new items, are we buying them because we want them for ourselves, or because we want compliments or comments from other people? Do we feel like the new things we’re buying are categorically different from the things we already have, or are we just excited about the variation? Or just enticed by a “good deal”?

All right, too many questions, too few answers. I’ll respond for me and hope you’ll respond for you.

First of all, I count my fashion purchases as entertainment money. Just as I don’t usually come away with anything of lasting value when I plunk money down on a movie ticket or a play or a music performance, I don’t really have anything of permanent value when I buy some fashion item, unless it somehow allows me to do something I hadn’t done before. There are a couple of cases of this, for instance business suits that I can use to look extra-professional in Second Life, which comes in handy sometimes, or a wetsuit so that my surfing will feel more like First Life surfing. Usually, though, the only advantage in buying a new fashion item is that I’m excited to see how it looks when I wear it, to share it with friends, and to add to the visual interest out there in Second Life when I go out.

When things work out, I can feel the new items paying off as soon as I wear them. I experience a little burst of happiness at seeing how the item looks rezzed in-world on me, at seeing how it makes me look different, and especially at feeling some kind of *attitude* that comes with wearing it. Combining aesthetics with attitude is, for me, the real payoff of Second Life fashion. I want to wear things that people enjoy seeing because they’re designed with artistry and made with a fine eye for detail, and things that say something about my mood or state of mind when I walk into a room. Usually what I’m wearing is some kind of invitation, or uninvitation, for what I’m looking for or not looking for from people I meet. If I’m wearing something risque, I generally am feeling hungry for a little flirting and attention. If I’m wearing something relaxed and comfortable, then I probably want conversation and cameraderie. If I’m wearing something striking and formal, I probably want to have an exciting and dramatic time somewhere. Even my jewelry does this: my dangly hematite earrings, for instance, mean something different to me than my large silver hoops.

I frankly don’t know how much of this gets communicated to other people and how much is going on only in my mind! But I *do* know that I feel happy and satisfied and *at home* when I pull just the right thing out of my inventory and coordinate it properly. When I’ve found the right things from my wardrobe to wear for a particular moment, then at least to me my outside matches my inside, and I feel like I’m communicating wordlessly with people around me.

I guess one limitation is that it’s broadcast communication and not person-to-person. For instance, I might be wearing an outfit that says “Wrestle me to the floor and kiss me, now!” but that definitely doesn’t mean I want just *anyone* to do that. Although there are days when I would like everyone I meet to *try*. πŸ˜‰

I’m kind of surprised, when I think about it, that we don’t comment on what there is to see of moods in one another’s day-to-day choices of avatars and clothing and accessories. We could be saying things like “so, are you *having* a skin-tight black leather day, or are you *looking to have* a skin-tight black leather day?” or “That’s a new shade of hair for you. Is something different in your life?” or “Do the spikes on your wrist cuffs mean ‘stay away’ or ‘come here, I want to hurt you’?”

You know, I think I might start trying to pay attention to things like that. Certainly not everyone communicates through their avatar – some people, I suppose, are mainly looking to reflect their First Life self as closely as possible, or to shock and amuse, or to look like the vision they equate with sexiness regardless of the situation. I suspect others are just cycling through a set of looks that they like for their avatar and aren’t interested in coming up with a bunch of subtle variations that they have to change into when their mood changes. But some of us are speaking through our choices, everything from the most permanent things, like the shapes of our noses, to whether or not there’s lace at the top of our stockings, hidden out of sight under our skirts. (Though for most Second Life men, I would assume that last thing would be a ‘no’ most of the time.)

Maybe if I listen a little harder, I’ll be able to make out the words in conversations I hadn’t even known were going on.

^^^\ Kate /^^^

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