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Skins are important in Second Life®: more than anything else, they influence our avatars’ appearance. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I am following any new developments at 5th & Oxford with keen interest; always wondering where the next release will take me. My curiosity was answered when the talented Roslin Petion, one half of the creative duo behind the brand (the other being CJ Carnot), dropped a folder of the latest skins on me.

“Brooke” is based on the “Audrey” line, which it shares the body with, but has been adjusted in skin tone and contrast. The face, however, is very different and “Brooke” comes with completely new features: bolder lips, a changed nose and thinner brows are only the most prominent alterations, creating a slightly more mature appearance than the very youthful “Audrey”.

The new skin line launched with five individual make-ups, each available in six varieties and three skintones. Ranging from very natural looks over daytime tones to kaleidoscope colours, I chose two examples from each make-up to showcase here in my usual “fair” skintone. As you can see, some of the looks also come with one or several beauty marks or with freckles, which makes for an interesting variety.

With winged eyeliner and lip colours appropriate for vintage or retro looks, it can hardly be a secret that I adore the “Kitty” make-up.

“Rebel, Rebel” compliments the latest fashion release of 5th & Oxford, a line of punk-rock-inspired shirts and skirts, but the striking eyeshadows and intense colours work equally well in a different context.

The name says it all: only a hint of eyeliner and lipgloss make the “Natural” make-ups a look where the differences are down to details, like the hue of the lip-texture, a beauty mark or flushed cheeks.

If you’re trying to add a dramatic note to your attire, “Nightfall” offers smokey eyes in dark jewel tones.

Finally, a range of eyeshadows in subdued colours and balanced hues for the lips – “Subtle” includes great daytime make-ups that add a bit of colour without dominating the appearance.

“Brooke” once again shows great craftsmanship: the textures are smooth, the make-ups tasteful (even the more flamboyant ones) and the skins are well-balanced, with intelligently and sparingly used highlights. A personal delight is the fact that pitch black brows are available again – with “Audrey”, you had to settle for a brownish black, which sometimes could create the impression of having your hair dyed black rather than sporting your natural haircolour. As always, the eyebrows are modable, so that you can easily adjust them to your haircolour.

I love this new skin line already and look forward to any additions Roslin and CJ might want to add to it in the future!

Skins:

  • (5th & Oxford) Brooke FAIR – Kitty 3
  • (5th & Oxford) Brooke FAIR – Kitty 4
  • (5th & Oxford) Brooke FAIR – Rebel, Rebel 2
  • (5th & Oxford) Brooke FAIR – Rebel, Rebel 4
  • (5th & Oxford) Brooke FAIR – Natural 3
  • (5th & Oxford) Brooke FAIR – Natural 4
  • (5th & Oxford) Brooke FAIR – Nightfall 4
  • (5th & Oxford) Brooke FAIR – Nightfall 5
  • (5th & Oxford) Brooke FAIR – Subtle 1
  • (5th & Oxford) Brooke FAIR – Subtle 3

Other:

  • Hair: Clawtooth by Clawtooth – Woman of the Year – Black Beauty
  • Eyes: (Miriel) Realistic Eyes – Strong Green [not available anymore]
  • Lashes: (Miriel) Lashes – Feather [not available anymore]

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It’s rather late for hopping on this bandwagon – waiting any longer, and I might only see the red rear lights of the train. But I actually enjoyed Sophia Harlow’s bloggers’ challenge and the results it generate on the feeds a lot, so here is my belated contribution.

This first picture still makes me cringe and laugh out loud at the same time. It was taken the very first day I entered the grid in December 2007, and prior to this I had not noticed that my hands were bigger than my head.

A little more than two weeks later, in January 2008, I was living in freebies – but nice freebies. I’m still partial to the *ICING*-dress, and even though the look itself is a bit outdated, at least i don’t have to be ashamed of it.

That one is from April 2008, and by that time I had long arrived in my Vivant skins (TaP had just become Fleur then, I think), which still look very lovely in my opinion. And I was so in love with this hat by Tesla – which now is available  as a freebie at the store.

Finally, a recent picture. I would be two years now had I not left in between, and I’m wondering if the difference in another two years will be just as dramatic as the one here (even between April 2008 – when I had already shed the newbie-look – and April 2010 there already is/will be a huge difference).

Credits for the last picture:

  • Skin: (5th & Oxford) FAIR Audrey Summer Cocktails 2
  • Eyes: (Miriel) Realistic Eyes – Strong Green [not available anymore]
  • Lashes: (Miriel) Lashes – Feather [not available anymore]
  • Hair: Tiny Bird – Into My Arms – pepper [edited some of the hairpins out to give it a vintage look]
  • Jacket & Blouse: Sugarcube peplum jacket & ruffled silk shirt
  • Earrings: Eclectica Medallion earrings

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Whenever we make a blog post, the words are “out there”, accessible to everyone worldwide (at least in theory). Yet, with the Second Life community being one of a limited size and the musings of its members being of no particular interest to anyone outside of it, it’s all too easy to forget that those words can be carried away from the intended audience. It happened to me with my last blog entry on Sunday.

I stand by my words and do not wish to take back any of it. I spent quite a while debating the pro and contra of publishing the entry, but in the end, decided to go for it because the topic is important to me. After all, people can choose to not read it if it bothers them, and I believe that HIV-awareness should be higher than it currently is, for a lot of reasons.

According to the WordPress statistics, this particular post brought a few people from outside the SL-community to my blog, but not significantly more than any of my other posts. There are always people googling for pictures of real-life vintage fashion or seemingly completely unrelated things who end up at “Vintage Verwood”. However, one of those visitors wrote a blog entry herself and decided to quote parts of mine (you can find the links and my elaborations in the comments on the previous entry), and I find that it bothers me – not because my words are used, but because they were taken out of context and are leading a life of their own now and the same incomplete compilation of them appears in various syndications of articles related to World AIDS Day.

What bothers me most is that my original blog post was made in the form of an avatar “speaking” to other avatars, and published together with comments about virtual fashion. Within the context it appeared – on a Second Life-related blog and syndicated to various Second Life-related feeds – it made sense. Being singled out as “the voice from Germany” in between real life-blogs by real-life people, not so much – not because what I wrote isn’t true, but because the real-life me has a lot more to say on the topic than “Aderyn Verwood” put into the original post.

In the end, I guess I would not have minded as much had I known about this before. The topic is a very serious one to me and my original point was not so much detailing why I care about it or that I love my friend and care about his well-being, but to consciously take a break amidst the holiday troubles and remind myself of all the people living with HIV (other than my friend), and to give the readers of my blog a little heads up on it, too. At a time when the number of people who underestimate the effects of a HIV-infection is on the rise and at a time when there are voices claiming the use of condoms is a sin, and when the vast majority of the population of the Western world believes that there is no danger from HIV anymore, or that it is a problem restricted to so-called Third-World-countries, at such a time, I wanted to send out a signal. No less, but also no more.

Most of you who are reading this probably did not come here to educate yourself about HIV. Maybe you believe your knowledge about it already is sufficient – before I learnt about my friend’s HIV-infection, I thought the same, only to discover that most of what I knew was incomplete or not up-to-date anymore. In case you feel like updating yourself, here are two links I found particularly helpful back then, and still do:

http://www.namlife.org/cms1254847.aspx

http://www.aidsmap.com/cms1038153.aspx

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(Credits and more detailed body shots at the end of this post.)

It requires only a superficial skimming through my blog to notice that I wear exclusively skins made by Roslin Petion and CJ Carnot. Not that there aren’t other good skins: some look very beautiful – on other people. I have tried a fair amount of different demos from various brands, but none of them really looked like “me”, except those by Fleur.

My love affair with the brand began in 2007, with the Vivant skins, and upon returning to SL earlier this year, I fell head over heels for the Allure line. Needless to say that I’ve been anxiously folllowing the progress of this latest project, waiting for the release – now under the new name of “5th & Oxford”, which is not merely a rebrand of Fleur, but (with Roslin’s words) more of a “lifestyle brand” that will offer many more products besides skins and women’s fashion only.

As much as I was anticipating the new skins, there also was a bit of nervousness: would I like the new skins just as much as the old ones? Or would I like them too much, perhaps, so that I wouldn’t want to use the old skins anymore? Would I still look like “myself”?

I count myself lucky to have a chance at taking a look at the new “Audrey” line a little early and there was no reason to fear, as I know now; Roslin and CJ have treated their skins to a careful renovation without demolishing the whole look. The strong points of the Allure line are still there, complimented by new features. There are other blogs publishing their reviews together with a complete overview of skintones and makeups available, so instead of doing a visual documentation, I wanted to put my thoughts about this skin into words and use pictures only to illustrate my point.

“Audrey” launches in three skin tones – fair, medium and tan – and with 24 different makeups. The shading under the bust and buttocks is a bit more pronounced and some body parts look a little shinier than in the Allure line, but “Audrey” still is a very balanced and subtle skin – which counts for much in my book. I prefer skins that don’t show any of the intense highlights you often find in examples which are based on images taken under studio conditions, because they look a little too artificial. CJ & Roslin, however, got the balance just right: their skins look smooth, neither too flashy nor dull.
A few subtle moles on the torso add a bit of interest without being too obtrusive, and the freckles are really good: neither too dark nor too pale, they are splattered over the nose, cheeks, shoulders and cleavage, thus creating a very natural look. Usually, I don’t wear freckled skins, but the one pictured above stole my heart and I will probably put it on once in a while in the future.

A novelty are different lip forms and textures within the same kind of makeup, meaning that you not only pick a lip colour you want, but also the texture and, to a certain extent, the shape of the lip. The makeup is excellent, as always. Very detailed and nuanced, just as great as in the previous skin lines.

A bigger difference between their previous releases and “Audrey” is the nose – I don’t know how they did it, but the shading of the nostrils is excellent. I daresay I haven’t seen any better yet in in Second Life®. Unless you have selected a slider value of 50 or more to turn your nose up, the way the avatar mesh works creates “creases” on either side of the nose – a fact that bothered me to the extent that I have openly wished for prim noses to replace the standard one. With “Audrey”, it seems that I can stop wishing for a different nose, because the shading hides those creases almost completely; they are hardly visible now.

The brows have a great shape and definition, but make sure you are using Windlight settings that don’t crank the scene gamma values too high up, or the black brows will wash out and look brown instead. If in doubt, just play a bit with the slider values until you find a setting that works for you.

If you have loved Fleur or Tete à Pied skins before, you won’t be disappointed by “Audrey” either. If those skins weren’t for you, there are enough differences to warrant getting a demo of the new line. For pictures of the other makeups or skintones, please check the blog of Grazia Horwitz (“More Than Meets The Eye”, link is listed on the right) or the feeds. I’m sure the updated blog of 5th & Oxford will be available soon as well.

The release of 5th & Oxford’s “Audrey” skin is announced for Sunday, so keep your eyes open for more information.

Both Pictures:

  • Skin: (5th & Oxford) FAIR Audrey Fresh Freckles 2
  • Eyes: (Miriel) Realistic Eyes – Strong Green [not available anymore]
  • Lashes: (Miriel) Lashes – Feather [not available anymore]
  • Hair: Tiny Bird – Olivia (pepper)

Picture 1:

  • Bikini: /artilleri/ Annalee bikini *purple*
  • Pose: *Torridwear* Drama 08

Picture 2:

  • Shoes: [Armidi Gisaci] Dhali Bow Platforms – White
  • Pose (left): *TorridWear* Curves 06
  • Pose (right): *TorridWear* Coy 06

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It is a (not so) funny coincidence that a new debate about body size issues in SL started just when the topic had already occupied me over the last few days: I found myself too thin in the Blogger Appreciation Week picture, but blamed it on the perspective, until I saw another picture of myself and again looked skinnier than I wanted to be. So I turned up body thickness by ten points (I prefer this over the body fat slider, because the latter also alters the facial shapes, which I didn’t want in this case) and increased the value determining the size of my belly. And then I’d probably have forgotten about the problem if not discussions about a designer’s requirements for model shapes had appeared on the feeds. (I won’t name the designer on purpose, since this isn’t about personal criticism, but rather about why I chose to look the way I do.)

While I believe everyone has the right to look just the way they want to, I still can have an opinion about it. All of this wouldn’t bother me as much if not the claim had been made that the shape was supposed to represent RL supermodels, when in fact the average fashion bloggers’ shapes already do represent RL model proportions or even exceed them. I am in no way extreme in SL: neither especially tall nor small, neither extremely thin nor big; my legs might actually be shorter than the average female avatar’s. Yet, I had to realize yesterday, when comparing my regular shape to one meeting the designer’s requirements, that my ordinary shape already was out of proportion if measuring it against realistic figures.

The average human being’s proportion means that the overall height measures about 7.5 heads – or, in other words, an average real-life person’s body height is 7.5 times the height of their head. In art, a particularly graceful figure was painted or sculpted at an idealized proportion of 8 heads, and muscly “superheroes” and Greek gods could measure up to 8.5 heads. My own size in SL, however, already was at 8.5 heads, and with that beyond what RL supermodels look like, not to mention realistic average women. The fault, in my case, were too long legs, and I scaled them down from a slider value of 52 to 50. I also took the overall height from 58 to 55, so that now I more or less represent what is seen as the ideal human shape. If measured against a prim stretched to the same size, my avatar would be about 184 cm or 6 ft tall (without shoes or hair), with a leg length of 112.7 cm or 3.7 ft. In other words: now that I’m smaller than ever before in SL, I have what corresponds to supermodel proportions.

Beauty is, after all, in the eye of the beholder. It’s none of my business if some designer wants to see their brand represented by what looks to me grotesquely-shaped avatars. Still, in my opinion it is sad that in a virtual world where we all could rise above the restrictions of RL, even more unrealistic standards are being reinforced by some. And with the growing number of prim parts being used in fashion, it is only a question of time until you either have to succumb to a designer’s vision of proportions, have to mod most things you buy (I already had some examples where my avatar was too big for the included prim parts), or just not buy certain brands anymore.

If I didn’t do so much “period hopping” in regards to fashion and if the beauty ideals of these periods didn’t differ so vastly, I’d probably have settled on a plumper shape early on. But during the 1930s and most of the 1940s, a very lean silhouette was en vogue, while the 1950s favoured more curves. The 1920s, on the other hand, were more interested in androgynous shapes. I  wanted to have an avatar who could have passed as fashionable in each of these times rather than creating a separate shape for each decade, so I had to go for something not too extreme. But sometimes I really want to make her heavier, just as a little visual counterbalance…

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