Avatar fashion

[From Eye Weekly (“a publication of Eye Communications, a division of Toronto Star Newspapers Limited”)]

Avatar fashion

For those seeking aesthetic perfection, digital alter-egos may represent the final frontier

BY Sarah Nicole Prickett   January 20, 2010 13:01

It’s strange that fashion has been long acknowledged to be fantasy, yet has taken just as long in turning to virtual reality. Cher Horowitz played computerized dress-up, like, 15 years ago. Why only now are there apps for that nothing-to-wear feeling?

There’s iWeardrobe, which has you photograph the contents of your closet, then mix-and-match on screen. Cute, but virtual dressing shouldn’t involve actual effort. Cher would not be down.

Now Stylish Girl & Cool Guy, a top (and made-in-Toronto) fashion app, goes one smarter. You can not only sort and remix your closet, but add to it too, via the app’s interface with shopstyle.com. Browse select fashion retailers and mix potential impulses with old favourite clothes before buying. And, because it’s Canadian, find pieces by homesprung designers like Erdem and Jay Godfrey.

These shopping and dressing-up apps are getting cuter and more popular, but something’s still missing. A human element? Not quite. It’s something even Cher Horowitz didn’t have, but Carrie Bradshaw does. Come on. That Amazonian figure striding through the Sex and the City 2 poster — is that human or is that an avatar? That’s an avatar. And it’s the new supermodel, or so I wonder/fear.

Magazine covers have reached the limit of airbrushed perfection; we can only push the beauty ideal further by rendering the human form entirely digital, and the funny thing is, I bet it’ll look realer than “real” — and make us hate the mirror more. With an avatar, your ideal self is dangerously close to the real. You know you’ll never look like Gisele. But you could believe in your dream self, making reality suck harder.

“My main avatar is closer to my body shape of about 21 than it is my current body,” says Lisa, who is 37 and, as far as I can Google, Toronto’s only virtual-style blogger, with her site Second Life Fashion Addict. Her cyber ego, Jhuzen Ketsugo, poses in a head-spinning gamut of styles: rockabilly, old Hollywood, Russian hooker.

Says Lisa: “It’s a little of how I wish I could dress, and a little of how I know I never could, or never could afford to, and a little of pure fantasy. Which to me, is the real point of the blog.”

There’s a Pandora’s box of possibilities for the fashion industry in the virtual world: apps, videogames, places to play dress-up. There’s imvu.com for fashion-liking nerds, and looklet.com for barely computer-literate stylists. And everywhere, soon enough, there will be avatars. Avatars in online dressing rooms, on 3-D runways, in fashion films. Avatars in “magazine” editorials you flip through on your tablet reader. Can you imagine it? Do you want to? If the new unattainable ideal is you, how will you live with the real you?

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