Cady muses about Second Life

Getting dressed in SL

Jeez, what a slacker I’ve been.  My last post was almost a year ago, when I promised to start posting more!  LOL!  Ok, no apologies and no promises this time.  Maybe that will take the pressure off…

I’ve been busy building these days, which is one of my favorite SL pastimes!  Over at the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island, we are making plans to open up a New Resident Center (which will be a feature of the renovated community center I’ve been working on).  The idea is to have a place that new folks can use as a home base while they get adjusted to things in SL.  The parcel that the center sits on will be build-enabled, and equipped with dressing rooms, social areas, and useful info and landmarks.  As a result, I’ve been inspired to write up my own orientation guides to SL.  Since we will have dressing rooms, I figured the place to start was with how to get dressed.  I’ve been getting dressed in SL for so long (3 years next month!) that I often forget how confusing it is to someone just starting out.  Which explains the extremely long and detailed introduction posted below.  Share this with your friends, and let me know if I forgot anything!

Why am I wearing a box?  Getting dressed in Second Life

Getting dressed in Second Life can be a bit confusing at first!  Here are some tips that may help you.

You have two main folders in your Inventory: My Inventory and Library.  The My Inventory folder will contain the objects that you acquire, and the Library folder contains the items that are provided to get you started.

When you acquire new clothing, it will sometimes come in a box.  You have to open the box before you will be able to wear the clothes.  Here’s how you do that.

  • First, open your Inventory window, and highlight the object in the box.  It will have an icon next to the description that looks like a tan colored box.
  • Drag the item from your Inventory to the ground.  Note that you must be in a region that allows you to build.  Building in SL refers not only to creating new objects, but also to taking objects out of your inventory (also known as rezzing them).  If you are not in a region that allows building, you can do a Search on “Sandbox” to find a place that will.
  • Right click on the box and select “Open.”  This will bring up a window that lists all of the items in the box.  At the bottom of this window you will see a button that says “Copy to Inventory.”  Click this button, and a folder will be created within your My Inventory folder, containing the objects in the box.  You may get a pop-up window if any of the items in the box are no-copy (more on that below).  Go ahead and say yes to this.

The items in your clothing folders will fall into two basic categories (aside from the notecards and landmarks that are sometimes included): clothing and attachments.

Clothing Layers: Your avatar has several different layers for clothing.  There are small icons next to each item of clothing that indicate the layer they are worn on.

You can think of the layers this way.  The first layer (closest to your skin) is undershirt, underpants, socks, shoes (more on shoes below) and gloves.  The next layer out is shirt, pants and skirt, and the outermost layer is jacket.

This system is not as intuitive as it first seems.  Not everything on the undershirt layer, for instance, is actually an undershirt!  It can be any item of clothing (or a tattoo layer) that you might wear on the upper half of your body.  Ok, let’s use a tee shirt as an example.  A tee shirt will most likely come as a shirt layer.  You might also see an undershirt layer of the same shirt in your inventory folder.  This doesn’t mean you need to wear both layers!  You simply now have the option to layer that same tee shirt under another item of clothing (say, a blouse) that you wear on the shirt layer.  You might even see that same tee shirt on a jacket layer.  Now, in addition to the layering options you have, there is a slight difference in how this tee shirt will fit on the different layers.  The undershirt layer is the most form-fitting, and the jacket layer is the loosest.  Sometimes a designer will only offer a shirt on a certain layer, as that is the layer that gives the desired look.  For example, a baggy sweatshirt would look best on the jacket layer, even though it is not in fact a jacket.

Same thing goes for pants.  Why would you wear pants on the underpants layer, you ask?  Well, underpants don’t have cuffs, so they tuck into boots very nicely.

You might also see that shirt on the underpants layer in the same folder.  What is with that, you ask?  Well, here’s the story.  The avatar shirt layer stops at your waist.  Many skirts and pants start below your waist.  So you would be left with a bare midriff.  Sometimes that works, and sometimes you want a bit more coverage.  Luckily, the underpants level works on this exposed area.  So, think of the underpants layer of your shirt as an shirt extender.

Another example of a shirt extender is the glove layer.  Sometimes, of course, a glove is just a glove.  But when offered as a shirt layer, this extends the sleeve further down your wrist.

Skirts: There are two kinds of skirts in SL.  The first kind is the one you wear on the aforementioned skirt level.  These skirts are not as common as they used to be, as often they do not provide the most flattering fit.  As I mentioned above, the farther a layer is from your skin, the looser it will be.  While this is fine for a shirt, the effect in the skirt layer is to make your hips and rear end larger than they normally are.  Of course I realize the idea that this is unflattering is a culture-centric thing.  In any case, you don’t come across these items that often anymore, though it does work nicely if you want to wear something like a pencil skirt.  If you do want to wear one of these skirts (also known as a system skirt), and you want to maintain your normal shape, there is an option.  If the shape you are wearing can be copied and modified, make a copy of your shape.  Then wear the copy of your shape along with the system skirt, and adjust your shape as needed (this usually involves trimming down your hips, backside and saddlebags).  Then label this shape as your “skirt shape,” and wear it when you wear these kinds of skirts.

The more common type of skirt comes in two parts.  The first part is known as glitch pants, and is worn on the pants layer.  The second part is an attachment.  You will know an attachment by the tan box icon that sits next to its name in your folder.  To wear an attachment, right click on the menu item, and select “wear” from the drop down menu.  Please be sure to wear both parts!  The attachment piece gives your skirt shape and movement, but does nothing to cover your skin.  When you sit down, you could end up feeling very exposed indeed!

You guys might see an item on the skirt layer in your attire folder as well.  No, it is not an actual skirt.  Well, it could be.  Who am I to judge your wardrobe choices?  But more likely, it is the bottom half of a jacket.  Remember, you can’t take layering labels at face value.

Attachments: As I mentioned above, some items in your clothing folder will have an icon next them that looks like a small box.  These are attachments.  Common clothing attachments are skirts, pant and sleeve cuffs and collars.  To wear these attachments, right click the item in your Inventory menu, and select Wear.  These items will then attach to pre-determined attachment points on your avatar.  You can change these attachment points, actually, but that is more graduate level dressing, and I don’t want to confuse you too much!  Maybe in a future post…

Shoes:  this used to be more of a “clothing layer” than it is now.  Being an SL old-timer, I remember system shoes.  <shudders>  Nowadays, it is most commonly used for a shoe base.  When your avatar is barefoot, your feet are flat on the ground, just like RL.  When you wear shoes in RL, the material of the shoes molds your feet a bit to conform to the shape of the shoes.  Since SL shoes do not have these physical properties, you need the shoe base.  This keeps your toes from poking out the front, and raises your heels if you are wearing high heeled shoes.  So, first wear the shoe base, then attach the shoes.  Sometimes there are additional attachments, just to make things more confusing!  If you are wearing boots, or your shoes have ankle straps, there may be extra attachments for these, which usually go on the lower leg attachment points.  You might also see invisiprims in that folder.  Sometimes the shoe base is not enough to alter the foot for a particular pair of shoes.  An invisiprim will totally mask that part of your avatar’s foot.  You might also see an alpha layer, which serves the same purpose using the latest 2.0 SL viewer.

Adjusting your attachments: Since there is no standard avatar size or shape, attachments sometimes have to be adjusted for your particular avatar.  The easiest way to do this is with the help of a pose stand.  A pose stand is an object you stand on to make your avatar stand perfectly still.  There are pose stands in the dressing rooms here, and can be found in most clothing stores.  Once you are on the pose stand, right click on the attachment you want to adjust, and select “Edit” from the menu.  You will then see arrows on your object, that will allow you to move the attachment up or down, right or left, and back and forth.  Make the needed adjustment, then close the edit window.  Then select “Stand Up” from the button on your main screen to get off the pose stand.  There are further adjustments that can be made on some attachments to get them just right.  Again this is graduate level stuff.  The best way to learn these is to find a more experienced resident to help you.  Please don’t be shy about asking for help.  Most people are very happy to lend a hand!


You may notice that some items in your inventory are followed by the words (no copy), (no modify) and (no transfer).  These designate the item’s permissions.

Full permission:  You can make copies of these items, tinker under the hood with them, and give them away freely.

You will find these sorts of items on two ends of the spectrum.  Some items are made freely available to everyone by their content creators.  This is often done as a service to new residents, who don’t yet have any Linden dollars to spend.  Or they might be fun items that were created for the sole purpose of spreading cheer around the grid.

At the other end of the spectrum are items sold with full permissions.  These are typically bought by content creators, who use them as components of items that they will in turn sell or distribute to others.  These items are generally much more expensive than limited permission items.

Why is this?  Well, let’s say you invented a widget maker.  You invested time and resources into making this thing, for the purpose of making widgets.  You recoup that investment by selling your widgets.  You wouldn’t be inclined to include a free widget maker with every purchase, now would you?  If you did, the first person you sold it to could make all the widgets they wanted (in this case, with no investment in materials) and give them out to all of their friends, who could give them to their friends, etc.)  In this scenario, you would quickly be out of business.

So why sell full permission items in the first place?  Well, they are necessary for content creators.  A good example of this is textures.  Textures are what keep everything in SL from looking like plywood.  They are the pictures that are displayed on prims (the basic building blocks of items in SL).  If I want to make a chair and sell it, I need all the components of that chair to be full permission for me.  I need to be able to modify it, I need to be able to make copies of it, and I need to be able to give or sell it to someone else.  The item would be useless to me otherwise.  Now, these items are sold under the condition that they not be redistributed in their original form.  In other words, I can use the textures to make a chair, and sell that chair, but I can’t turn around and put the textures in a freebie box and start handing them out.  Well, to be clear, I have the ability to do this, but it would be both morally and legally wrong to do so.  Not that it doesn’t happen, sadly.  But it is theft, plain and simple.

Copy: You can make extra copies of this item.  This is useful in a few different ways.  You can make sub-folders within your inventory for different outfits.  If you have a shirt that you would wear with a few different outfits, you can put copies of this shirt in each folder.  If you want to store a spare copy outside of your inventory folder for safekeeping (more on that in a future post), you can do so.  If you want to (and are able) to modify the item, it is a REALLY good idea to make a copy first, so that you can go back to it in case you make a mistake!

Modify: In terms of clothing, being able to modify the object means you can tailor it to fit the way you want it to.  You can make the sleeves longer or shorter, make the cut of the pants tighter or more relaxed, etc.

Transfer: This enables you to give or sell the item to someone else.  If you want to buy someone in SL a gift, make sure that the item you are buying is transferable!  That said, I’ve found that most merchants are happy to help you out if the item you have in mind is only sold no-transfer.  They will often let you pay them directly for the item, and send it on to the recipient on your behalf.  Always feel free to contact them if you are interested in this.

Ok, that is enough for one go.  Hopefully you are not totally confused at this point!  Let me know if there is anything I missed here.


June 15, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized |


  1. Slacker! It’s been forever. But then, I haven’t been updating regularly either, and now I’m buried in inventory.

    Comment by Lelani Carver | April 1, 2011 | Reply

  2. Great clothing tips, Cady! I wish I had known all this when I first came into SL 🙂 A lot of stuff I found out the hard way…

    Comment by Patapon Monday | July 27, 2010 | Reply

  3. Just one point: where you mention that the undershirt layer is the closest-fitting and that the jacket layer is the loosest, I think you’re mistaken. With the shirt layer you can adjust the looseness of the shirt and/or sleeves, but not the jacket layer. Like you say, it’s not very intuitive; the jacket layer should be the loosest when in fact it’s not.

    Comment by Mistletoe | June 17, 2010 | Reply

  4. Well done, Cady! Funny, my insomnia usually has me thinking about stuff to build or texture. 😉

    Comment by Lelani Carver | June 15, 2010 | Reply

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