Thursday, September 17, 2009

Just arrived at Montagne Noire ... Fleur d'Automne

September's new gown is now available -- "Fleur d'Automne" (French, "Flower of Autumn"), a rich velveteen day gown and matching teardrop hat with satin flowers, black feathers and black lace.

Available in ruby, turquoise and topaz, Fleur d'Automne is a fashionable walking dress for the lady who wants to look her best on errands in town or visiting friends.

Fleur d'Automne comes with a prim skirt for standing and a "system" skirt and hip ribbons for sitting, designed to avoid the embarrassment of naked legs that prim skirts cause for ladies who wish to sit modestly.

Circa 1865-1875, Fleur d'Automne reflects the early transition from crinoline (the "hoop skirt"), to polonaise, to soft bustle in Victorian ladies fashion. The full round shape of the crinoline gave way to more slender dress lines, with overskirting draped over the hips and underskirting moving toward the back of the skirt.

Montagne Noire's main store is located in Caledon Oxbridge Village. You are welcome to peruse my inventory via Xstreet as well.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

About Montagne Noire Clothiers...

If by chance you have randomly stumbled into this blog, I am the owner of Montagne Noire Clothiers, a Victorian clothing shop in Second Life. I've been designing Victorian clothing for women and men (and now children) for a little over a year now.

I am by no stretch of the imagination a fashion designer in real life, though I have acquired enough seamstressing skills over the years to have designed and sewn several historically inspired garments. I would (very humbly) describe myself as an amateur historian, so in researching and designing historical costumes, it followed that I began to study the history and progression of fashion.

Now how does this translate to designing Victorian clothing in Second Life? Good question. I am not an artist in real life, I can't draw worth a damn. But I do have some graphic design skills that I use in my real life job.

Before I took the plunge and tried designing, I traveled through a number of the historical realms of SL, picking up a variety of historically themed garments, both free and Linden purchased, along the way. But it was often a painstaking and frustrating process.

While there were an abundance of shops out there advertising era specific clothing (Victorian, Medieval, Renaissance, etc), more often than not the outfits were an amalgamation of different eras and styles.

I've come to call it the "Sinderella Syndrome" -- more (adult) fantasy than reality, the gowns generally feature giant swirling crinoline (hoop) skirts and very lowcut necklines.

First, let me say that there's nothing wrong with wanting to dress like Cinderella in Second Life. SL is a place where you can realize your fantasies, and for many women, that's dressing like a princess. I myself readily admit to having a few Cinderella gowns in my SL inventory.

But it's problematic when you are the owner of a historically themed role play sim and want to provide visitors an authentic experience. That, however, is a topic for another blog entry...

Some of this homogenized look is the result of technical limitations in Second Life. It's very difficult to recreate some garment styles because of the way the UV body templates are mapped. For those who aren't familiar with how clothing is created in SL, it involves layering textures two-dimensionally in a graphics program like Photoshop. That final texture is uploaded to SL, where you apply the textures onto the three dimensional body of an avatar.

Sometimes the translation isn't what you expected.

So, armed with my interest in fashion history and a copy of Photoshop CS3, I began to tinker to see what I could come up with. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A mountain by any other name...

The redhead steps down from the stagecoach, gazing at the rough-hewn frontier town ahead of her, drawing her cloak around her as the bitter winter wind greets her. Mais, fait-i, fré, ogniet [But isn't it cold today] …. She hopes the welcome she receives is not so chilly … Vère dja, mais pas tant comme hiaer [Oh yes, but not as cold as yesterday] …

She wonders to herself if it was the right decision to come here… to start over … but it is too late for doute.

Where she should even begin? something to eat, perhaps…. Then enquire about available properties. Yes, that is it, she thinks. Make introductions, settle in, get to work, put my mind to other things…

Later in the day, she is standing before an empty building in a quiet corner of town by the river, imagining the interior adorned with lace curtains, Oriental rugs, racks of rich fabrics and... rows of dresses. An abundance of gowns. She had seen the attire of some of the ladies in town as she made her way down the street with her new landlord. I have my work cut out for me, she mused.

But what to call this place? She stood in silent contemplation for some time. As her eyes lifted to the stark hills surrounding her, her mind wandered back to a time and place on another continent, where she could see dark peaks rising out of the earth with the same kind of defiance.

Ah... Montagne Noire [Black Mountain], she said out loud, the sound of her voice drifting off into the hills. She smiled to herself as she turned to make her way back to Main Street. There were so many things to do now.

The story thus far...

I am but a character in a virtual world called Second Life. Perhaps you have heard of it?

I found this new world in December 2007, and like most everyone else who arrives on these virtual shores, spent my first few weeks trying to find my footing. I initially took the standard path: camping, blingy shoes, clubbing.

That got old pretty quick.

Then it occurred to me that as a virtual world, there had to be more to it.

I was fortunate about that time to wander into a place called Neko Gardens. The garden's caretakers, Jett and Jade, took me under their wing and it became my first home in SL. At the time, I had no idea what a Neko was. It had never occurred to me to be anything else besides human in this virtual world.

Neko Gardens was a delightful blend of feline, fairy and zen. One could sleep in a giant flower or swim in a sapphire waterfall. That might seem silly, but it was just the kind of escape I needed at that time.

Sadly, Neko Gardens, at least in the incarnation I knew it when I first met Jett and Jade, is no longer. But that sense of community they fostered there has stayed with me. I am so grateful for their kindness and generosity. It set the tone for how I have led my life in both of the worlds I reside in.

But back to the garden. As I settled in I began to broaden my horizons and explore other sims. I started plugging various search terms in -- and to my delight, one of the search returns was 22 Baker Street, located on the Victorian sim, Caledon.

From there, I began to wonder if such a thing as "role play" existed in SL. It did!

I drifted through many amazing times and places, all fantastically re-created down to the last pixel, until one day I finally discovered an era that spoke to me -- the Victorian Old West.

So, one frigid February afternoon, a finely dressed redhead descended the steps of a rickety stagecoach, stepping into the slush and snow covered street of a little mining town in the Black Hills of South Dakota... Deadwood, circa 1876.

There, Astolat Dufaux, seamstress, failed actress, refuge seeker, was born.


I chose the title of this blog, "The Victorian Closet," because it seemed an appropriate description for what will be my musings about Victorian fashion, both as a designer of Victorian clothing in Second Life, and as an amateur historian in my "First Life." I use the term fashion in the broadest sense -- not just clothing, but customs, attitudes and ... well, those things one might find literally or metaphorically in a Victorian closet.

Welcome! -- I hope you enjoy following my train of thought.