Saturday, January 30, 2010

New to the Role Play Collection: miner & soldier

Two new additions to the Role Play Collection are now available: Le Mineur and Cavalerie.

"Le Mineur" is a well-worn outfit based on the clothing typically seen in historical photos of 19th century miners.

This outfit was deisgned specifically with the Deadwood 1876 sim in mind, which will soon be "resetting" itself to 1876.

In the summer of 1876, thousands of prospectors flooded into the Black Hills of Dakota Territory (where Deadwood is located) to seek their fortunes placer mining in the gold fields.

As larger mining interests entered the picture, men were employed to work the large underground mines bored out by large machinery. Before the invention of the carbide lamp in 1892, miners lit the dark passages of the mines with a small oil lamp attached to their cap.

The lamp on the cap in this set is a working reproduction of those 19th century oil lamps. Simply touch it to "light" it, and a flame will appear that will also provide some light for you in the dark. Touch it again, and the flame will be extinguished.

Mr. Ernst Osterham, the building wizard that he is, deserves sole credit for the lighting effect, as my grasp on scripting is still rudimentary.

The outfit also includes a cap without the oil lamp attached, for those evenings your character spends in town, and not in the mines.

Also introduced to the collection today is "Cavalerie," based upon the actual U.S. Army Cavalry M1872 and M1874 uniform pieces worn by enlisted soldiers during the "Indian Wars" of the 1870s.

This uniform was also designed specifically with the Deadwood 1876 sim in mind. In real life, there was a notable military presence in the Black Hills of Dakota Territory (where Deadwood is located) during the 1870s because of continued conflicts between the United States and the Indians of the northern plains.

You'll find two crates in this set: one uniform set is clean for garrison duty and formal events, the second crate contains battleworn garments for the "veteran campaigner."

The "clean" uniform features multiple versions of the sack coat and "pattern" shirt: you can wear the pattern shirt as an undershirt layer, with the sack coat as a shirt layer, which will allow you to wear a large overcoat or poncho for a jacket layer, creating a multi-layered look.

The pattern shirt is also available as a shirt layer, and the coat as a jacket layer. Depending on your physique, one combination make work better for you than the other -- all garment pieces are modifiable.

The "dirty" uniform in the other crate is designed to resemble a uniform that has seen months of service, with dirt, mud and perhaps some dried blood on each piece. It too features multiple versions of the coat and shirt layers.

The set also includes the traditional "kepi" cap, and Mr Osterham deserves credit for creating the sculpty that makes the "slouch" look much more authentic than the prototype I initially built out of standard prims.

For the ladies: new gowns on sale

Plenty of news to be had, so we'll start right off with our new releases for ladies:

Montagne Noire introduces the Cheongsam, a body-hugging one-piece Chinese dress for women in a vibrant red satin brocade.

The cheongsam is also known in Mandarin Chinese as the qípáo and in English as a Mandarin gown.

Also included are garment pieces to wear as an Vietnamese Ao Dai (Áo Dài), featuring a tight-fitting silk tunic worn over ankle length leggings.

Montagne Noire's version is designed with a Victorian eye for modesty, featuring long sleeves and ankle length leggings.

To celebrate the Chinese New Year on Feb. 14, the Cheongsam is on sale for 100L, 50% off the retail price. The sale price is effective through Feb. 14.

The next gown in our new ball gown line has arrived just in time for Mardi Gras.

To celebrate Mardi Gras on Feb. 16, Reine du Bal in amethyst is now on sale for 175L, 50% off the retail price. The sale price is effective through Feb. 16.

Lastly, there are four new gowns in our clearance section, marked down 80% off the retail price, making them just 20L and 50L!

New womenswear is located in the west wing on the ground floor of our Caledon & Antiquity shops; you'll find Clearance on the third floor.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

So you want to role play a "working girl."

So you are interested in roleplaying a 19th century parlor girl, courtesan, working girl, painted lady, soiled dove, whore -- a prostitute, in a Second life Victorian/Old West role play sim.

Where do most people start? With clothing. Typically, it's the most frilly, flamboyant outfit available on XStreet -- silk stockings, rhinestone bustier, the whole nine yards. It's a fabulous costume, certain to turn the heads of the gents (ahem).

You land at a Western sim's welcome HUB and rush past the signs urging you to read about life in the 19th century American West, thinking you already know everything you need to in order to make your RP debut, thank you very much.

Here you are sauntering down the street, ready to make your big RP splash, when suddenly someone IMs you. "Uh, hello and welcome, you appear to be new -- are you aware that costume isn't really appropriate to wear on the street?"

"Of course it's appropriate," you reply, "isn't that why they're called streetwalkers?"

I can't tell you how many times I've had this IM conversation with new characters in Deadwood, the Western sim I RP in. Many, many female avatars wander in with a head full of ideas about prostitution in the Old West that they got from watching Hollywood movies.

There are as many myths about the prostitutes of the Old West as there were "soiled doves" (a common term for prostitute at that time).

Probably the biggest myth that new roleplayers buy into when creating a working girl character is that they had glamorous lives and clothing. Certainly the upper class courtesans and parlor girls were dressed sumptuously for their upper class clients. They weren't necessarily well educated, but they could carry on a conversation and knew which fork to use for the salad.

Most of the high class parlor houses, however, existed in larger cities, and only came later to the boom towns of the West as the wealth of the land began to pay off.

How does this relate to fashion? well, in a few weeks, the Second Life sim of Deadwood will be resetting the clock to 1876. Currently, it's 1879. The town has grown into a bustling little burg with theaters, hotels, tea rooms, a hospital. It's all very... civilized.

I should qualify that and say that, despite what some uninformed people have been saying, it has as much excitement as it's always had -- bank robberies, hangings, lost dogs -- but it's a full fledged town now, with a mayor, city council, a town charter. It's still the Wild West, but as in RL, time moves forward in SL as well, and progress -- telephones, railroads, electric lights -- are just over the horizon.

SL's Deadwood has always strived for historical authenticity, and with the reset, there's an opportunity to explore the seedier side of frontier life.

In the early days of Deadwood's gold rush, in mid-1876, it was estimated that approximately 90% of women of the camp were “painted ladies.” Women amounted to between 100 to 150 for the entire Black Hills area, perhaps constituting between 1 percent and 2 percent of the population, according to Watson Parker, author of Deadwood: The Golden Years. That's at the rough estimate of about 10,000 residents at the peak of the gold rush.

When the Deadwood sim reopens, it will be a chaotic, lawless camp, made up of an assortment of tents, wagons and crude lean-tos to house its rapidly expanding populace, which will consist mostly of men who've come to the area to strike it rich in the gold fields of the Black Hills. With that influx of prospectors will come folks with entrepreneurial interests, who will set up shop on the first flat, vacant parcel of land they can find, to provide food, clothing, liquor, tools -- and sex.

The women providing that last commodity in these early days of Deadwood will not be dressed in silk stockings and rhinestone bustiers. They will be women who may or may not have come to Deadwood of their own volition. Some will have been lured there under false pretenses, thinking they would be filling jobs as cooks or laundresses.

Many of them will be escaping already desperate lives, thinking that life in a mining camp couldn't be much worse than what they'd already endured. Some will come to the grim realization that they have unwittingly sold themselves into sex work.

Most of these women will probably have traveled to Deadwood with little more than the clothes on their backs. Already poor, the dresses they wear are threadbare at the elbows, where the sleeve rubs against the washboard. The skin on their hands will be red and calloused from scrubbing with harsh lye soap and carrying buckets of water from the creek to the washtub.

Some will not be able to speak a word of English. Others may be addicted to alcohol or opium. Suicide or murder will be the tragic end for some.

But the lot of the "painted ladies" of Deadwood was not entirely bleak. For some, it was an opportunity to flee the restraints of Victorian society and become a woman of independent means. Historically, there were a number of real life women who came to Deadwood and made their fortunes as madams.

Don't take my word for it -- there are several very good resources about prostitution in the Old West. Get started with "The Painted Ladies of Deadwood," a feature on the "Legends of America" website. Shooting Star Enterprises, a company that specializes in historical reenactment education and supplies, has a informative page devoted to "Entertainers, Hurdy Girls, Soiled Doves and other Ladies of the Evening." A book I highly recommend on the subject is Anne Seagraves' "Soiled Doves: Prostitution in the Early West."

Lastly, I should explain why the typical "saloon girl" costume is not appropriate for streetwear in an Old West sim. "Costume" is the key word here. "Saloon girl" is a loose term for women who worked in saloons as barmaids, dancers, and prostitutes. Depending on the saloon, a woman could serve as all three, or only one or two.

A "saloon girl" dress is essentially a uniform -- a costume worn when a woman is working in the saloon, entertaining. The shiny fabrics and feathers, the short skirt, the low cut bodice and bare arms, are part of the entertainment factor.

This stands in sharp contrast to the "proper" fashion of the day -- long sleeves, high necklines, ankle length skirts.

Here we get to one of the double standards of Victorian fashion -- while modest clothing was expected of respectable ladies conducting their daily business in public, at formal evening events it was perfectly acceptable for decolletage and porcelain shoulders and arms to be put prominently on display (pale skin was a sign of a woman of better means who did not have to do manual labor outside in the elements).

Meanwhile, a prostitute might be seen in public doing her day to day errands with a low neckline on her dress -- this suggestive attire being a not-so-subtle advertisement of her profession.

As the Deadwood reset draws closer, I am currently working on some "working girl" dresses that will hopefully fit into the rough and tumble world of 1876 in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Stay tuned.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

New ball gowns arriving at MNC

Thanks to an overly scheduled RL the last few weeks, what time I do have in SL I've been devoting to finishing a number of MNC projects that have been on hold for various reasons.

One of those projects I've been pushing to finish, for release in the weeks leading up to Valentine's Day, is a new line of ball gowns. And finally, they are here! Well, at least the first one.

"Reine du Bal" (French, "Belle of the Ball"), is a rich velveteen brocade and satin evening gown featuring a bustle and train adorned with roses.

This first gown, in ruby red, is available at a special sale price of L$175 -- 50 percent off the retail price -- now through Valentine's Day, Feb.14.

More gowns will be arriving soon for Mardi Gras and St. Patrick's Day.

Reine du Bal can be found in the "New Arrivals" showroom on the ground floor of both Caledon and Antiquity locations. The gown is also available on XStreet.

Friday, January 15, 2010

New menswear just arrived!

By request of our gentlemen customers, Montagne Noire has just released a new suit and two classic hat styles.

"Le Mountebank" (a huckster or charlatan) is a Western Victorian sack coat style suit completed by a string tie & basic black derby (bowler) hat. The suit comes in two colors, coal and bronze, and retails for $225L.

Gentlemen now have two choices of hats at MNC -- the basic black derby/bowler hat (available in the Le Mountebank set) can be purchased separately for just $50L. Also available is a traditional black Western wide brim hat.

All these new releases are currently available at our Caledon Oxbridge Village and Antiquity Township shops, and will be coming to soon to our other locations and XStreet.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Remodeled Caledon & Antiquity shops now open!

Renovations are finally complete on MNC's Caledon and Antiquity shops.

After a lot of research, I came back to my original choice for a new building, "The 1875 Shoppe" by Four Winds.

Four Winds makes some exceptional buildings, from many different eras, both residential and commercial. As I went around SL, I really didn't see anything quite as nice. That likely has to do with SL's Search function, which is frankly a rather frustrating and often futile experience. But that's a topic for another post...

The shops now feature a third floor devoted to our complete line of low prim Victorian & Old West furnishings, in addition to our regular selection of men's, women's and girl's Victorian clothing and accessories.

If you haven't seen MNC's furnishings before, the line has grown considerably, and includes everything from Victorian sofas & armchairs to a Chinese tea table & seat cushions. Oriental rugs, bookcases, English & Chinese tea sets, Edgar Allen Poe cigars, fireplaces, wine & liquor cabinets, shop counters, stained glass lamps, armoires, kitchen furniture are just some of what the line now offers.

All this I've designed over the last two years with Victorian & Old West role play sims in mind, where every prim counts. As I said in a previous post, they are simple, yet functional.

I'm very excited about the new buildings, as they give MNC more room to grow. They also have a more open feeling to them as you walk in -- large plate glass windows in front give visitors a picturesque view of Caledonian and Antiquity waters.

Please be my guest and stop by some time to say hello! I'm often at one or the other location, tinkering. :)

Monday, January 4, 2010

What's "quality" content?

An XStreet customer left a review for my one prim buffet table over the weekend. I had to use a translator, as the comment was in German, but the fellow apparently felt that 60L was way too much for a single textured cube.

Of course, he never bothered to contact me before he left his one star rating -- even though there's a link right under the "purchase" button on the listing page to contact the seller.

If he'd simply IMed me or sent a notecard, I would have been more than happy to refund his money.

It's an example of of an issue that I think will come to a head this year in SL: just what exactly is "quality content"?

Yes, the buffet table is one prim. It was designed purposely that way, for people who have limited prim allocations, such as in role play sims. It and the round tea table version served me very well when I owned a hotel/restaurant/theater in Deadwood.

Originally, I'd made both tables with legs -- the buffet table was five prims, the tea table three prims (on a pedestal) legs. This was pretty early on in my building career.

One day it occurred to me -- why do these tables even need legs? No one can lift up the tablecloth to see whether the table is standing on its own. This is SL, after all, where people can fly. So I removed the legs, and voila! A fairly realistic looking table with a white linen tablecloth. And only one prim. For 60L.

I've probably sold a hundred or more of those tables since I made them about a year ago. The only other negative comment I've had was also on XStreet, but that had to do with the table's permissions mysteriously reverting to no mod. That customer didn't contact me either.

I was originally encouraged to sell them by people I'd given them to, who'd seen them in my RP business. These are people, like many SL residents, who don't have the time or patience to make their own furniture.

Coincidentally, these tables are what started me on designing low prim Victorian furnishings. There are some amazing furniture designers in SL, who make beautiful, complex, realistic furniture. However, many of these items are heavy on prim count. That's what makes them beautiful, complex and realistic.

But you easily can blow half of your prim allotment in a RP sim on a single desk and chair set from one of these designers. So, seeing the need for attractive, realistic, affordable low prim furniture, my furniture making career began.

I'm not sure if this table would be considered a "quality" item on the new Linden Lab content creation roadmap. It's the epitome of simple -- it's a prim cube with textures applied to it. But there are some people out there who don't know how to, or don't have time to learn, or simply have no interest in knowing how to put textures on prims. So we're back to the concept of seeing a need and fulfilling it.

It did take time for me to make it. I had to visualize it, find a white tablecloth, photograph it, manipulate the image in Photoshop, and play with the texture settings on the cube to get the proportions right.

For that, I charge 60L. I chose that price because I'd shopped around to find something equivalent before I made the table myself. There are a lot of high profile merchants who do the same exact thing, but charge at least twice what I do. I've seen one prim furniture pieces for 125L or more. I don't know if they sell at that price, but since they are made by some of SL's most successful furniture makers, I assume they do.

I don't know why this kind of thing gets to me, but it did. So here I am, venting. Thanks for reading... :)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Introducing The Role Play Collection!

Montagne Noire Clothiers is excited to announce the launch The Role Play Collection, a new line of garments designed specially for the Victorian and Old West RP community!

Over the last two years I've released several "themed" outfits to correspond with the needs of my SL friends (and myself!) for clothing appropriate for role play.

The new collection consolidates and updates some old favorites, while introducing brand new uniforms, costumes and thematic garments for Victorian and Old West role play.

The current lineup includes:

More RP garments are in the works, including military uniforms and tradesmen garment sets.

You can currently find The Role Play Collection in the upstairs north wing of my Caledon Oxbridge Village main store.

The complete Collection will be available soon at most of my other locations and on XStreet as well.

If you have any suggestions for RP related garments, please don't hesitate to send me a notecard, and I will add it to my idea list!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New release: Le Menagere Victorian/Old West dress

New at MNC, Le Menagere (English, "The housekeeper") is a practical cotton day gown with apron, in emerald, sapphire or topaz plaid, for the lady of the house who wishes to conduct her daily chores in a comfortable but stylish dress -- ideal for housekeeping or market day.

Le Menagere was designed to reflect the style of dress adopted by women of the mid- to late- 19th century American West. Shedding cumbersome crinolines (the "hoop skirt") and restrictive bustles for more practical dress lines, women on the frontier had more pressing concerns than wearing the latest fashions.

And now for a little editorializing: Before the invention of sunscreen, pioneer women wore long sleeves and high necklines like those on Le Menagere to protect their skin from the harsh elements. In one of the great double standards of the Victorian era, bare arms and decolletage were only acceptable for "proper" ladies on formal occasions, such as balls -- only ladies of ill repute put their assets on public display at all hours of the day.

This is one of my little pet peeves about Victorian fashion in SL -- lowcut necklines and off the shoulder gowns are not, not, not daytime wear for proper ladies! So don't be surprised if you enter a role play sim and you are mistaken for a "painted lady" and treated coarsely. :)

Le Menagere is of course modifiable, allowing you to tailor the garment to your proportions. The dress is now available at MNC's Caledon Oxbridge Village location, or on XStreet.