Romanticism and Second Life Fashion


Having an avatar has made me much more aware of fashion, the fashioned body, and the relationship between fashion and identity. I think spaces like Second Life where the customisation of the avatar is a constant fascination (which drives the thriving fashion industry) prompt us to become more reflective about fashion and the body as a visual metaphor for identity. The virtual space is also a romantic space which is somewhat dreamlike, a space for imaginary illusions, sensual delight and fiction. It is a playful space. Even when I am teaching inside Second Life (or maybe especially when I am teaching) I play with my avatar’s appearance to stimulate student discussion about these ideas. Sometimes I seek authenticity in my appearance when the gaze is external (like my TV appearance last year) but more often than not I enjoy the indulgence of being playful, and changing my skin / hair / clothes / shoes on a daily basis. Joanne Entwhistle in The Fashioned Body says:

[The] restless Romantic spirit, this indulgence in dreams and fantasies, is what drives fashion.

She also argues that fashion is way of shaping our identities in a way which helps to stabilise our sense of self in a time when identities are increasingly fragmented and fractured. So maybe those of us who are enjoying “playing dress up” as much as I am are actually doing much more than meets the eye – we’re finding that the avatar simultaneously provides us with not only the freedoms and pleasures of playing out our fantasies, but are also a way of dealing with the chaos in our everyday lives.

PS: My rose coloured glasses are also magical: they tell me when my friends come online, they announce when other people approach, and they help me fly fast and high. And the very nice man that made them also customised them especially for me so I could wear my eyelashes at the same time. At one level I sit back and laugh at myself and the investment I have in my avatar. At another level I try to theorise about it. But at the deepest, most honest level, I just enjoy it and don’t care anymore about trying to justify it!

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