UPDATED! Tips, Tricks, and Tools for Second Life Avatars Wearing Skirts, Dresses and Gowns

In a blog which I originally began a little over four years ago, covering social VR platforms in general (and Sansar in particular), many of my readers are no doubt puzzled and/or bemused by my regular blogposts about Second Life, which at the ripe old age of 18 is seen by many outsiders as quaint, outdated technology. Why do I bother with SL, you might ask.

However, I still see Second Life as the perfect, mature, fully-evolved model of a successful metaverse, which many newer platforms would be wise to study and learn from. I often joke that I got my Ph.D. in Virtual Worlds from the University of Second Life 😉 and one of the lessons I learned is this: that people are willing to invest considerable amounts of time, energy and money in avatar customization! There’s a reason why SL has a marketplace with 2 billion user-generated assets to date, and still boasts an annual GDP of US$600 million!


As many of you already well know by now, I derive an inordinate amount of personal satisfaction from styling one of my small army of Second Life avatars from head to toe in the perfect look! (I’m sure that artists get much the same feeling when finishing a sculpture or a painting.)

Vanity Fair, looking expensive at Frank’s Jazz Place (you can learn more about my champagne glass pose and animated cigarette holder here)…the gold Mia gown is from Suna Designs.

One admittedly small thing that absolutely drives me up the wall is when a female avatar is wearing a voluminous skirt, a ballgown or a dress, and yet is still wearing an AO (animation override) where their arms and hands poke into the dress. I also see this happen with a lot (and I mean, a LOT) of “thicc” avatars with super wide hips and a large ass, as seems to be the current fashion in SL avatar shapes (and in real-life plastic surgery!).

People, if you’re going to go to all the trouble of getting that over-the-top ballgown (or tweaking those body sliders to extremes), then at least get an AO which works with your outfit and/or body! (Or pick up something like the Shoulder Overrider, which I discuss a little further down.)

So today I wanted to compile a handy list of tips, tricks, and tools on how to handle the problem of your arms and hands falling into your avatar’s outfit and body—particularly voluminous gowns and dresses with poufy skirts!


First, if you’re the type of gal who likes to rock a full-blown battleship ballgown, you probably should invest in an AO specifically designed for gowns. There are two which I have tried and can review: the Gown AO by Kamila Hauptmann’s store Posture Is Everything (available for L$1,000 on the SL Marketplace) and the Southern Belle and Woman in Ballgown Bento AO from Tuty’s Animations (available here in-world and on the SL Marketplace for L$650; they also have a Dressy and Formal Bento AO which looks good, but I have no personal experience with).

Kamila Hauptamnn’s Gown AO is the older product and it is non-Bento, which means that you will have to add a hands-only AO to animate your avatar’s fingers separately (and you can easily pick up a free one from any of the freebie Altamura mesh bodies located at the various freebies stores on the grid (here’s a list to guide you)…you should never have to pay for a hands AO! What I like about the Gown AO is that you can load different sets of animations for seven different types of gowns:

  • small gown (arms and hands closer to the body);
  • medium gowns (arms and hands a bit further out);
  • large gowns (arms and hands furthest away from the body);
  • gowns with a bustle (which keeps your arms and hands out of the rear of the gown);
  • mantua gowns (that is, very wide gowns, see the image below for an example);
  • classic gowns (not sure exactly what this means!); and
  • classic gowns for BBWs (big, beautiful women!).
An example of a mantua gown—some are even wider than this!

As far as I know, the Gown AO is the only product which can accommodate even the largest and widest gowns you can throw on an avatar. What I don’t like about the product is that the animations are rather stilted and unnatural-looking. Here is an example, my goth girl alt, wearing the Gown AO:

My goth avatar wearing the Gown AO and using Tuty’s animated geisha fan (styling credits here)

The fan used in the above picture is a good way to get at least one of your avatar’s hands out of their skirts! I was able to pick this up for free in the past (it was a mislabeled gift at Tuty’s), but you can pick up the Scripted Geisha Fan today from the SL Marketplace for only L$50. This is a editable, tintable fan which alternates between five very natural, smooth animations, and it’s a great bargain!


Tuty’s Southern Bell and Woman in Ballgown Bento AO is now my preferred animation override for gowns. This is a Bento AO, so you don’t need to add a separate animation override to animate your fingers, and I have found that it works wonderfully with most gowns. (It’s also a heck of a lot cheaper than the first one.)

In those cases where even an AO desinged for ballgowns is not enough, I add a very useful tool called the Shoulder Overrider, available for L$299 on the SL Marketplace (it’s also available for the same price in-world here; you have to walk to the Fatty Mesh store sign and click on it to be taken up their sales skybox). This is an add-on HUD which only overrides the shoulder joint of your avatar’s AO, allowing you to bring the arms up even more than usual! The only downside is that it can make your shoulders look a bit hunched. Here’s a before-and-after shot to illustrate the difference it can make, in an oriental gown with long, full sleeves:

Below is an avatar wearing the very wide Clara ballgown from LANA (by the way, the L$500 free store credit offer is still available as of today, and you can pick up two colours of this glorious ballgown for free with the store credit…more details here). The avatar in the picture below is using both the Tuty’s gown AO, plus the Shoulder Overrider (the HUD shown in the upper right hand corner of the picture) to keep her arms and hands free of the voluminous, dramatic overskirt on this glorious gown.

If you act quickly you can still pick up this glorious Clara ballgown for free from LANA!

Now, if you don’t have L$650 to spend on a ballgown AO, there are some alternative options which are inexpensive or even free. For example, there is a graceful, old AO for empire-waist gowns by PixelDolls (remember them?), a store which has been long gone from the grid, but still exists on the SL Marketplace (it comes included with the Innocent Dans L’Amour gown for L$150, and I find I pull it out of my inventory and use it all the time with wider, “poofier” dresses and skirts). Here’s a couple of the poses from the Pixeldolls animation override, to give you an idea (you’ll need to add a hands AO, too):

And today I discovered a freebie from a store called ISHIKU, a HUD intended for use with champagne glasses and bottles, but which could easily be repurposed to keep your elbows bent while wearing a ballgown! Just join the ISHIKU group for free and click on this sign in-store (here’s the SLURL):

(Note that there’s another couple of similar HUDs on the group gift wall to the left.)

The ISHIKU champage hold HUD works like a charm! Even better, there are subtle finger movements while it keeps your avatar’s elbows locked. (No, the free HUD doesn’t include the champagne glass or champagne bottle; you have to buy those from ISHIKU or obtain them elsewhere.)


Finally, I wanted to share with you that the 10th anniversary group gifts from Contraption are still available (I wrote about some of them here), and among them is probably the best prop I have seen in quite some time: the Everybook. Just teleport here, to the gift platform, join the Contraption group for only L$1, and pay the vendor L$1 to pick up your book (your Linden dollar will automatically be refunded):

The Everybook comes with a HUD with six different high-quality Bento hold poses, for either the left or the right hand. Here’s four of them (click each picture to see it in a larger size):

The book comes with two different covers, and if you happen to have PhotoShop or other picture editor skills, you can even change the diffuse, normal and specular textures on the book to customize it to your liking! Here’s a few more examples of how I used it as the perfect finishing touch for a couple of Second Life avatar looks (these illustrate the last two poses of the six):

And, of course, it’s also a very good way to keep at least one of your arms out of the skirts of your dress! The avatar below is using both the Contraption Everybook, plus above-mentioned Tuty’s scripted geisha fan with a freebie AO, to keep her arms off her rather voluminous ballgown (again, the Clara ballgown by LANA):

Hey, she may look a bit bookish…but at least her arms aren’t hanging into the gown! 😉 As I said, it’s a particular pet peeve of mine in Second Life…

And, if your historical/fantasy roleplay outfit demands it, there’s also a very nice candle lantern you can pick up for only L$5 on the SL Marketplace, as shown here on my vampire alt. The Alyonushka lantern includes the Bento pose shown here, and you can click on it to change the colour of the lantern. You’ll notice that I tinted the Tuty’s geisha fan red to match the outfit. (Yes, the Clara ballgown from LANA also comes in a 3-colour fatpack of bloodstained versions for you fashionable vampires and serial killers!)

So there you have it—a distillation of 14 years’ SL experience on how to keep your arms and hands away from your skirts, dresses and gowns, for that perfect look!

UPDATE Oct. 9th, 2021: If you’re looking for a way to keep your arms and hands from hanging into your skirts, you’re in luck! At the central fountain of the Avatar Fair Sales shopping event (SLURL), there are a selection of free Hallowe’en gifts. Just join the Avatar Fair group for free by clicking on the Group sign below, then click on the orange gift box shown to pick up a cute, free Bento mini-AO:

You can use this animation override as-is, or you can reuse the stand poses (which include natural, Bento finger movements) in another AO. All the stands have bent elbows, which work wonderfully with the especially poufy skirt on this tea dress from Ghee! (Please click on each picture below to see it in a larger size.)

If you were looking for a suitable AO for dresses, skirts, and gowns, this free gift might be exactly what you need! By the way, you can pick up this lovely Flora tea dress, in one of six patterns as shown, for free using the $150 store credit Ghee is offering as a gift at their booth at the Halloween Shop and Hop (more details here).

Happy freebie shopping!

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