Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Class Act -- Betty Doyle and her retro designs

Betty Doyle, wearing one of her most recent retro dresses posing in
one of AM Radio's retro-flavored builds
(image courtesy Betty Doyle)

I’m was looking again at Hamlet Au’s blogger challenge where he provided a list of “lesser-known” Second Life personalities and asked for SL bloggers to do profiles of anyone from the list. I’ve noted that as of yet, no one has elected to write about my friend Betty Doyle, creator of the Ingenue line of retro-inspired hair and clothing. Well, I figured I’d best take a stab at rectifying that situation, not only because she is a good friend, but also, being as objective as I can, I think she makes some damned good-looking, well-made, classy stuff.

Betty’s focus, as I said, is “retro-inspired” so naturally, with my ongoing interest in history and all things historical as they manifest themselves in this pixelated vale of tears we call Second Life, I have always found her work intriguing, and more importantly, fun to wear. You put on one of her outfits and you’re gonna feel pretty, but not in the hooker-esque way that characterizes so much of what passes for “fashion” in SL. If your idea of “retro” is looking like you’re working a street corner in Newark in the 1980s you can skip going to Ingenue. But if you think retro, and you think Betty Grable, Vivien Leigh, Ingrid Bergman, Betty Davis, Ann Miller, Bettie Page--hey you’re probably gonna find something you can use in Betty Doyle’s stores.

Shopping at Ingenue--a store designed with the customer in mind.

Betty started out making victorian-inspired dresses for the Caledon crowd in the fall of 2006. And when I say “Victorian-inspired” this is an important distinction. She tried to create outfits that had an authentic feel and look, but were not an attempt to replicate in pixel form the precise construction and elements of actual historical pieces. This was in great part due to the restrictive nature of the tools a designer has to work with in SL, but also because if you try to build a dress the same way you build a garment in real life, it’s just not gonna look exactly right, especially when you try to move in it. There are some people in SL who try to build their dresses in a way that mimics real life: they often are very exacting in the attempt to recreate specific real life historical garments. The result is something that may look ok when you’re standing still, but that really gets funky when you move. Betty Doyle’s outfits are certainly appealing from an historical perspective, but they also will move beautifully with you. You can walk, you can can dance--you can live in them.
Betty names her hair styles after film stars or
of that era who had that general style
(image courtesy Betty Doyle)

After a while of working with a Victorian vocabulary (and having examples of her garments being featured in an early exhibit at the Caledon library), Betty increasingly shifted to creating clothing and hair from the 1930’s through the early 60’s. This is a reflection of her real life enthusiasm for clothing, films, and material culture of that era. If you meet Betty’s typist, you’re going to see someone who fixes her hair and makeup in ways that go for a 40’s-50s look, and chooses to wear clothing that evokes that period. She has translated her real life interest into a continually expanding line of 20th century vintage products at her main store in LoLo. At the same time, some of her original Victorian-inspired clothing can still be found in smaller satellite shops, located in appropriate places such as Caledon Tamrannoch and Deadwood 1876. A lot of the outfits that I wear in old west sims like Deadwood--and even in Hogwarts when I’m working in the library there--are assembled with skirts, tops, aprons, and other elements of Ingenue 19th century outfits. I frequently use some of her hair as well, since a few certain 30’s--40’s hairstyles (especially one design that involves a snood) are evocative of various later 19th century hair-work.

I don't always look Victorian--if I am going to any kind of formal event, or an "out of character" party, I always wear Ingenue hair and clothing, and I generally surprise the folks who are used to seeing me in buckskins and packin' iron--this ensemble is put together with Betty's "Torch Song" hair and "Put the Blame on Mame" dress, FoxLupine Paz's "Alyssa" cigarette and holder, and Caliah Lyon's "Margaux " draped pearl necklace.

Some of you folks out there who follow Betty Doyle’s work and eagerly await the latest offering from Ingenue, probably noted that her rate of production slowed down for a while. The explanation for this is that Betty is one of that elite group of SL ladies who found a guy in-world who wasn’t a flaming goober, met-up in rl, got married and had a baby. Betty tells me that it’s sort of challenging to try to work on a project in Maya with only one hand while holding a small squirming human creature in the other. Now that things have settled and the youngster’s demands can be met through other less labor intensive means, Betty has thrown herself back into generating new content, improving some past work (new enhanced textures for almost all her hair), and shifting a selection of older designs to a discount outlet.

The Ingenue Main store in LoLo--well lit, uncluttered, and elegant:
a great place to shop
(image courtesy Betty Doyle)

Mind you, not that her regular prices are all that terrible to start with. In fact, Ingenue prices are pretty reasonable, considering the quality of the work, and how good you look when you wear it. And you will look good in a lot of different contexts. If I am going to a party or dance where a 19th century look won’t quite fit, I put on one of Betty’s 40s formal dresses and some classic movie star hair, and more often than not, stand out from the crowd. You can use a lot of Ingenue products in futuristic environments as well as historical and contemporary social situations. Remember Rachel's hairstyle in Blade Runner? Yeah, Betty has hair like that. And if you’re interested in going the naughty route, I understand that many of the ladies who do a classic pin-up look, or who are working the tony traditional burlesque venues in sl favor Ingenue hair and lingerie.

Betty’s work has garnered some recognition in SL--including winning the tennis outfit design competition held in conjunction with the Australian Open in January 2008--but I don’t thin she has received the attention she deserves. Everybody in world doesn’t have to have the same look.

There are so many delightful creative building blocks to work with in constructing something unique for yourself. If you want to try working with well thought-out and constructed retro elements in your ongoing effort to look good and knock’em dead, you can visit the Ingenue Main store in LoLo at:

Above, the retro tennis outfit that won the "court coture" contest (image courtesy Betty Doyle)


  1. LOL! I *love* those - as I've stated before, a huge chunk of what I find sexy can be directly traced back to the women in Alfred hitchcock's films so top marks to Betty for capturing this glamour and beauty so well!

  2. I have some of her retro pieces and LOVE them. So movie star glamorous.

  3. Hey HB and Eladrienne, thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    Yeah, it's all about looking attractive and sexy, the way Jean Harlow and Gene Tierny were attractive and sexy--and I swear, as God is my Witness, if I ever can afford my own sim someday, it's going to be a big casino in Monaco in the 30s, or a Hollywood movie studio in the 40s, or maybe mob Las Vegas in the late 40s to early 50s...ooh! or maybe a luxury ocean liner from somewhere in one of those decades, and we'll have glamour and great hair, and there will be spies and smugglers and clever detectives and we'll have MYSTERIES to solve...and we'll wear Betty's outfits.... least the ladies will, anyway.

    Seriously though, another thing about Betty is she's is just one hell of a nice person, and is one of those SL merchants who takes customer service seriously.

  4. Extremely belated comment, I apologize ... Blogger seems to hate Mac users who want to comment, thus am writing on a Dell from the office.

    I just want to say I love Betty's work, and am so glad to see she is ramping up production on new content. She is an inspiration to me as a designer (even though I work in a different century from her), and is a dream-come-true as a customer who tires of the same old cookie cutter rags everyone in SL seems to adore.

    If you ever build a 1930's Monaco casino or 40s-50s Las Vegas, Dio, I'll be the first in line on opening day!

  5. Yep, she's got great stuff. Oh, and since this piece was written, Betty has redesigned her store. It's still clean and well organized, and easy to shop in, but it's now housed in a very art moderne structure that Betty designed and built herself.