Trinity from Female-Gamer.com has an interesting article on what women want: clothes and houses. I mean come on, nobody wears the same clothes day in and day out in real life, why the heck to we have to in a game?! And puh-leaze, don’t those devs know that it’s the height of embarrassment to be seen wearing the same clothes as someone else, especially if they were of the opposite sex? That’s one of the most basic things that annoys me in most MMOs. A friend of mine used to tease me that I’d be the best dressed corpse in the battlefield, because I simply refused to wear ugly armor. And what about player housing? Guys think of them as structures where they can dump their loot. Girls think of them as home, a place to decorate and have parties with their friends. Hmmm, I want more from player housing than just dumping my loot. And I'd like better options on clothes, for example the ability to dye them in different colors, or otherwise change my appearance independant from my stats. Guess that's my female side. :)
The latest EQ2 patch was interesting in that respect insofar as you now have not one paper doll but two. The normal paper doll works as before, you put all the gear with the nice stats on it to receive their benefits. But if the gear you have there for the stats isn't looking good to you, you can override the look of it by putting something else into that slot on the second paper doll, the "appearance" paper doll. Anything you put on the appearance paper doll doesn't give you any benefits from stats, but it takes precedence on what you are displayed of wearing. So you be armored heavily, but appear to be wearing just flowing robes. I don't think this is a concept which could be applied to every game, because at least in PvP situations that feature would be used more to mislead the enemy than for just aesthetical purposes.
I noticed that some other games, in the spirit of City of Heroes / Villains, have completely cut the link between the gear you wear, and how you look. Originally in CoH you'd just create your costume at the start of the game and would be stuck with the same look forever. Later a tailor was introduced, where at level 20 for a quest and some cost you can change your look. But the "enhancements" the game has instead of equipment don't modify your look in any way.
Still the majority of games are like World of Warcraft, where what you wear determines both your stats and how you look. Unsurprisingly in many cases people choose stats over looks. And unless you are lucky enough to be able to acquire complete epic sets, the gear you are wearing in WoW often doesn't fit well together, especially since WoW is using lots of bright colors. And often your class determines what looks you can achieve. On my troll warrior helmets mostly look very bad, but I can't wear a much better looking fedora hat without sacrificing major stat advantages, so I just turned helmet display off. My undead priest has epic gear, but most epic priest helmets are displayed as oversized collars, whose look I don't like much either. I would have loved to have a halo on my priest, but never found one with decent enough stats. But while I care about the way I look, I fortunately don't have the typically female problem Trinity is talking about, caring too much about what other people are wearing, not even if it is the same as what I am wearing. That would have been a killer as a raiding priest pre-TBC. There were so many guilds at pretty much the same level between Molten Core and Onyxia that half of the other high-level priests I met were wearing the same T1 gear with T2 helmet from Onyxia as I did.
What I like about Lord of the Rings Online is that it not only has more subdued colors which naturally fit together better, you can also apply dyes to your gear to at least change the color. And player housing has been promised for the next major content patch, book 11. Would be interesting to know whether LotRO ends up attracting more women than WoW by offering them what they want: clothes and houses.