Saturday, 2 June 2018

Kibbe Part Two: Information You Can Use

In David Kibbe's style type system he uses the terms yin and yang but also uses other terms to mean the same thing.  Yang is usually associated with what is large, blunt or sharp, bold, strong.  It is considered masculine.  Yin is associated with what is soft, small, round and delicate.  It is considered feminine.

Dramatic is pure yang so it's yin version is called Soft Dramatic
Romantic is pure yin so it's yang version is called Theatrical Romantic

He eliminated the pure types for the Classic, Natural and Gamine categories giving us

Flamboyant Gamine which has more yang and Soft Gamine which has more yin
Flamboyant Natural which has more yang and Soft Natural which has more yin
Dramatic Classic which has more yang and Soft Classic which has more yin

Any personal colouring is possible for any category and will be part of how you tweak your style type for your personal needs.  Colour use guidelines are always meant to be taken as applying to your personal palette.  If you are a soft colour palette but a dramatic type you will achieve a different effect than a dramatic type who is a high contrast colour type.  I am not certain if Kibbe uses a personal colour system beyond the four season type.  I have encountered conflicting information regarding that.

Although Kibbe gives guidelines for features which help determine the category a person fits into, he says that the overall impression is more significant than any number of qualities to check off the list.  This might explain why some of the women he identifies as dramatics are not sharp in appearance though what they have is a strong presence

Since Kibbe's system is at least somewhat based on his ability to look at a person and see their lines and shapes and describe them in terms of soft flesh over sharp bones which many of us can't really visualise, we may never be able to know our exact Kibbe category without him telling us.  He does make an effort to help people understand his system at no apparent benefit to himself other than perhaps in keeping his name and fame alive.  He has a business after all.  He will want to hit the right balance between asking people to pay for his services (quite rightly) but supporting, encouraging and enticing people into having some interest in his system and spreading the word so some free hints and tips via Facebook are sometimes available. 

Although it is a typing system there is room for personal style, creativity and your own interpretive powers.  Admittedly some styles are more easily pulled off by certain types.  A Natural does both sporty and boho easily.  A Classic can easily wear preppy clothing or most business attire.  A Dramatic will easily pull off rock 'n roll, punk or goth looks but in theory the style ID is not intended to lock you into a particular personal style.  I think that it will to some degree but then many of us give up on styles we like but know we are not successfully or comfortably wearing and some people seem naturally averse or attracted to styles according to what suits them best.  The very experimental types wander into less than successful looks at times but there are worse crimes.  For some people the ability to experiment and play with style is significantly more important than getting it exactly right every time.  

Any yang I have doesn't come from sharpness but from largeness.  I cannot successfully style myself rock 'n roll, goth, punk because I don't suit black or sharpness.  I am not convincingly dangerous or rebellious.  I don't do sporty or boho very well but have slightly more success than with the sharper styles.  If I try artsy or funky looks, styles which like boho I associated with lots going on-layers, lines, colours, patterns, visual business, my face gets lost.  You only see clothing and it feels like a costume.  While I like, admire and have at times wanted to emulate many styles, I eventually default to what feels right and to my eye looks right and that is a sort of relaxed simple style with some feminine detail.

 A need for simple lines and balance as a Classic could still be applied to a boho look if I am determined though it would be less stereotypically boho.  It might be boho redux as I once dabbled with.  Most people who work in an office or corporate environment have to take their appearance in a more Classic direction and a Classic attending a music festival probably won't go in a sweater set and pearls.  

We all adapt our looks in the direction of other style types at times.  Perhaps it is simply an unavoidable fact that we all have our natural style home and have to make do with other ones being a bit less natural for us.  Sometimes we are stuck with rules and regulations.  The trends and standards of a culture at any given time period are likely to be embracing one style ID type more than others and we all have to work with that in terms of clothing that is available to us and to what degree we want to stand out from the crowd.

In order to determine your Kibbe type you do have to understand what he means by all of his terms and you have to learn how to look at the individual parts but mostly look at the whole.  Celebrity examples are problematic because most of them are people considered very beautiful, so looking at a sample Flamboyant Natural who is a super model or Elizabeth Taylor as the example of a Romantic is likely to make those of us who are more average looking think we cannot possible belong to that category.  Celebrity examples are also problematic because the celebrities of the past were almost only ever seen in full makeup and fancy dress, while the celebrities of today have had extensive work done or we are looking at photo shopped images.  Almost every female celebrity has a thinned nose bridge but not every style ID type does.

Digression:  Celebrity examples in personal colour analysis are tricky too because so many are dyed blonde which muddles the picture.

The few makeovers done by Kibbe and which I have seen are done with much more expensive items than those done by Dressing Your Truth so it's perhaps an unfair comparison.  I think Kibbe has a tendency to favour drama and a look that to my eye can be a little over-done but this happens in Dressing Your Truth as well.  Nobody seems to come out of a Kibbe Metamorphosis looking typically Parisienne Chic and slightly 'undone'.  They look very American, which is quite fine if they are American.

I have a better grasp of how to work with the Kibbe recommendations than I have on how to be sure you have correctly typed yourself.  Even if you don't manage to pick a type and feel certain about it, I think there is much that can be learned about line and proportion and putting together outfits and usage of colour which Kibbe can provide.  Some of the types are more flattered by a busy look and some by a simple look.  Some are great in a mix and match, much divided up ensemble while others are better in something that gives a strong head to toe effect.  It isn't about which is a good looking outfit, but which looks harmonious on your particular body and with your face.

There are ways in which this isn't so terribly far from the Dressing Your Truth idea of matching your energy and facial lines.  It isn't that Dressing Your Truth is wrong about this so much as that the system doesn't do it well enough.  Kibbe's system is much more complex and thorough which could put some people off and make them run to a simpler seeming system like Dressing Your Truth.  The problem with this simplicity is that it loses some accuracy.  The problem with Kibbe's complexity is that it is difficult for someone to manage on their own.

 Dressing Your Truth and Kibbe's Metamorphosis both insist that a person is one  dominant type with a possible subtle influence from a secondary type or in the case of Kibbe, a leaning more yin or yang, and perhaps some people are.  It also seems likely that others are not.  If we are all blends of types, in varying proportions as described by John Kitchener, some may  have such small blends of other types added to their main type that they don't ever feel any discord with a Kibbe type.   Other people are left with a feeling that something is missing from their style recipe.  John Kitchener has almost no online presence or offerings for people to DIY it.  Fair enough.  He has a consultation service and his brief Youtube videos are meant to entice you into seeking a consultation.

Rachel Arndt-Schemmel of Truth is Beauty blog also has a consultation business but a much more extensive offering of free information as well as very affordable tools for self-diagnosis.  She has explored all of the style systems and was once a self-described Kibbe devotee although the persistent feeling that something was missing lead her to develop her own theory and put together her own selection of blended types.  I am intrigued with these and think they have something useful to offer.  I've not yet paid for any service though am considering a self-analysis kit.  Rachel's conclusion is that the face is more important than the body lines in determining type and this is actually similar to Dressing Your Truth.  I'm still promising to explore this a little more in a future post.


  1. I am an aging column ( referring to your previous post) and my figure started thickening in the middle after babies too.
    Nowadays my legs are better and my waist best disguised!
    I am interested in Kibbe but not enough to follow it.
    I totally get your abhorance for throwing ruffles at your waist and hoping they will stick!
    xo Jazzy Jack

    1. I never thought my legs were all that great but they might be the best bit now! LOL I have thrashed Kibbe to bits I think. One more post coming on Kibbe then I am on to a new system. When presented with a system I must understand it, master it, take it apart, criticise it and move on. None will be perfect but I am always seeking the best available. Especially when too exhausted to paint and lying in bed with a laptop at my disposal. xxoo


I love comments; What blogger doesn't? If you take the time to comment, I will take the time to reply.

Over 50 Tall Gamine

Sometimes I reflect on everything I’ve worn over the course of my life.  Does that sound odd or unbelievable?  I have a good memory for t...