Does David Kibbe Contradict Himself?

The idea that David Kibbe contradicts himself all the time is something I see frequently in non-sanctioned Kibbe spaces on the internet. In fact, this idea just seems to be generally accepted as truth.

Now, David has adjusted his thinking over the past 30+ years. He has had that much more time to think about his work. For instance, Natural, Gamine, and Classic are no longer used as Image IDs. And the way he is able to present his work now, by interacting with us, has brought a lot of clarity. But this does not mean that his work contains contradictions.

The place where I usually see this being brought up is in regard to height. David is clear on height and how it functions within his ideas of yin and yang. People will bring up a celebrity that is reported to be taller (I love Rihanna, but I never want to hear about her being a tall TR again) that David put in an Image ID that has to be shorter. This is taken as a sign that David contradicts himself, so his clear statements on height don’t matter.

Of course, we can all explain until we’re blue in the face that David believes that most celebrities are shorter than their reported heights, and that if he saw someone in person and they were clearly tall, he would change their Image ID, not his definition of the Image ID–i.e., Blythe Danner being moved from SC to FN.

But I think that this answer doesn’t address why this rumor persists. It is convenient for people to think that David contradicts himself, because then they can remain in a state of resistance. If you believe David contradicts himself, you can be whatever you want, including a tall Gamine, since any statement on his part is up for debate.

So no, David does not contradict himself. It is just that resistance is hard to get through, and people latch on to these ideas so that they don’t have to deal with their resistance. But it is the acceptance of your yin/yang balance that leads to style freedom.

Combining Kibbe and Dressing Your Truth

I’ve never been someone who looks at one style system at a time. I have always worked with multiple style systems. My approach to doing so has evolved over the years. In my systematic way, I used to think that you can just write out a list of recommendations for each, and see where they differ and where they overlap. I no longer endorse this approach. This is partially because I now know that “recommendations” aren’t the correct way to go about using David’s work, and partially because I am interested in a cohesive look, and I feel that picking some elements, but not others, could result in something that just looks like a mishmash. I plan to go more in depth in my new workbook, but until then, I will share how I combine the two systems I use in my daily life: Kibbe and DYT.

Color

Color is easy: I stick to Type 4 colors. As I’ve said before, I feel the most like myself in these colors. I deeply appreciate David’s feedback, and maybe if I saw him in NYC and he could style me, I could see how Bright Spring or Gentle Autumn could be me, too. I don’t think mixing multiple palettes in one outfit works, and while I thought that perhaps I would have entirely Spring or Autumn head-to-toes, it just doesn’t appeal to me and I don’t seem to ever do it.

Style

Style I would describe as Flamboyant Gamine being a kind of operating system or framework running underneath, almost subconsciously, in a way. From knowing that I’m FG, I know where my star power lies. I know which clothes will accommodate my particular body, and what is best left to someone else. DYT I can use in a more concrete way, with the particular patterns, textures, etc. that go along with it, and how to balance something that maybe isn’t 100% T4 (although it always is in color!). I don’t carry around a list of recommendations. I can look at things and determine whether, when paired together, an outfit will meet both the requirements of juxtaposed yin and yang with more yang (Kibbe FG) and yin-yang-yang-yang (DYT 4/3). When used together, even in my casual days (which, as a grad student, most are), I am able to feel 100% myself and confident in my choices.

Is It Easy?

For me, it is very easy to make the two work together. My personal T4 style keywords are “Bold, Structured, and Edgy,” and it’s easy to see how FG would fit into that (although of course you could be an entirely different Image ID and those keywords would still work for you!). But sometimes, the options you get from different systems don’t really seem to coalesce. In my case, that would be the season/color palette aspect. I’m sure there are colors on the Spring and Autumn palettes that would fit into T4, but I wouldn’t get my black and white. Trying to satisfy both would leave me with very limited options. In that case, I just had to make an executive decision in terms of which I would choose.

What has been your experience with trying to merge different style systems into one wardrobe?

“Curvy” Flamboyant Gamine: 2019

Five years ago, I wrote a post about the conclusions I had come to about how I was a Flamboyant Gamine.

Of course, this being so long ago, I didn’t really understand a lot of David’s system. I somehow understood intrinsically that I was a Flamboyant Gamine, but I didn’t really understand what my body was showing me. Reading that post, I have no idea why I didn’t think I was a Soft Gamine except for pure instinct, and that I knew that attempting to dress taking into account what I saw as my “curves” was a disaster.

I’m always learning new things from David, and one of the things he has said recently is that Women start with a baseline of curves. Men have a baseline of length and width. Having measurements that indicate a bust, waist, and hips are not enough to add yin. The most yang women can have a body shape that would be considered “hourglass” if you put it into a calculator.

What matters it how clothing falls around the body. On a Dramatic woman, they have their long vertical:
Lauren.

(And no, I am not suggesting people try clothing on to see! David has an exercise to figure this out on Strictly Kibbe.)

For me, as an FG, it is a mixture of long and short:

Audrey

For an R, their curves need to be accommodated:

Marilyn

Having a bust, waist, and hips does not mean that you have to accommodate curves. It may sound funny, but I dress to accommodate my lack of curves, width, and balance. I am not a unicorn among FGs, because what I have is a baseline of curves, and not curves that need to be considered. I simply have a juxtaposed mix of yin and yang, and yang wins out.

The Line Between Inspired by and Copied from

I have seen the argument be made that, for instance, David Kibbe did not come up with yin/yang, or even the basic types he uses. Similarly, Carol Tuttle goes into detail about how she came up with her system in one of her early books (she went to a four-type seminar, tried to partner up with the person who gave it, and started her own thing when that offer was rejected), and David Zyla draws heavily from Caygill, with some of the names for his archetypes being exactly the same. So where is the line, and why do I come down hard on some people, while promoting the work of others that some say did the same thing? There are some important distinctions for me that I will attempt to explain here.

1. Originality of Point of View

Now, this doesn’t have to mean reinventing the wheel. This just means, to me, that you may have taken some inspiration from your forebears, but you’ve added enough to make it your own. David Kibbe may use Dramatic/Natural/Romantic/Classic/Gamine like McJimsey, but the way his system works is very different (I think Kitchener is the closest to her, actually). It’s a different way of using yin and yang than she presents, and is closest to Northrup, in my opinion. I don’t think I could get the same thing that I do from Dressing Your Truth from other four-type systems, and going to see Zyla is a very different experience from seeing a Caygill analyst.

2. Originality of Materials

Along with this, I look at whether someone has created their own materials. There is a tendency to, for instance, take David Kibbe’s Image IDs, change the vocabulary surrounding them, and continue to use the test from the book to type clients. It sounds unbelievable that people do this, but it’s true. People run businesses, pretending to have created something, while using the literal test David wrote and putting excerpts from his book on their websites with no citations. Are you doing something truly different, or are you just giving it a new coat of paint?

3. Distinctness

Lastly, the work should be original enough that for the most part, you can’t really have the systems be synonymous. Four-type systems have been around for millennia, so this applies less to DYT and more to something like Kibbe. If people tend to consider, however incorrectly, a typing from someone in the new system to be a typing in the source system, the systems are too close for my taste. (With DYT, though, I still find that the combination of the style and energy work to be original enough that I consider it distinct–I don’t come out a 4/3 in every single four-type personality or style-typing system that I’ve looked at, for example.)

Factors of Quality

There are also systems where I feel like the system is original enough, but the systems just aren’t as good as the people they drew from. A major factor I’ve identified is whether the creator of a new or “new” system has a good enough understanding of their source material. This is something I’ve noticed a lot with people who have created a system after finding Kibbe. They feel like what they are doesn’t exist in Kibbe, or that they can’t be what they want, so they create something around this concept. Generally, they just don’t understand yin and yang and how David applies it. These systems are always going to be weak, in my opinion, because they come from a place of misinterpretation.

So I’m not totally opposed to systems based on other systems… in fact, I would like to make a system family tree–I think it would be fun! If you find something old and make it new again, I think that can be good, especially if the originator is no longer working. But if it’s simply a cheap imitation, then that person is better off going back to the drawing board.

These are just my thoughts on the topic… where do you draw the line when it comes to whether or not you consider style systems to be originals or copies, and does it even matter to you?

Why Taylor Swift is NOT a Gamine

Of course, I think most readers of this blog wouldn’t even consider the possibility.
Taylor Swift

She is 5’10”, and we know that this height rules out either Gamine. Per my recent post, however, this is something that Merriam Style teachers in her Taylor Swift video, where she tries to make the case the 5’10” Taylor is a Gamine—and you can read my Kibbe FAQ to find out why this is nonsensical. Someone who is that tall is yang-dominant, not juxtaposition of yin and yang. (When I look at Taylor, I see length all over. Even if I didn’t know she was 5’10”, I don’t think my mind would go to Gamine anyway.)

Now, David doesn’t make a ton of very clear statements. But this is one thing he has been extremely clear about. Soft Gamine will not be over 5’5″, and Flamboyant Gamine can be a little taller, but not Taylor Swift tall, and if you understand his system of yin and yang, this makes total sense.

Unfortunately, every Kibbe Image ID seems to be subject to certain incorrect ideas about it. As a Flamboyant Gamine myself, the ones for Gamines are the ones that I feel most acutely. For us Gamines, one of these ideas that seems to pop up frequently in various ways is the idea that Gamines are somehow not distinct Image IDs that stand on their own with their own very particular yin/yang balances.

Traditionally, this has taken the form of the idea of Flamboyant Gamine being a “small D” or a “small FN,” which I have addressed before. But as I watched some Merriam Style videos after writing my last post, however, I realized that she has come up with an entirely new way of turning Gamines into Image IDs that are somehow lesser and not distinct yin/yang balances like the rest.

In this video (starts at around 1:55), she says that Gamines are basically “everything else”–a mixture that doesn’t fall into any category. If you feel like you don’t fit anywhere else, she explains, you may be a Gamine. She says they are very common (not true) and misunderstood (true, but not in the way she thinks, because she has misunderstood them).

In her answer in this video at around 9:08, however, it becomes clear why she believes that someone who is tall can be Gamine: she says she is a 5’7” Soft Gamine herself and her own confusion is partially why she made her channel in the first place. Yet as I mentioned above, David has been very clear about height for Soft Gamine. SG is nearly half yang, and if they are taller than 5’5”, that is too much yang for the “recipe” to be Soft Gamine. Of course someone who very strongly identified with a certain Image ID that is not available to them would want to make the system into one that allowed them into the Image ID they wanted to be. It happens all the time. (This is also why the idea of very yang TRs persists.) Resistance is incredibly powerful. If you want to be a taller SG very badly, it would make sense that you would try to find a way to justify it and say that 5’10” Taylor or a 6′ woman could be Gamine.

But really, my motivation here is to stop these incorrect ideas about Gamines in Kibbe’s work. Gamines are not:

  • the Image ID of “leftovers”
  • tall enough to be automatically yang-dominant, for FG
  • over 5’5”, for SG.

    I felt I had said what I needed to say on the subject of this YouTube channel in my last post, but the ideas being spread are so contradictory to what Gamines actually are. And as Gamines, we should be given the space to revel in what makes our Image IDs special, and given the chance to understand our special star quality. The constant undermining of the validity of FG and SG as Image IDs makes that hard for Gamines who do not know any better, and leads people who aren’t Gamines to think that they are and thus miss out on their own special qualities.

    For months, I have been thinking about how to express the way I actually use Kibbe’s work in my life, because I say a lot about how it’s used incorrectly, but it is hard to explain how to actually use it correctly, since it is can be fairly abstract. I definitely understand that it can be hard to wrap your head around and it isn’t for everyone (which is why I have a post on which system is right for you), but I want people to understand when the system is being misrepresented to this extent. A 5’10” or 6′ woman would absolutely not be served by being told that she was any kind of Gamine. She would be served by an Image ID that celebrates what she is, and doesn’t put her into something that celebrates being shorter, among many other qualities.

    And with that, I hope that my commentary/criticism is done. I realize that my past several posts have focused on this subject, and I hope to get back to more interesting content. But this blog has always been about what’s on my mind, and this is just what has been at the forefront of my style thoughts lately.

    Edit: an earlier version of this post said that she thought Taylor was a Soft Gamine. She actually says she is a Gamine, which we know that David no longer uses. Style Syntax regrets the error, but the points made here still stand.

  • Workbook Announcement

    I’ve come to realization that the workbook I had available on this site, which was last updated over three years ago, does not represent my current ideas. For this reason, I have decided to stop selling it until the next edition is ready. I have created a Google form for those interested to fill out, so I can email them when it’s available. I will be offering a discount for people who purchased the first one that will basically amount to you paying just for the new sections. It will include more information/focus on personalizing your style. I hope that this is something that I will be able to make a reality very soon! Thank you for your patience.

    Response to Merriam Style Distancing Herself From Kibbe

    I had some free time finally, so I wandered into what is (for me) the darkest corner of the internet… the place where people outside of the Strictly Kibbe world discuss Kibbe. And I found that, to my surprise, three weeks ago, Merriam Style decided to distance what she does from David.

    On the one hand, I definitely applaud this move! Just by poking around the aforementioned dark corner, and seeing what people who come to our Facebook group from her work say, I know that what she teaches is very, very different from what he does–height not mattering to the point where the tallest of women can be put into the shortest of types, etc.

    I can see that she gets it, to an extent, and this is partially what spurred her to no longer use his work the way she has been doing. David is a “highly intuitive” person. He has a gift of seeing people. And he can help you see yourself.

    On the other hand, however, the post just made it even clearer for me that fundamentally, there is a disconnect between what David actually teaches, and what people who haven’t learned from David directly believe about this system.

    From her post:

    But going back to this difference between personality and body type: Even in one of my first videos on my channel that I’ve ever made, on the Soft Gamine, I say that Soft Gamines don’t have to be cute or fun. They can also be sexy or elegant or badass.

    And herein lies the humongous problem. David would absolutely agree that SGs can be sexy, elegant, and badass. All Image IDs have their own ways of being these things.

    Eartha Kitt

    SG Eartha Kitt, embodying these three characteristics.

    Tell Bette to her face that she is limited to “cute”!

    Anyone who spends time with David, virtually or otherwise, knows that he believes that we are all unique individuals who can be any way we want to be, and understanding our Image ID is just the way to be the most ourselves and to achieve our fullest potential, freeing us from what we think we have to be and giving ourselves permission and freedom to be how we are. I know that the advice he has given me as a presumptive FG is totally different from the advice he has given other presumptive FGs. He doesn’t give everyone the advice to wear the wild and edgy things he tells me to look for, for instance.

    So when I see things like this, from the same blog post:

    At that time, I didn’t realize the gravity of this ‘discovery’ so to speak, or just how fundamentally different this is from other approaches, and potentially even David’s approach.

    …it frustrates me to no end. This is not a “discovery.” It’s not David’s approach at all to use the Image ID as a box, not only for someone’s style, but even worse, their personality. It’s something that many have promoted, but it has nothing to do with David’s work. And even if his system were so limited, going back to the book, the SG was not at all merely cute and innocent. SGs are “Spitfire Chic”! How people get “cute and innocent” out of “spitfire,” I have no idea. It is clear the lineage of the current crop of Kibbe “instructors,” on YouTube and elsewhere, can be traced not to David, but those who came before and briefly made some cash and got hits on their sites from taking David’s work and turning it into something fit for Pinterest and video compilations and discernible from photos or a video call, if someone has hundreds of dollars to spare.

    So while I applaud Merriam Style for discontinuing the use of David’s lexicon in her work, the fundamental misunderstandings present in her “farewell to Kibbe” blog post show that really, she should not have been “teaching” his work in the first place.

    An Open Letter to “Kibbe” Analysts and Their Adherents

    I have gotten some comments, both here and on Facebook in the Kibbe groups I run, frequently rather rude, on why I am so, for lack of a better word, dismissive of all of the various analysts on YouTube and blogs who claim to be able to teach Kibbe to others, and charge for typings, and send out PDFs with various information, and so on. Generally, they point out that this or that person has helped them a lot with understanding themselves and their style, and the materials that I provide here and that David himself provides in groups and on his own blog are less clear and less helpful.

    The best analogy I can come up with is if you were learning a language, and it was hard. You came across someone who promised to teach it to you “the easy way,” and you followed their materials and yes, it was easier and less ambiguous to you. But they were teaching you a grammar based on your native language, and the wrong vocabulary. The relationship between the actual language and what you learned is minimal at best. You learned faster and it was easier, but was it really worth it?

    Some people may say that this is a bad metaphor because they actually got something that helped them from these other people. But unfortunately, they accomplish the exact opposite of what David teaches. The only thing they share with his work is (some) terminology, even when they have used his book, or parts of it, as their source material.

    And yes, the material that David puts out and that I follow is not as easy to follow. That’s because the point of view is completely different. As I have been able to learn from David Kibbe, I now understand that a gallery or “outfit ideas” or “coats” for a specific Image ID are not helpful. What is important for people to do is develop an understanding of their own yin/yang balance and to put together outfits thinking of them as a whole, not parts. Trying to teach people to see in a new way is not as easy or as popular as simply showing a bunch of visual aids. But the latter is simply not how David works in 2019.

    So yes, I use my platform to speak out against misinterpretations of David’s work and the people who profit from them. I also do not allow these misinterpretations in any of the Kibbe-focused spaces I run. I understand that not everyone is going to like it–some people prefer the “easy” way, and there’s nothing I can really do about it except continue to set the record straight in the spaces I do have control over.

    How to Tell if Someone Is Wrong About Kibbe

    There are many, many people on the Internet posing as Kibbe “experts,” whether they’re making videos, writing blog posts, charging for typings, offering advice on forums, or some combination of the above. I do not consider myself a Kibbe expert as in, “I can ‘type’ you just as well as David can!” But I have had the privilege of being able to work with David for the past few years managing online communities with his participation and blessing, so when I see people spreading incorrect information, it is very frustrating for me. I thought I would share some signs that will help you distinguish people who have an understanding of how David’s system works in 2019, versus people whose understanding of the system reflects the long line of misapplications and misinterpretations of his work.

    Now, I will also say that in the early years of this blog, I may have committed some of these “sins,” because we simply didn’t have the information and access to David Kibbe that we have now. (If you see a post that seems like it reflects these ideas and doesn’t have a note saying it’s outdated, please let me know so I can add one!)

    1. They use Classic, Gamine, and Natural.

    We have known for years that David no longer puts people in these Image IDs. Everyone is either a little more yin or a little more yang. If someone is making content and using these IDs, they are either unaware of how David works now, or they are including them knowing that David doesn’t use them, which is worse, because they are knowingly spreading out-of-date information.

    2. They use the terms “body type” or “Image Archetype/IA.”

    These are not terms David uses. “Body type” implies that each Image ID has to look a particular way, when there are as many ways to get to a certain yin/yang balance as there are people within that yin/yang balance. I don’t expect another FG to be my body twin; we share a juxtaposition of yin and yang with a little more yang, not a particular shape. And “Image Archetype” comes from a copycat system and it’s a sign that the way they are more familiar with what they’re calling Kibbe doesn’t actually primarily come from David’s work.

    3. They have galleries and Pinterest boards of “[clothing item] for the types.”

    This is looking at David’s work in a prescripitivist way, and it’s not the way he works at all. Yes, the book has recommendations, but over 30 years have passed, and the way clothes are made now is very different. In addition, the recommendations in the book were never meant to limit you, but to paint a picture. In 2019 Kibbe, you think about an outfit from head to toe and how to make it work with your yin/yang balance. When people from the Facebook groups started going to see David in person, it was amazing just how much different the way he actually styles people in particular Image IDs is from the image we held in our heads. And frequently what people are positing as a suggestion for an Image ID doesn’t make sense, like dresses that clearly require a strong shoulderline to hang correctly being suggested for a Romantic, or they’re very limited, like SN=90s movie art teacher (which is so bizarre to me, considering that the SN combo of strong-but-sensual is the kind of beauty I see most honored in our current culture).

    4. They use “masculine” and “feminine.”

    In the 1920s, Belle Northrup specifically selected “yin” and “yang” to avoid the feminine/masculine dichotomy. Your Image ID reveals your special kind of feminine beauty, if that is how you wish you to be seen. Many women held up as a paradigm of feminine beauty are, in fact, in Image IDs that are not yin at all.

    5. Their information contradicts David’s.

    They say celebrities are in different Image IDs than David has said, or they tell you that you can be tall and still be a Theatrical Romantic if you “look short.” If you’re new to Kibbe, though, you may not be able to sift through what is in line with what David says and what isn’t.

    6. They use the quiz.

    The quiz as a tool is no longer necessary, and is in fact discouraged because you are looking at features in isolation, not the gestalt of your yin/yang balance. And David has written a series of exercises, which are a far better means of getting to your Image ID than trying to figure out if your legs and arms are short or slightly short.

    7. They type you.

    Even if I have an idea of someone’s Image ID, I would never tell them. It is their journey to find out. If someone places themselves in an Image ID that they are clearly not, like the tall TR example mentioned above, then I would mention that, or I will respond to questions in comments based on how someone is describing themselves. But I would never look at someone’s pictures and tell them what Image ID I think they are, and I would definitely never accept money for this. People who understand Kibbe understand that David can’t teach you to see the way he does, and that’s okay. He can help you see yourself, but being able to “type” your friends and family isn’t the point. He is not like Carol Tuttle, who puts out content to teach you how to type other people. The only people who can really tell you your Image ID are a) David and b) yourself.

    This is really just the beginning, but these are some of the clearest and most common tells that someone is not giving you the correct information about David Kibbe’s work. I also have a Kibbe FAQ, and David Kibbe’s new website is a great way to get an understanding of how he actually works.

    Shopping Joy

    This post uses affiliate links.

    I think one of the biggest differences since really settling into 4/3 is that I enjoy shopping again. Since I started looking at color and style systems, it’s felt like a bit of a slog, because I wasn’t going for what I loved; I was settling for what I thought was allowed. Black, white, bold, and neon are truly what I’m drawn to, and now they’re mine.

    I go back to school in three weeks, and even though I’m now in my thirties, I still feel like I need new shoes and a new bag when a new school year starts. Neither of these items has arrived yet, but I’m very excited about my purchases, so I thought I’d share them.

    The first are these Nike sneakers. I really love them for 4/3 because they’re bold and substantial, and the hue-on-hue has the stillness T4 needs. I have been wearing a lot of black-on-black lately, so my idea would be to wear all-black clothing with fuschia lipstick and earrings, once the DYT store brings back jewelry in September. (I have had a really hard time sourcing T4 jewelry on my own, unfortunately.)

    Next, I found this tote from Rebecca Minkoff on Nordstrom Rack. It’s already sold out everywhere, even though I just ordered it last week and it should get here tomorrow, so I can’t link it. 🙁

    Large Nylon Tote

    Rebecca Minkoff Large East West Nylon Tote

    As I wrote in blog post, I feel like myself now. I didn’t for the majority of this color and style journey. Spring and Autumn colors don’t express me. The bold hues of T4 are what feels right to me.

    What have you bought for the upcoming season?

    1 2 3 22