Shopping for Your Kibbe Type: Line or Vibe?


This is an issue that came up recently in the Flamboyant Gamine Facebook group. Flamboyant Gamine is often associated with the 60s Mod fashion, with generally features a lot of short shift dresses with A-line skirts. If you read the recommendations for Flamboyant Gamine and even Gamine, however, A-line skirts are seen as “too symmetrical” and get a “No” from Kibbe for both types.

Now, these do often work on FlamGam bodies, especially if the FlamGam in question is narrow-hipped, like Twiggy. This look is, in fact, so closely associated with FG that I think that people who would look good in actual FG recommendations might question themselves if they don’t look all that great in what Twiggy was wearing in the 60s. I would consider myself among this group of people–I looked great in it in high school, when I was very thin, not so much now.

This all comes back to the question of “vibe,” and how important it is. It also raises the idea of people making something a certain type, not the clothes themselves being a certain Image Identity, something that has gained a lot of traction in Kibbe circles recently.

I think this idea, more or less what Kibbe himself says now, but something that we can’t take to an extreme, comes from the fact that clothes now are constructed differently than they were in the 80s, when Kibbe wrote the book. Most things now come with stretch. If you take a bodycon-type dress and put it on a Romantic, you see sexy curves. If you put it on a Flamboyant Natural, you see their strength and power. If you put it on a Flamboyant Gamine, it looks fun. And so on. On the other hand, if you take something that is very specifically Soft Natural, like a jersey wrap dress (my clothing nemesis!), and put it on an FG, the dress won’t magically become or look FG. It will just look bad. So you have to be careful, I think, when you go outside the guidelines. It may work. It may not. If absolutely everything were simply to be shared across types and your body would just alter it, there would be no reason for Kibbe types at all, because we’d all just look fabulous in everything.

Some would say that a wrap dress has the wrong vibe, and that’s why it doesn’t work. It probably doesn’t. It is my opinion, however, that if we spend too much time looking for vibe, we end up with something akin to Dressing Your Truth: everyone in a type more or less dressing the same. Sometimes, people are shocked when they see the photos of outfits that are Kibbe-selected, especially for types like Soft Natural and Soft Gamine, which happen to be types that have their stereotypes (“boho” and “cute, in a Zooey-Deschanel way,” respectively) firmly entrenched on Pinterest, Polyvore, etc. When this happens, I think we have to ask ourselves whether Kibbe is stretching the boundaries of what a certain Image Identity can wear, or if he is actually following the rules he set out, and it is the outfits that people found looking for an SN or SG “vibe” that actually were the ones that broke the rules. As I’ve written before, I doubt that people in the Facebook groups would recognize the outfit worn by the SG in the book as Soft Gamine if someone posted it as a try on.

As for what the role of “vibe” is in clothing selection done using your Kibbe Image Identity, well, Kibbe basically contradicts himself on this one, even in the book. He says that our inner self is infinite, yet our physical self is finite, and we should express our inner self through our outer appearance. Which is great. It is a shame that his section on how to dress Shirley MacLaine is her New Age phase has never made it online, because I think it would be helpful for people who feel at odds with their Kibbe, personality-wise. The Fantasy Quiz is also not online, sadly. But the long-winded personality descriptions for each of the types ARE readily available, and I think this can lead some astray, both in finding their Kibbe type and how to dress in it once they have found it.

Among people with certain Kibbe types, you’ll find as wide a range of personalities as you would with any random group of people. You will likely have had some common experiences due to your physical similarities (e.g., for FGs, feeling like your appearance is kind of “weird”), but you will have different tastes and interests and values. You will not be a homogeneous group.

So what should Flamboyant Gamines do with A-line Mod shift dresses? Try them on. If they look good on you and you like them, great! I think they have enough crispness to fudge the rules. I think they can successfully convey an FG look. But if you are considering a type, I think it’s important to look carefully at the recommendations, and examine things with a critical eye using these recommendations before deciding whether something is a certain type or not. Don’t blow off a type because things seen as having this type’s vibe don’t work for you. The actual recommendations may suit you perfectly.

4 Comments on Shopping for Your Kibbe Type: Line or Vibe?

  1. Molly
    February 1, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    This post reminded me of how a friend and I were talking the other day about how clothing seems more homogenous now than it did a few decades ago. (I am 44,so I was thinking of the 80s when Kibbe wrote.). I remember how there were vastly different “vibes” you might say from store to store. Now you can stroll through a mall and find similar items throughout – with some variety of course. So I think we are used to the look of seeing people in more similar, somewhat universal designs, even if those are not our best Kibbe lines. It got me thinking that there could be some deal breakers for determining your Kibbe, just like some websites have for seasons. (like if you can’t wear dusty rose, you aren’t a Soft Summer, etc.). You mentioned jersey wrap dress as something that would not work on FG.

    I would say, for example, if you can’t wear an open waterfall cardigan, you are not a SN, if you can’t wear a blazer with jeans you aren’t a DC, if you can’t wear a sweater set you are not a SC, peasant blouse for FN, etc. Not set in stone, but this would be helpful. Hint, hint to David Kibbe!

    • stylesyntax
      February 2, 2015 at 2:18 pm

      I think you now how to go up to the designer level to find stores with identities now, unfortunately. I have been watching Love, Lust or Run with Stacy London on TLC, and she’ll take the participants to one store that she feels matches them. On a mass-market level, I agree that everything is the same. You have to look very closely to see if there is something there that will work with your type. I find FG in surprising places.

      I think there are definitely Kibbe dealbreakers. The easiest thing to look for, in my opinion, is the silhouette he outlines for each type. For instance, FN follows a T-shape. FG is a bodycon first layer with a boxy/asymmetrical layer over top. Etc.

  2. Chiara
    February 3, 2015 at 1:38 am

    I think silhouette is a great indicator. However, I also think it’s useful to consider that indefinable ‘vibe’ thing. For instance, from some angles my face and body are very FG (and I certainly don’t look like Katharine Hepburn, sadly). For ages, I wondered if this meant I’d got my style type wrong. It was only when I realised that while I can look cute from some angles (hey, I’m a LSpr!), and coltish from others, I never, ever, ever, ever have that animated G vibe, and I simply cannot wear the animated prints and details of a G. Tippi Hendren is also a good example of this in Ds- small, neat features (and she is quite petite) that are almost cute from some angles, but without the animated vibe.

    • stylesyntax
      February 3, 2015 at 3:09 pm

      I think the silhouette creates this vibe/animation on its own, though. A Dramatic might not look terrible in the FG silhouette, but it will seem excessive. You don’t need as many things going on. Kendall Jenner in this month’s US Vogue is a good example of this (here, the pictures with the plain gray background). So I don’t think you necessarily need to look for prints or whatever if you just follow the general guidelines for silhouette, use of color, etc. A lot of times people freak out when they’re typed FG because they think they have to be super-animated and kind of silly-looking. But it’s not any harder to be businesslike, for example, in FG than it is in any other type. That’s why I think you have to be careful with “vibe,” because really you can express any mood and be appropriate for any occasion.


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