What Is Kibbe (to Me)?

11/21/19: This post is ancient! I definitely no longer feel this way, since I have been able to learn from David himself. 🙂 Please see the home page for my current thoughts on everything Kibbe-related!


When I first started this blog, I imagined that I would do things like put together Polyvores on how to, say, dress boho if your Image Identity is Dramatic Classic. But blogs, I think, end up taking a life of their own, and determine their own direction, and this particular blog has ended up more like a research notebook of my theoretical thoughts on Kibbe, as well as a journal of my own color and style journey.

Kibbe’s system is a particularly complex one. For whatever reason, he doesn’t say out loud the things that become clear if you really look at the celebrity examples he gives, things I’ve talked about in my recent posts, and things that Sarah has seen and developed further in her Guiding Lines system.

One of the problems with Kibbe is how he contradicts himself. He says that personality doesn’t matter, and then he writes a lengthy explanation of the personality of each type. He gives a list of things you won’t find in the face and body of a given type, and then in real life gives this type to people who do have these things, like hourglass FNs. So we’re left with all of this conflicting information, often feeling like we understand less about the system than we did when we started.

What ends up happening is that, after a while, we all end up with our own understanding of Kibbe’s system and how it works. Are there any that are right? Many would argue that Kibbe is always right, and the only way you can truly know your type is to go see him. But there are a couple of specific instances where I have disagreed with Kibbe on how he typed someone, and they received other analyses that seemed more suitable for them.

My personal understanding of Kibbe is as follows: 1) Your Image Identity is defined by your lines. You can see them in your face, your body shape, even the shape of your fingernails. You are matching the lines of your clothes, jewelry, hair, etc. to your own lines. 2) Style is something completely different. Your task is to figure out how to express your style using these lines. “Vibe” is a myth. While some are more challenging than others (such as the aforementioned DC boho), theoretically, anything is possible. 3) Strike the word essence from your Kibbe vocabulary because it will only confuse you.

Does everyone agree with me? Of course not. People have their own views, and some have even developed their own Kibbe-based systems. Rachel Nachmias, for instance, says she considers “the extra je ne sais quoi that some have called ‘essence.'” Who is correct? Both. Rachel’s is correct within her own system; mine is correct within my own.

I don’t have plans to go into image consulting or anything like that. But I enjoy discussing it, and I think that what Kibbe started works amazingly well. But if you are looking for information that does have to do with this “essence” business and using it to determine your Kibbe Image Identity, you’ll have to look elsewhere, since it doesn’t fit with what I have found to be true in my own study of the information presented to us by Kibbe.

8 Comments on What Is Kibbe (to Me)?

  1. nouveau
    March 5, 2015 at 2:23 am

    I spent more than a year puzzling over my Kibbe type, taking the quiz over and over – and studying every word (and between the lines) of Kibbe’s writings.

    Finally I pieced together enough clues from other sources, and was able to pinpoint Soft Natural for me.

    Now that I’ve lived in SN for a while, I believe it’s the most accurate one for me. A recent comment from Rachel Nachmias confirmed it for me. She said that the only two T-shaped (wide shouldered) types that are also curvy are Yin Natural and Yin Dramatic. Yin Dramatic is too big and too much everything for me, but Yin Natural (Soft Natural) fits me perfectly.

    But I wasn’t able to figure out my type from Kibbe’s quiz, his book, or the ladies he chose as examples of the various body types.

    However, I do find Kibbe’s guidelines for dressing for your lines (and what to avoid) extremely helpful. For me that’s the most useful part of his writings.

    And I agree with you that “vibe” / “essence” / personality and also personal colors are separate factors from a person’s body lines.

    Thanks so much for your always fascinating, thought provoking posts! 🙂

    • stylesyntax
      March 5, 2015 at 3:11 am

      Thanks 🙂 I agree that his guidelines are the most helpful part, even though a lot of people say they are too eighties. Sure, I don’t put shoulder pads in all my sweaters, but it’s been easy for me to take them and sort of translate them into modern times and fashion. I really think his advice is timeless. And when you’re in the right Kibbe type, you just know because everything simply works. I think that’s the best way to figure it out–it’s hard to see ourselves clearly. I didn’t know why and how I was FG for the longest time, and felt like other people wouldn’t see me as FG because the body description doesn’t match me very well, but I knew that the clothes worked, and that was enough for me. I’m glad you’ve been able to find your Kibbe home!

  2. Molly
    March 5, 2015 at 2:37 am

    You write as eloquently about Kibbe as anyone out there. I have commented before on how I was struggling with being DC but wasn’t comfortable with the “executive woman” persona it seemed to embody. A couple of months ago a lightbulb went off and I realized that I wasn’t a DC after all. I am an N in his original system (I know it has been discontinued but it fits so much better than SN or FN.) Following the N recommendations has been such a delight and it has all fallen into place. So I would say to anyone struggling with Kibbe: if it feels totally alien it may not be right.

    Do you have any ideas whether N is still a legit option? Love any of your opinion.

    Thanks for such an insightful blog!

    • stylesyntax
      March 5, 2015 at 3:16 am

      Thank you! In terms of N–you’re right in that he doesn’t seem to use the “middle” types anymore. However, unlike C and G, which are supposed to be 50/50 yin/yang, N is just “moderate yang.” So I can see how it might work a little differently, and maybe still exist. I know Sarah of Guiding Lines got rid of C and G, but kept N.

      Also, a lot of people in our FG group use mostly G recs and just add FG touches here and there. So that’s always another option. I think if you’re any type of C, G, or N, you should look at the middle type and see if there’s anything there to you. At my current weight, I can really only do FG, but when I’m skinny, I can do some G as well. I think that if you find N works, it doesn’t really matter what Kibbe does now and you should just go for it. 🙂

      I definitely agree that if it feels alien, it’s probably wrong. Although there is the whole “resistance to your Kibbe type” thing. The key is knowing what issue you’re dealing with, I guess.

  3. Marie
    November 7, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    To be honest, I’m surprised by the fact that there seems to be a lack of dispute with Kibbe’s “system”. It’s inherently flawed and limited. You’re completely correct when you state that he contradicts himself regularly. He also limits symmetrical or evenly-proportioned people to the classic group, and limits hourglass figures to the romantic group. The natural and gamine groups are complete enigmas. Soft natural kind of contradicts the so-called natural parameters by describing people of the group as tending towards small and round, when the N group is pretty much broad, squared and yang. Gamines are limited to tiny people with abnormally big eyes.
    His clothing suggestions seem quite biased as well. He favors certain ones, and I notice other so-called experts do the same. In one blog, naturals are described as being “average looking” with “all the lumps and bumps” that come with a so-called average person. Which makes no sense – that would mean that over 99 percent of the population would fit in the n group.
    But I digress.
    Systems that get too finicky are stupid. Period.

    • stylesyntax
      November 7, 2015 at 8:32 pm

      I have to say that I disagree with your points. The contradictions come in with how he types people now, and what is written in the book. This makes it complex, at least on the surface. But there is still a logic, and I find it to be the most flexible out of all the systems there are, and the one that allows you to figure out a way to create a personal style in a way that is the most flattering to you.
      His system is based on the different ways that yin and yang interact with each other. Whoever said that Ns are all “average-looking” and full of “lumps and bumps” obviously has no understanding of the Natural types. SNs are not at all “lumpy”; practically all of the supermodels in the world are FN. While there are average-looking people who are FN, so are many of the women held up as the ultimate standards of beauty. Not all women with hourglass shapes are Romantics; there are many different kinds of hourglasses. Romantic bases, at least theoretically, are very round–Kim Kardashian is an extreme, enhanced example. Other women with more elongated hourglasses will be another type. Gamines are also definitely not all tiny people with abnormally large eyes! I’m average height and weight with average-sized eyes, but I still have a Gamine base.

      Kibbe is a system that very misunderstood by many people. It is reduced to stereotypes on Pinterest that have nothing to do with the system or Kibbe’s vision. Kibbe’s system is a very logical take on yin/yang systems, and once you understand what yin and yang are and how they are interact, it is easy to understand.

  4. Eugenia
    February 9, 2017 at 3:08 am

    Thank you for your insights! When I analize someone’s body with Kibbe’s categories I leave the “essence” aside. I have also found that some of his examples are innaccurate in relation to the description, too.
    Anyway, I tend to consider two main factors when deciding a Kibbe type. One of them is bone structure (sharp, elongated, heavy, etc). The other, the flesh (heavier in hips, legs, arms; cinched waist…). At the end, all of the people that goes with the same type have a relatively similar body, even though their “essences” may differ or may suggest other type. I rather take Kibbe as a system of how the body is, and therefore, how you can change your way of dressing in order to bring harmony to your image, than as a system that merely describes the style you already wear.

    • stylesyntax
      February 18, 2017 at 8:25 pm

      It’s much less analytical than that… You have to learn to think like him. It does not describe a style, for sure.


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