April 2015 archive

How to Determine Your Kibbe Type

You may have noticed in my announcement about a potential paid service that I mentioned nothing about helping people find their Kibbe type. While it’s something I’m asked to do from time to time, and it’s something that I have helped a lot of people with in the color and style community, it’s not something I’d feel comfortable accepting money for. I feel like I’d have to know every type as well as I know Flamboyant Gamine, and I don’t think I can say that about myself just yet. If you want a professional to tell you what you are, I’d send you to David Kibbe himself, Best Dressed, or Guiding Lines.

What I can do, though, is share what I would do, knowing what I know now, if I were new to Kibbe and wanted to figure out my type. I made a lot of missteps along the way, and it took me way longer than it should have. Not everyone agrees with way I see Kibbe, but if what I write makes sense to you and you want to figure out your type for yourself, read on.

1. Read the book.
If all you have access to is what’s been put up on Seasonal Color, I understand. The book can be really, really expensive on Amazon. But if you can get it at a reasonable price, I highly recommend picking it up. It has important chapters–like how to personalize your type–that never made it onto the yuku sites.

One of Wichyk’s collages.

2. Make collages.
Make collages for every type you’re interested in. Good face collages exist already; you can find them on Google Image Search. I warn you, however, that you have to be careful. If there are modern celebrities on the collage, I wouldn’t use it. Also, Natalie Wood was moved from SN to SG and Rita Hayworth was moved from TR to SD. If the author of the collage is “wichyk,” you’re good, except for the Natalie and Rita stuff.

As far as your body goes, I haven’t found many pre-made collages that I really like. I would suggest using Google to find pictures of the book celebrities in their bikinis, or at least an outfit where you can really see their body and be reasonably sure they’re not wearing shape wear. I would avoid modern celebrities because it’s hard to be certain that they are definitely a certain type, and most of them are so toned and muscular that you can’t see their body shape anyway. (The exceptions to this are Kelly Osbourne [FG] and Reese Witherspoon [SG], who I think are OK to use.)

Should you include C, G, and N? Most say Kibbe doesn’t use these anymore, some say he just categorizes people as these types rarely, but it’s your call. You might want to do a collage with, say, DC, SC, and C altogether, to understand bodies and faces with a C base. The recommendations are different from these types than their S and D/F counterparts, though, and some find that they work better. But I think this could turn into a whole separate post, so I’ll stop here and let you make the call for yourself.

At this point, I would be wary of ruling anything out. It’s best to do all the types. I remember when I was first looking at Kibbe, I ruled out FG by the body description alone. Well, that led me astray for many months. If I had made a collage of what FG bodies actually look like, I wouldn’t have been so hasty.

The Theatrical Romantic before and after from the book.

3. Look at yourself.
Once you’ve made your collages, look at yourself in your underwear. Do you have a nice, smooth curve all the way along your torso? What does the area between your waist and your hips look like? How wide are your shoulders? Are your hips curvy or square? Look for these patterns in your collages and try to find your own pattern.

4. Think back.
Once you’ve gotten your options narrowed down, think back. If you’ve ever acted in a play, what were you cast as? If you’ve ever been compared to an actress or a character in a movie, who were they? When you were in high school, what actresses did you really connect with? Maybe you even hung their picture on your wall or copied their style.


In my case, this exercise leads straight to Gamineland. I played a rainbow, who was also a child, in a play with Greek goddesses. I’ve been compared to Jean Seberg in Breathless and Carey Mulligan in Drive. I loved Audrey Hepburn and Edie Sedgwick, and actually wore a lot of mod fashions at the time. It doesn’t always work out that way, though. Sometimes, you hide your light under a bushel. Look at how dowdy and frumpy most of the “before” pictures are of the ladies in the original Kibbe book. So while the answers to these questions can be revealing, I wouldn’t use them as definite, 100% proof that you are a certain type.

5. Clothing time.
First off, avoid Pinterest/Polyvore. Sometimes they are wrong, and often they show a very narrow view of how a type can dress. I would read Kibbe’s clothing recommendations, with the understand that the ubiquity of stretch has made things a little easier since then, and go from there. Go to a store like Nordstrom that will have a wide variety of types. See what happens.

These are the steps I would follow if I were to start this Kibbe process all over again. If you try doing it this way, let me know how it works for you.

Custom Kibbe Polyvore Service Beta

Note: The response has been overwhelming! I already have more than enough requests, so if you are interested in this service, please email me at hello@stylesyntax.com and I will email you when I have opened requests for the paid service.

I had so much fun putting together a Polyvore for a Soft Dramatic who didn’t feel like dressing like such a diva all the time and who liked natural styles that I have decided that this is something that I may want to offer as a (very reasonably priced) paid service in the future. At the moment, though, I’d like to test it out, so I am going to be doing it for free for now.

What you will get is a Polyvore of three outfits, using the exact parameters you specify. My default will be an outfit for a casual day, an outfit for work, and an outfit for evening, but if you have other needs, I will be happy to work with whatever three situations you want.

What I want from you is permission to post it on my Pinterest and blog about it, if I so choose. I also would like you to fill out a short feedback survey.

If you would like to participate, please send an email with answers to the questions below to hello@stylesyntax.com.

1. Your Kibbe type.
2. Your season, or your color preferences.
3. Issues you are having with your type: you’re Dramatic, but prefer Romantic styles. You’re Theatrical Romantic, but you’re a stay-at-home mom with three kids under five.
4. Needs (which outfit categories you want) and/or special requests.

Does Weight Gain Make You More Yin?

This is a question that occasionally comes up among people exploring Kibbe. My answer to this, as it is for so many things involving Kibbe, is yes and no.

It makes you more yin in that you are more likely to get more yin points on the Kibbe quiz. Your arms are thicker; you’re more likely to have volume on your face. But although your test results might show something different, in reality, if you are a yang type, you actually probably become even more yang. The quiz is not calibrated to reflect the types at different weights. The physical descriptions include a section on how each type gains weight, but it can be hard to see past the physical description for the non-overweight versions of types. (Here are the weight gain descriptions.)


This is a picture of Edie Sedgwick at a heavier weight than the one that she was when she was famous.


Does she look more yang in the photos where she is skinny? Sure. We see a sinewy, curveless figure. But I like the photo of Edie with the dark hair and heavier weight because I can see myself in it, and I see how the extra yin we see is an illusion. My arms now are a similar shape, and don’t have the length commonly associated with Flamboyant Gamine. In fact, that is why I spent so much time considering Soft Gamine. I am soft. But I am not yin-dominant.

I actually follow the Flamboyant Gamine weight gain pattern perfectly: “Body tends to become stocky and square. Excess weight usually collects from the waist down, rarely above. Arms and legs tend to become thick, as does the waist and hip area. Face may become very puffy and fleshy.”

My ribcage has remained pretty much the same, but my limbs and hip area have gotten decidedly thicker–and more and more square. I came to Kibbe because of weight gain. I used to be very skinny and didn’t even understand what a “problem area” was, because everything looked good on me. But with weight gain, I no longer knew how to dress myself without hating what I saw in the mirror. In the Flamboyant Gamine recommendations, my problem areas were no longer a problem. Breaking the line in the right place emphasizes the nice shape my upper torso still has and and breaks up the boxiness of my bottom half. I see the magic that knowing your Kibbe type can do–which is why I can only shake my head when people try to dismiss the recommendations as being “too 80s.” Some details need to be tweaked, and we have to make allowances for the wonders of spandex, but the basic outline of how your type should dress has not changed. What flatters your body hasn’t changed.

I asked some other Flamboyant Gamines what they thought, and the consensus seems to be that when skinny, an FG can borrow more from straight Gamine, and maybe even some from Soft Gamine. But with weight gain, you’re better off sticking strictly to the Flamboyant Gamine recommendations and not wandering off. I don’t know how it works in other types, but I wager that the results would be the same.

So in my case, I have found that while weight gain may make me seem more yin at first glance, it has actually emphasized the yang qualities of my shape, and has made sticking to my yang FG recommendations far more important.

Have you gone through a similar experience with weight gain and Kibbe?

Type, Essence, and Style

One of the things I love about our style and color community on Facebook is that even when my ideas are challenged and I disagree with someone, it usually leads to a better and deeper understanding of the Kibbe system. Recent discussions have led me to crystallize what I see as important parts of the Kibbe system.

The way I see it now (and I emphasize “I”; I know some will disagree with me), your Kibbe and the way it works on you specifically is made up of three parts: line, essence, and style. I know that I have come across as anti-essence before, but I think I really just didn’t understand what essence was, even though in the post I linked to, you can kind of see how I’m dancing around it.

Line is your body lines and facial features. Look at the examples in the book and try to see what the women he placed in one type have in common. Is the vertical line long or short? What is the shape of their torso? And so on. This is how type is decided. What recommendations will suit you is determined by what belongs on your face and your body.

Essence is the impression that these lines create. It is what creates the personality stereotype Kibbe discusses in the description, which may or may not apply to you. What essence does is create something akin to a seasonal color palette. It is easy to understand that what looks high contrast on a Soft Summer person would look low contrast on a Bright Winter person. Image Identities work the same way. What looks normal and casual on a Natural type would look sloppy on a Classic type. What looks normal and casual on a Romantic type would look formal and fussy on a Natural type.

Style is taking your personality, preferences, and the look you want to achieve, and understanding how to express it within the parameters of your Kibbe Image Identity. So let’s say that you, like a commenter on my last post, are an SD who wants to be comfortable and a bit boho, and you don’t want to wear heels all the time. You would feel more comfortable in FN, but understand that you are an SD and look fabulous in it. So what do you do?


Here’s what I would do. What’s SD’s version of a jeans-and-a-t-shirt look? Probably one of your draped tunics, in a comfortable fabric like jersey (ignore the necklace in the example in the Polyvore set). I’d do it in your dark neutral for maximum drama. Then I’d continue the line with leggings (or another comfy SD pant of your choosing) in the same color or a similar one. I’d take the ultimate lazy shoe, the flip flop, and find one in patent level with a snakeskin print, bringing it to the SD level of chic drama. I’d take Natural’s perfect gem, turquoise, and find a statement bib necklace with turquoise-colored stones cut to be faceted. I would then take one of SD’s favorite motifs, snake jewelry, and find that in turquoise as well. Lastly, I would wear your version of a red lip, because if you don’t want to bother with a full SD makeup look, a good bold lip, some mascara, and as much brow drama as you can wear and still look normal should be enough.

This is just as comfortable as a Natural look, and has some Natural elements, but it is done through the parameters of the SD style “palette.” I even think an FN could wear that necklace. But they wouldn’t wear it to the park or the grocery store, like an SD. They’d wear it to a nice dinner or a formal event. The FN style parameters are different, and if a certain piece works, it’ll still look totally different on them.

One last example. Many were surprised when Audrey Hepburn was revealed to be Flamboyant Gamine. Visually, to me she fits perfectly, even if she is a bit taller than average. But she is seen as one of the icons of classic, chic dressing of the 20th century. How could she be a zany FG, the Image Identity often associated with punks?

Let’s look at one of her looks from the movie Sabrina. Givenchy did an amazing job of creating Flamboyant Gamine looks that are chic and sophisticated and classic, yet still FG (even if Edith Head took all the credit).

Here she is when she makes her big debut upon returning from Paris. Spoiler alert: William Holden falls in love with her immediately when he sees her.



Does she look impossibly chic? Absolutely. But try to imagine Grace Kelly in a turban, big hoop earrings, huge eyebrows… It would look ridiculous on a classic person.



You can express any kind of style you want using Kibbe. You just have to do it in a way that is in harmony with the eseence of your Image Identity. What reads as classic on FG Audrey is entirely different than what reads as classic on actual Classic Grace, and her classic would look stuffy on Audrey. But the actual effect of these two women’s versions of classic is basically the same.

In the book, Kibbe says we can express the infinite (our selves, our personalities) through the finite (our type). That is where essence comes in. It defines the boundaries of what will make sense on you, and how styles will be perceived. It defines your type’s palette. I don’t think it is the gestures we make, or the way we speak. There is always a wide variety in any type–Shirley MacLaine and Cindy Crawford are very different women, but they are both just as FN. Essence is simply the style version of the hue/value/saturation levels in our palettes.

How do you manage to express yourself within your Kibbe Image Identity?