David Kibbe Letter #3: My Response, Part 2

I’ve already written about David Kibbe’s most recent letter, but there’s something I overlooked last time that I want to address. It’s at the end of the letter:

—-HEAD TO TOE, ONLY. (Don’t forget accessories…shoes, bag, hat, jewelry, stockings)

—-MIX ‘N MATCH= MIS­MATCHED! (Don’t buy a piece at a time….Think outfits).

The first point I absolutely agree with, although I’m not the best at it. I only have one bag and one hat per purpose (small and large, and keeping warm, respectively) and I definitely don’t have enough jewelry. Finding jewelry that fits my exact specifications has been a challenge.

But even though I should do better myself, generally, I agree. When people are trying on types and just put on a dress, it’s hard to get the full picture. You need the hair, the makeup, the shoes, the accessories to really understand the full picture of a type. Especially if you’re in good shape, a lot of different things can be flattering, but the key is whether you need the whole image of a type. You might look great in that TR wiggle dress, but do you need the TR jewels, or does it look better if you pair it with something simpler? If you don’t have it all put together, it’s not an outfit; it’s just clothes.

The second point, however, is more difficult for me. My goal with style and color analysis has always been to put together a small, but high-quality and stylish wardrobe where different pieces can be “remixed,” as fashion bloggers like to say. I want to be able to “shop my closet.”

But here, Kibbe seems to be saying that you should put together a head-to-toe look, and have those pieces just be for that one outfit. For my lifestyle, that just doesn’t make sense. I live a casual life. I have the kind of job where jeans and a t-shirt are just fine, and I find myself in situations where more than that is required maybe two or three times a year. I don’t tend to have the need for Outfits like the ones you can see the Kibbes wearing in photos.

Yet I’ve also seen the Kibbes “dressed down” in photos from people who have gone to see them: sweaters and khakis or leggings. I doubt that David and Susan buy a new pair of khakis or leggings for each sweater or t-shirt they own. That would be totally ridiculous. Like anyone else, for their more casual clothes, I’m certain they have a set of clothes that they mix and match, just like everyone else.

I think that thinking in terms of outfits is good for special events. But you’re more likely to get mileage out of your more hard-wearing, every day clothes if you can think of a lot of pieces in your wardrobe that your new piece will coordinate with. And once you’ve pretty much converted your wardrobe to a cohesive style, that process becomes more or less automatic, since everything already works together.

Hyper-coordinated outfits are great for the when the occasion calls for it, but our daily lives are probably served best by maximizing our possibilities with every new purchase.

Know your type in several systems but having trouble putting it all together? My workbook can help.

15 Comments on David Kibbe Letter #3: My Response, Part 2

  1. Cory
    November 15, 2015 at 2:11 am

    I find “only full outfits” a stifling and impractical idea, but I do find “uniforms” to be an extremely helpful idea. Example, I’m still unsure if I’m a very unusually hourglassy FN or just an SD who doesn’t like to wear uncomfortable shoes, but I find that certain outfits are close enough to look fine. A narrow, drapey skirt that hits below the knee and a drapey top with an open neckline, in colors that are similar enough to create an elongated vertical line, feels to me like a uniform that gets me 80% of the way there. I’m sure I could do much better with full hairstyling and jewelry and makeup, but realistically… I don’t know, that is not something I’m going to do unless it’s a special occasion.

    Recently I’ve been thinking about how the primary big AHA I’ve gotten from Kibbe is the idea of scale. For medium-sized people, it’s probably not so amazing, but I would guess that for petite-scale people and tall-curvy ladies, it’s a pretty big game-changer to realize that you either should or absolutely cannot wear cropped jackets, for instance. I’m not sure it’s valuable enough to me to put in all of the effort to go past scale, drape vs crispness, shape, color, etc. (But I am fairly lazy.)

    • stylesyntax
      November 15, 2015 at 2:50 am

      Yup, I have a handful of outfit “formulas” that I use on a day-to-day basis. It’s definitely helpful to think in these terms, and to have silhouettes that you know work for you.

      Kibbe has been most helpful for me in terms of knowing what fabric works best, what kind of construction I need, and where certain things should end, basically, since as an FG I do a lot of line-breaking. What’s important for you is probably going to vary by type.

      • Cory
        November 15, 2015 at 5:59 pm

        Piggybacking off your comment, how important do you think fabric is in terms of where someone fits into Kibbe? I vacillate endlessly between SD and FN, and one of the places where I feel uncertain is fabric. The FN fabric and texture recommendations are not all bad on me, but some of them (chunky knits, for instance) are quite terrible. The smooth, drapey textures of SD are all good. How much of a dealbreaker do you think this sort of thing is? I feel that I’m broader than my mental image of SD ladies as being softened versions of Dramatic people (and to be honest I would rather be FN than SD, I don’t relate to a lot of the sultry femme depictions of SD, or even that much to Kibbe’s original text) but I can’t deny that a lot of recommendations for FN are not good for me.

        • ruby
          November 15, 2015 at 8:48 pm

          I suspect fabric texture is one of those areas where season has a say as much as kibbe. For example if you are SD but are one of the autumns that might explain why you can handle some of the textured fabrics from FN. Conversely perhaps you are FN but a season that can’t take so much texture hence the very heavy knits don’t work.

          • Cory
            November 15, 2015 at 9:32 pm

            Ah, that makes sense. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to remember season when thinking about this stuff, but it really is, I keep forgetting to account for both at the same time! I haven’t been draped but based on what works on me, I’m 90% sure I’m an Autumn of some kind. I guess that would account for some of my confusion – I definitely like some Autumny textures and finishes that I see reflected in some of what Kibbe talks about for FN people, but I can’t do some of the more typically-FN silhouettes he recommends (full/wide skirts with wider/boxy tops; roomy pants) so this is a recurring point of confusion for me. Would Autumn in a SD person tend to add some Natural? Perhaps that would explain my lack of gravitating to the femme fatale depictions of SD (it often seems very Winter to me) and my interest in the drapiest depictions of FN?

          • stylesyntax
            November 15, 2015 at 11:25 pm

            Autumn tends to add texture, but any SD is going to be flashy. You need to look normal in this: http://www.thefrenchbeautyacademy.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/1965_July_Sophia_Loren_by_David_Bailey.jpg (Sophia is likely an Autumn btw.) Simpler outfits and less bold accessories disappear on an SD woman.

            FN outfits that he gives to people in real life are quite varied. Remember that FNs are the world’s supermodels. Some do a lot of bodycon, for instance. You don’t have to dress like Bea Arthur in Golden Girls, as fabulous as she was.

          • Cory
            November 16, 2015 at 4:35 am

            To be frank: if I’m supposed to be FN if I don’t feel comfortable in elaborate headdresses, how is it that I can’t wear so many of the FN recommendations? Not looking at Pinterest, looking at Kibbe’s words, a lot of the FN things are things that make me look actively bad, like unpleasantly chunky instead of sleek-curvy (which is what the SD recs do). I find this really confusing. At what point have you made so many exceptions to a certain archetype’s recommendations that you’re not in that space any longer? To make FN “work”, I would have to keep mentally adding “….but I can’t wear many of these silhouettes, any of these prints, a number of these fabrics, and by the way, I must have soft waist emphasis in everything” until “Flamboyant Natural” means essentially a lower-key version of SD. You know what I mean?

            I would love to be FN, much more my personality and super-casual city than Kibbe’s vision of SD, I don’t have hangups about feeling that SD is the sexier and therefore better archetype (the opposite). I just find that I can’t wear so many of the recommendations that are specifically FN that the category FN does not feel very helpful to me in real-life going shopping terms.

            I’m definitely prepared to believe that I’m not SD – the common representations of it are OTT for me – but I’m just not sure I can understand how I can fit into FN in a way that is practically actionable.

          • stylesyntax
            November 16, 2015 at 5:01 am

            SD doesn’t actually need waist emphasis, and Kibbe even says dropped waist is best for dresses. Have you looked at SN? That actually seems more in line with your needs–soft emphasis of curves.

            There is a recent example of an FN on Kibbe’s Facebook page. Actually everyone thought she was going to be an R before she went, but she is very tall.

            SD is very OTT. The SDs I know do wear things that would maybe seem a little nuts on anyone else–but it looks totally work-appropriate and normal on there. If anything, most common representations of SD don’t go far enough! 🙂 Sometimes, though, it’s a question of comfort/being used to something. So you may find that 3 or 4 inch sparkly snake earrings (or whatever) look totally amazing once you actually put them on.

        • elbe
          June 24, 2016 at 1:09 pm

          The way I think about it is what fabric does to a specific piece of clothing. I am a pear shaped TR. For example, if among Kibbe’s recommendation for my IA is a knee length circle skirt and I get it in a lightweight fabric (as per TR recommendation as well) then all is fine. But if I choose a skirt in a little heavier fabric, then it becomes stiff, not drapable enough, makes my bottom half look heavy, wide and fat.

          • stylesyntax
            July 1, 2016 at 11:14 am

            Kibbe is truly a genius 🙂 The recs are magic, even though some insist they are outdated.

  2. Tordis
    November 15, 2015 at 7:32 am

    I don’t think he means that we should only buy complete outfits, but to have complete outfits in mind when shopping, rather than buying single piece for single piece and then not really being able to build a matchin outfit with it. You really have to know your closet perfectly. Maybe wear a certain skirt to your shopping trip you want to find another matching top for. It probably boils down to havin a very well thought through capsule wardrobe.

    • stylesyntax
      November 15, 2015 at 11:26 pm

      Yes, you won’t be able to find everything in one store–but he and his wife seem to have set outfits that they wear together. 🙂

  3. Julia
    November 25, 2015 at 9:54 pm

    This comment is to Cory. I feel the same about SD and FN as you. Ridiculous in all that draping and shapeless in FN. I’ve come to the conclusion that in fact I’m actually a slightly overweight Dramatic. The extra fat seems to give ‘fake’ yin points. I’ve found one of my best silhouettes is a very tailored 3/4 coat and over-the-knee, slim low-heeled boots. This feels dramatic and striking but not ‘diva’. Like this blog says – if the description of the stereotype makes you cringe its probably not you. Hope this helps!

  4. K
    December 8, 2015 at 2:07 am

    Cory, my sister is 5’9 and an SN, definitely neither FN or SD. She is very curvy with robust bone structure, but still slightly delicate and very feminine looking next to more yang types, and seems smaller than she is. Jennifer Lawrence is also 5’9″ and an SN, and I know a few who are 5’7″ or so.

    Thank you Style Syntax for this site! It’s been fascinating to read about your journey.

    I actually filled in your questionnaire twice, first thinking I was an SN, then TR. I still wonder how on earth I EVER thought I was TR – realising that I know quite a few and they are infinitely more delicate looking than I am. ‘Bird boned’ is absolutely the right term. (Most don’t dress like the Pinterest boards, but the bling is almost always there, and they look normal in clothes that would look trashy on anyone else…..they simply look even more gorgeous.)

    People always tell me how ‘curvy’ I am. But recommendations for curves don’t work at all. Well, they sort-of work. I just look dumpy and frumpy, and “Florals fight with your face,” as my mother put it. I’d been dressing vaguely SN for years, but always felt ‘off’. I loathed shopping because it was such a depressing experience. I mean, I’m pretty skinny, despite my ‘curves’, so how come I looked so bad in everything?

    I only realised what style category I fit into when I suddenly twigged what season I am. I thought I was a bright season or maybe a dark winter and have tried out all those palettes in the last couple of years. Bright winter did something magic to my eyes. I look like one of the cast of Twilight, with glowing amber eyes…….and ghostly grey skin. But I was too taken with what the colours did to my eyes to notice. I’m not a bright winter; I’m a dark autumn. In dark autumn colours the vampire look has been replaced with softly burnished skin and eyes like embers. It was a surprise to me as both neighbouring seasons are pretty bad – in true autumn I get the no-chin-no-facial-bones look; dark winter gives me deep brown shadows under my eyes and in my lower face.

    Dressed in dark autumn colours, with a little DA make-up, I could SEE myself properly for the first time in years, as though I had suddenly come into focus. I’m a Flamboyant Gamine. One with yang ‘curves’. I am never going to wear some of the super-sharp or zany stuff you see on the Pinterest boards for FG. For one thing, there does seem to be a good bit of N yang in my construction; for another, the look is softened somewhat and textured by being a DA. FG in any of the winter palettes would look a lot sharper; in the spring palettes, more irreverent and fun. But small changes, like shoes with short, sharp toes instead of rounded ones or wearing layered tops to create line breaks make a huge difference.

    It’s interesting that as a teenager and in my early 20’s, before my head was filled with ideas of what I ‘should’ wear, I was naturally drawn to both DA colours and FG style.


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