The Three Levels of Dress: Soft Gamine for Work

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When I asked on the workbook Facebook group which level and Image Identity combination they’d like to see, Soft Gamine Level 2 was the top request, so this is the one I’m starting with.

Theatrical Romantic Casual was the next most often requested, and SG and TR share a special connection. It is not just that they are both mainly yin types with a touch of yang and no blunt yang. They are both also inspired by the same decade, the 1930s.

Theatrical Romantic, however, is inspired by the Hollywood glam side of the 1930s. It’s Jean Harlow in a slinky bias-cut dress. Soft Gamine’s 1930s influence is something we learned about from women who have seen Kibbe within the past few years, and in my opinion, Soft Gamine’s 1930s influence is from more of the everyday life side.

(1, 2, 3)

I think we often see SG, for any occasion, looking something like this:


There is nothing inherently wrong with this look. It’s cute. It’s rounded and has detail and crispness. But for so long, Soft Gamine has only been represented one way, and that is a way that seems more Ingenue than Gamine and very, well, twee. If you’re a Soft Gamine and you like dressing like this, I don’t see why you can’t. But I’d like to present options for those of you who don’t, and I think the 1930s is a great place to take inspiration from. It shows an example of dressing that uses crisp material with some drape, a lot of details, that follows the shape of the body, but not quite as overtly as Theatrical Romantic.

Bette Davis+Joan Blondell3
Bette Davis, with Joan Blondell, modelling an alternative to the Peter Pan collar in 1932’s Three on a Match, which looks like a great movie to watch for Soft Gamine fashion inspiration.

The key word for SG is “sassy,” and I think if you go too Ingenue, you lose “sassy” and only “sweet” remains. I think that the 1930s has great inspiration for stylish SG workwear, and keeps it sassy without going too yang. There are lots of details and little tucks and crispness, but it won’t look juvenile, the way some Soft Gamine Pinterest boards do.

You can go quite literal with the 1930s inspiration. It would be cute and sassy, but it could veer into costumey/twee…


Stop Staring Raileen Dress

Modcloth It’s a Sure Fete Heels

Or you can do something more subtle:

Talbots Seasonless Wool Trumpet Skirt

Modcloth Fun With Symphonics Top

Max Studio Jacket with Piping Detail

High-waisted, wide-legged pants are what people tended to wear in the 1930s, as you can see in one of the vintage photos above, but I think they may be difficult for Soft Gamines, who don’t have much in the way of length. Kibbe recommends slim-fit trousers that show the ankle, and I think that would be easier.

Shopping guide for SG Level 2:
-dresses with a trumpet skirt and lots of detail at the collar and cuffs (see above)

-blouses with drapable fabric, but again detail at the collar and cuffs (see above)

-slim-fit trousers that show the ankle OR sailor/wide-legged pants if you can pull if off

Banana Republic Sloan Slim-Fit Ankle Pant

Modcloth Pursue Your Passions Pants

-tight-fitting angora sweaters, with detail if you can find it. I think these look especially cute when they have short sleeves.

Contemporary Fuzzy Knit Top

-shoes should be feminine and delicate. Both flats and heels are okay, and the heels should be tapered.

Modcloth Currant Scones Heel (on sale right now for $15!)

-for jackets, SG can wear either jackets cropped above the waist or ones with a peplum. Jackets with a peplum are easier to find, in my opinion, than cropped versions that are feminine enough for SG (see peplum version above)

-I think wool coats that show the waist and have a fur collar are cute on SG.

Miss Selfridge Faux Fur Collar Button Coat

Of course, this isn’t the only way to do SG Level 2. If you do it in a different way, I’d love to see it in the comments.

If you would like more information on the Three Levels of Dress, it is part of the system outlined in the Style Syntax workbook.

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5 Comments on The Three Levels of Dress: Soft Gamine for Work

  1. Janina
    July 11, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. Finally some true knowledge and good tips on SG fashion! :-*

    • stylesyntax
      July 28, 2017 at 9:50 pm

      you’re welcome!

  2. Sarah
    March 30, 2018 at 5:26 am

    Thank you! Have been working on finding my style for a bit over a year now, this takes it to a completely new level. Everything you’ve posted is a big yes! That Angora sweater and the skirt … omg … and the top on Bette Davis …

  3. Liz
    May 5, 2018 at 4:20 pm

    I have a lot of allergies to fabrics so I cant always get what I want in color and line, but this is how I dress Soft Gamine Level 2 as much as I can: trumpet skirts work well for me. They are more shapely and compact looking than the average straight skirt, which doesnt work as well on me. I find Kibbe’s recommendation to use fabric with drape but enough crispness to hold a bit of a shape to suit me well. Too limp looks bad on me. I like to wear weskit vests when I can find them. My favorite outfit right now as a soft summer soft gamine who looks good in contrast in her colors is a deep purple red rayon crinkle campshirt with lilac, two shades of green, and light beige abstract floral, an off white textured rayon trumpet skirt, and delicate, strappy soft green mules. I find that I like, and I think, look good in abstract, graphic, and oriental florals. Cabbage roses do me in. Too round.

  4. Liz
    May 5, 2018 at 6:23 pm

    I said that cabbage roses are too round. I should have said they are to round and undefined. Sharp definition is important to success in any outfit. If I keep Kibbe’s definition of gamines being “sharply delicate” (I think thats how he put it) in mind I like the way I come out looking.


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