June 2016 archive

The Importance of Casting in Kibbe: Breakout Roles

One of the most important things I’ve learned from David Kibbe is that when trying to apply his system, people often miss the forest for the trees. They focus on an analysis of body parts, rather than trying to understand how a person can present themselves to the world most effectively. David’s work is heavily influenced by the idea of the MGM “star factory,” which, if you’re interested, you can learn about from listening to the MGM episodes of You Must Remember This, for a start. David even namedrops Louis B. Mayer in Metamorphosis. The sum total of the features is not as important as whether the type that seems to make sense on paper will actually unleash your own special, unique star qualities.

Unfortunately, it seems like many who have not had the privilege of learning from David directly are still stuck in this old, analytical way of thinking. Recently, in a Kibbe group, I saw January Jones declared as a Natural. When questioned, the person who put her in that category said that her roles have given the false impression that she is Classic, and that there is a lot of Natural in her bone structure.

If a person’s career is made by a certain role, and this role is one that the person will have to overcome, typecasting-wise, for the rest of their career, unless they have one that is even more major and iconic, I don’t think we can say that she was miscast.

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Her role in Mad Men was to appear to be the ideal of the 1950s housewife, and later the late-60s Republican Political Wife. She is referred to as a “Grace Kelly type” by others in the show. (Kelly, by the way, also had clearly yang features, like her wide jaw.) She is never mentioned in the same sentence as Ingrid Bergman.

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Besides the fact that anyone who has seen January’s offscreen fashion choices can attest to the fact that uncontrolled styles do not highlight her beauty as much as controlled ones do, the fact that she was so successful as Betty Draper, to the point that “Betty Draper” has become a shorthand for a certain kind of woman, disproves the fact that it is only casting that has given us a Classic impression of January Jones. Now, David hasn’t confirmed her as far as I know, but both Jon Hamm and John Slattery are confirmed Classics, and I would be extremely surprised if January Jones were anything else. If she actually were a Natural, her Betty Draper styling would look a little odd and constricting. She simply wouldn’t have been cast in that role.

A Kibbe verification that threw people for a loop is Mila Kunis, who is a Theatrical Romantic. True, she doesn’t have the “wasp waist” associated with TRs.

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One piece of advice David gave when discussing Mila is to look at their breakout role–which applies to January obviously!–and for Mila, that was Jackie in That 70s Show, whom he called “the epitome of teenage TR.”

While this applies to what David refers to the “parlor game” of guessing celebrity types, I think we can apply it to ourselves as well. What would be your breakout role? What would cause your star power to be unleashed?

Capsules vs. Head to Toe

I think a lot of people come to these style systems in part because it simplifies your life. You can get rid of everything that doesn’t work, and have a carefully curated wardrobe that only has things you actually wear. Many want to create wardrobe capsules for their Kibbe type and season.

But there’s a problem with capsules, one I never really recognized until I started learning things from David Kibbe. In order to get a capsule wardrobe to all work together, it ends up being, well, boring. I got an email a few days ago from Net-a-Porter with a link to This page. All of the clothes in set are very well designed and expensive, but they’re all boring. This is what most capsule wardrobes on Pinterest look like. When you’re choosing items to match with a maximum amount of other items, it reasons to follow that nothing you choose can be all that interesting.

But this is the way most of us have been taught to shop. We are supposed to ask ourselves how many other things we can pair a potential new purchase with. David Kibbe, on the other hand, has an entirely different philosophy. He told us that we are supposed to shop in terms of “head to toe,” that we should buy an entire outfit at once. At first glance, this seems wasteful. But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. I often wear the same outfit over and over again. I don’t need everything to play well together. Perhaps instead of buying pieces, we would better served by buying things that create one special outfit. With a small wardrobe, you won’t necessarily get less wear out of a pair of pants that only works with a specific top if this is an outfit that you love and you’ll wear frequently.

I decided a while ago that I would write a sequel to the workbook focusing on the Three Levels of Dress. The reason why I have been a little quieter here lately is partially because I’ve been working on this new workbook. But it will also be a Head-to-Toe workbook that will take the wardrobe rebuilding idea from the original and expand it to something that will allow you to truly express yourself and your style.

Have you ever tried to create a capsule wardrobe? Have you tried head-to-toe dressing?

What I Use and Why

From time to time, I get comments asking my thoughts on a system that I don’t discuss on this blog. The reason why I don’t talk about all the systems out there is because I’m most interested in discussing and understanding the systems that I like. If a system doesn’t make sense for me or seem like it would add value to my style life, I simply don’t use it.

Now, I think style systems are a highly personal thing. What works for you depends on how your brain works. Some people just can never wrap their head around, say, Kibbe, and it becomes a point of difficulty for them, instead of something that helps them. So what works for me may not be what works for you, and vice versa. This is not intended as an indictment or an endorsement.

So here are my lists:

WHAT I USE:

1. Kibbe’s Metamorphosis
Hands down, my absolute favorite system. To me, it’s the most complete, and the one that, believe it or not, is easiest to DIY. It is a tool for self-acceptance as well as a style system. I do think it helps me, though, that there is a type that is so perfectly in line with my own tastes and personality. I don’t need to think about how to express my inner self through the limitations of my outer self, since Flamboyant Gamine expresses both with no modifications.

2. Sci\ART
Despite my recent posts, which are really more about how the system is currently practiced by second- and third-generation practitioners, rather than the system itself, I still think Sci\ART is the best option among the premade palettes. Each palette can express a wide range of styles and moods, and I do find that when you hit upon the right season, it works. I know that I can take out my Dark Autumn palette, and none of the colors that harmonize with it will do something really weird to my appearance.

3. Fantastical Beauty
I’ve found this system helpful for filling in a few gaps that the Flamboyant Gamine doesn’t cover in enough detail for me, like jewelry. And I can’t wait for the Nixie guide to come out. I think a lot of people also find this freeing because it’s highly flexible and personalizable, and focuses much less than on your outer appearance and shape than other systems.

WHAT I DON’T USE, BUT AM INTERESTED IN:

1. David Zyla
Zyla’s system is basically impossible to DIY. Even though he has a book where he tries to explain how to do it, it’s really about his singular vision. I found Zyla around the same time that I found Kibbe, and I’ve seen myself in archetypes in every season except Summer. I’m actually considering going to see him when it’s convenient and when I can afford it, mainly because I love his eye for color and I find the tight, specialized approach to color to be something that is highly appealing to me. I love the idea of having certain colors that support you for particular needs in your life.

2. Suzanne Caygill
Again, a Caygill palette and typing is something that has to be done in person. And her book is just too expensive to purchase.

3. Beauty Valued
I love Kathy’s work, and a Beauty Valued palette is right up there with Zyla in “services I would pay for.” (The magical powers of your Zyla colors are what pushes Zyla to the top of my wishlist.)

WHAT DOESN’T WORK FOR ME:

1. John Kitchener
I find the approach of splitting people up into parts to run counter to the goal of a cohesive style. What are you supposed to do with, say, 5% Natural, and how would that blend with the rest of you? Also the color palettes he gives are so extensive. Kitchener’s approach just gives you too much, in my opinion. Some people like having absolutely all the things they could ever do laid out for them, but I like having a general framework in my head and then running with it.

2. Dressing Your Truth
I really don’t see myself fully in any of the 4 Types. I used to think 3, but now I think it’d be too heavy. I think it’s a good system for women who are style lost and finding their way, and sometimes you do see really huge improvements, but overall, none of the types really connect with me, and I can’t imagine wearing any of them, at least not how they’re presented in their online store.

Which systems do you absolutely love, and which ones leave you cold?