David Kibbe: There Is Only One

One of the things I have on my to-do list is to go through my old blog posts and rewrite the ones that I feel misrepresent David Kibbe’s ideas. Unfortunately, this will not solve the real problem, which is the plethora of misinformation out there that led me to said incorrect ideas in the first place. While Pinterest especially is full of it, one of the major culprits are the stylists who have taken David Kibbe’s work and now make their living typing people themselves. There are people who renamed his types and use his quiz and sometimes even have added some “types” they view as “lacking” in the original; there are people who have excerpts of his book on their professional analyst website with no credit; and there are even “schools” in some countries that offer courses in how to become a Kibbe analyst.

None of these people, of course, can replicate Kibbe’s work. Whenever someone tells me, in a Facebook comment or in the comments to this blog, that they are a “verified TR” (or whatever) and I know they haven’t gone to NYC to see David, I can say that it means absolutely nothing to me in terms of their yin/yang balance and their Kibbe Image ID. Someone who has gone through a long period of self-exploration and who has done their best to understand their yin/yang balance on their own has a far better chance of getting it “right” (i.e., the same thing Kibbe would give you) than one of these analysts, in my observation. I give the latter a 1-in-10 chance of getting it right, only you’ve paid money for the privilege.

Why do they get it so wrong? There are two major factors.

The first is a fundamental misunderstanding of yin/yang balance as Kibbe describes it and how to apply it. They don’t understand the Image IDs themselves, and they don’t understand what yin and yang actually look like in a person in Kibbe’s Metamorphosis framework.

The two most common mistakes, in both celebrities and real-life clients:

a) Someone yang is put in Romantic or Theatrical Romantic.

Someone who is 5’9″ with a cute/pretty face and curves is given Romantic. Someone with wide shoulders, a “dangerous” face, and muscles/taut flesh and who is maybe even 5’6″+ in height is given Theatrical Romantic. Clients and celebrities given TR/an equivalent in other systems have been FN, SN, SD, and FG in Kibbe. Romantics have been FN and SD. The result is that the overall perception of both of these types among the internet community is far more yang than they actually are.

b) Someone youthful and/or funky is given one of the Gamines despite having larger bone structure.

Romantics put into Soft Gamine; FNs/SNs put into Flamboyant Gamine. Since SG is described as wider than TR in the book, and FG is given “broadly angular,” it is understandable how these mistakes are made, but the latest word from David is that a larger bone structure that needs to be accommodated in clothes automatically rules out a gamine type. This also causes a lot of confusion–for a long time, I thought my shoulders were too narrow for FG, but now my sense is that if I did have shoulders as broad as some of the other people who identify as FG, I actually wouldn’t fit into gamine clothes.

Again, your chance of this analyst getting your Image ID correct, if what you’re seeking is your Kibbe Image ID but you can’t afford to see him in NYC, is the same as if you pulled one out of a hat, and maybe not even that good, considering the misconceptions.

The other major factor is a misapplication of the Image Identity itself. An Image ID is not a style. The style comes from you. It’s framework that you use you create a style; it is your guide. It is not a box. So often in the FG group we have women come in who say something like, “I think I’m FG, but I’m a 55 y/o professional with kids in college. How can I dress like Twiggy or a punk?” The perception of FG, to use it as an example, is that it is limited to these specific style inspirations. FG can be sophisticated, glamorous, professional, elegant… It can be whatever you need it to be. I wrote this post over two years ago, and while I’m not sure if I still stand behind all of it, the part about Audrey Hepburn’s and Grace Kelly’s versions of “classic” style still rings true to me. You can express anything you want within your Image ID.

Now, if you like someone’s work, that’s your prerogative if you want to spend your money and get analyzed by them and receive whatever services they offer. But if your goal is to get some kind of confirmation of your Kibbe Image ID, getting “typed” by someone who is using his work (or, as they do in many cases, claims to have “improved” upon his work, “filled in the gaps,” “modernized it,” etc.) will actually do the opposite of what you seek, and will set you back in your Kibbe journey of self-discovery and self-love. Just reading the text in the book accompanying the reveals and the chapter on resistance will do more to lead you to your Image ID than paying someone else several hundred dollars to give you an answer that is, in all likelihood, incorrect if what you really want to know is what David Kibbe would say.

19 Comments on David Kibbe: There Is Only One

  1. LC
    September 6, 2017 at 4:47 pm

    I absolutely agree with you! I incorrectly typed myself as TR going off forum recommendations, until I was trying on something in a store over a tank top I already had on and I had a revelation. For once, I had an outfit that looked good on me. And this was because the tank broke up the vertical line. So now, I believe I am a gamine of some kind, probably FG. I realised that even though I have a nipped in waist my *overall* impression is straight up and down. Whereas a TR’s overall impression is hourglass. The problem is interpreting Kibbe’s book as you say. I thought that because I have a waist and hips that I couldn’t be FG, since they are (I think) described as having a “boyish” figure with no curves. I never really clicked with the TR style/archetype. FG suits me down to the ground. Also, I think your other post on movie genres/decades is spot on. Because my favourite movie is set in the 20s and my other favourite decade was the 60s – both very FG 🙂 I am much happier dressing and being FG so I’m just going to carry on regardless of my slightly “off-type” characteristics. I have so much more to say about being FG but I will leave it there as this getting long. I love your blog as well, just wanted to say 🙂

    • stylesyntax
      September 6, 2017 at 4:57 pm

      Thank you!

      Having a waist and hips is not a strike against FG–when he says “hourglass figure,” it’s meant in a very specific way. I have a waist and hips, Audrey had them, etc. He also told us in the FG group that Jennifer Love Hewitt is FG, and she is pretty pear-shaped. Some people might call me curvy going off of measurements, but it is absolutely not what informs how I dress and dressing for curves doesn’t work on me at all.

      • Daga
        April 25, 2018 at 8:40 am

        Jennifer Love Hewitt is Kibbe FG? I’m in a puzzle, her energy seems very far from FG to me… I don’t see anything boyish, flamboyant about her, I can’t imagine shorter hair style would compliment her at all. I always thought the style she was wearing in Ghost Whisperer suits her very well. I’m shocked that she is so short (I’ve looked it up just now). Maybe you could help me understand how she differs from TR I always thought she was. The more “in depth” I try too look at things the more confused I am. I see some similarities between Audrey Hepburn and Jennifer Love Hewitt but I fail to see any link between Kelly Osbourne and both of them for example. I can’t see all of them in similar clothes. Their lines and impression they make seem so different. Maybe my problem is with how narrow I view Kibbe (and every other “line respecting” system). When you divert the shortest ppl in only 2 categories (SG & FG) the variety of ppl fitting into both categories becomes so overwhelming it’s hard for me to find it useful or to relate to any of the groups.

        • stylesyntax
          April 25, 2018 at 10:01 am

          First of all, what resources are you using for Kibbe? Are you maybe mixing up a couple of different systems? Because I have no idea where the idea that “if you’re short, you must be Gamine” comes from. SG and FG are specific yin/yang balances that can be used for people who are short-to-medium in height. It is not that if you are very short, even under 5′, that you will be automatically placed into them. They are actually very rare Image IDs, from my observation. You need to have juxtaposition to qualify for a G Image ID. Short people in Kibbe can actually be anything–it is tall people who are more limited, since they must be D, FN, or SD, since yang automatically dominates when you’re tall. If you have a strong vertical line and you’re short, you can actually end up in one of these types. Again, Gamine doesn’t just mean “short”–it is a specific yin/yang balance like all the rest, and not a catch-all.

          One of the issues people have with understanding Kibbe is one of the ones I touch on in this post–people don’t understand the actual yin/yang balances of the Image IDs. You think JLH is TR because Rachel Nachmias put her in YangR. YangR is much, much, much more yang than TR. TR is basically very small, very curvy, and very narrow. TR is actually described as narrower than SG in the section where David lists some Image IDs that people often find themselves choosing between. This does not fit with the Best Dressed idea that TRs are basically curvy amazons, because it has zero to do with what Kibbe TR is in reality.

          I also wouldn’t say that Kibbe is a “line” system. It is a system of yin/yang balance. So people in a particular Image ID aren’t going to share the same body shape, but something like FG’s particular “recipe”: “combination of opposites, extra yang.” Not everyone in an Image ID is going to be able to share a closet. It’s not a paint-by-numbers kit; it’s a tool for helping you create your own original work of art.

          David basically laughed at the idea of JLH being yin-dominant; it was a ludicrous idea to him. So I would try to understand on your own why he sees her as FG, and why her being TR is laughable. This will help you get a better understanding of what yin/yang balance is.

          • Daga
            April 29, 2018 at 4:32 am

            Thanks for reply. I’ve read about Kibbe from multiple sources – but ppl views are so different that it is very confusing. I wish the book would have new, modern edition with examples. I’ve read about Image Archetypes also, but JLH as TR was my own assumption (or maybe some post, comment or pin planted the idea?). I liked her in clothes from the TV show, they fit her (or rather the character of the person she played) very well and many of them seemed TR to me.

            Your blog is very interesting and helpful in understanding Kibbe. I still have a lot posts to read 🙂 especially about FG. I was sure I was SG but I need to verify that and my idea on Image IDs in general which I viewed as certain “styles” more than anything. My Kibbe quizzes have almost equal parts of Dramatic and Romantic answers (few more R) and no answer from any other group, but I don’t feel SG reflects me. Especially now, when I’m lean and athletic (lifestle change). Maybe my conception SG “style” is too limited or I’m actually FG or some odd mix (most SG and some FG descriptions fit me – when “the middle” G don’t). My mother is SD and I feel there is much more Dramatic (Yang) in me than the answers suggest.

        • LC
          May 2, 2018 at 3:29 am

          With JLH, it is easier to see how much yang she has when you compare her to someone like Dita Von Teese. I am not sure of the official style type of the latter, but I have heard her typed as a TR. I’m not sure if I’ve got this right, but to me, she has a sharp quality that I associate with TRs, like she could almost sting you if she wanted to. Whereas JLH has no sharpness in that sense, but she does have yang bluntness and strength. If you do a google search of JLH, you can compare her to DVT. JLH’s limbs are slightly broader and longer (yang), she is slightly less fleshy, yet she has a balance of being fleshy and taut (yang and yin combined). If you look at a 3/4 profile of her face, you will see both a delicateness and a strength in JLH’s outline. Yet DVT’s is almost all delicate with a hint of sharpness that is only really perceptible when you compare her to a romantic. Also, in terms of JLH’s hair styling, you can see that soft curls do not do her justice, whereas they fit completely on DVT. I have witnessed this effect on myself. Looking at me, you would think I would be feminine enough to carry off soft curls, but they look awful on me. My natural loose waves are much better, because this incorporates an equal balance of yin and yang. JLH in a sweetheart neckline is almost believable, but her in a shift dress with sharpness in the bodice, a soft yet sharp skirt and a thin belt is just about perfect.

          If you think about it, FG is not a million miles away from TR. They are both small and have a base of yin bone structure and yin features. TR has slight yang in the flesh. To get to FG, you add a bit of yang to the bone structure, a bit to the features and a bit more to the flesh, on top of what you already added to TR. You can get to JLH by making that yang about being outdoorsy, natural and exotic. You can get to Twiggy by making that yang about symmetry and balance. And you can get to Audrey by making it about angles. That is my interpretation anyway! There are infinite permutations of yin/yang expression, so not all FGs will have the same look, but they will all have the same yin/yang balance.

          It helps me to consider the yin/yang balance of the different types in different ways. For me, FG is a woodland creature (like a deer) or an island princess. These images sum up to me what FG is all about – an equal balance of yin and yang. A woodland create is found outdoors (yang) among trees, which represent the bluntness and strength that can be seen in the FG (yang), but there is a quiet, dark stillness that is mysterious and alluring at the same time (yin). The island princess image is found outdoors (yang) and is slightly exotic and tropical (yang), but there is a delicate femininity and charm to her (yin). Neither is particularly mannish (a characteristic that I think is easily confused with “masculine energy”), but they both balance yin and yang with extra yang. I associate Twiggy with more of a sprite type of energy, verging towards classic proportions, while Audrey I see as a sprite who verges towards the dramatic. JLH I see as a nymph energy, which is gamine verging on natural, and this is the type of energy I have, which is why I have detailed it as I have above – since that is the type of beauty I have seen staring back at me all my life. A TR is more of a Victorian afternoon tea party sort of beauty to me. I get to this from a Romantic energy (to me, this is a completely social energy if that makes sense and to this you add a sense of formality and restraint (yang) of an afternoon tea, then you arrive at TR).

          I also like to think of the types as desserts. To me, R would be angels food cake, TR would be a light-as-air pavlova with very slim dark chocolate shards, D would be an avant garde, sophisticated death-by-chocolate torte. This leaves FG, which to me, is a chocolate fudge cake: down to earth in a cute/girl next door sort of way, but with the indulgence and sensuality of chocolate fudge frosting.

          It is not that one type is feminine and another is not, nor that one is beautiful and another is not. They are all beautiful in their own way. Just like with the desserts: they are all desserts, they are all heavenly, just in different ways. None of them are dinner (male), none of them even have characteristics that make them like dinner (manliness). Rather, they are different degrees of sugar (yin) and spice (yang). Not a puppy dog tail in sight!

          As women, we have preconceived ideas about what we should be like. There is this idea that being feminine is good and being masculine is bad. This is why I think it helps to characterise the types in ways that avoid these categories when you are trying to figure out Kibbe’s system and to type yourself.

          • stylesyntax
            May 2, 2018 at 4:27 am

            Dita Von Teese has never been discussed by David, so I would never use her as an example of an Image ID. TR’s sharpness has been greatly exaggerated by people like those who use Rachel’s system, where FGs and FNs are TRs.

            TR and FG are not close. FG does not have yin bones. The yin in their bone structure comes from not being tall/elongated. Otherwise their bone structure is yang. There is no such thing as a Gamine verging on Natural. David has said that there are SNs who need the “spice” of Gamine in their clothes, and I have never seen someone who says they have a lot of N but they’re FG who isn’t SN.

            If Twiggy had symmetry, she wouldn’t be FG; she’d be a C. FG has a specific yin/yang balance and everyone who fits this Image ID represents this yin/yang balance, nothing about leaning this way or that. It is yin and yang put together in a juxtaposed way, with the yin in the bone structure specifically being about not elongated enough to be yang-dominant rather than, say, softly wide. I don’t know what tropical princess or woodland sprite is supposed to mean regarding yin and yang, but David says that when you see a Gamine, you’re not sure if they’re a princess or a waif under a bridge. That is the best way to understand it if you need metaphors.

    • DB
      April 2, 2018 at 3:31 am

      I’m in exactly the same boat as you, LC. My face screams soft natural, so does my body, for the most part, and that’s the style I’ve always been drawn to, but I’m tall. He seems to be writing from an era when there weren’t many tall women around. You’re not alone, LC 🙂

      • stylesyntax
        April 2, 2018 at 3:51 am

        Your mistake is thinking that Soft Natural is a style in the first place. It’s not. It’s a yin/yang balance. And if you’re tall, your yang dominates. It has absolutely nothing to do with how many tall women are around. And whatever you’re picturing as Soft Natural, there’s no reason it wouldn’t be compatible with Flamboyant Natural. SN is only SN when it’s on someone with an SN yin/yang balance. If it’s honoring your vertical along with the blunt yang, it’s FN.

      • LC
        May 1, 2018 at 1:43 pm

        I think that’s interesting, but I would agree that it is to do with the yin/yang balance. Vanessa has explained it way better than I can, and she is right: soft natural “looks” on the internet are often just a stereotype of a style rather than being constructed according to the underlying principles or yin and yang balance. It is getting to the underlying principles that really unlocks what Kibbe was on about.

  2. Voldemort III
    September 9, 2017 at 9:37 am

    I’ve always struggled at finding my Kibbe type, sadly, even after many months of trying to figure it out :(. At first I thought I was a soft gamine, but I wasn’t “curvy”, or “fleshy” enough, then I decided I was a classic, but my limbs were a little too long and my facial features were too yin, then again a couple weeks ago i decided I was a gamine, but now I’m starting to doubt it; I am mostly yin in my facial features (except for my nose, that’s a definite yang), my height is considered classic, and so is my waistline, and the rest is yang. I am short, bit I don’t look short, if that makes any sense. My figure strongly resembles Zooey Deschanel’s, and people consider her an FG, but I don’t know about that. What kibbe type do you think Zooey Deschanel is? I know this doesn’t completely relate to your article, but I am desperate for help lol. It always helps to get some insight from someone who’s had so much Kibbe experience as you <3 Great article btw!

    • stylesyntax
      October 9, 2017 at 8:43 pm

      Zooey is a verified FG.

      I would look at SN and FG and consider your bone structure. If you need more room in clothes to accommodate your bone structure, if you have a strong shoulderline–SN. If you are narrower all over, FG.

  3. Shawna
    October 12, 2017 at 11:03 pm

    Isn’t this a bit like assuming all personal colour systems are a rip off of Color Me Beautiful? I’m not certain if David Kibbe was even the first to come up with image archetypes, and whether or not he is the best at it may be subjective, but why does it matter if others have taken the idea and built on it or changed it. It only matters if they still call it Kibbe. All of the style gurus borrow from those who came before-there are no original ideas. True, if it’s not a verified David Kibbe type then a person shouldn’t call it a Kibbe type. I am intrigued by the Kibbe types but also frustrated by what I think is his height bias. He’s a short man, after all and a flamboyant one. He seems to think any tall woman is automatically a dramatic of some sort but short women are not limited to gamines. He also seems to assume that anyone with height also appears sharp, T-shaped, dramatic, sexy or dangerous.

    I’ve spent way too much time trying to figure all of this out and at my age I’ve also spent a lot of time dressing myself and trying out different styles with varying degrees of success. I’m a little over 5’9″ and have gone back and forth with Soft Natural and Soft Classic though I suppose Kibbe would make me some sort of dramatic. It would be so uncomfortable and wrong. Other than height I don’t even fit any of the physical descriptions for the tall types. I am probably a Soft Classic who wants to be a Soft Natural but although soft is very dominant in me Soft Dramatic is still too dramatic, too much, and just does not describe my appearance. Anyhow, I’m rambling a bit but just don’t see why Kibbe has to be held up as the gold standard. I think he has some great ideas and a big heart but some biases and errors in his system too. No system is perfect so I prefer to learn something from them all and go from there. Having said all of that, perhaps he would see me in person and pronounce me one of the tall anomalies. I don’t want to unfairly malign the man! I’m dressing as a casual soft classic who might dip her toes into soft natural a little. It feels right.

    • stylesyntax
      October 12, 2017 at 11:21 pm

      Okay. I’m going to try to address both your points here.

      1) is it like saying every color system is ripping off CMB? No, because CMB didn’t actually do anything revolutionary; it was just commercially successful. You can trace the lineage of all the color systems, but there are none I would really consider a rip off. The systems and analysts I am referring to in this post posit themselves against Kibbe, either publicly or privately.

      2) Being 5’9”.
      I think your discomfort here stems from misconceptions about the system itself. Will you be a moderate + yin person at 5’9”? No, it’s too far away from average. And that’s totally okay! The lines of SC aren’t actually going to flatter your added length. Height is automatically yang in Kibbe. BUT it doesn’t mean that your own style expression can’t *read* as classic on you. And of course no one actually has to follow any system if they don’t want to. In your position, I would accept FN/SD/D (not SN) and think of how I can express my classic inner self with the lines that flatter my natural long lines and take advantage of my height.

  4. Bla31ze
    April 26, 2018 at 9:56 am

    This post rings very true to me. In a previous comment, I wrote that I was torn between Soft Classic and Dramatic Classic, now instead I am almost convinced that I am a Soft Natural: I have changed my mind after realising that I was making both the mistakes you have written about. First, the idea that I could be a Kibbe’s Classic mainly came from the fact that, in other systems, I could relate – or even was assigned – to a “Classic” essence; however, that has nothing to do with the Kibbe’s Classic Yin/Yang balance. Second, I had considered Soft Natural in the past, but I had quickly discarded it because I thought it was not working; now, when looking at my “Soft Natural” photos of some months ago, I realise that I was not following Kibbe’s guidelines at all, but that I was barely choosing outfits that “looked SN” to me according to the examples that I found on the Internet. Of course that did not work! Now, even the concept that an outfit may “look SN” does not make sense to me anymore: I look like my own Image Identity, instead, whatever I am wearing (and whatever my actual Image Identity is ☺).

    (I hope I am not making too many mistakes, English is not my first language!)

  5. Violet
    November 20, 2018 at 12:46 am

    I find Kibbe puzzling because of his scoring system. I can see perfectly well what he means about yin vs yang, that Gamine is an obvious juxtaposition of yang and yin, and classic is like throwing the yin and yang into a blender. But his scoring system doesn’t work for some people, at least for me because there is no way to score almost equal numbers across the letter groups with no dominant scores. Further he seems to have no way to deal with someone whose face is one type but whose body is a different type.

    • stylesyntax
      November 20, 2018 at 1:24 am

      He doesn’t suggest using the quiz at all anymore. It’s not a point-based thing and was never meant to be the end of your journey, but rather an idea of where to start. Your body trumps your face because the lines of your body dictate where your clothes fall, not your face. You have a good starting point of understanding yin and yang, so just forget about a “score.”

  6. Sam
    December 22, 2019 at 10:06 pm

    At this point, I just want to feel like myself. Maybe knowing what my ID image is, will help with that. Whatever that image is, I just want to embrace it.

    I took the test twice (now, thanks to you, I know this wasn’t a good idea) and it said I was a classic, at first soft and then dramatic. I kinda suspected that that was going to be the result, but I was dreading it. I dislike the way they dress. However, the reasons that made me believe I was a classic, were not based on Kibbe’s system. I already have preconceptions, base on other stylist’s guidelines. So when I took the test, I wasn’t surprised by the results, but something didn’t add up. And I think it’s because I am misinterpreting David’s concepts.

    I started to warm up to the idea of being a classic, I even went shopping to try on different clothes (again, thanks to you now I know better), and as I started picturing myself in that image ID, I started to feel proud and confident on having found my lines. But still, something didn’t add up, now that I finally was feeling like I belong, I read one of your posts that emphasize the importance of one’s vertical line. Although I’m average (5’4), people often think I am smaller, hell I’ve had smaller people thinking they are taller than I am (although in that particular case, I think, it’s stupidity on their part, because they turned out to be 10 cms shorter than I am?).

    Although some people want to be romantic, I know I’m not, I’m just too square, so I never view myself as one. And I hate their casual style?. But my problem is that I have soft legs and butt. I look voluptuous in that part of my body, even though I think my hips are a bit square. I have a problem using short dresses or shorts because I can look vulgar or very sexy too quickly. So, that’s when I started considering romantic again, but my face ain’t soft enough.

    I think I have only once entertained the idea of being a gamine, but if I look petite and I’m not soft enough to be romantic, maybe I am gamine.

    Thanks to you I decided to join Kibbe’s private group. I’m confident, that will help me find what I’m looking for. Already requested to enter. Let’s see how it goes.

    • stylesyntax
      December 23, 2019 at 1:26 am

      David’s exercises and comments will help for sure! 🙂


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