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.

6 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.

  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.


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