An Alternative to “Trying On” an Image ID

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Most people try to figure out their Kibbe Image Identity in the dressing room. This seems logical–it is a style system, after all. But after studying Kibbe for several years now, I’ve come to the conclusion that this doesn’t really work.

This may seem disheartening, and somewhat frustrating. But I have come to believe that it really is an internal process. It is about coming to grips with your physical self. In other words, we come to this process basically knowing the answer, and we cycle through types as an attempt to deal with this, or we have a distorted view of ourselves to begin with and this process forces us to see ourselves as we actually are, perhaps for the first time.

For many, it’s probably a combination of both. When I first started looking at Kibbe, I looked at yin types, because I knew what my actual measurements were and every online calculator had given me the “hourglass” body type designation. Nevermind that the issues that “hourglass” dressing guides were supposed to correct weren’t things I’d personally ever dealt with. The measuring tape gave me this result, so I could never look at yang types.

On the other hand, I also knew that I wasn’t really a curvy person. I had to rid myself of the perception created by numbers and see myself how I actually was, which was someone who actually had a straighter shape, made straighter by torso elongation.

The other issue is, of course, the misperceptions surrounding what women in the Image IDs actually look like. For instance, many of the celebrities labeled as, say, TR on Pinterest are actually FN. For the longest time, I had lingering doubts about FG because many of the women in the FG Facebook group had a broad shoulder line, and I did not. But then David joined and told us that FG is unequivocally narrow, and began redirecting women to SN and SD and other IDs.

So why doesn’t putting together outfits work? Because whatever you put on, you look like the Image ID you are, not what you’re trying on. An SC silhouette isn’t going to look SC on an FN. It will just look like an FN in an outfit that doesn’t match her yin/yang balance. And then there are so many limiting and flat-out incorrect ideas about what a head-to-toe outfit for a certain Image ID is going to look like anyway.

Many of you may be feeling like you might as well just throw in the towel at this point, since if you can’t try on outfits and if most of the information out there is inaccurate, how can you ever figure out your yin/yang balance?

There are only two things you need: The Book and yourself. And maybe access to YouTube/Netflix/Turner Classic Movies/etc, as a bonus.

The excerpts on the internet don’t do Metamorphosis justice. A lot was cut out of the descriptions of the Image IDs when they were typed up and posted. David shows you the experience of having a certain yin/yang balance, and he tells you how to dress it, even before you get to the concrete recommendations, which are just a jumping off point and which can be hit or miss, since clothing construction has changed so much in the past 30 years. But if you read the book over and over, you start to get an intuitive sense of the Image IDs.

And then by looking at the classic celebrities, you start to get a feeling for what links these women all together, and which group of women you would fit into. Most likely, there is something you have had a sense about for most of your life. I latched onto Audrey Hepburn at a young age, for instance, because I related to her shape and to her mix of facial features. Marilyn and Liz resided on a distant planet. Audrey felt familiar. The clothes she wore were clothes that I could wear, since they didn’t require a bust or a voluptuous shape.

I literally keep The Book on my nightstand, and refer to it all the time. Reading the book and absorbing it, and exploring the pantheon of stars mentioned, will do more to reveal your Image ID to you than trying out every piece of clothing at H&M. You may get a sense for what works and what doesn’t, but it won’t show you who you are. Only by really going inward and being honest to yourself about your experience of your physicality will you figure out your Image ID.

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26 Comments on An Alternative to “Trying On” an Image ID

  1. Shawna
    November 10, 2017 at 7:55 pm

    This makes a lot of sense to me, and relates to my own experience. I have not got his book and would love to see it, but it’s easy to see how the excerpts copied online are incomplete. It’s also obvious that we cannot rely on what other people put on Pinterest as there is no way of knowing that their understanding is correct. Often it is not. I am sure that much is pinned under Soft Classic which is actually too romantic or even Soft Gamine. What you say about your body being what it is no matter which style you try also rings true for me. My body is classic. In fact all my life people have commented on how evenly proportioned and balanced I am. I have also always been told that I always look good, even when wearing what I thought were the most basic and boring outfits. And believing that I was boring became a big problem. I wanted so badly to be a natural, to wear just a little more asymmetry and funky things, to go all out bohemian as I am certainly attracted to that look. But it looks like a costume on me. I need less. I need simple lines and minimal everything or I am overwhelmed. I saw this as boring, too traditional, and even though I’ve actually dressed that way most of my life, I thought I needed to break out of the rut. By trying on styles that were funkier, more flamboyant or dramatic I learned a lot. I learned that I was uncomfortable in things even if I liked the look of them. I learned that they just looked wrong. I learned that I could easily look frumpy or silly. It was a feeling of panic until I realised that if I just went back to what I already knew worked and stopped judging it negatively I was in the right space.
    I think that sometimes celebrity examples don’t help because we look at these people who we believe are gorgeous, maybe perfect, certainly more beautiful than we are and we think ‘well I can’t be the type she is because I don’t look like that.’ We have to learn to look for something else, for lines and qualities in common as you say. Also, certain types come in and out of fashion. I have spent much of my life in a peer group where nobody wanted to look ladylike, they wanted to break free from the tyranny of the expectation that all women should be ladies. I felt as though I represented something that was old fashioned and unwanted. Now I am at a point where I can be who I am and be comfortable with it. It’s a nice feeling.

    • stylesyntax
      November 10, 2017 at 9:33 pm

      Congratulations on your revelations! That’s how it’s supposed to work. 🙂

      I don’t know if I’d call the supposed SC stuff on Pinterest SG–it seems more to have a specific vintage element that can definitely look costumey since it’s a costume at heart.

      • Shawna
        November 11, 2017 at 7:33 pm

        Yes, I know what you mean about the vintage/costumey element. Many people like that and I don’t. I was thinking of how I often see Reese Witherspoon pinned as an exmple but I think she is more a SG and I definitely couldn’t dress like she does. I am finding that although Kibbe did away with pure Classic because it was rare, I might actually be one. DC is too D and SC is too soft. I can lean slightly into each one but I end up tweaking them so much I am essentially just doing classic. I also think that I could wear more SC when I was younger. I just get the sense that some of the Pinterest images show skirts that are a bit too full, too cinched at the waist and not the smooth lines that Kibbe intended. Some of the vintage dresses look like that and I think a romantic vibe was rather strong in the fifties. It’s interesting to keep exploring that though and really a relief to embrace who I truly am and stop trying to force myself into the Naturals.

        • stylesyntax
          November 11, 2017 at 7:39 pm

          I would just go exactly as yin as you need to and forget about anyone else’s interpretation of SC. I would look at Candice Bergen. I’m thinking of when she played a Vogue editor on SATC and rocked leather pants, which I’ve seen David recommend for SC. He loves shopping for SC and says they get the most variety, so don’t feel like SC limits you.

          Reese is a verified SG so she shouldn’t be posted as an SC example ever!

          • Shawna
            November 13, 2017 at 12:32 am

            Hah, I would wear leather pants if I could actually get some that fit. I think David Kibbe wrote to remember that the soft is only very slight, it’s classic first and soft is just an afterthought. Ohh leather pants, some flats and a nice simple cashmere sweater would be my dream outfit. I’d make it my daily uniform!

          • stylesyntax
            November 13, 2017 at 4:17 pm

            Maybe some leather leggings? Those might be easier to find (and more comfortable). I definitely think that’d be a nice, chic look.

        • Doctor T
          November 16, 2017 at 1:45 pm

          I have been having a similar experience, where I waffled back and forth between SC and DC… But really, keying in on the fact that he emphasizes these groups are classic first, with slight emphasis towards yin/yang for SC and DC helped me quite a bit. I’m still pretty new to this, but I think starting from the base classic recommendations and slightly moving into the SC or DC areas has helped me quite a bit in terms of envisioning myself in these styles.

          • stylesyntax
            November 24, 2017 at 12:12 pm


          • Doctor T
            March 20, 2018 at 2:37 am

            I sort of had a revelation the other day regarding this topic. Since I learned about Kibbe, I figured I fell somewhere into 1 of the 3 Classic types, but none of them felt exactly right. And, even thinking I was in a Classic group, I found I never really felt the desire to dress in a more “Classic” way. I recently started a mini wardrobe project (I sew, so I’m making my own clothes), and I was really happy with what I’d made, even though I didn’t think I’d love the styles that much when I first started out. My goal was to sew Classic styles, but after looking at what I’d made, I realized they were much more in the Soft Natural category. Once that realization struck it was sort of over… I obsessively have been looking at SN information for a few days and I’m come to realize/accept that I fit much better into this category than I ever did in Classic. Much as I think Kibbe’s “Fresh and Sensual Lady” is possibly the most laughable descriptor of any of the ID’s, I can’t deny that when I read the descriptions and recommendations in this category I keep thinking that it all make sense now. Granted, when I look online and see lots of hippie boho outfits I sort of mentally cringe, but working from Kibbe’s original wording, I’m totally on board with SN as a style ID.

            Interestingly, though, when I was looking at Classics, I could see a bit of myself in all three of the categories, yet I can’t fathom dressing as a straight Natural or Flamboyant Natural. (Also, yes, I’m aware he took away C, G, and N but I think they are still helpful to use for comparison, etc.) I’m thinking that this either goes with my personal preference/inner personality/etc. or that I’m just closer to the Classic part of the spectrum than I am to the Natural end. In light of the recent “Personality Plus” posts, perhaps I am a Dignified Soft Natural? Either way, I feel like I really have a much stronger understanding and appreciation for this system since this revelation. When you get it, everything just sort of clicks into place.

  2. Needle-wielder
    November 11, 2017 at 5:17 am

    I think this post just made me finally pack up and move to FG-land, because this is the ID I always start cycling from: “FG looks about right but maaaaybe I should still try DC? Or D? Or even SC?”. And each time I come back too “Nope, probably FG after all”. I can relate to DC celebrities to some extent, but it’s FG ones that make me go “Aha!” when I look at them all placed together in a collage.

    This is somewhat funny because this was the type I originally considered the correct one for me when I grasped the basic idea of the system. But then I started trying things on, things that I thought fit the recommendations in the book when they probably didn’t. And, worst of all, I started listening to other people telling me that I look too tall, too narrow, too this and too that for a certain ID. Combined with pinterest interpretation of FG looking downright terrifying to me, it all led me astray.

    I still feel that my appearance is a bit more calm and not as dynamic as it is expected for a FG (which is the reason I have my “maybe DC?” doubts), but I’m not sure if these, too, are not expectations put into my head by other people on the internet.

    • Shawna
      November 11, 2017 at 7:38 pm

      Needle-wielder, I relate to what you are saying about how we need to trust what we know more and pay less attention to the ideas we get from others, whether it is their interpretation of a type or their attitude towards it. I was surrounded by people who saw classic style as dull and boring and I took that to heart. I think we will all individualise our type a little and surely Kibbe intends us too. I think he would not want everyone to look the same! So your way of doing FG might not look like the way someone else does it, or the way you typically see it represented on line. 🙂

  3. Cat
    November 13, 2017 at 5:48 pm

    This makes me wonder if I should explore my first instinct with Kibbe which was Dramatic Classic.

    I don’t look like a “typical” DC but I could see a blunt Yang-Classic thing happening, and I need more drama than my small size and “nice” features seem to suggest. I’d given it up for SN but put me in a tailored dress with something asymmetrical and I snap into focus. I wonder if too much comparison to celebrities has distorted my thinking.

    • stylesyntax
      November 24, 2017 at 12:14 pm

      Yang Classic is from a system that shall not be named, not Kibbe 😉

      If asymmetry makes you pop–I wouldn’t go for DC. Maybe FG? I love a tailored dress with asymmetry myself.

  4. anastasia
    November 24, 2017 at 10:57 am

    I finally figured out that i am a dramatic classic with ethereal. I also looked at gamine classic in 20typesofbeauty as well and gamine ethereal in truthisbeauty which helped a lot. I tried to consider flamboyant gamine but it didn’t seem right and the only gamine thing about me really was having short hair. Most people who are typed as flamboyant naturals are actually dramatic classic but because some of them have natural and ethereal mixed in they get confused and dress in styles that don’t suit them like soft classic such as meryl streep, jessica chastain, and julie delpy. Same thing as well for hilary swank who is often typed as soft dramatic has alot of natural in her and jennifer love hewitt as flamboyant gamine.

    • stylesyntax
      November 24, 2017 at 12:11 pm

      Congratulations for figuring out your yin/yang balance!

      As far as 20 Types of Beauty and Truth Is Beauty go… A lot of these issues are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how Kibbe’s system works. Neither of them are tools for understanding one’s yin/yang balance. I suppose they can be used as dressing on the framework, if you enjoy them. I don’t really see how someone would see Hilary Swank as an SD myself. I don’t follow systems that use “essences.” I think a lot of times people reach for them because they don’t understand how wide open Kibbe Image IDs are for self-expression, or they have resistance and these essence systems help them to be the type that they wish they were–i.e., a way for a tall woman to somehow identify herself as TR. I think celebrities don’t dress well because they are put in what’s popular over what suits them/a unique image. But if the essences have helped you style your own version of Dramatic Classic, that’s great 🙂

  5. anastasia
    November 24, 2017 at 11:09 am

    franciska petri and michelle dockery i looked at as well. They both look similar but franciska petri is a dramatic classic while michelle dockery is a dramatic.

    • stylesyntax
      November 24, 2017 at 12:04 pm

      I have never heard of Franciska Petri, and David hasn’t mentioned her either, so I really can’t say. 🙂

      • anastasia
        November 24, 2017 at 3:47 pm

        oh sorry I spelled her name wrong it’s franziska petri. I didn’t know her either but i just typed dramatic ethereal and found her on google. She dresses mostly in dramatic dresses but she looks better in dramatic classic looks and she has ethereal in her as well. You’re right i don’t see hilary swank as a soft dramatic either she looks better in dramatic classic clothing as well. Lauren bacall was the only one in the kibbe system that i felt resonated with me. I think it’s really all about the vibe that you give off to the world. I find strictly just dramatic classic looks boring but find dramatic ethereal and a little bit of soft dramatic as fun.

      • anastasia
        November 25, 2017 at 12:07 pm

        Scratch that. I’m positive now that i’m an ethereal dramatic. Not a classic at all.

        • stylesyntax
          November 25, 2017 at 12:16 pm

          You’ve lost me 😉 As I said, I don’t follow any of the systems with essences. If you want to know your Image ID in Kibbe, I would forget about anything you’ve learned from them and concentrate on David’s work alone, and then you can add in elements of ethereal or whatever later as you work on personalizing your Image ID. Or just forget about Kibbe, but then my ability to give input/respond is limited. 😉

          • anastasia
            November 25, 2017 at 12:32 pm

            In kibbe system i’m a dramatic but i don’t feel like i’m a dramatic alone since i have an ethereal type of body. I’m pretty skinny as well. My body kind of looks like najara townsend and a bit like jennifer love hewitt.

          • stylesyntax
            November 25, 2017 at 12:53 pm

            Most secondary sources show the Kibbe Image IDs in a far too limited way and if you’re truly not a Dramatic alone, you just wouldn’t be a Dramatic, because the only other influences would be blunt yang or yin. You can certainly express yourself in a way that goes beyond what is usually shown for D, but that goes for everyone. And of course being very narrow is absolutely not a strike against Dramatic.

          • anastasia
            November 25, 2017 at 1:12 pm

            yea that’s true. I did try to look at the yin types but it didn’t feel like me so i do think the dramatic type in the kibbe system suits me well but i can’t disregard the ethereal part of me either.

          • stylesyntax
            November 25, 2017 at 1:21 pm

            It’s just entirely out of my frame of reference, so I can’t really give any more feedback on it.

          • anastasia
            November 25, 2017 at 1:25 pm

            Oh i already know what type i am i’m just putting this out there maybe this will help other people who knows.

  6. Cory
    December 1, 2017 at 7:37 pm

    I felt that I made progress when I got the book but then literally sat down and wrote down word associations with all of the base archetypes (dramatic, natural, etc.) Once I had those groups of words and ideas, I had a better sense of what “Romantic” was actually trying to capture.

    After that it was also useful for me to have a Pinterest board where I sorted something simple and easy like earrings into archetypes, just the base ones at first. Understanding that, for me, Gamine meant compact, feisty, sassy, fun, I could tell the difference between that and say Dramatic’s earrings pretty easily. For me it’s probably easier to understand these ideas first when I’m not trying to apply them to myself!

    Just a few thoughts for anyone trying to figure this stuff out. 🙂


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