Dressing for Yourself, Part Two

Back when I started this site, my belief was that we each had a combination of lines and coloring (our “syntax”), and then we could personalize our look within these boundaries (“style”). At the time, the conventional wisdom within the nascent color and style community was that your lines would be determined by your Kibbe “archetype,” and then your true coloring would be revealed through a Sci\ART draping.

But as the years have worn on, I have seen color gurus of equal respectability give completely different palettes to the same person. Even people trained in the same system can see different things in a single individual. As such, I no longer believe that there is one true answer for either aspect.

What I think matters most is how you feel. Do you love your style? Do you love the fact that you get to wake up and wear your lines and colors and express yourself?

I can say that when my color journey led me to Dark Autumn and then four-season Autumn and Spring, I didn’t feel that way. Everything was just okay. I always felt like I was holding myself back from what I actually wished I could wear.

So when I had the realization I was actually a Type Four (update since that post: I have since realized I am a 4/3), I was a little afraid. Type Four’s colors were the colors I had told myself were off-limits to me. At first, I thought I would just do it some of the time, and have a wardrobe with different outfits for different moods.

But I also realized as a Type Four, I don’t really have that in my personality. I’m more constant. It just doesn’t happen that I’d rather wear Spring or Autumn colors over bold hues, neon, and black and white. I don’t need the choice. I need to allow myself to be myself.

So if you have conflicting results in different style systems–that’s okay. You may not even be happiest in the one that is “objectively the best” on you. Go with what makes you the happiest to get dressed in the morning. For me, letting go of forcing myself to choose made it very clear which one I actually liked best. You may, in fact, like having choice, and always have a wardrobe with different “moods.” This is also fine! Let you wardrobe serve you, and don’t feel like you have to restrict yourself to some edict that comes from outside of you.

15 Comments on Dressing for Yourself, Part Two

  1. Elizabeth Stewart
    June 18, 2019 at 5:46 am

    This is so true. I love having many choices in my wardrobe, which I look at as my grown-up dressing-up box. Who do I want to be today? Not following anyone else’s advice but just wearing what I feel like each day. That is real freedom. On the other hand, my husband and kids give me a lot of positive feedback, and I value that, so I do have them in mind when I get dressed. I’m lucky enough to work from home, so I can dress up like a pre-Raphaelite princess or a thirties deb if I want to. My ex once commented, “You can’t go out looking like that – you’re not in London now!” – which is partly why he is now an ex. That said, I do want to look attractive, so some guidelines are really helpful, then it’s up to me whether I follow it. Today I’m a sixties hippie in multi-colour maxi, bright t-shirt and denim jacket. Feels just right in the sunshine!

    • stylesyntax
      June 18, 2019 at 11:57 pm

      Yes! Even if you stick to just one palette or set of recommendations, you should always be able to express any kind of mood or inspiration you want. 🙂

  2. Daga
    June 18, 2019 at 4:09 pm

    Couldn’t agree more. I had similar beliefs – now I just think that each system is an addition to my knowledge, each creates possibilities or makes me notice interesting things I might never learn on my own. Recently I took more interest in DYT as well – it shows another perspective I appreciate a lot. I ignore some things which don’t suit me… but many other I find surprisingly helpful in choosing clothes. There are things in type 1 recommendations which made me realize why I love certain patterns or fabrics and why I don’t wear some clothes I bought thinking only about right color and right cut. The clothes seem perfect but each time I choose something else over them… Now I know what else take into account to avoid such situations and I know myself better.

    • stylesyntax
      June 18, 2019 at 11:55 pm

      Yes, I think DYT can be so helpful because it really centers trusting your own instincts and how you feel in clothing.

  3. Shawna
    June 26, 2019 at 11:33 pm

    Well said. I’ve checked on your blog for a few years now and followed various blogs and groups and gurus for some time as I do find it very interesting but have also experienced a similar journey and come to similar conclusions as you have. I am the sort of person who for quite some time believed there must be a right answer or best answer and I wanted to find it. It turned out that the best answer for me was simplification and trusting myself.

  4. Kristiina
    July 3, 2019 at 7:49 am

    Hi Vanessa! Long time reader, first time commenter here – hope you don’t mind a long and rambling comment that touches on a lot of issues you have covered and some which you might not find relevant to your own journey anymore! Reading your blog, especially your dissenting opinions about various PCA and image ID systems has been very illuminating to me.

    First, thanks for your blog, it’s been very helpful for me trying to navigate the ocean of online “style experts” and their advise regarding both colours and lines, not to mention style itself – even though it seems that we have come to very different conclusions as to what systems work best for us both personally! For myself, I can’t really “get into” the DYT thing, nor find it interesting enough to even figure out my type let alone subtype. But that’s not a fault of the system itself, and it must be useful if others find it useful. Like you said, find and stick with what works for you.

    I also very much agree with what you said in an earlier post about Kibbe, “we know who we are”, both intuitively and through years of empiric knowledge. I think it also applies to our best colours. When I look at and remember my own history, I’ve always preferred and looked the best in dark-ish, cold-ish colours (blues, dark purples, some greens, black) and sleek, long lines and sort of “simole but striking” clothes. Reading the description of Kibbe’s Dramatic and looking at (sci/art) Dark Winter palette make absolute sense to me, help remind me of “me”. You have used Edie Sedgwick as an icon you can relate to: My pick from the Warhol Factory would be Nico in a trouser suit (also because the blond hair really suited her only in b/w photography). Another revelation to me was “finding my Hepburn” in my twenties: While everyone of course adores Audrey, I can relate to Katharine.

    However, I lose this intuitive truth really easily when I dive too deep into the “personal style and color community” and its plethora of self-proclaimed experts. All the surplus info and modern day interpretations make me question what I know about me. Answering the Kibbe questionnaire I give a lot of “average” and “broad, blunt” answers, and get either FN or DC and can talk myself into believing them, even though I KNOW I drown in FN oversize clothes or look strangled and diminished in dramatic classic lines. Looking at endless pictures of current movie stars on the red carpet only adds to the confusion and makes me believe I don’t fit into any image ID.

    The same applies to “my colours”. In the Dark Winter palette I recognize the colours I’ve always felt the happiest in. Yet I’m quite fair-skinned (especially compared to my family, who all develop deep tans for northern Europeans), was a cool blond until started dying my hair at 13 (and wore even blackish brown surprisingly convincingly), and I have blue-green eyes, and every “celebrity Dark Winter” is a Salma Hayek, a Kardashian or women of color. So even though this palette represents the colours I KNOW I can wear without make-up and not look like death even in the middle of winter with my skin at its palest, I have many times talked myself out of this category. I’ve done a lot of hair-modelling and hairdressers love to emphasize the red in my hair (it’s a cool, deep auburn that only appeared in my 30s after I’d cut all the dyed hair into a crewcut and let it grow naturally), and some makeup artists go wild with the apparent “warmth” and “brilliance”. Looking at myself in that hair and makeup, I can convince myself I’m actually a Bright Spring. Or, I stare at a selfie taken in a light grey sweater with natural hair, detect ashiness and softness and force myself into Soft Summer (that makes me sad and look like a big blob that’s simultaneously awkward and disappearing). Or I look at the overall coldness of my skin and trust I’m a True Summer, even though I KNOW pastels look horrible on me. All of this happened to me in the early 2010’s when I first got into PCA and obsessed over Christine Scaman’s posts at 12blueprints.com. It’s ironic that just previously I had managed to hone my then early 30’s style and was happy in my mostly dark, sleek layers (midnight blue and black being a favourite), luxurious fabrics, dramatic (!) hats and coats and overall sleek lines. I knew to emphasize my length and “have my shoulders in place”, not cut my vertical line at waist, and that darkness (with a bit of white) was my only friend, but I’m very good at NOT believing my instincts and visual evidence when going through a crisis (mostly mental and professional, unfortunately not the first nor the last in my life.) All the “information” about “Winter personality” and the “necessary make-up” made me doubt and reject who I really am.

    Recently, I once again became more interested in re-defining my style, or getting back to my style. I have always loved “high fashion”, used to design my own clothes (that my mum sewed), hunt my favourite designers on Ebay and discount stores online (and KNOW which designers work for my body and aesthetic, like Ann Demeulemeester), while I’ve never had the budget to just buy anything that suits me. I freelance at a creative, intellectual field so there are no restrictions in what I can wear to work in the traditional sense. On the other hand, I have this tendency to forget “myself” when not feeling my happiest, so off I go into the soft, oversize land which in turn increases my unhappiness…

    I did have two special requirements in mind when I set out on this PCA/ID journey this time: I need to figure out a strong but comfortable way of dressing for public appearances – I often interview people on stage or host event, I can’t be a disappearing soft bubble of grey there. Again, this is wear Kibbe Dramatic lines seem to work to my advantage. Maybe I am using them just to confirm my onw believes, and an “expert”, even mr. Kibbe himself, might see me differently, but if I’ve found what works for me, who cares.

    Secondly, I’ve never really worn red or any kind of pink clothing (maybe I can blame my mother here – she always dressed me in blues and greens that I really love and feel comfortable in, and she’s always intuitively worn her own warm Autumn palette where there’s no place for pastels and in my mind true red is HER colour! Also, I have a lot of “red” in my face, and most reds I’ve tried just deepen the natural blush), even though I enjoy all kinds of blue-red and deep pink lipsticks. So maybe there’s a system that “allows” me to have a red. (Again, that seems to be the Dark Winter palette with it’s burgundies.)

    Just to add one more thing into this over-long essay: A lot of supposed ID and colour advise online gets confused about the basics (line, colour) and application (style). The so-called experts bring their own cultural background and hang-ups into the supposedly objective analysis and advise, and a lot of pop-psychology and pop-evolutionary biology goes into the mix: For example, on one site the author uses masculin/feminin instead of yang/yin, and sees only (Kibbe’s yin) types as “sexy”, and sees representatives of her own (“boring” Natural) type much more negatively than the other IDs. Now, I live in a country with a lot of tall, angular women (which is why it’s easy to see my long-limbed, sharply shouldered 5ft8 frame as “average” in the Kibbe test), and would consider a (flamboyant) Natural woman with her wide smile and long mane of hair as supremely “sexy” and beautiful. Also the mainstream fashion here prefers straight, long lines (Scandinavian Minimalism!), so a “masculin” woman is not something scary or horrible or “manly”. I think many of these experts also fail to separate “line” from “style”, They look at a woman (usually a Euro princess) who prefers classical clothes (because that’s what their job describes) and proclaim the woman a Classic. Then to accommodate to the fact that the princess in question clearly isn’t a Kibbe classic, they invent a bunch of secondary etc. “essences”.

    On the other hand, on these sites Dramatic women are represented only by the modern extremes, and who isn’t “average” compared to a Grace Jones? Even Katharine Hepburn! I know one shouldn’t compare oneself to today’s celebs, but sometimes it’s hard to stay convinced of one’s own inner truth when bombarded by the modern iconography. I think all this makes us just more confused and leads to inventing more typology – which again leaves us more confused. (But must be good for these stylists’ business.) At least for an obsessive person like myself, it’s no good trying to figure out your style based on the thickness of your wrist instead of taking a step back and looking at yourself as a whole – with LOVING eyes, like David Kibbe would.

    That said, I think the “Kibbe plus added types” and “archetype” systems can be fun and useful when it comes to styling purposes. I have a lot of fun with reading up and looking at what other people imagine Zyla archetypes might look like and prefer. The Russian Color Harmony livejournal site and their Pinterest did a good job introducing his types and their “sense” of style. I also like how they break down Kibbe ID’s, and introduce how each ID would wear a different “style”. Like how a Soft Natural would interpret a classic style. Also the Polish stylist Olga Brylinska on her Get the Look site introduces varous “ethereals” into the mix. For me, these are useful in bringing the recommended textures, feels and fabrics into the colours and lines to help create/reaffirm my own style, but not something “essential” to a person. Bone structure is pretty essential, a preference for suede over lacquered leather less so. (I like both.)

    This time, I also try to disregard most of the styling advise from PCA analysts like Christine Scaman. A lot of the advise for winter women (and Dramatic women!) seems to be aimed at those who are a bit scared about their “dark” or “imposing” appearance. I think I’ve always preferred “dark” or “imposing” women, but have had trouble seeing myself as someone strong enough. I don’t think that as a Dark Winter, I need to put on a ton of make-up to carry my colours. I can and love to wear a dark or a striking lip if I choose (especially for the stage perfomances), but I don’t need to paint every feature of my face every day. After colouring my hair for 25 years, I love letting it be natural and change its colour from season to season, even if the summer sun makes it “wrong” for my seasonal guidelines. Maybe this is my cultural hang-up: I live in a European city, not on a movie premiere red carpet, and here the mega trend in recent years has been towards your own “natural” colours and less makeup, the cliched “Parisian woman” advise of either focusing on your lips or eyes (and I bet a lot of them are Dark seasons!). The right colours on my clothes already strengthen my features enough.

    Well then. Thanks again, and sorry for this long diatribe! I hope you can regard it as a proof of how inspiring you have been for me sharing your own journey in colour and style! All the best to you.

    • stylesyntax
      July 8, 2019 at 5:41 pm

      First, the quiz from the book is not meant to be the end of your journey. It’s just to give you a place to start. If you feel Dramatic, I’d go with that. It’s not like you’re thinking you’re TR at 5’8″! So don’t worry about it. He basically tells people not to do it anymore. I run the Strictly Kibbe group on Facebook, where David participates, and I absolutely would not go anywhere else for information on his system on the Internet. Everyone gets it wrong and turns it into style boxes. The Polish site is very inaccurate when it comes to Kibbe, and Color Harmony, too, imposes too much of a limited view of the Image IDs. Pinterest should be avoided at all costs.

      I think a lot of people definitely bring their own hangups into their systems. And sometimes, people who do PCA should really just stick to that and not try to branch into style. You often see people who are color analysts who then branch into styling services, but before they started practicing color analysis, they had no real inherent understanding of style, or even interest in it.

      • Kristiina
        July 9, 2019 at 7:20 am

        I agree with everything you say! Just recently joined the Strictly Kibbe group(s), I love the way David talks there, and the exercises are fun. For me, it’s great “affirmation” process and a refresher in what I think works for me and what makes me happy.

        The sites I mentioned are more useful fo me for “colour” than “lines”. I think I have a relatively good sense by now what (my) image ID means, and I’m very stubborn/confident about “styling myself”, actually, so I take the online Kibbe “interpretations” with a huge pinch of salt. But I’m not that good with exploring colours by myself. It’s easy to stick with black when it works, you know. So those sites give me ideas for colour combinations for myself and my home. It’s more of a sensual pleasure for me than seeking advise or following rules, I think.

        Thanks for taking the time to reply and for everything you do to help people “come to Kibbe” online! 🙂

        • stylesyntax
          July 9, 2019 at 11:42 pm


  5. Trisha
    July 8, 2019 at 3:12 am

    I am a sucker for this type of style and colour analysis and have tried almost every system over the years – probably as I was uncomfortable in my own appearance when young, being quite tall and gawky. The best I have found for colour is Lora Alexander, who told me I was a Smokey Soft Autumn and I do fit those colours best.The fashion style profiling was best done by Rachel at Beauty is Truth as a Romantic/Dramatic/Natural type, done by face profiling as well as body. I have a softened face, which has strong lines underneath and height. I came out as a 2/3 or even a 3/2 in DYT, which is probably right, as I am a blend of very feminine to look at and in nature, but tall and natural to a degree, preferring flats to heels, if that makes sense. I am very slightly warm toned in skin, but softened, muted colours suit me best, so the DYT 2 is a better palette is I add some of the warmth from DYT 3 in accessories. Does that all make sense? In other words, I think I have taken the best and most appropriate from a few systems and make it work for me.

    • stylesyntax
      July 8, 2019 at 5:13 pm

      I don’t follow those systems, but that is great if they work for you!

      As far as DYT goes: if you’re truly interested in Energy Profiling and DYT, I would refer you to this post of mine: Why Each System Must Be Considered in Isolation. In DYT, height and body type are not factors. Pretty much all of the DYT experts employed by Carol, in every type, are tall enough to be yang-dominant in Kibbe! I believe the tallest woman she has as an expert is a T2. In addition, your secondary doesn’t affect your palette. It may affect your preferences within your own palette (a secondary 1 liking lighter colors, etc.), but you would never add warmth in jewelry from a secondary 3. I would take it on its own merits and learn about it, and then see if it fits with what you do, or if you just prefer what you’re working with now.

  6. Elizabeth Stewaret
    July 9, 2019 at 6:01 am

    As always, your blog posts are really informative and helpful – thank you. I would just add that I’ve tried to join the Strictly Kibbe Facebook group, but the link never works for me. Maybe it’s my computer? Or my ineptitude with technology? I have nothing but admiration for Kibbe and his book, but I haven’t stayed current with his ideas and wish I could. As far as typing myself in his system I am pretty sure I am a Romantic, since my body is all curves and has no straight lines anywhere -I look a lot like Norma Jeane before she was Marilyn! I’m happy with that as it also reflects my inner nature, which is very yin and stereotypically “feminine”, i.e based on emotion and intuition. I also feel best when I dress as a Romantic. TR did not suit my nature at all. It felt much too OTT. But being Romantic in whatever style I choose makes me feel at home in my choices, if that makes sense.

    • stylesyntax
      July 9, 2019 at 11:41 pm

      I handle member requests, so if you can’t get it to work, send me a PM on Facebook like it says in the question instructions and I will send you the full link. 🙂

      • Elizabeth Stewart
        July 10, 2019 at 5:38 am

        I managed to fill in the form and to commit to total privacy and to only allowing David Kibbe’s system to be discussed, which I am more than happy to do, because he is the expert, after all, and I want to learn from him. I hope this will be OK. I love your blog and Kibbe’s book is really the best I know on style typology.

        • stylesyntax
          July 11, 2019 at 7:09 pm

          I sent you an email about your request to the email you put on the form 🙂


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