Is Kibbe’s Book Relevant Today?

Some people seem to view the book as completely separate from “new” Kibbe, as if what he does on Facebook is totally removed from what he wrote in 1987. What he does on Facebook and on his website is painted as something totally different from what he said before. David has continued to work and develop his theory since the book came out, so naturally some things have indeed changed:

The Clothing Checklist.

Part of this impression stems from the fact that only selected portions of the book have made it to the internet, primarily the quiz and the descriptions of the Image IDs and their recommendations. This not only makes it seem like the system is a set of stereotypes you fit into, but, since nearly 35 years have passed since the book’s publication and clothing construction has changed radically, we are not limited to exact styles described in the book. In fact, due to these changes in clothing construction, trying to replicate the effects in modern styles might actually not even work. I think this is especially true for anyone who has to accommodate width or curve. “Flow” or “drape” in a non-stretchy material is very different from a stretchy cotton jersey, for instance. Clothing construction now means that clothing also tends to take shape of the body it is on, instead of the other way around. So one garment may suit several IDs, but they would all style it differently.

Classic, Gamine, and Natural are no longer given as an Image Identity on their own.

Everyone now is either the Soft or Flamboyant/Dramatic versions of these IDs. This also has the effect of broadening the descriptions of these IDs, since people who may have been one of these base IDs are now in the Soft or Flamboyant/Dramatic category. There are going to be SGs and FGs, for instance, who are going to be closer to the 50/50 split than before, but still, one of the two will win out. (This is not something that Kibbe has said, but rather my assumption based on the fact that these IDs once existed, and now do not.)

Makeup!

I don’t think any of us would want to wear 80s makeup, and David doesn’t want that for us either. David now prescribes the same watercolor technique for everyone, and you work with your bone structure. Glossy lips are also favored for all. So please, do not listen to YouTube videos that try to follow the heavy 80s makeup recommended!

Height.

The upper limits still pretty much hold true, but there is no lower limit for height in an Image ID, and SG and FN are no longer portrayed as the only ones that are “very petite” and “very tall,” respectively.

What Hasn’t Changed

As I said in the beginning, sometimes people act is the book is just completely outdated, and what David teaches you in Strictly Kibbe is completely different. But when I go back to the book and read it, I see the same David on the page as the one I encounter in Strictly Kibbe.

The Process.

What unfortunately didn’t make it online–and what I really wish had!–is all of the content besides the quiz and the descriptions. In the book, David lays out how his system is different and the idea at the heart of it (creating your unique “Total Look” by integrating your finite outer appearance with your infinite inner self). He then introduces you to yin and yang as used in the system, and how you can rectify these two different selves, if there is a conflict. There are 25 pages of text before you even get to the quiz, and then there is a fantasy quiz, for you to understand your inner self better. Like today, you are thinking about yourself and your dreams, and you understand yin and yang, before you ever get to the quiz. The lack of this foundation in yin and yang is why people have such trouble with the quiz. I remember the first time I took it I scored myself as extremely yin, because I didn’t really understand that measurement and shape weren’t the same thing.

The Fundamental Yin/Yang Balances and Image ID Descriptions.

This is the portion before the checklist, where he describes each Image ID. This is really where I find the “meat” of the information about the Image IDs. They make it clear to me why David got rid of the “middle” types, because I think these work even when you don’t have those. For instance, for FG, the description of the yin/yang balance says: “Physically, you are Yang in shape (angular), Yin in size (height). Both sides are important, but Yang is dominant.” This makes complete sense to me as an FG. SG is “slightly angular” in bone structure and “Yin in shape (curvy flesh, rounded features).”

He describes the overall silhouette like this:

Your overall silhouette is composed of Yang shapes: very angular and geometric, straight lines with sharp edges. Your important Yin secondary characteristics are expressed by working with broken and staccato lines and detail.

This alone captures how I approach dressing for my yin/yang balance. Armed with this, I really don’t need all those “recs.” I work with these angular-but-short straight lines and add detail.

Color.

David’s color system seems to be largely ignored, but I definitely feel like he regards color as equally important to line. He teaches it basically exactly as described in the book, and works with the same seasons and, while the makeup application techniques have changed, the same colors still work.

If you have the book, I would definitely pull it out and read it and see whether you can see Contemporary Kibbe in its pages. I know it’s now hundreds of dollars on Amazon, but it really is a wonderful book with a lot of insight. He says he will write another, so let’s cross our fingers!

These are just the things that came to me when looking through the book, so if you have any other questions about the book vs. what David says today, please leave them in the comments.

14 Comments on Is Kibbe’s Book Relevant Today?

  1. Elizabeth Stewart
    April 14, 2020 at 5:33 am

    I think the book, the website and the FB group, which David Kibbe has enriched with very helpful comments and a set of exercises, all complement one another very well. I have owned the book for some time and was really torn between two Image IDs. It was only after working through the exercises that the proverbial penny dropped, and I saw that my first instinctive response was actually correct. Yes, the clothes and makeup in the book look very outdated now, and it would be wonderful if he came out with a new book containing contemporary versions and suggestions for each. And yes, the yin and yang concepts are harder to grasp without the book. But if people don’t have the book they can still find their ID by working through the exercises, which are quite transformative in their effect. Great post!

    Reply
  2. Kristiina
    April 19, 2020 at 4:34 am

    I recently joined the FB Kibbe groups and am going through the various exercises, often going back to them after reading more, and am getting real AHA-moments. It’s a fascinating new way of seeing things, and I appreciate his work and the guidance you and others moderating the boards give us! I have an analytical way of approaching things, which serves me well in my job and studies, but I truly enjoy at least trying to drop the “analysis” and approach things differently. As I’ve probably discussed here before, for me seeing myself in “lines” was both a liberating and afforming thing, something that seems intuitive to me.

    However, colour in Kibbe, which I’m now knee deep in, does awakened my resistance! Or rather, our group’s collective haste to determine “what am I” once and for all is distracting from what I think David is trying to help us see. Again, people seem to want to find a box. For me, seeing other people’s posts is just distracting from my iwn “quest”, especially since I seem to have the translucent quality of skin and hair adapting to surroundings, so I know I can’t judge by photos. Also, being in probably too many PSA communities on fb, it always seems to be the same 5 people in each looking for affirmatuom that yes indeed, they are very pretty….

    Anyway, sorry about the rant, I actually have a question regarding the book’s colour advice: Does David go deeper into terms like “vivid” or “gentle” regarding different seasons in it? Are there examples of how eg. different sorts of springs might wear their palette? I do have a strong suspicion where I might end up in Kibbe seasons, bmostly because it’s easier for me to see what I do not have (high contrast, depth) than put what I seem to have in constructive words… in short, I can’t decide between warmth and coolness!

    I definitely can relate to what you wrote in the previous post about season resistance. As a blonde child, I was dressed in more “springy”, bright colours than pastels, and looking at my childhood photos, yellows and reds make sense. For my seasonal understanding, the “neutral” seasons in sci/art have been very useful, and I would use either bright spring or bright winter there. But as far as I understand, all the Kibbe palettes are more “vivid” than what we usually see in PSA, even summer.

    Oh well. Thanks again for these enlightening posts, and take care! (My preferred form of escapism in this time of pandemic is definitely retreating into the world of personal colour. Thank goodness we have plenty of natural light where I live, so experimenting with colour is possible.)

    Reply
    • stylesyntax
      April 20, 2020 at 2:32 pm

      He does in the group. “Vivid,” “Gentle,” etc. refer to your own coloring/contrast, and each season has light/medium/deep levels. Same palette, but I’m guessing you’d just keep your contrast and coloring in mind when putting together colors, i.e., you’d have your own limits for what contrast you do. A Soft Winter probably isn’t going to do stark black and white contrast.

      I think David is trying to help people “see,” just like he did with Image ID, but it’s as hard to get people to see their coloring clearly as it is to see their physical body. We are much less far along in the process with color, so few people have gotten there. Susan F. has done a wonderful job compiling all the information David has shared into Units, so I’d focus on that if the group itself is annoying right now!

      Reply
      • Kristiina
        April 21, 2020 at 3:04 am

        Thank you for taking the time to explain! I didn’t see that info in the units/files on SK, but then again, I do tend to get lost there… It really is like small pieces clicking into place, I had somehow missed the word “clarity” and now things make more sense to me! (Also, I find somethings going lost in translation, English is a more nuanced language for the subleties of colour than mine.)

        And you’re quite right, we are all in the beginning stages in that colour journey. I’m as impatient as anyone really to jump ahead and get some sweet conclusions, so can’t really fault anyone for trying. I do think they’ve managed to steer us on the right path recently. And going through all the phantasia boards again was helpful as well, I got rid of some of the cliches stuck in my head!

        Reply
        • Elizabeth Stewart
          April 21, 2020 at 5:26 am

          I do think the colour question is the most difficult. I would love to see David Kibbe in person. As I can’t, I have looked at a number of different systems and seen several colour analysts who confused me even more with different results.Today, I think the Ferial method of 16 colour types is quite good. It allows for a Spring to be somewhat softened, but still light and warm compared to Autumn, and this helped me a lot. Maybe you would find your category there? There are other analysts online and some use a very complicated way of classification, which I don’t like. Also, if they want to analyse you online you are probably not going to get an accurate result as computer screens vary so much. That said, I’ve self-analysed for the “final cut”, and have seen for myself how colours react against my skin and eyes, which is probably the best way to go if you can’t see David Kibbe in New York! It takes time, but we in England are under lockdown, and if you are too then you might be willing to give it a go!

          Reply
          • Kristiina
            April 21, 2020 at 7:53 am

            Elizabeth, Thank you, I’m pretty sure of my season in other systems, i want to approach Kibbe by forgetting those as long as I’m in the Kibbe sphere! Like, I might well be a “bright winter” in sci art and end up something completely different in Kibbe. Neither of them makes the other “wrong”, they are different ways of seeing and coming to conclusions, if any.

          • stylesyntax
            April 21, 2020 at 11:32 pm

            Exactly 🙂

  3. Silverroxen
    April 20, 2020 at 6:07 pm

    Aww I wish the book was more accessible. I would love all of “The Process” matieral, as I’ve been trying to match my inner self with my outer self for a while. I think that’s where I’m headed in the exercises now.

    I was happy when I came across a portion of the “Resistance” chapter. It was too good to be true though since the section for Gamines was excluded. I’ve seen it now though, thanks to SK. 🙂

    Reply
    • stylesyntax
      April 20, 2020 at 7:36 pm

      I think the groups and the exercises will be enough to get you there. The book really just walks you through the same process but without the direct feedback from David. 🙂

      Reply
  4. rainyday
    April 29, 2020 at 3:36 pm

    I’m a big fan of the book. Oh boy, do so many things make more sense when you have the whole picture. Understanding his approach to yin and yang is HUGE. It’s also a big cheerleading dance routine for women and is really therapeutic.

    I think the book is still in line with how he styles women today. Unfortunately, I also think that the parts of the book that made it onto the internet are really only HALF of his method–the other half is how we FEEL about ourselves, who we want to be, etc. It’s like using a ruler to fully describe the Mona Lisa or the Sphinx. Tangible words are needed but only go so far. I was pleasantly surprised about the focus on our inner essences before getting to the IDs. I think women would be far better served thinking first about who they are and then diving into the IDs.

    I think it’s also relevant today. I remember the 80s, and maybe I have sewing experience, but I can read his recommendations on line, fabric, etc. and translate them into modern contexts and understand why each ID had those recs. But I get it–the 80s could also be pretty nightmarish. But there was also a simplicity to fashion up until the mid 90s that we’ve lost today. It was certainly slower and more deliberate. Because he focuses on classic film stars, it also has a timelessness to it that I really appreciate.

    I really hope he is able to write another one!

    Reply
    • stylesyntax
      April 30, 2020 at 8:07 pm

      Well, the problem with the lists in the book are two fold: 1) fabric has changed and 2) they are not what you’re limited to. So if you’re making your own clothes and you’re using specific fabrics, they can make sense. But with changes in technology, what can work for people has greatly expanded.

      Reply
    • stylesyntax
      May 18, 2020 at 3:06 pm

      I find the basic explanations to still work, although I think for Image IDs with width or curve, the changes are more drastic. You no longer need to accommodate with drape, because stretch will work around your width or curves. But it can be turned into a checklist, which isn’t the intention. It’s just a taste of what you can wear.

      Reply
      • Elizabeth Stewart
        May 19, 2020 at 4:53 am

        Yes, the stretchier fabrics now available are very useful to accommodate curves – but not for those of us who are Romantics who’ve added a few pounds around the middle! I like to think of it as “baby weight”, but my kids are in college now and the curves still won’t budge, although I’m not overweight. So the older advice about draping and ruching is still great. I use the book as a go-to reference whenever I’m shopping, including online. After confirming my type with the Kibbe U exercises, it’s become even more useful.

        Reply
        • stylesyntax
          May 20, 2020 at 10:28 pm

          Floaty, lightweight fabrics are definitely still an option!

          Reply

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