Archive of ‘Historical’ category

Belle Northrup, “Art and Fashion in Clothing Selection”: Part Three

This post concludes my series on Belle Northrup’s article. The other two posts can be found here. One thing I would like to mention is that I have included all of the information and examples in Northrup’s article in these posts. There are no examples left out.

This post will deal with what is probably most interesting to all of you: yin and yang in women. Before we begin, however, I need to make an important point. For some reason, there is the misconception in the color and style community that Belle Northrup created the types that we are familiar with (Classic, Natural, Gamine, etc.) and McJimsey simply wrote them down. The only reference I have found for Northrup and something vaguely resembling these types is found here–see “Athletic Girl in Subdued Colors.”

With that out of the way, let’s move on to what Northrup did talk about. Northrup’s reason for talking about yin and yang in nature, architecture, art, and music is “to set up a clear and meaningful personality scale so that we may learn more easily to appraise ourselves and others.” We are to set up a personality scale with yin gentleness at one end, and yang strength on the other.

The women she uses for her examples of yin are Janet Gaynor, Joan Bennett, Lillian Gish, Mary Pickford, Helen Chandler, and Anne Morrow Lindbergh.


(Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

The women she uses for her examples of yang are Greta Garbo, Alla Nazimova, Katharine Cornell, Helen Wills Moody, Kay Francis, and Jane Addams.


(Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

From the theater, we have the characters of Electra, Cleopatra, and Lady Macbeth (no mention of whether they are yin or yang; I am going to guess that Electra is yin and Cleopatra and Lady Macbeth are yang, but I welcome other ideas in the comments); yin Mignon and Mimi; and Yang Aida and Brunhilde.

Northrup says we can also associate yin and yang women with flowers, trees, or buildings. Some yin women are birch trees, trim and delicate. Some yin children are gentle and flowerlike, and thus reminiscent of sweet peas or Queen Anne’s lace. In contrast, there are yang girls and women who remind us of the pine and the oak, and calla lilies rather than lily of the valley. They are the march and not the minuet; they are the cathedral and not the cottage.

Janet Gaynor and Greta Garbo are the two Northrup uses to epitomize the opposition of extreme yin and extreme yang. Some individuals on the list earlier may be less yin or yang, but extremes nonetheless. She says that this suggests that we can use this scale as a gauge, from Gaynor to Garbo.

Yin qualities are gentleness, delicacy, demureness, lightness, grace, piquancy, naiveté, and youth. Yang qualities are strength, force, dignity, power, serenity, vigor, sophistication, and maturity.

YIN
Physique: short, slight, graceful
Coloring: fair, light hair
Head: delicately poised
Features: small, rounded
Facial Expression: gentle, winsome
Voice: soft, light, mild
Walk: tripping, easy

YANG
Physique: tall, strong, erect
Coloring: dark hair, eyes
Head: well set on steady shoulders
Facial Expression: direct, forceful
Voice: deep, clear
Walk: strong, firm

Northrup adds that both yin and yang traits will always be seen as positives for these purposes. Yin is not weakness, frailty, and subjection, but instead gentleness, mildness, and delicacy. Yang is not aggressiveness, crudeness, or overbearing mannishness, but instead strength, poise, and dignity.

Extremely yang people are tall, dark, and strongly built. Their voices are deep, their features are forceful and well molded but not small, and their eyes are direct. Extremely yin people are short, light, and fair, with small features and soft voices. There is an ease and a lightness in their body movements.


(Source)

By establishing these opposites of what Northrup calls “personality-expression,” we can set up a scale to be used to interpret and understand not only extremes like Garbo and Gaynor, but the larger majority of people who fall somewhere along this scale.

Like in art and music, each woman has an intermingling of yin and yang. The subtlety of this intermingling makes each woman a “fascinating, individual study.” Northrup does not want to make women into yin/yang “types,” but “to see clearly their possibilities and limitations of personality-appearance with a view to dressing them accordingly.”

To understand the yin/yang balance of an individual, we should observe the person as a whole. We learn that ”

…each of her individual traits depends upon the others and forms the sum total of her personality. We will not then rate this person as a “type” because she has blonde hair or is tall and willowy–partial and inadequate judgements–but we will form a picture of her in her completeness. No one part will be overemphasized, and a fairer, broader basis for dress selection will be established.

Northrup says that during this process, you will often find hidden, attractive qualities in both personality and appearance in a person that you will want to emphasize. Using yin and yang, we can get an insight into someone’s “essential and interesting” personality. Once we have learned to appraise and “see” an individual or ourselves, the answers to problems of dress become clear.

Once you know what you are aiming for, what you want to express in a person’s appearance, selecting or designing clothes becomes even more interesting and significant.

That is how she ends the paper, and unfortunately, it seems to be where our access to her theory and methods ends as well. This paper was supposed to be a chapter of a longer book, which I assume would have gone into depth about both how to evaluate a person’s personality-appearance, and how to design for it. From what I can find, this book never materialized. This article has Northrup telling us what 1939 fashions would be suitable for yin and yang types.

I hope that you have found these interesting and helpful. If you have any information or sources that I haven’t covered here, please let me know.

Belle Northrup, “Art and Personality in Clothing Selection”: Part Two

Today, I will finally continue my series documenting the information in Belle Northrup’s 1936 article, “Art and Personality in Clothing Selection.”

Last post, I talked about how she saw yin and yang generally, and the examples she gave of yin and yang in nature. This time, I will share her examples of yin and yang in architecture, art, period dress, and music.

Pagodas, the “cusped arches of Moorish doorways,” the decorative walls and balustrades of the Alhambra, and the Taj Mahal’s marble carvings and delicate mosaics are all yin. So are “prim little green-shuttered cottages of New England.”


(Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

Early Doric temples, the “massive columns of the Great Hall at Karnak in Egypt,” the masonry arches of Romanesque or Norman buildings, and the “white-pillared Georgian mansions of the [US] South” are all yang. Grain elevators of the prairies and modern industrial buildings lacking ornamentation are also yang.


(Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

Gothic cathedrals combine both yin and yang. Their “towering structure and vaulted heights” represent their yang, and their “slender pinnacles and lacelike carving” are yin.

4496664562_6eba9112e6_z
(Source)

In art, Botticelli’s fragile figures, da Vinci’s subtle and tender faces, and Marie Laurencin’s pale, child-like women are all yin. The use of color gives a general impression of gentleness and delicacy.


(Sources: 1, 2, 3)

Tintoretto, Rubens, Hals, and many modern artists use pigment in a very yang way.


(Sources: 1, 2, 3)

Painting in the Sung period blended yin with yang.

220px-Chinesischer_Maler_des_11._Jahrhunderts_(III)_001
(Source)

In early Greek sculpture, we see them in contrast to one another. An Ancient Greek dancer in bas relief is yin. “Juno, Hera of Samoa” is yang. Stone as a medium is essentially yang.


(Sources: 1, 2)

Egyptian queens and medieval women wore yang costumes, regal and dignified. The portals of Chartres have carved kings and queens of Judah in austere yang forms. Smaller carvings, such as this 14th-century “Virgin,” show this dignified costume in a yin way. The statue of Nefertiti is dressed in a yang way.


(Sources: 1, 2, 3)

IMG_2025 (1)

Medieval women’s soft veils were yin in color texture, and so were Renaissance women’s hairstyles and the embroidered necklines of the late Renaissance. Yin began to predominate in the 19th century. Fichus, lace, ribbons, ruffled sleeves, bonnets, and “the short, full skirts of Marie Antoinette’s time gave to women more piquancy and delicacy than was possible in the days of Charlemagne.”


(Sources: 1, 2, 3)

Puritan dress was yang. Loyalists dressed in a yin way akin to the fashions in England and France.


(Sources: 1, 2)

In music, Debussy’s delicate strangeness is yin (listen) and the mighty sweep of a Beethoven movement is yang (listen). Chopin, Grieg, and MacDowell are yin, and Bach, Brahms, and Wagner are yang.

Graceful yachts are yin. Sturdy tugboats are yang. The Sheraton settee is yin, while the low-slung sofas of Northrup’s period are yang.


(Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4)

Next, I will cover yin and yang in women, featuring 1930s celebrity examples.

Belle Northrup, “Art and Personality in Clothing Selection”: Part One

I recently got Art Education Today, published by the Teachers College at Columbia University in 1936. The reason for this purchase was, of course, the Belle Northrup article contained in this journal, “Art and Personality in Clothing Selection.”

This is the only relevant publication, besides the book I reviewed, that I have found that was written by Northrup herself. (I also found an article on teaching sewing and costume design in high schools, but I will not be reviewing or summarizing that for obvious reasons.) It says that it is a chapter of a longer book that she was working on, but unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any evidence that this book was ever published. It seems that this article is the only work we have by her that describes her approach to yin and yang.

In this article, Northrup introduces the ideas that are key to our current understanding of style identity and harmony. She begins with a fundamental question: “Who shall wear what?” She says that dress and personality bring together the costume (outfit) and the person wearing it. Emotional and physical traits are sensed as a whole. All aspects of personality and all aspects of appearance must be taken into account. We must consider what the clothes do to the individual wearing them.

Understanding the answers to these questions requires new terms to explain the complex meanings that we have only been able to “feel” previously. Northrup used “yin” and “yang” because she saw no terms in English that described this fundamental opposition, found in everything around us, as succinctly as “yin” and “yang” do. In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang set up a scale of universal opposites. Yin came to mean quiescence, absorption, and gentleness, and yang strength, penetration, and vigor.

Northrup gives many examples from nature, the animal kingdom, art, architecture, and music to illustrate her point.

YIN is tenderness: darkness and the moon, the yielding nature of water, the softness of moss, and the exquisiteness of frost traces in winter.


(Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

YANG is force: the sun and the light of heaven, the weightiness of granite, the rigidity of metal, and the potency of flame.


(Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4)

We can see this opposition in everything around us.

A silver birch tree, a graceful willow tree, lilies of the valley, and field daisies are yin plants.


(Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4)

A gnarled oak, a towering pine, calla lilies, and sunflowers are yang.


(Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4)

Yin animals include deer, race horse, fox terriers, pekingeses, and panthers.


(Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

Yang animals include elephants, oxen, great danes, shepherd dogs, and lions.


(Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

In my next post, I will cover yin and yang in architecture, music, and art.

Book Review: The Story of Costume Told in Pictures, Belle Northrup

Quick note: I am going to be computer-less until the last week of January, so I am going to be blogging from my phone. Please excuse image quality, etc.

I bought this book from Amazon without any clue as to what it actually was. It wasn’t expensive, and I want to start collecting historical books related to style and color. The only original source by Northrup I’ve been able to get my hands on is a newspaper article, so I jumped at this one.

Unfortunately, it only has a short foreword, and the rest is just pictures of the way people dressed in different time periods. So it won’t bring any new details about Northrup’s method to life, and is more of a historical artifact.

IMG_1510.JPG

IMG_1511.JPG

Soft Gamine vs. Ingenue

One of the notable things about Kibbe’s system is that it lacks the Ingenue category. If you look at the quiz, A answers are Dramatic, B are Natural, C is Classic, E is Romantic, and mixed A and E is Gamine. But he does not mention Ingenue, nor what the D category means, at all. The D answers correlate to the Ingenue answers for systems that do have this category. As someone for whom D answers predominate on the Kibbe test, this is something I have thought about a lot. I have seen D-dominate people be categorized as Soft Dramatic, Soft Natural, Soft Classic, Soft Gamine, and Theatrical Romantic. I am still more or less trying to decide between those five.

What to do with your D, however, is a topic for another day, one I’ll cover when I feel like I’ve figured myself out. What I want to discuss today is how Soft Gamine often gets conflated with Ingenue, and how they are, in fact, not the same, and shouldn’t be used synonymously. Kibbe himself has apparently said that no adult woman should dress as an Ingenue. Many of the modern interpretations of Soft Gamine that you’ll find on Pinterest and Polyvore, however, retain the sort of cuteness and innocence that you’ll find in Ingenue, and many people do, in fact, name their boards or sets “Soft Gamine/Ingenue.”

I think it’s important here to clarify the major difference between Soft Gamine and Ingenue, and that is the amount of yin. In McJimsey’s interpretation, the Ingenue is the polar opposite of Dramatic. In Kibbe, I would say that the polar opposite of Soft Gamine would actually be Dramatic Classic, since it has the opposite ratio of yin/yang and is blended (see my chart here to see what I mean). In Kibbe, Romantic takes the place of being the opposite of Dramatic, so I suppose that if Ingenue were even on the scale, it’d be off-the-charts yin.

Kibbe’s system also does not change with age. In McJimsey, and Carole Jackson’s Color Me Beautiful, a Gamine or an Ingenue will eventually mature into a Classic or a Natural (in a Gamine’s case) or a Romantic (in an Ingenue’s case). I think Kibbe’s system only really works for adult women, and being a Gamine is not something you age out of. Betty White, as a Soft Gamine, is a perfect example of this, I think. At 92, she still has the Gamine joie de vivre:
BettyWhite1
(Source)

Soft Gamines are yin in size, yin in flesh, slightly yang in bone structure, with yang drive and charisma and yin charm. This is a far cry from McJimsey’s “artless and naive” Ingenue. A Soft Gamine is a force to be reckoned with. While there are some recommendations–peplums, bolero jackets, bouffant skirts–that can apply to both, a Soft Gamine does not need the ruffles and daintiness that an Ingenue does. A Soft Gamine is a grown-ass woman.

There’s a reason why Kibbe’s prime Soft Gamine example is Bette Davis:
bette-davis-blonde
(Source)

It’s because Soft Gamines are awesome. So let’s give these Soft Gamine Betty(e)s some respect, and stop confusing “Soft Gamine” and “Ingenue.”

Color Me Beautiful: 1980s Fashion Nightmare

For now, I am not going to really discuss systems that are defined by color and season. After reading the materials related to Dressing Your Truth and Zyla, I have some major issues with the way that kind of system works. I don’t see how having, say, a certain kind of nose will mean that you’re more likely to lose your keys (DYT) or that a certain kind of coloring will mean you have a certain kind of personality (Zyla). I like Kibbe because it is about working with your entire essence and your balance of yin and yang to find a type, and has nothing to do with what color your hair is. While obviously knowing your most flattering colors is helpful, whether you do it by a seasonal color analysis or by using the colors you find in your eyes, skin, and hair, like in Zyla, I don’t like using it as a starting point for finding your personal style. I’d rather have the style first, and the colors second.

That being said, before I get into Kibbe, I’d like to continue with the history kick and talk a little bit about Carole Jackson’s Color Me Beautiful. There are others, like Caygill and Kentner, but I haven’t been able to get ahold of their books–Caygill’s goes for hundreds of dollars–and Carole Jackson’s book is still in print. It was the first book I read that had at least part of it based on Belle Northrup’s and Harriet Tilden McJimsey’s work, and indirectly led me to Kibbe, DYT, et al. So I thought I’d talk about it a little bit.

Color Me Beautiful‘s main premise is splitting women into the four different seasons based on their coloring. (I have been fascinated with this concept ever since coming across it in a Baby-Sitters Club book.) Using these colors as a guide, Carole Jackson further split women into what she calls “style personalities,” using the categories determined by Harriet Tilden McJimsey. Jackson, however, totally rids the system of the yin/yang concept. She tells you just to use your season as a guide and then study yourself in the mirror and see which personality fits you best. She also says that some people can wear several personalities, depending on the occasion.

Thanks to the Internet, you don’t even have to buy the book to see what she’s talking about. Someone uploaded a 1980s Color Me Beautiful promotional video to YouTube. The very 80s fashions are alternately hilarious and frightening, and I can say that after watching this, I was more certain than ever that none of these fit me. The Style Personality segment starts at around 38:19:

(The rest of the video may be helpful for determining your season if you’re struggling with it, although nowadays using 12 Seasons seems to be more popular. But it’s a good starting place if you’re unsure if you should look at, say, Autumns or Winters.)

I think it’s interesting to look at this and then compare it to Kibbe, who came out at around the same time, and see what he did with the structure provided with McJimsey. His allows for a lot more variation, and gets rid of coloring=style personality, which I definitely approve of. I will finally begin discussing Kibbe in my next post, which will be on how I see the Kibbe system.

McJimsey’s Ingenue

Now, Ingenue kind of has a bad rap. Kibbe says that no adult woman should dress like that, and thus did not include it in his system at all. McJimsey calls it “naive, unsophisticated, artless, and even childlike.” Ouch! But we are going to go over her definition of the Ingenue anyway. The Ingenue is the polar opposite of the Dramatic. An Ingenue is dainty, young, delicate in build and coloring, below average in height, and more charmingly pretty than sophisticated. Someone who is average in height can have Ingenue qualities if they are slender with delicate coloring. A pink-and-white coloring with natural blonde or light brown hair can lend an Ingenue quality to a person. Ingenues will be cheapened by artifical hair coloring and their charm will be spoiled. An Ingenue has a small, upturned nose, round cheeks, a rosebud mouth, and a gently rounded figure. Short feathered curls with a tiny bow or a ribbon or a short curly ponytail with a ribbon around it will increase her yin quality. An Ingenue should not try to copy the Romantic’s sophistication, but instead be content with her own ingenuous and natural charm. If the Gamine has a sturdy “little boy” look, an Ingenue has a dainty “little girl” look. Her steps are light and dainty. Her posture reflects her mood, whether her head is lowered when she is relaxed and/or shy, or if she may she is dancing on tiptoe and sparkling with laughter. Since the Ingenue is so youthful, it is rare to find a perfect Ingenue over the age of 16. But having blonde hair, fair skin, and delicate features, coupled with small size, will give off an Ingenue impression long after youth has passed. If you have a small, round face and big eyes, you can put some yin, Ingenue details in your outfit. As an Ingenue ages, she can add more Romantic and Classic styles, and change her hairstyle and mannerisms to more sophisticated ones. If you have a yin face but are not as small in size, you can add softness and curved necklines, but your details will not be as dainty.

McJimsey’s Ingenues are Helen Hayes, Shirley Jones, Hayley Mills, Tricia Nixon, and Debbie Reynolds.


(Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

The Ingenue must always select clothes that reflect her youth and daintiness. She should follow the rococo line from her hair and facial features, and while she can wear frilly dresses, she can also wear simpler clothes with delicate details in feminine fabrics. Due to her small stature, she should keep the details small and keep the effect simple, without omitting dainty details. It may seem too coy and naive and not fashion-forward enough for even the college girl. Subtle touches of Ingenue, such as dainty cotton blouses or eyelet summer dresses, may be used. Fashions specifically mentioned include:

  • Bouffant skirts
  • Empire or princess silhouettes (empire makes legs look longer)
  • Rows of ruffles or tucks
  • Capelets and boleros
  • Peplums
  • emphasis at the yoke, frequently with trim
  • fullness from gathers, rather than darts, especially at the yoke, sleeve, and waist
  • curving necklines
  • suits can be worn, but they need to have soft lines and be of fabrics that are not too severe

    The Ingenue does not have to overdo the curves, since fabrics such as organdy, taffeta, batiste, voile, or soft, lightweight woolens and cashmeres sustain the yin. Colors for the Ingenue should be dainty pastels or sparkling tints in blues, pinks, orchids, peach, mint green, and aqua, used with white accents in accessories. Navy and cocoa brown are good Ingenue neutrals, as are pearl gray and creamy beige. Light grayed hues are good for suits. Accessories should be dainty and not too extreme in style, and they include shoes with medium or low curved heels, cut-out slippers, and dainty bows and straps in kid leathers (beige for street, dyed-to-match for formal wear); gathered pouch or small clutch bags; and dainty pearl, rhinestone, and ceramic jewelry. Hats can have ribbons or flowers, and perhaps a small veil.


    (Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

  • McJimsey’s Gamine

    In the book, McJimsey spells “gamine” as “gamin,” but I’ve gone with “gamine” here because it’s what is usually found when discussing this style type, and also because “gamin” is the masculine form. As I’ve mentioned previously, McJimsey places Gamine at the yin end of the spectrum, and has it as more yin than Romantic. McJimsey’s Gamine is the yin version of the Natural. Like the Natural, she is fun and casual, but she is small in stature and looks young, and often is young. In her system, it is a common type for high school or college-aged girls. She is mischevious and has some Peter Pan to her personality. Physically, she is slender, but not fragile; she often has a turned-up snub nose and small, round features, except for her eyes, which may be large. She often wears her hair in bangs or in a ponytail. Her skin varies from fair and freckled to dark, and her hair can be any color, but her youthfulness is always her most distinguishing characteristic. She does not usually wear makeup apart from a touch of lipstick. If she tries to look more sophisticated with a lot of makeup and so on, she will lose her youthful charm and look like a poor imitation of herself. She looks best when when she wears simple, playful looks.

    McJimsey’s Gamines are Goldie Hawn, Audrey Hepburn, and Ethel Kennedy.


    (Sources: 1, 2, 3)

    The Gamine is the more modern of the two yin types (the other being Ingenue, which I’ll cover in my next post). She wears young clothes, like what you’d find in the juniors section. Gamine clothes do not, however, vary as much from year to year as the Dramatic and Romantic clothes do, and are less extreme, although Gamines may fall victim to fads. Skirt length is more indicative of changing styles than silhouette. Yin people generally wear shorter skirts, so when miniskirts are in fashion, they tend to go very short. Fashions specifically mentioned for the Gamine are:

  • short box or bolero jackets
  • Small waistline
  • Full gathered or pleated skirt
  • Checked or plaid cottons
  • Sweater with shorts, jeans, or skirt–they look better in jeans and shorts than any other type
  • Tailored and tucked in shirtwaist blouses, either white or with small geometric prints
  • Shells in colorful stripes
  • Sleeveless overblouses
  • Peter Pan or convertible collar, or scoop and bateau necklines in more casual situations


    Since she is small, small details suit a Gamine, but she should avoid frilly or lacy trim. Her clothes should have small buttons, small pockets, collars, and cuffs, or small bows or braids for interest. Gamine fabrics include gingham, pique, shagbark, corduroy, jersey, soft tweeds, and flannel. For formalwear, sheer cottons are appropriate for summer, and velveteen or taffeta for winter. Plaids, checks, or stylized florals in bright, youthful colors are flattering. Good colors for Gamines are white, bright yellow-reds, clear blues, and aqua. Dramatic colors like purple, gold, and chartreuse are not typical, and should only be worn by a Gamine if she has Dramatic or Romantic qualities. Shoes include flats and shorter heels and small clutch bag. Jewelry should be kept to a minimum, as it is not youthful. Handmade silver Indian jewelry or simple rings or pins can be worn, if kept to a minimum. Gamines wear berets, pillbox hats, and small roller hats, though the casual Gamine doesn’t wear hats very often.


    (Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

  • McJimsey’s Romantic

    McJimsey’s Romantic, unlike Kibbe’s, is not the most yin expression on her scale. Yin, as I’ve mentioned previously, is a youthful quality in McJimsey, and the Romantic is sophisticated and dignified. She is the prom queen, the film goddess. She is more exaggerated than her youthful counterpart, the Ingenue, who will often age into a Romantic. Unless soemone is exquisitely and unusually beautiful, either in figure, face, or hair, and then they will be able to wear some Romantic elements, a Romantic will usually only be found in those 25 and older. A Romantic can wear exaggerated extremes of fashion, which the younger, less-sophisticated Ingenue can’t. A Romantic will often have striking coloring as well, whether it is Titian red hair and pale skin, an olive-skinned brunette, or a golden blonde, but all types of beauty can be Romantic if they combine feminine charm and beauty with the theatrical. Romantics have delicately rounded or heart-shaped faces, a full bust, a slim waist, and long, slender legs. Their complexion is perfect, their eyes large and luminous with long lashes, and a long and straight or tilted and delicate nose. So basically, they are the epitome of feminine glamour and allure, and have to in fact be careful not to exaggerate their beauty with too much makeup, too tight clothing, or too many elaborate accessories.

    McJimsey’s Romantics are Ann-Margret, the Gabor sisters, Jean Shrimpton, and Elizabeth Taylor.


    (Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4)

    While she is a composite, yin dominates Romantic clothing. Her yangness lets her wear extremes, but she has to be careful not to overdress and she must be tasteful. She should still show off her figure, though. Fashions mentioned for the Romantic include:

  • Fitted waistlines, perhaps raised to Empire to show off the bust
  • Crisp, full bouffant skirts
  • Soft, flowing, draping chiffons
  • Shirtwaist dresses with feminine touches, such as gathered sleeves or ones that tie at tiny bows at the elbow, or pleated or gathered skirts
  • Soft draped collars; any neckline or bustline interest
  • Soft sashes and cummerbunds to call attention to the waist
  • Low rounded necklines
  • Off-the-shoulder or chiffon scarves


    Fabrics should be rich and lustrous and in colors like red, rose, or delicate shades of violet. Black can be Romantic if it is tailored in a feminine way and in a feminine fabric, like chiffon, velvet, lace, or a crisp silk such as taffeta. Other fabrics and details for a Romantic include sheer Dacron (for casual wear), peau de soie (for formalwear), soft woolens, cashmere, feathers, veiling, and soft furs. Their shoes, as you might imagine, should have high heels, and should be plain, yet dainty for day (in kid, suede, or patent leather) and with delicate for nighttime (in brocade or satin, with beads and bows). Her jewelry should be dainty yet lavish, with cut stones set in curved lines. Bags should be either pouches or gathered satchels in an appropriate fabric or leather. Fur capes are excellent. Hats can large or small, but always feminine and flattering.


    (Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

  • McJimsey’s Classic

    While using “classic” as a way to describe a style is something that now seems so obvious, and something that even people who don’t obsessively read up on style systems understands, McJimsey says that she selected the term “classic” because of its resemblance to classical sculpture. A person with a Classic style essence with have regular, even features and a simple hair style. She can be beautiful, without being theatrical, or she can be plain, but she will still be charming. While a Classic will have smartness and style like a Dramatic, like the Natural, she avoids extremes. She expresses her style in more subtle ways, using fine fabric, perfect fit, and immaculate grooming. The oval predominates in her facial shape and hairstyle. Her face is more long than round, but it is not angular. She does not have a hair out of place, but it never looks severe. She is poised and dignified, but again, she lacks the Dramatic’s theatricality.

    Since it is a combination of yin and yang, McJimsey considers Classic a good solution to the style problems of aging women. Like with the transition from teenager to adult, the shift to senior citizen status also requires a reconsideration of one’s yin and yang. Someone who was once a Dramatic or Natural may find that their newly gray or white hair and loss of tone in their muscles will require more yin softening. Someone who was more yin may find that their new dignity and maturity will now require more yang. Since classics are neither too severe nor too soft, they provide a good compromise. Modifications from your former yin or yang days, however, be added to the Classic style to infuse it with your personality.

    McJimsey’s Classics are Julie Andrews, Peggy Fleming, Grace Kelly, Julia Meade, and Pat Nixon.

    (Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

    Even though it is balanced, yang qualities will generally predominate in a typical Classic. Thus, clothes that are simple and dignified are best. If a Classic is younger, she may want to make the look more yin by adding more feminine and delicate touches, but a Classic is distinguished by her dignity, not her femininity. Classics avoid extremes, and either modify trends or go for the simplest version. The fashions specifically mentioned include:

  • shirtwaist dresses with a narrow belt and a shawl or convertible-style collar (I didn’t know what these collars were, so I found some vintage examples to show you)
  • Silhouette should be straight, with fullness in pleats or folds and not a big bouffant looks
  • Straight lines and restrained curves are used, but they are softened by softer fabrics
  • dressmaker suit of wool crepe that is fitted and detailed with curved, yet flat structural detail is good
  • simple flannel cardigan suit with all gamine detailing removed


    Fabric should be soft and fine textured. Fabrics include light- and medium-weight fabrics, such as pure silk, wool crepe, fine jerseys, cashmere, fine cotton or wool broadcloth, and wool flannel. Dull surfaces are preferred to luster, and chiffon, peau di soie, and silk shantung are preferable to satin for evening wear. Small patterns such as paisley or polka dots can be worn, but plain fabrics are preferable. Necklines should be softly tailored, and a dainty bow or tie at the neck is allowed. Both line and color should both show restraint. Excellent neutrals are soft beige and navy blue. White and beige or white and navy are frequent combinations, and other colors include middle-value blues and rose-reds. Shoes include simple pumps and oxfords. Jewelry includes pearls and other modest, inconspicuous jewelry. Bags should be of average size and rather plain. Hats include the pillbox, the cloche, and the trim sailor hat.

    (Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

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