Archive of ‘Kibbe’s Metamorphosis’ category

Kibbe Vs. Zyla

One of the most confusing experiences someone in this world can have is going to see Kibbe and Zyla and getting completely opposing Image Identities/Archetypes. They’re both masters at what they do. How could one of them be wrong?

I think the answer is that neither of them, in this case, would be wrong. They just approach their work from different angles.

Kibbe, in my opinion, looks at what you are. He looks at your physicality and what it communicates. Then it is your job to take this understanding of your physical self, and use it communicate everything else that makes you who you are.

Zyla, on the other hand, looks at who you are. The personality and inner self is built into the archetype. You’ll find a wider range in terms of height, build, etc. within the celebrities in his archetypes. The guidelines he gives in the book are incredibly specific and meant to express a specific style, not just lines.

I think you can get a hint of how Zyla works when you look at his palettes. They are smaller than other palettes, only a select few colors. And they’re not meant to reflect the entire range of colors a person can wear. They are the colors that, on you, will express certain things.

Kibbe’s recommendations are not meant to express a specific style or a complete expression of you. They’re meant to give you a framework that will enable you to work it out by yourself.

So what do you do when your Kibbe type and Zyla type don’t match? I think it’s important to keep your ultimate goal in mind. We got into these systems because we wanted to be stylish and to know that we’re making the right fashion choices, and to have that process made just a little bit easier for us. It should never be dressing a certain way because a guru told you so. So you can just choose the one that feels best for you, or use one to influence how you use the other, or simply forget both and forge your own path. In the end, a style system is only useful if it’s working for you.

How to Know If Your Kibbe Is Right

Some people believe that the only way you can truly know if your Kibbe Image Identity is correct is if you visit Kibbe himself and he tells you what you are. Some feel the need to be told by any analyst what they are, and will go with that, even if it feels wrong.

I am not in either camp. To me, the point of all of this color and style stuff is really to make our lives easier and to feel better about ourselves. It doesn’t matter what an analyst says if the designation they gave you feels wrong. You are the ultimate judge of what works for you.

One thing I’ve learned from reading reports from people who have gone to see Kibbe is that there is no real way to distill his process. Some say it’s essence. Some say it’s lines. He sometimes seems to contradict himself. Whatever the actual process he uses to decide people’s types, the only way we’d ever really replicate it is by cloning the man himself.

So what do you do if you can’t spend thousands of dollars to go to New York and see Kibbe? I would advise you to go back to the real reason you got interested in all of this stuff in the first place. The point is that you want to look better, right? So if you can decide on your type for yourself and it accomplishes these two goals, I’d say you’re doing pretty well.

While you’re not confined to the recommendations for your type–I figured out how to make maxi dresses work for me, for example–keeping your basic silhouette and line requirements in mind while shopping makes shopping really easy and much less stressful and disheartening.

This is how shopping the right Kibbe type feels:

When I was in incorrect types, I hated shopping for the first time in my life. Being in the right Kibbe type does make things easier and feel better, even if your type isn’t found in stores all that much. You know exactly what works and what doesn’t. You know that you won’t hate what you see in the mirror when you try something on. The only stress is manufacturers who seem to really only want to design clothes for N types.

You don’t need reassurance from anyone in a group, or an analyst, or Kibbe himself. He wrote the book to enable women to do it for themselves. You are the ultimate arbiter of what works for you. Don’t worry about whether Kibbe would really make you this type, or live in a type that is wrong because someone else told you what you are and they’re the expert. You’re the one who has to live in a type–what is important is whether it feels right for you.

Why I’m NOT a “Curvy FG”

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Sometimes I consider deleting old blog posts that no longer represent how I see Kibbe’s system. I try and go through my posts every few months and add notes to posts that I feel represent an idea that I’ve “archived,” so to speak, and that no longer factor into how I see Kibbe’s system. But I keep on seeing these posts referenced in other places regardless, and I feel like I’m confusing people, despite my clear note explaining that I no longer agree with what I wrote.

One of the major ideas that falls into this category are the ideas of a “curvy FG” and “g-leaning” and “f/n-leaning” FGs. Seeing these terms now make me twitch. I’ve come to realize that I am not a curvy FG. I am simply an FG.

Part of this confusion is, of course, due to the idea that Kibbe has gotten rid of the middle types. Gamines and Flamboyant Gamines have different body shapes. Gamines are narrow and straight in addition to being angular, sharp, etc. and Flamboyant Gamines are broadly angular. “Broad” is the key word here, because it’s the major idea that gets lost.

The broadness is what makes the Flamboyant Gamine recommendations possible. If you want to hang a boxy top off your shoulders, you need broad shoulders to do it. All of the things that define Flamboyant Gamine as a separate type require a more significant bone structure than G has to pull them off.

So I’m not a “curvy FG” at all. I’m a regular old FG, no special changes necessary. I’m fleshier, because I’m a little overweight, not because I’m “curvy.” “Broadly angular” is how I would define the overall theme of my body shape. I have broad shoulders and wide, flat hips with angles in between. The Flamboyant Gamine recommendations as written respect this.

The issue arose when Gamines who are a little more yang were folded into FG. This does both groups a disservice. Suddenly the overall picture of the FG body shape gets a lot more narrow. Those of us who have the bone structure as described in the book somehow become the outliers.

I don’t think that FGs should be split into “N-leaning” (broader) and “G-leaning” (narrower, aka Gs). This is just a workaround for a supposed change that actually over-complicates Kibbe’s system. When I say “I’m an FG,” it should be understood that my wardrobe is built around the Flamboyant Gamine recommendations. Yes, Kibbe says you should also read the chapters for Dramatic and Gamine, and that Gamine is more important for the overall picture. At thinner weights, I think FGs can pull some things from Gamine. When I was very thin, I even sometimes dipped into SG (although of course at that time I had no idea SG existed). If you are broad enough to carry off FG, you are not going to need Gamine to make FG work for you; it may just be a possibility to expand your wardrobe possibilities, and one you may not always have at all times in your life.

Where I would use “leaning” is for Gamines themselves. I do see that there is variation in facial features that shows that the balance between yin and yang is not 50/50. But these Gamines should still base their wardrobes on the Gamine lines. Where they can pull from FG or SG is in things like pattern, jewelry, and even, in a way, “essence.” A Gamine that leans yang can easily pull off the mod and punk looks often associated with FG. And a yin-leaning Gamine might have even more of the “sweetness” and ingenue qualities ascribed to, sometimes mistakenly, to SG. Think Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby.

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Unlike FG’s ability to steal from Gamine, this is something I don’t think would change over the course of your lifetime with weight gain and body changes. In my observations, it is mainly derived from facial features.

So, in closing, I’d like to retract the entire idea of “curvy FG” and the idea of there being two kinds of FGs. When I say “Flamboyant Gamine,” I am referring to the Flamboyant Gamine described in the book, one that is not mixed up with Gamine. I consider myself to fit in this group with no exceptions needed. If Flamboyant Gamine had been presented this way to me to begin with, I would not have wasted months in Soft Gamine and Soft Natural because I felt I wasn’t skinny and lanky enough for FG. In the end, isn’t simplicity and clarity in a system like this what we need?

Understanding the Dramatic Essence

I’ve completed the first article in my Kibbe series: Dramatic Essence. For the essence portion of my series, I’m looking at the celebrities Kibbe gave for each type in the book, the roles they played, and/or their public image to come to an understanding of the variety found in each type, essence-wise, and the general underlying theme(s). I then supplement this with information supplied by readers in their answers to my Essence and Body Survey (I am still accepting surveys, even for Dramatic–if there’s something new, I can always edit my article).

I know that one of the issues for many people is that they’re just not familiar with the celebrity examples. Not everyone is like me–I wrote my sixth-grade research report on “The Golden Age of Hollywood” and TCM is one of my favorite channels. I probably know more about stars of the past than stars of the present. Since image today is not quite as manufactured as it was when the Studio System was the law of the land. This “image creation” is the basis for the whole Kibbe system, and I find the old stars more useful than their modern equivalents, who most of the time dress in a way that is completely counter to how Kibbe or Zyla would style them. My hope is that these essence articles will help people who have no idea who these people are to understand what Kibbe is trying to communicate with his list of celebrity examples.

Also, tomorrow is the last day to sign up for The Subscription Service for the month of June. If you sign up on Monday, your subscription will start in July. And, of course, like my Facebook page if you haven’t already (and you want to).

Keeping C, G, and N

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As I prepare to begin my thorough exploration and explanation of Kibbe types, I’ve made a decision that deviates from the current common way of looking at the types. That decision is to include C, G, and N as separate types.

Apparently, Kibbe has told people who have gone to see him in the past couple of years that he no longer gives people these designations. He still tells some people to use the recommendations, but will give them a designation depending on how slightly more yin or yang they are. The typing services that used Kibbe as their starting point, Best Dressed and Guiding Lines, have followed suit, with Guiding Lines keeping Natural and Best Dressed splitting each base type into yin and yang variants.

For a long time, I felt that whatever Kibbe is currently doing is what we should follow. I never used the middle types when giving someone my opinion about their type. But more and more, I saw that doing so was doing people a disservice. Some truly suit the middle types better than going to either the yang or yin version of the base type.

What it does is split types that have a middle type down the middle. In the Facebook group for Flamboyant Gamines, this obvious. There is a distinct group who suit the Flamboyant Gamine recommendations the best, and there is a distinct group that does better with the regular Gamine recommendations. I wrote about this here. This can cause confusion. In fact, I think I would have gotten to Flamboyant Gamine much faster if Flamboyant Gamine didn’t always seem to be mixed with Gamine. I can’t wear Gamine clothes at all, although I could at lower weights. Many aspects of the Flamboyant Gamine recommendations are actually rarely reflected on Pinterest. Plunging necklines and chunky knits are rejected in favor of cute little mod dresses with cute little pointy collars.

It not only does people a disservice to tell them to go either more yin or more yang when they clearly suit the middle type best, it also does a disservice to people who are trying to understand Flamboyant Gamine or Soft Classic to mix them up with Gamine and Classic.

That is not to say that I don’t think people who are Gamine should shy away from certain aspects of the Flamboyant Gamine or Soft Gamine recommendations, and ignore the fact that their yin/yang balance might tip them a little one way or the other. Far from it. But I also think that it’s more useful to identify these types as separate types, since the basis for the recommendations is different and you can see the differences in body shape and facial features.

The way I see it, we can see the transition from the yin version to the yang version of a type as a continuum. The distinctions aren’t hard and fast; they flow into one another. And where you are on this continuum may change with body changes like weight gain, as I mentioned above, or pregnancy. Your type, however, will not fundamentally change. You should understand both your own type and the other type(s) that fall under the umbrella term (Romantic, Classic, etc.) and understand whether you can pull from them or not. But I think it’s better to understand the middle/base types as distinct types on their own, rather than lumping in with the very yang or very yin version.

I don’t know as much about the Classic/Gamine/Natural types on their own, which is another problem with getting rid of them altogether. My hope is that by including them in my Kibbe type study, I will increase both my own and others’ understanding of what makes these types distinct.

P.S.: I am still accepting Essence and Body Survey responses! Also, I have a new Facebook page where I will post both links to new articles and random style and color thoughts.

Using Zyla to Customize Your Kibbe Type

Flamboyant Gamine is a type usually represented in colors from the Bright color palettes and True Winter. A lot of black and white, graphic geometric prints, and so on. This works with the idea of Flamboyant Gamine as funky, colorful, and offbeat.

But of course, being a Bright season or a True Winter are not prerequisites for being a Flamboyant Gamine. While my self-designation of Dark Autumn hasn’t been confirmed, I know that I am not in the Brights or True Winter.

This is not what I have to work with.

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This is closer to what I am. Texture. Leopard-print fur.

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But still, I often try to make the other vibe work for me, basically taking what you’d give a Winter or a Spring and trying to find it in DA colors. It works, because I’m a Flamboyant Gamine and the shapes work, but it’s still not what I want it to be.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what archetype Zyla would give me if I did see him. I don’t talk about Zyla very much on here. This is because Zyla’s system is one that is truly about a single person’s vision and the results are hard to DIY.

The types in the book are so specific that it’s hard to see yourself in them. You see yourself in none of them and all of them at the same time, kind of like horoscopes. I have often felt that in the descriptions, there’s really no room for me.

I was discussing Zyla in the Flamboyant Gamine group a while back, and Gamine Autumn was suggested for me. Of course. I had discounted Gamine Autumn before, because it seemed to be relatively Soft Natural-looking on Pinterest. But as we all know, Pinterest is one of the greatest hindrances out there to really discovering a type, since it locks you into someone else’s perception of what a type looks like.

When I read the reports of people who have been typed Gamine Autumn, a lot of things clicked for me. Lots of texture. Brushed metals. Prints from nature. And he said something very important in all of the Gamine Autumn reports I read:

You are not a Mondrian.

Whoa.

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Not everything would work for me personally. But a lot of what he said resonated. And when I went back and looked, the things that resonated could be found in the Flamboyant Gamine recommendations as well. They just get ignored, often in favor of things actually found in the Gamine recommendations. But that’s a story for another time.

I realized that I don’t need to find an autumn version of a chevron print. My Autumn influence causes me to look toward nature: my beloved animal prints and perhaps a splashy botanical. Blanche Deveraux’s bedroom decor, which is originally from the Beverly Hills Hotel, would be perfect for me.

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So while I don’t think I’m going to make it to see Zyla anytime soon, and I don’t know for sure that he’d give me Gamine Autumn, the information he has still helped me figure out how to make Flamboyant Gamine my own, and I’m excited to explore and develop it further.

This segues into another big announcement of mine. In addition to launching styling services and working on my ultimate guide to Kibbe types, I’m also writing a workbook. This workbook will help you to DIY the customization of your Kibbe type. Using a system as a springboard to creating a personal style is really what this site is all about, so I’m very excited about it.

I also finally launched my Facebook page today. So go and check it out. 🙂

Things to Consider When Looking at Kibbe’s Celebrity Examples

Most people know that Kibbe has said that he doesn’t like to type modern celebrities because many of them have had too much plastic surgery to make it worthwhile. I generally agree with him; it can very, very tricky. Anyone who has followed the Kardashian/Jenner sisters since Keeping Up with Kardashians began can confirm that the people out there in Hollywood can do magical, magical things.

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I would also argue, however, that there is another factor that makes understanding modern celebrity types difficult: the diet and exercise regime expected of most stars. Where did Romantic Madonna’s yin go? Only her personal trainer knows.

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So we default to looking at the celebrities listed in the books, no matter how badly we want to find a modern celebrity to identify with. While plastic surgery has been in the star-making arsenal since Joan Crawford became a star, in the Studio era, it was more along the lines of the nose job and chin implant Marilyn Monroe received, rather than the coolsculpting and butt implants some are subject to today.

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While bodies didn’t receive as much attention from cosmetic surgeons as they do today, there is something else we have to consider, something that hasn’t been on our minds for about fifty years. And that is girdles.

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Although the effect is not as dramatic as corset training, you can see that the bikini bodies of women in the 1950s and 1960s were quite different. Basically, everyone had a small waist, and there’s something about it that differs from that of TRs and other naturally wasp-waisted women. Look at Faye Dunaway in the 1960s and then many years later:


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In the later picture, it’s easy to see why she was named a Dramatic, even outside of her amazing legs and cheekbones. But in the ’60s? It would take some convincing.

So the best period for understanding what Kibbe-type bodies look like are from the ’70s through the mid-’90s: bodies weren’t altered by girdles OR strict personal trainers.

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Aerobics for everyone!

How to Determine Your Kibbe Type

You may have noticed in my announcement about a potential paid service that I mentioned nothing about helping people find their Kibbe type. While it’s something I’m asked to do from time to time, and it’s something that I have helped a lot of people with in the color and style community, it’s not something I’d feel comfortable accepting money for. I feel like I’d have to know every type as well as I know Flamboyant Gamine, and I don’t think I can say that about myself just yet. If you want a professional to tell you what you are, I’d send you to David Kibbe himself, Best Dressed, or Guiding Lines.

What I can do, though, is share what I would do, knowing what I know now, if I were new to Kibbe and wanted to figure out my type. I made a lot of missteps along the way, and it took me way longer than it should have. Not everyone agrees with way I see Kibbe, but if what I write makes sense to you and you want to figure out your type for yourself, read on.

1. Read the book.
If all you have access to is what’s been put up on Seasonal Color, I understand. The book can be really, really expensive on Amazon. But if you can get it at a reasonable price, I highly recommend picking it up. It has important chapters–like how to personalize your type–that never made it onto the yuku sites.

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One of Wichyk’s collages.
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2. Make collages.
Make collages for every type you’re interested in. Good face collages exist already; you can find them on Google Image Search. I warn you, however, that you have to be careful. If there are modern celebrities on the collage, I wouldn’t use it. Also, Natalie Wood was moved from SN to SG and Rita Hayworth was moved from TR to SD. If the author of the collage is “wichyk,” you’re good, except for the Natalie and Rita stuff.

As far as your body goes, I haven’t found many pre-made collages that I really like. I would suggest using Google to find pictures of the book celebrities in their bikinis, or at least an outfit where you can really see their body and be reasonably sure they’re not wearing shape wear. I would avoid modern celebrities because it’s hard to be certain that they are definitely a certain type, and most of them are so toned and muscular that you can’t see their body shape anyway. (The exceptions to this are Kelly Osbourne [FG] and Reese Witherspoon [SG], who I think are OK to use.)

Should you include C, G, and N? Most say Kibbe doesn’t use these anymore, some say he just categorizes people as these types rarely, but it’s your call. You might want to do a collage with, say, DC, SC, and C altogether, to understand bodies and faces with a C base. The recommendations are different from these types than their S and D/F counterparts, though, and some find that they work better. But I think this could turn into a whole separate post, so I’ll stop here and let you make the call for yourself.

At this point, I would be wary of ruling anything out. It’s best to do all the types. I remember when I was first looking at Kibbe, I ruled out FG by the body description alone. Well, that led me astray for many months. If I had made a collage of what FG bodies actually look like, I wouldn’t have been so hasty.

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The Theatrical Romantic before and after from the book.

3. Look at yourself.
Once you’ve made your collages, look at yourself in your underwear. Do you have a nice, smooth curve all the way along your torso? What does the area between your waist and your hips look like? How wide are your shoulders? Are your hips curvy or square? Look for these patterns in your collages and try to find your own pattern.

4. Think back.
Once you’ve gotten your options narrowed down, think back. If you’ve ever acted in a play, what were you cast as? If you’ve ever been compared to an actress or a character in a movie, who were they? When you were in high school, what actresses did you really connect with? Maybe you even hung their picture on your wall or copied their style.

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In my case, this exercise leads straight to Gamineland. I played a rainbow, who was also a child, in a play with Greek goddesses. I’ve been compared to Jean Seberg in Breathless and Carey Mulligan in Drive. I loved Audrey Hepburn and Edie Sedgwick, and actually wore a lot of mod fashions at the time. It doesn’t always work out that way, though. Sometimes, you hide your light under a bushel. Look at how dowdy and frumpy most of the “before” pictures are of the ladies in the original Kibbe book. So while the answers to these questions can be revealing, I wouldn’t use them as definite, 100% proof that you are a certain type.

5. Clothing time.
First off, avoid Pinterest/Polyvore. Sometimes they are wrong, and often they show a very narrow view of how a type can dress. I would read Kibbe’s clothing recommendations, with the understand that the ubiquity of stretch has made things a little easier since then, and go from there. Go to a store like Nordstrom that will have a wide variety of types. See what happens.

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These are the steps I would follow if I were to start this Kibbe process all over again. If you try doing it this way, let me know how it works for you.

Custom Kibbe Polyvore Service Beta

Note: The response has been overwhelming! I already have more than enough requests, so if you are interested in this service, please email me at hello@stylesyntax.com and I will email you when I have opened requests for the paid service.

I had so much fun putting together a Polyvore for a Soft Dramatic who didn’t feel like dressing like such a diva all the time and who liked natural styles that I have decided that this is something that I may want to offer as a (very reasonably priced) paid service in the future. At the moment, though, I’d like to test it out, so I am going to be doing it for free for now.

What you will get is a Polyvore of three outfits, using the exact parameters you specify. My default will be an outfit for a casual day, an outfit for work, and an outfit for evening, but if you have other needs, I will be happy to work with whatever three situations you want.

What I want from you is permission to post it on my Pinterest and blog about it, if I so choose. I also would like you to fill out a short feedback survey.

If you would like to participate, please send an email with answers to the questions below to hello@stylesyntax.com.

1. Your Kibbe type.
2. Your season, or your color preferences.
3. Issues you are having with your type: you’re Dramatic, but prefer Romantic styles. You’re Theatrical Romantic, but you’re a stay-at-home mom with three kids under five.
4. Needs (which outfit categories you want) and/or special requests.

Does Weight Gain Make You More Yin?

This is a question that occasionally comes up among people exploring Kibbe. My answer to this, as it is for so many things involving Kibbe, is yes and no.

It makes you more yin in that you are more likely to get more yin points on the Kibbe quiz. Your arms are thicker; you’re more likely to have volume on your face. But although your test results might show something different, in reality, if you are a yang type, you actually probably become even more yang. The quiz is not calibrated to reflect the types at different weights. The physical descriptions include a section on how each type gains weight, but it can be hard to see past the physical description for the non-overweight versions of types. (Here are the weight gain descriptions.)

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This is a picture of Edie Sedgwick at a heavier weight than the one that she was when she was famous.

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Does she look more yang in the photos where she is skinny? Sure. We see a sinewy, curveless figure. But I like the photo of Edie with the dark hair and heavier weight because I can see myself in it, and I see how the extra yin we see is an illusion. My arms now are a similar shape, and don’t have the length commonly associated with Flamboyant Gamine. In fact, that is why I spent so much time considering Soft Gamine. I am soft. But I am not yin-dominant.

I actually follow the Flamboyant Gamine weight gain pattern perfectly: “Body tends to become stocky and square. Excess weight usually collects from the waist down, rarely above. Arms and legs tend to become thick, as does the waist and hip area. Face may become very puffy and fleshy.”

My ribcage has remained pretty much the same, but my limbs and hip area have gotten decidedly thicker–and more and more square. I came to Kibbe because of weight gain. I used to be very skinny and didn’t even understand what a “problem area” was, because everything looked good on me. But with weight gain, I no longer knew how to dress myself without hating what I saw in the mirror. In the Flamboyant Gamine recommendations, my problem areas were no longer a problem. Breaking the line in the right place emphasizes the nice shape my upper torso still has and and breaks up the boxiness of my bottom half. I see the magic that knowing your Kibbe type can do–which is why I can only shake my head when people try to dismiss the recommendations as being “too 80s.” Some details need to be tweaked, and we have to make allowances for the wonders of spandex, but the basic outline of how your type should dress has not changed. What flatters your body hasn’t changed.

I asked some other Flamboyant Gamines what they thought, and the consensus seems to be that when skinny, an FG can borrow more from straight Gamine, and maybe even some from Soft Gamine. But with weight gain, you’re better off sticking strictly to the Flamboyant Gamine recommendations and not wandering off. I don’t know how it works in other types, but I wager that the results would be the same.

So in my case, I have found that while weight gain may make me seem more yin at first glance, it has actually emphasized the yang qualities of my shape, and has made sticking to my yang FG recommendations far more important.

Have you gone through a similar experience with weight gain and Kibbe?

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