Archive of ‘Kibbe’s Metamorphosis’ category

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?

Type, Essence, and Style

One of the things I love about our style and color community on Facebook is that even when my ideas are challenged and I disagree with someone, it usually leads to a better and deeper understanding of the Kibbe system. Recent discussions have led me to crystallize what I see as important parts of the Kibbe system.

The way I see it now (and I emphasize “I”; I know some will disagree with me), your Kibbe and the way it works on you specifically is made up of three parts: line, essence, and style. I know that I have come across as anti-essence before, but I think I really just didn’t understand what essence was, even though in the post I linked to, you can kind of see how I’m dancing around it.

Line is your body lines and facial features. Look at the examples in the book and try to see what the women he placed in one type have in common. Is the vertical line long or short? What is the shape of their torso? And so on. This is how type is decided. What recommendations will suit you is determined by what belongs on your face and your body.

Essence is the impression that these lines create. It is what creates the personality stereotype Kibbe discusses in the description, which may or may not apply to you. What essence does is create something akin to a seasonal color palette. It is easy to understand that what looks high contrast on a Soft Summer person would look low contrast on a Bright Winter person. Image Identities work the same way. What looks normal and casual on a Natural type would look sloppy on a Classic type. What looks normal and casual on a Romantic type would look formal and fussy on a Natural type.

Style is taking your personality, preferences, and the look you want to achieve, and understanding how to express it within the parameters of your Kibbe Image Identity. So let’s say that you, like a commenter on my last post, are an SD who wants to be comfortable and a bit boho, and you don’t want to wear heels all the time. You would feel more comfortable in FN, but understand that you are an SD and look fabulous in it. So what do you do?

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Here’s what I would do. What’s SD’s version of a jeans-and-a-t-shirt look? Probably one of your draped tunics, in a comfortable fabric like jersey (ignore the necklace in the example in the Polyvore set). I’d do it in your dark neutral for maximum drama. Then I’d continue the line with leggings (or another comfy SD pant of your choosing) in the same color or a similar one. I’d take the ultimate lazy shoe, the flip flop, and find one in patent level with a snakeskin print, bringing it to the SD level of chic drama. I’d take Natural’s perfect gem, turquoise, and find a statement bib necklace with turquoise-colored stones cut to be faceted. I would then take one of SD’s favorite motifs, snake jewelry, and find that in turquoise as well. Lastly, I would wear your version of a red lip, because if you don’t want to bother with a full SD makeup look, a good bold lip, some mascara, and as much brow drama as you can wear and still look normal should be enough.

This is just as comfortable as a Natural look, and has some Natural elements, but it is done through the parameters of the SD style “palette.” I even think an FN could wear that necklace. But they wouldn’t wear it to the park or the grocery store, like an SD. They’d wear it to a nice dinner or a formal event. The FN style parameters are different, and if a certain piece works, it’ll still look totally different on them.

One last example. Many were surprised when Audrey Hepburn was revealed to be Flamboyant Gamine. Visually, to me she fits perfectly, even if she is a bit taller than average. But she is seen as one of the icons of classic, chic dressing of the 20th century. How could she be a zany FG, the Image Identity often associated with punks?

Let’s look at one of her looks from the movie Sabrina. Givenchy did an amazing job of creating Flamboyant Gamine looks that are chic and sophisticated and classic, yet still FG (even if Edith Head took all the credit).

Here she is when she makes her big debut upon returning from Paris. Spoiler alert: William Holden falls in love with her immediately when he sees her.

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Does she look impossibly chic? Absolutely. But try to imagine Grace Kelly in a turban, big hoop earrings, huge eyebrows… It would look ridiculous on a classic person.

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You can express any kind of style you want using Kibbe. You just have to do it in a way that is in harmony with the eseence of your Image Identity. What reads as classic on FG Audrey is entirely different than what reads as classic on actual Classic Grace, and her classic would look stuffy on Audrey. But the actual effect of these two women’s versions of classic is basically the same.

In the book, Kibbe says we can express the infinite (our selves, our personalities) through the finite (our type). That is where essence comes in. It defines the boundaries of what will make sense on you, and how styles will be perceived. It defines your type’s palette. I don’t think it is the gestures we make, or the way we speak. There is always a wide variety in any type–Shirley MacLaine and Cindy Crawford are very different women, but they are both just as FN. Essence is simply the style version of the hue/value/saturation levels in our palettes.

How do you manage to express yourself within your Kibbe Image Identity?

What Is Kibbe (to Me)?

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When I first started this blog, I imagined that I would do things like put together Polyvores on how to, say, dress boho if your Image Identity is Dramatic Classic. But blogs, I think, end up taking a life of their own, and determine their own direction, and this particular blog has ended up more like a research notebook of my theoretical thoughts on Kibbe, as well as a journal of my own color and style journey.

Kibbe’s system is a particularly complex one. For whatever reason, he doesn’t say out loud the things that become clear if you really look at the celebrity examples he gives, things I’ve talked about in my recent posts, and things that Sarah has seen and developed further in her Guiding Lines system.

One of the problems with Kibbe is how he contradicts himself. He says that personality doesn’t matter, and then he writes a lengthy explanation of the personality of each type. He gives a list of things you won’t find in the face and body of a given type, and then in real life gives this type to people who do have these things, like hourglass FNs. So we’re left with all of this conflicting information, often feeling like we understand less about the system than we did when we started.

What ends up happening is that, after a while, we all end up with our own understanding of Kibbe’s system and how it works. Are there any that are right? Many would argue that Kibbe is always right, and the only way you can truly know your type is to go see him. But there are a couple of specific instances where I have disagreed with Kibbe on how he typed someone, and they received other analyses that seemed more suitable for them.

My personal understanding of Kibbe is as follows: 1) Your Image Identity is defined by your lines. You can see them in your face, your body shape, even the shape of your fingernails. You are matching the lines of your clothes, jewelry, hair, etc. to your own lines. 2) Style is something completely different. Your task is to figure out how to express your style using these lines. “Vibe” is a myth. While some are more challenging than others (such as the aforementioned DC boho), theoretically, anything is possible. 3) Strike the word essence from your Kibbe vocabulary because it will only confuse you.

Does everyone agree with me? Of course not. People have their own views, and some have even developed their own Kibbe-based systems. Rachel Nachmias, for instance, says she considers “the extra je ne sais quoi that some have called ‘essence.'” Who is correct? Both. Rachel’s is correct within her own system; mine is correct within my own.

I don’t have plans to go into image consulting or anything like that. But I enjoy discussing it, and I think that what Kibbe started works amazingly well. But if you are looking for information that does have to do with this “essence” business and using it to determine your Kibbe Image Identity, you’ll have to look elsewhere, since it doesn’t fit with what I have found to be true in my own study of the information presented to us by Kibbe.

Flamboyant Gamine “Curves”

This is basically more or less on the same subject as my last post, but I thought it was important to give it a separate post because of my other posts on the subject.

To recap, before, I thought that, if you were curvy, the difference between Flamboyant Gamine and Soft Gamine was in the face. I think you’ll still see a difference in the face, but there’s a difference in the body, too.

The SGs and the FGs have a much more similar shape than we usually think of them as having. The main difference seems to be that FG will have angles and an SG will have a curve.

Let’s look at Brigitte Bardot (SG) and Audrey Hepburn (FG). Brigitte’s measurements at one point in her career, according to this website, were 36-20-35. Audrey’s were 34-20-34. So relatively similar–Audrey is technically an hourglass, and Brigitte was a slightly top-heavy hourglass and just a little bit curvier by the numbers.
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Their shapes are incredibly similar… yet it’s clearly evident that the extra Romantic in SG has given a little bit of a curvy shape, and the extra Dramatic in FG has resulted in a shape composed entirely of angles.

SG’s curve is not as dramatically curved as a Romantic’s, such as Elizabeth Taylor (36-21-36, so not too far off from our G women above). But you can still see the curve vs. angularity in FG.
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So what makes a “curvy” FG instead of a Soft Gamine? Angles instead of curves. I think you’d still be able to tell from the face, but it may be easier to see in body shape.

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