Archive of ‘Style Systems’ category

Why Your Kibbe/Image Identity Matters

One thing that’s long flummoxed me is the fact that when you see a picture of a star on the red carpet, inevitably what you see the result of the hard work of stylists, makeup artists, and top fashion designers. But somehow, even with an entire team behind them, sometimes the stars just look… off. Is the dress ugly and no one noticed, or is it just not the right dress for that person?

Understanding Kibbe can go a long way to help you avoid this in your own life, even if you’re not going to be on a red carpet anytime soon. Let’s take Jessica Paré as an example. Most seem to be in agreement that she is a Soft Dramatic. If you look on Pinterest, two of her most-pinned looks, if you search for her name, are these:

(Sources: 1, 2)

What comes to mind when you look at these dresses? They’re bold and dramatic. For a lot of people, these dresses would be just too much. But for a Soft Dramatic, these dresses are exactly what she needs. Anything less would be not enough.

Now, look at her in this dress:


It’s not dramatic, at least, not in the right way. Picture it on a Flamboyant Gamine like Lizzy Caplan. Totally different dress, right? But it’s simply not enough for a Soft Dramatic. It kind of looks like a tablecloth is wearing her.

That’s the point of all of this Kibbe business. Once you figure it out, it makes it easy to go to a store and immediately know what’s going to work for you and what’s not, without even trying a whole bunch of stuff on. It’s about understanding what nature gave you and using that information to look fabulous. I also think it goes deeper than something like Trinny and Susannah’s 12 Body Shapes, because Kibbe takes into account the entire person, and not just a series of deviations from the norm. According to Trinny and Susannah, I’m a Skittle and should wear chunky shoes, bows, and A-Line skirts. But what kind of prints? What kind of vertical line? How dramatic or how can cute can I go?

Knowing your body shape is helpful, of course. But you can dress your body shape perfectly fine, and still look off, somehow. Without knowing your Image Identity and your season, a.k.a. most flattering colors, you’re still fumbling around in the dark.

(To see more analysis of stars’ red-carpet looks in relation to Image Identities, see this pinterest. They use Yin/Yang C, G, D etc. instead of Kibbe’s names, but the idea and the concept are the same.)

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:

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:

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.”

Finding Your Kibbe

The first thing about finding your Kibbe, your Season, your Dressing Your Truth type, whatever… is that it’s not easy to do on your own. And in the case of season, where there are plenty of experts in business, many people will type you as different things. You can go to Kibbe’s studio in NYC or Carol in Utah, and you can get what they think is right. But regardless, you will have to live in this type or this season and see if it works for you.

I’m not really planning to get into seasons, even though I think it’s equally as important to finding your style personality, or as Kibbe calls it, your Image Identity–one doesn’t work without the other. But there are already plenty of great resources out there on how to find your season, which I have linked on my Resources page.

Now, if you are familiar with Kibbe at all, you will know that a quiz exists to help you out. But the quiz can only give you a general idea of where you fall on the scale of yin/yang. Here is the quiz, and here is a scoring system. But the system has flaws. If you look at it, you have SG and SC, for instance, scoring one point away from each other. But, and this is especially clear from the chart I did in my last post, they are actually opposites in how they combine their yin and yang. So using that one point to determine Soft Gamineness or Soft Classicness obviously wouldn’t work.

So the only thing you can do, I suppose, is just try out different outfits and see what works and what doesn’t. What kind of lines flatter you? What kind of jewelry? What hairstyles? When do you get compliments on how you look, and not your outfit? You can also do things like photoshop your face and body into one of the Kibbe celebrity collages found on Pinterest, Polyvore, et al. I am currently in the process of this. I had typed myself as Soft Gamine, but I was having trouble buying Soft Gamine clothes, so I decided to start over to make sure.

I do think it is worth thinking about the essence you put out into the world as well and how others see you. Related to what I mentioned above, however, I feel like I am mostly seen as a Gamine in the world. If someone compares me to a celebrity, it’s usually a gamine one, and I look very young for my age and seem shorter than I actually am. But, I think I am discovering, this does not mean that I am a Flamboyant Gamine or a Soft Gamine. It could be that when I find my correct Kibbe type, I won’t be seen as young and small, but as a woman of my own age with my full height and power. Or I could go through the entire process of analyzing my entire wardrobe and the natural lines of my body and find that I am indeed a Soft Gamine, and emphasizing these SG lines to the best of my ability will lead to the fullest expression of myself.

Where are you on your Kibbe journey, if you’ve started it?

Kibbe: An Introduction (Sort of)

It’s hard to know where to begin with Kibbe. So I suppose I will just start at the beginning and explain who he is.

In 1987, a man named David Kibbe published a book Metamorphosis: Discover Your Image Identity and Dazzle as Only You Can. In the book, he outlines 13 image identities, all on a yin yang scale and also on a scale from blended to contrast. Confused already? I don’t blame you. He basically took McJimsey’s categories and shifted some things around and added some subcategories. He got rid of Ingenue completely, and Gamine is now not the most yin expression–Romantic is. Gamine is a contrasted mix of yin/yang now, and Classic is a perfect blend of the two.

In the book, his categories are Romantic, Theatrical Romantic, Classic, Soft Classic, Dramatic Classic, Natural, Soft Natural, Flamboyant Natural, Gamine, Soft Gamine, Flamboyant Gamine, Soft Dramatic, and Dramatic. Anything with “Soft” in the name is a more yin expression (basic category mixed with Romantic) and anything with “Flamboyant” or “Dramatic” in the name is a more yang expression (basic category mixed with Dramatic). I suggest reading the Kibbe libraries at Seasonal Color and Color Connection, which have a lot of the information from the book. I plan on discussing all of the types in depth (save three, which I’ll get to in a moment) on this blog, but for now, I think that your best bet is just to read the info there if you’re unfamiliar with Kibbe.

Okay, now that you know about the different types, I want to talk about the three I won’t be discussing and why. David Kibbe is still providing style consulations, and according to recent reports, he has gotten rid of Classic, Natural, and Gamine, and only the Soft and Dramatic/Flamboyant versions of these remain. If you identified yourself as one of these base types, I am sure it was disheartening to learn he no longer uses those. Reading about it, though, it became clear to me why. Nobody is going to be perfectly balanced. Everybody is going to lean slightly yin or slightly yang.

The thing to concentrate on is not matching the description perfectly and using it as a checklist, but identifying your yin/yang balance. I suggest watching the movies of the original, classic stars listed to get a good feel for the Image IDs–contemporary stars don’t have images in quite the same way. Try to see yourself objectively. Are you long? Compact? Soft? Do you look open? Aloof? Still? Animated? That is where I would start with David Kibbe’s Metamorphosis.

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.

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