Harriet Tilden McJimsey

yinBelle Northrup’s work was continued by Harriet Tilden McJimsey in her book Art in Clothing Selection, first published in 1963 and then updated and retitled Art and Fashion in Clothing Selection ten years later. You can electronically borrow the updated version at Open Library. This is the book that I am going to be talking about today.

This book was actually intended to be used as a college home economics textbook. The things I am going to be talking about today are only one chapter of the book. The rest of the book goes into the history of clothing, social psychology, apparel design, and lots of other subjects. An interesting side note: Carol Tuttle was a home economics major in the 1970s, so it’s feasible that she read this book for her coursework.

In the chapter on yin/yang and types, McJimsey takes Northrup’s work on yin/yang and animal archetypes and introduces the Dramatic, Natural, Classic, Gamine, Romantic and Ingenue types that we all know and love. (If someone came up with these types before McJimsey, please let me know in the comments.) She says that Dramatic and Natural are the yang types, Classic and Romantic are mixed (Romantic being mixed sounds strange to those of us who are coming from Kibbe), and Gamine and Ingenue are yin. Her yin/yang classifications seem almost to be based on age more than anything else. Gamine and Ingenue are for the most part limited to teens and those in their early 20s, Romantic is more sophisticated and probably wouldn’t be your type until after 25, Dramatic and Natural always look older than they are, and so on. Even though gamine is boyish, since it’s so youthful, it’s still yin.

yangIn contrast to people like David Kibbe and Carol Tuttle who are adamant that people fit into one category and one category alone (or one category and on secondary in Tuttle’s case), McJimsey’s approach is closer to that of John Kitchener, who types people by percentages of essences, rather than fitting people into one individual type. McJimsey says that there are very few “pure” individuals who will fit entirely into Gamine or Ingenue or Natural. Almost everyone will pull their “style essence,” as she puts it, from several types.

Next post, I’ll begin looking at McJimsey’s types, starting with Dramatic.

I’ve posted the charts from McJimsey in the gallery below. More illustrations can be found on my Research Pinterest board.

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Belle Northrup and Yin/Yang

The idea of adopting yin/yang for use in describing personal style came from Belle Northrup, a professor in the 1930s at Columbia Teachers College. Northrup used “yin” and “yang” to denote the two possible extremes in women’s appearance and nature. A yang-dominant woman is strong, powerful, vigorous, and forceful. The yin-dominant woman is delicate, piquant, graceful, soft, sweet, and gentle. A true yang woman is tall, while a true yin woman is short, but you can have tall yins and short yangs; what matters in Northrup is “soul.”

While I haven’t been able to access Belle Northrup’s 1936 article “An Approach to the Problem of Costume and Personality,” I did find, via Seasonal Color, an article in the Laredo Times from 1934 entitled “Are You Yin, Madam, Or Are You Yang?” (available here) that gives a short introduction to Northrup’s philosophies. Rather than the familiar Romantic, Dramatic, etc. categories we’re used to, Northrup uses animals.

Alla Nazimova is a Leopard Woman, and “sinuous, clinging, sophisticated draperies, monkey fur, other exotic, rich, glorious furs and fabrics will set off that leopard quality”:
alla leopard
alla smoking

Lillian Gish is a Bird Woman, and that “calls for delicacy and piquant demureness” in fashion:
lillian bird
lilliangish
Northrup goes on to explain that you can also be a Horse Woman (good and strong), an Elephant Woman (strong, staunch, and wise), a Pony Woman (jaunty and jocose), and so on. The author of the article suggests matching up your favorite actress to a zoo animal.

Northrup’s ideas would be developed further by Harriet Tilden McJimsey in Art in Clothing Selection in 1963, which will be the subject of my next post. All of the style systems that rely on using a woman’s essence to define her style have their roots in Ms. Northrup’s work.

Alla Nazimova photograph from here.
Lillian Gish photograph from here.
All other information, quotes and pictures from here.

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