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)

    Related Posts

  • McJimsey’s Natural

    Natural is a yang expression like Dramatic, but instead of angles and formality, the Natural is strength and informality. While the Dramatic is tall and thin, the Natural is more substantial. McJimsey chose the word “natural” to define this type because a Natural shuns artficiality and prefers to wear more natural-looking makeup and hair, and casual, comfortable clothes. Facial features are square and blunt; the smile and the eyes are friendly. She has a little bit of yin in her face, in contrast to the strictly yang Dramatic. A Natural can be either well-proportioned or stocky, and may be overweight. She usually has brown, auburn, or red hair, and a tan and freckles. McJimsey says that many yang types combine both of these types, and can adjust their look for the occasion, emphasizing one or the other, unless their figure limits their ability to wear high-fashion clothes. Again, while school age and college girls of above-average height may see themselves in the Natural type, especially since it is so informal, at that age, they will most likely be a Gamine/Natural hybrid. A Gamine Natural should look for simple clothes, and also clothes should have larger details than you would select for a pure Gamine.

    McJimsey’s Naturals are Candace Bergen, Mary Lindsay, Ali McGraw, and Happy Rockefeller.

    (Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4)

    The Natural does not have the sophistication of the Dramatic. Her yang is expressed in bold simplicity, rather than the exotic or the extreme. She should look for comfort and informality. The fashions specifically mentioned include:

  • skirts with pleats or gores for movement
  • design interest should be limited to details like buttons, pockets, and seams
  • formal wear should be simple and made of beautiful fabrics like raw silk
  • large-wale corduroy for sports; pin-wale corduroy for formal wear (it was the 70s…)


    Fabrics include tweed, shantung, Irish linen, raw silks, homespun/handknitted textures, jerseys, doubleknits, and flannels. No shiny satin or crepe silk. Texture is emphasized, and good accessories include large, handcrafted wooden accessories; belts; bags; wooden, leather, or metal buttons; and novel cord fasteners (anyone know what that means?). The leather used in shoes and bags should not be shiny. Boots, oxfords, and stacked heels are what a Natural should look for. Handcrafted jewelry with uncut semiprecious stones, carved wooden beads, and coral necklaces make good jewelry for a Natural. Good patterns and details include peasant embroidery, large-scale plaids, abstract or geometric patterns, and prints that simulate textured weaves. Herringbone or silk scarves should be combined with textured knits. Necklines should be softened by collars. The shirt collar, sailor neckline, and square neckline are all good. Large bows and turtlenecks that are not too high or tight are also advised. Double-breasted coats are also good for balance. The favored neutral for a Natural is brown, and woodsy colors (forest green, dull gold, rust, dulled yellow-green), bright blues, greens, and reds. Purple and magenta seem too artificial for a Natural. She may wear a woolen cap or beret pushed back on her head, but Naturals usually prefer not to wear hats.


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

    Related Posts

  • McJimsey’s Dramatic

    McJimsey’s Dramatic Yang is tall, thin, angular, dark-skinned, and has very light or very dark hair. She has excellent posture, formal manners, and a low voice. Almond-shaped eyes, angular eyebrows, wide thin lips, high cheekbones, and an elongated oval shape are all Dramatic. Earlier in the chapter, McJimsey made the point that her types are adjectives, not nouns. If you have high cheekbones, a strong nose, or “brunette coloring,” you have some Dramatic qualities and can wear some Dramatic fashions. If you are shorter and on the Dramatic side, you should wear heels and an unbroken line of color. Pure Dramatics who meets all of the Dramatic qualifications are rare. Going back to age again, McJimsey says that since yin is a youthful quality, people under 25 shouldn’t wear Dramatic fashions, and young people who lean Dramatic should wear a yang neckline or some yang colors while keeping the rest of the outfit youthful/yin.

    McJimsey’s Dramatics are Lauren Bacall, Joan Baez, Maria Callas, Joan Crawford, Lady Bird Johnson, and Barbra Streisand.

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


    The Dramatic can wear high fashion. Bold, severe lines and exotic colors and patterns suit her. The fashions specifically mentioned include:

  • Sleeves with width at the bottom
  • batwing sleeves
  • long tunics/overblouses
  • exaggerated shoulder width (when in fashion)
  • trapeze dresses or tops
  • straight lines with vertical or diagonal movement
  • diagonal draping and wraparound styles

    Fabrics include crepe, broadcloth, garbadine, satin, heavy brocade, metallic cloth, and plain weave knits. Necklines should be plain and severe, such as high tight collars, turtlenecks, deep v-necks, collarless necklines, large shawl collars, and large lapels pointing downwards. Lots of neutrals, except for light gray and light beige, but black is the most common. Colors used should be brilliant and intense, with purple, magenta, gold, and chartreuse being the most yang. Color use should be unusual and discordant. Accessories should also be large and exotic, either bold and plain or lavish and ornate. Dramatics wear hats more frequently than the other types.

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

    Related Posts

  • 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.

    Related Posts

    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.

    Related Posts

    1 16 17 18