Posts Tagged ‘soft gamine’

The Three Levels of Dress: Soft Gamine for Work

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When I asked on the workbook Facebook group which level and Image Identity combination they’d like to see, Soft Gamine Level 2 was the top request, so this is the one I’m starting with.

Theatrical Romantic Casual was the next most often requested, and SG and TR share a special connection. It is not just that they are both mainly yin types with a touch of yang and no blunt yang. They are both also inspired by the same decade, the 1930s.

Theatrical Romantic, however, is inspired by the Hollywood glam side of the 1930s. It’s Jean Harlow in a slinky bias-cut dress. Soft Gamine’s 1930s influence is something we learned about from women who have seen Kibbe within the past few years, and in my opinion, Soft Gamine’s 1930s influence is from more of the everyday life side.

(1, 2, 3)

I think we often see SG, for any occasion, looking something like this:


There is nothing inherently wrong with this look. It’s cute. It’s rounded and has detail and crispness. But for so long, Soft Gamine has only been represented one way, and that is a way that seems more Ingenue than Gamine and very, well, twee. If you’re a Soft Gamine and you like dressing like this, I don’t see why you can’t. But I’d like to present options for those of you who don’t, and I think the 1930s is a great place to take inspiration from. It shows an example of dressing that uses crisp material with some drape, a lot of details, that follows the shape of the body, but not quite as overtly as Theatrical Romantic.

Bette Davis+Joan Blondell3
Bette Davis, with Joan Blondell, modelling an alternative to the Peter Pan collar in 1932’s Three on a Match, which looks like a great movie to watch for Soft Gamine fashion inspiration.

The key word for SG is “sassy,” and I think if you go too Ingenue, you lose “sassy” and only “sweet” remains. I think that the 1930s has great inspiration for stylish SG workwear, and keeps it sassy without going too yang. There are lots of details and little tucks and crispness, but it won’t look juvenile, the way some Soft Gamine Pinterest boards do.

You can go quite literal with the 1930s inspiration. It would be cute and sassy, but it could veer into costumey/twee…


Stop Staring Raileen Dress

Modcloth It’s a Sure Fete Heels

Or you can do something more subtle:

Talbots Seasonless Wool Trumpet Skirt

Modcloth Fun With Symphonics Top

Max Studio Jacket with Piping Detail

High-waisted, wide-legged pants are what people tended to wear in the 1930s, as you can see in one of the vintage photos above, but I think they may be difficult for Soft Gamines, who don’t have much in the way of length. Kibbe recommends slim-fit trousers that show the ankle, and I think that would be easier.

Shopping guide for SG Level 2:
-dresses with a trumpet skirt and lots of detail at the collar and cuffs (see above)

-blouses with drapable fabric, but again detail at the collar and cuffs (see above)

-slim-fit trousers that show the ankle OR sailor/wide-legged pants if you can pull if off

Banana Republic Sloan Slim-Fit Ankle Pant

Modcloth Pursue Your Passions Pants

-tight-fitting angora sweaters, with detail if you can find it. I think these look especially cute when they have short sleeves.

Contemporary Fuzzy Knit Top

-shoes should be feminine and delicate. Both flats and heels are okay, and the heels should be tapered.

Modcloth Currant Scones Heel (on sale right now for $15!)

-for jackets, SG can wear either jackets cropped above the waist or ones with a peplum. Jackets with a peplum are easier to find, in my opinion, than cropped versions that are feminine enough for SG (see peplum version above)

-I think wool coats that show the waist and have a fur collar are cute on SG.

Miss Selfridge Faux Fur Collar Button Coat

Of course, this isn’t the only way to do SG Level 2. If you do it in a different way, I’d love to see it in the comments.

If you would like more information on the Three Levels of Dress, it is part of the system outlined in the Style Syntax workbook.

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.


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.

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.

Kibbe Style Stereotypes

If you don’t have the physical copy of Metamorphosis and haven’t ever seen the pictures from the book, look at the image below. What type do you think this is?
photo (50)
A monochromatic look? No line break? Maybe it’s some kind of classic, or even a dramatic.

Nope. It’s the Soft Gamine makeover from the book. You may be asking, “But where is the line break? Where are the cute details and the Peter Pan collar?” It doesn’t fit in with the popular image of Soft Gamine at all. But it has crisp details (the shoulders), interesting accessories (big red bead necklace, little gloves), and there is, in fact, a line break. It does not obey the popular rule for short women that you should have your hosiery and your shoe be the same color to create the illusion of a longer leg.

Kibbe himself, according to people who have seen him in person, seems to go back and forth on how useful the book is. Some he tells to ignore the book, some he tells to read it. But while the recommendations can be outdated (I don’t buy sweaters with shoulder pads!), I still find that the recommendations are very useful. It helps you understand the parameters of your type that you can do then use to create your own unique style.

What I would definitely avoid doing, and I think I have mentioned this before, is relying on Pinterest and Polyvore to get an idea of the way your type should use their lines. Even with my own Pinterest, I’m not entirely satisfied with how I represent the types, because I feel like I know my own type the best and the rest I usually just repin from other people. We end up with stereotypes like Soft Gamine=Ingenue and that Soft Natural=Boho. People who come back from Kibbe with these types assigned to them do not end up dressed how the type is generally represented at all.

I think that we tend to look at the types with a point of view that is too narrow. While there is debate in the Kibbe community right now about whether the book has any use at all, I think it’s still the best resource for understanding your type and the lines that it requires. Anybody else’s interpretation should only be considered once you have gotten to know your type well, and when you know what works or what doesn’t.

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.”