Book Review: Toni Hartman, Fabulous You!

I’m taking a Northrup breather today because I recently got this book in the mail from the always-helpful and lovely Carrie, who was cleaning out her stash and generously sent this to me. I want to talk about the book while it’s still fresh in my mind.



As you might be able to tell from the mid-’90s realness being served up by the cover, this book was published in 1995. As such, there is an inordinate amount of attention paid to the Shoulder Pad Question, but otherwise, I think that the advice is pretty timeless.

Toni Hartman was a petite model before she became a style consultant (and now she is, apparently, a psychic). Her book differs from all of the other books and systems I’ve looked at in one major way: it does not mention taking any cues from your external appearance. Your style is not determined by your body type or facial features. You do not find out your season by draping, but instead are supposed to think about how you feel in colors and how others react to them. Your season is determined by the colors you get the most compliments in, but if you don’t feel like dressing in that season, that’s okay too.

It is the total focus on your personality and your actual lifestyle that makes me think that this book would be great for someone who is having trouble reconciling their Kibbe with their real life. Hartman, I think, really understands what it’s like to be a woman and to have to deal with all kinds of things and issues while getting dressed in a way that the male style gurus, wonderful as they are, can’t always relate to. She even covers mother/daughter relationships and dating compatibility by style type (she has style types for men, too). But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

She divides women into six types: Sporty (closest to FN, a woman focused on her physical well-being), Romantic (closest to SN, a woman focused on love), Traditional (closest to SC, a woman focused on family), Classic (closest to DC, a woman focused on her career), Dramatic (closest to SD, a woman focused on attention), and Trendy (closest to FG, a woman focused on doing her own thing). You can also be, say, Romantic with an accent of Dramatic. You determine your type by doing a personality and style/beauty habits quiz and making a collage.

Once you know your type and your accent, if applicable, she tells you how each type should dress for certain occasions, what they should pack on a trip, etc. She gives other helpful shopping and wardrobe tips, like department store vs. boutique shopping and what “misses” and “juniors” really mean, as well as a guide to colors and what they represent and what they make you feel. Plus the mom/daughter and men stuff, as mentioned above.

As an FG who is very comfortable in FG and doesn’t have any problems with shopping, packing, etc., this book wasn’t terribly helpful for me, personally. But I think this could be great for someone to pick up who knows their Kibbe type, but doesn’t know how to make it work with their real life or how to express themselves within the parameters of their Kibbe. I think used in conjunction with something that addresses your physical appearance, it can be used to create a cohesive, flattering look that actually works in everyday life.

10 Comments on Book Review: Toni Hartman, Fabulous You!

  1. Molly
    January 16, 2015 at 2:36 am

    I have read many style books and I think that this one is really underrated. It says that the most important thing is who you are on the inside – and that you can look to your life and tastes for clues to your style. Of course, we need to look to our body and facial lines too. But I hate my Kibbe type(DC, the hard edged career woman type) and I like that this book offers me a choice. To paraphrase JK Rowling “it is our choices, not our abilities, that shows who we really are.”

    Anyway, thanks for reviewing this book!

    • stylesyntax
      January 16, 2015 at 4:44 am

      It’s definitely not one you hear about all that often. Have you tried combining DC with the advice from this book? One place where Kibbe is lacking is HOW to combine your Kibbe type and your individual self. He SAYS you should do it, and gives Shirley MacLaine as an example, but he doesn’t go into it otherwise. And then he has all that personality nonsense at the beginning of the description for each type, and that REALLY throws people off. I think the Cs are the hardest to personalize, though, so I feel your frustration. When anything extra is “gilding the lily,” it can be hard to find room to express yourself. If you’re a DC free spirit/bohemian, I’m not sure how you’d swing it, for example.

      • Molly
        January 16, 2015 at 3:38 pm

        I’m still working on how to personalize the DC advice to my personality – I feel that it is a pretty restrictive category. Regarding the Tori Hartman book, I think her placement of celebrities is quite interesting. Some are in similar types to Kibbe and others are in almost opposite categories (like Princess Diana, Jaclyn Smith, Jessica Lange for example.). It makes you realize that you can group people in different ways depending on what you are looking for. Like those sets problems you do for math in elementary school. Not saying Kibbe is wrong or not helpful, just that it has become the gold standard and maybe there are other ways to look at it.

        • stylesyntax
          January 16, 2015 at 10:43 pm

          Well, she and Kibbe look at different things. So Madonna is Kibbe Romantic with Hartman Trendy, and that totally makes sense, and speaks to why Madonna’s placement in Romantic is one of the ones that people tend to not agree with. You can see how she could easily sport a typical, glamorous, Kibbe Romantic look, but that’s not always going to be how she wants to express herself. Kibbe is very helpful, but for many people, he can only provide part of the story because their insides and outsides are at odds. I think the best thing is to get your season and Kibbe type, so you know your outsides, and then if this does not express your inner self, I think books like this and seeing Zyla or Kitchener can help bring it altogether. For me, FG is just perfect, so I lucked out, I guess.

  2. Jayleen
    January 16, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    I grew up with Fabulous You, and my mother and sisters refer to it often. However, in taking that test over the years, I have been every single type because my tastes change and I try to find who I REALLY am. That’s what I like about Kibbe; he takes your physical appearance into account, and thereby takes the guesswork out of it (mostly).

    Another book similar to Fabulous You is “Staging Your Comeback” by Christopher Hopkins, “the Makeover Guy”. His book is aimed towards older women, but his style test and types are similar to Tori Hartman’s. Hartman’s Traditional is Hopkins’ Casual, and her Sporty is his Alluring. It’s a quick, easy read if you come across it, and it’s the most recently published (2008).

    That being said, I definitely like Kibbe best, but Hartman’s work is easier to understand, yet Hopkins has the most updated photos. If you know your Kibbe type (I’m still on the fence about mine), Fabulous You is definitely a good resource.

    • stylesyntax
      January 16, 2015 at 10:38 pm

      I looked up Christopher Hopkins’s book. Do you feel like it’s applicable to women of all age ranges? I see they have it for Kindle, so I’ll probably pick it up.

      I can see how someone’s answers to Tori Hartman’s self-assessment quiz can change. I wonder, if in her new life as a psychic, whether she still sees herself as a Classic. The pictures on her website now seem to lean much more romantic. I’m not sure if she intended it to change, though. I think over the course of your life, certain things will be more important than at other times, but I kind of feel like her types are supposed to address who you are at your core. I’ve always been kind of strange and different, ergo I will always be trendy, even as different things like family, career, etc. take precedence at different stages. I think self-assessments can be problematic, because sometimes we answer how we see ourselves and not how we actually are. But of course, I haven’t taken this quiz at different stages of my life, so I don’t know for sure.

      Kibbe is my favorite, but I can see how it can be difficult for someone who doesn’t see themselves in the personality description of their type.

      • Jayleen
        January 17, 2015 at 4:04 am

        I think “Staging Your Comeback” is really aimed at older women, but there are some valid points for all ages. The youngest woman featured in his makeover section is 40 (I think). The makeovers are amazing! I haven’t looked at them through Kibbe-fied eyes, though. Hmm.

        I wonder if Tori Hartman was truly a Romantic all along, but dressed as a Classic. I know the reason I’ve been every type was because there was someone else in my life I was trying to please. It’s only recently I’m starting to figure out who I am at my core. That’s why I’m glad I discovered Kibbe. It’s easy to tell myself I’m this type or that type based on what’s important to me at any given time. To be true to myself, though, I just have to follow my physical guidelines, so to speak.

        Another book that teaches that concept is “The Power of Face Reading” by Rose Rosetree. It’s not fashion-related, but the concept is similar to Kibbe. Who you are as a person shows in your face, and it can be physically interpreted as your personality. I love books like this, but I think some people could see it as creepy or strange.

        What I think would be wonderful is if Kibbe’s test were more visual with diagrams or pictures (e.g. if you have a square jaw, check this box; if you have a long neck, check here). Then, by the end of the quiz, you could see where you fall on the Yin/Yang scale. (By the way, I have seen the illustrated Kibbe quiz, but it only helped so much.)

        I wonder if part of the problem with identifying as a certain type (as Molly pointed out), is because of what the type implies, especially if it’s perceived as negative. Like a Classic is focused only on her career, or a Romantic is focused only on romantic love, or a Dramatic is focused only on her appearance. My aunt is a Dramatic Classic, and she has made her family and her house her career, rather than working outside the home. So if a DC is typecast as a workaholic who neglects her family, who wants that image? I think there’s more leeway in the personality area than each type specifies. Thoughts?

        • stylesyntax
          January 17, 2015 at 8:37 pm

          I got his book yesterday; it definitely takes a different approach than Kibbe or Sci\ART. Some of it may come in handy for me 20 years down the road, though.

          I think Kibbe’s personality descriptions are nonsense. Do you have the book? In the book, he contradicts himself by saying that your personality and outer appearance won’t necessarily match, and he goes on about how you have to figure out how to reconcile the two. And then he gives lengthy personality descriptions when he describes the types. So it’s confusing. I personally take the position that I wrote about here. I don’t think it matters what he wrote about what a classic woman is like. What matters is the geometry of your lines. If your personality is completely different, you can use things that do look at your personality, like Toni’s book and Zyla and Kitchener, and use it to help you understand how to express your personality through your Kibbe. So if someone says, “You’re a free spirit, so you must be FN,” I think that’s the wrong approach. You’re an FN if the FN recommendations look the best on you out of all of the types, not because you have the right personality. Look at all of the strong women, like Madonna and Susan Sarandon and Elizabeth Taylor, who were typed by Kibbe as Rs. I wouldn’t call any of them “dreamspinners.”

          • Molly
            January 17, 2015 at 9:05 pm

            Very well put. One problem with the personality descriptions is that some of them are not all that flattering and that could be a turn off for some. Whereas following your basic geometry (the crux of Kibbe) is always a good idea for the silhouette of your clothes, I think you can cheat a little with things like accessories, especially if you feel you are out of sync with your Kibbegory.

          • stylesyntax
            January 19, 2015 at 3:03 am

            Or they can be flattering, but just very different from who you are. I don’t know how much people can cheat, though. I will have to think about it.

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