Sew Geeky Mid-Year Assessment and Further Wardrobe Musings (Wardrobe Planning Post #13)

It’s been about a year since I first started researching body typing/image ID systems, and few months since my last Wardrobe Planning Post, at which point I’d come to suspect that I fell much more into the Kibbe Soft Natural category than into the Soft Classic category.  Since then I’ve not had much time to sew for myself, but I have had plenty of time to take stock of the items I made for my spring mini wardrobe and see how I felt about incorporating them into my own style.  I have to say, I am a bit shocked with which piece I wear the most from that set – Butterick 5388C.  Before this Sew Geeky experiment, you would never have seen me in something with such little waist definition, yet, I love this top.  Love it!  It has become my go-to-travel top; it’s been on at least 4 different airlines this summer.  I love the color, I love the fit, I love the style.  Ironically, this top is the definition of Kibbe’s Natural style – soft, draped, flowing, with an open neckline.  So I’m going to say I’m pretty comfortable staying in the Kibbe Soft Natural style space, and exploring these recommendations a bit more as I start to consider the progression of my wardrobe planning and what I want to do with it next year.

Interestingly, it probably would have taken me much longer to get to this conclusion had I not done the Sew Geeky challenge.  What has been fun about this experiment has been the ability to interpret different fandoms and turn them into style inspirations.  I’ve really enjoyed collecting inspiration, creating mood boards, searching my stash for patterns and fabric, and generally planning out a collection with a theme.  Sewing in collections is certainly something I’m enjoying, and I’m finding more and more people who use this method as well.  Earlier this year I discovered Emily Hallman Designs, and I have been so inspired by her process.  She designs collections and uses a small palette with beautifully coordinating fabrics.  I also love her Instagram – every week she does a “Fancy Friday” where she combines all of her wardrobe pieces into new looks and discusses which patterns and fabrics she used to create them.  She clearly has a very defined personal style, and, while she does deviate and experiment occasionally, on the whole everything is so cohesive she can mix and match pieces quite easily.  (As a side note, at the beginning of the year I thought her style was the epitome of the Soft Classic I wanted to emulate, but the more I’ve followed her social media, the more I’ve realized how much I don’t fit into that style category at all.  I love looking at her clothes, and she always looks fantastic, but I’d feel so stiffly awkward wearing them all the time.  Yet another point for me being in the Soft Natural camp I guess).

Anyway, I guess the takeaway from all of this is that I like sewing in collections, and I think this is a helpful way to think about sewing plans.  Plus, sewing with coordinating fabrics means having to change the serger thread less.  Not that this is a primary motivating factor, but, you know, time savers are time savers.  I will say that while I’ve found the collections and style exploration to be helpful, and pulling from geeky inspirations to be quite fun, in terms of creating pieces that work more interchangeably in a wardrobe, it’s not the best.  I suppose this leads up back to the age old frosting vs. cake argument.  Should one sew only fun pretty things because they like to sew fun pretty things?  Or should one sew for practical, pragmatic reasons?  Personally, I think I derive more joy from sewing frosting (I mean, who doesn’t), but more joy from wearing cake.  As my older me-mades are starting to wear thin, I’m realizing I have a real hole in the foundational pieces of my wardrobe.  The pieces for the Sew Geeky, while meant to bolder the wardrobe, were, for all intensive purposes, mainly frosting.  At the same time, I’m also realizing that I enjoy wearing the Soft Natural style lines, but I don’t have many of those pieces in my wardrobe, because I’d always avoided pieces lacking any sort of sharp waist emphasis.  (Another ironic point: the Kibbe Soft Natural suggestions continually mention the need to visually see the waist to some extent, so I guess I wasn’t totally off in my own personal preferences, but I took it to the extreme of tight and fitted instead of loose and flowing.)

In the meantime, I’ve also been reading Clothing Construction and Wardrobe Planning, a 1950s era sewing/home ec textbook.  While much of the language is dated, the advice is entirely relevant.  From personal grooming, style selection, and sewing instruction to the economics of planning a wardrobe, this book has some solid ideas.  It talks about investment pieces, refashions, cost saving measures, and realistic wardrobe budgets in addition to some really thorough discussion of fabric types and sewing techniques.  Anyway, reading this book along with Style Syntax’s thoughts on the “Three Levels of Dress” has helped me clarify to some extent what I need in a wardrobe, or rather, the functions for my wardrobe will need to accomodate my lifestyle.  As of the moment, I am primarily in need of a casual (level 1) wardrobe, but I should start investing in some level 2 (more work-appropriate) pieces.  I’ve got a few things in Level 3 (fancy party dresses), but could really use some coordinating pieces in that department, especially fancier coats and jackets.

Additionally, while suffering my September Sickness, I discovered Merriam Style’s YouTube channel, in which she discusses the Kibbe styles, as well as her thoughts on coloring.  I’ll get to the color aspect of this discussion in a bit, but as for her thoughts on Kibbe I find myself agreeing quite a bit.  In reading Kibbe discussions on the internet, the adherents can have an almost cult like reverence for the “word of Kibbe,” especially when they are a member of his Facebook group and you are not.  Of course, the fact that the book is long out of print and going for ridiculous prices on the Amazon secondary market probably isn’t helping to temper his god-like status:

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To be fair, I think there is one copy on Ebay for about $300 at the moment, but, seriously though, why haven’t publishers jumped on acquiring rights for an updated reprint?  Plus, it seems that with the growing interest in minimalism and creating cohesive style and capsule wardrobes, Kibbe is becoming an increasingly popular topic.  This video, by one of my favorite fashion vlogger, was posted just last weekend:

While I find this video to be perhaps a bit less well researched than the body type series from Aly Art, I did think having a fashion designer’s perspective was very interesting.

Anyway, I don’t want to come off as a dogmatic adherent, but I do find myself increasingly admiring his system.  I feel like so much fashion advice has been about how to make yourself look like what you aren’t – how to “correct” for “problems.”  Kibbe’s method is the exact opposite – he looks at the lines of the body, and echoes them with the clothing recommendations.  In a sense it is sort of the ultimate body positivity message.  You have to really look at what you have, accept it, and work with it.  I think too often a “style stereotype” is associated with his classification, but if you really look at his descriptions, all he is doing is creating harmony between the lines of the body and the lines of the clothes.

On Merriam Style’s channel she has a video discussing the easiest way to figure out your type – to literally go and try on the clothes.  Or, at least to go and try on clothes that match the descriptions for the 5 main categories.  Once you know your main type, finding your subtype should be relatively simple.

By this point, I’m pretty well settled in my own personal typing, but I thought it might be interesting to use the My Body Model croquis to test out the Kibbe lines on my body shape:

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Of course, these are quick sketches, but I did follow Kibbe’s recommendations for each type.  The Dramatic style looks awkward – attempting straight, sharp lines on such a curved body shape loses the drama and just creates an oddly stiff juxtaposition, though the extended shoulders do “balance out” the hips.  The classic lines aren’t bad, but do seem to emphasize the lack of balance between the bust and hips.  The Gamine style does this even more so.  Romantic isn’t bad, but there is just a lot going on and it overwhelms the form.  Natural is clearly the most harmonious with the overall form – it is simple, clean, and feels more balanced.  The eye can simply rest and isn’t being pulled in different directions.  Since I had 8 spots on the paper, I then decided to do a comparison of the three natural types.  Clearly, the Soft Natural and Natural styles were more successful than my attempt at drawing a Flamboyant Natural style on myself.  Of all the types I think Natural has the most disparity between the more Yin and more Yang varieties – Soft Natural is all about waist emphasis and soft curves, and Flamboyant Natural is about creating a T-silhouette – not possible with those hips at all!

So where am I going with this?  Well, I’ve got a very, very large pattern stash to work with, and I’m starting to completely change my thoughts about what looked good on me.  Or, at least, I’m starting to explore more options.  I’ve always kept a folder of “Favorite” patterns that I want to make (though it needs some serious pruning at this point), but I’m now starting to look through my collection with a more critical eye as to how the lines correspond to Kibbe’s Soft Natural recommendations.  I’ve been using Trello to make a collage of patterns that would be suitable, and I’ve been organizing them by type and by Level of Dress.  Clearly, I am preparing to plan a Soft Natural Wardrobe, though I’m still in the baby stages at the moment.

However, the act of sorting through my patterns this way has been really fun and allowed me to form a more critical eye when assessing the lines and shapes of pattern options.  Obviously I’m going to fixate on Soft Natural because it relates to me, but I’ve been thinking about doing Romantic as well, as it would be helpful in choosing patterns for my sister.  Honestly, I’m sort of tempted to do a full blog series and post pattern picks for each of the Kibbe types.  If you are interested, let me know in the comments.  Though, frankly, I will likely do it anyway, partly because it would be fun for me, and partly because it is my blog and I can do what I want.

Somewhat related to this, I’ve also been reading Sewrendipity’s blog and have really appreciated her new focus on sustainability and sewing.  Her article on doing a Wardrobe Wear Count is interesting, and could definitely factor into helping produce a successful, well loved wardrobe.  I am also tempted to possibly preemptively sort my clothes by style and color and see exactly what I have to work with as a basis for the Kibbe Soft Natural look.  Anything that hits both color and style criteria would obviously make it in as part of the basic wardrobe, and anything that hit one of the two categories would be up for contention.  It could be helpful for figuring out which key pieces would be the most critical to start with for the sewing plans.

Speaking of color (see, I told you I’d get back to that!), Merriam Style’s perspective on color is quite different than most of the other sources I’ve looked at.  She basically divies colors into bright and warm (yellow), bright and cool (blue), muted and warm (brown), and muted and cool (gray).  I do like the simplicity of the system, and her videos using celebrity examples are pretty illustrative of her point.  I decided to try doing a drape with the recommended colors (using some of my me-made garments) as an experiment. The results are below:

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From the pictures I’m pretty sure it is obvious that I am much better in the cool colors, and possibly slightly better in the bright blue than the gray?  I took these photos in a spurt of energy mid-September Sick, so to be honest I look pretty worn in all of them.  This slightly different approach doesn’t really change what I’d been thinking about my coloring before this, though her thoughts on the color wheel are pretty dismissive towards other systems.  It’s funny because her major complaint is the other systems include all the colors, which are clearly not “the best” for a certain coloring.  Personally, I feel like that isn’t entirely the intent of the other color systems?  Most of the seasonal color fans present you with a majority of colors that are your “best” along with some coordinating colors that would look harmonious in an outfit based on hue, saturation, and chroma.  It’s been pretty well stated in these systems that certain colors will be better than others for an individual, but I feel like having options allow for looks with contrast and color harmony.  In the same vein, while blue is clearly better than yellow on me, I certainly don’t think all blues look equally good on me, nor do I think all browns look equally bad.  So I don’t really feel a need to change how I’ve been thinking about my color palette.  If I stick to cool colors of a medium or higher saturation, I should be pretty good to go.  And, honestly, I feel like I’ve typically had a good sense of “my colors,” which happen to be the blues, teals, green, and purples that make up the majority of my stash.

Well, it’s been a long ramble, but it was nice to get all of this out of my head and onto the page, even if it’s mostly for my own benefit.  In summary, I am really happy with exploring the Kibbe Soft Natural style typing, and I feel that my personal challenge will be taking the base recommendations away from the beachy boho stereotype and infusing more of the classic style I admire, but don’t necessarily enjoy wearing.  I’m also pretty happy with my color choices so far.  I want to keep sewing in collections, but I want to shift the focus to sewing things for my own personal “character” and not basing my style choices quite so much on the characters I love.  I’ve never really settled on a style archetype – something all of the books and websites recommend you have.  I think doing the Sew Geeky has helped me get closer to it though.  I definitely have a better view of what I want my style to be, and what really suits me.  I find myself excited to move forward, because I feel like I will have a higher success rate with pattern choices, and I’m really excited by some patterns I hadn’t previously considered.  Though, to be fair, a lot of the patterns I’m looking at were part of the “Favorites” folder from before.  They just were mixed in with a bunch of other styles too.  Pulling everything out to compare against others that fit the same category is really helping me narrow down my plans and focus on what I am actually excited to both sew and wear.  I’ve got a bit more planning to do, but I’ll be sharing more thoughts on sewing for your Kibbe type soon!


24 thoughts on “Sew Geeky Mid-Year Assessment and Further Wardrobe Musings (Wardrobe Planning Post #13)

  1. I really enjoyed reading your ruminations. I’ve really got into types/colors etc. in the past then life gets busy and it kind of falls to the side. I have a number of books on style theories and yes one of them is the Kibbe book. I picked mine up at the thrift store. I’m gobsmacked at the prices they’re asking for it. Do you think anyone is paying those prices? I could buy a decent car that didn’t break down every third thurs with that money!
    I actually remember when it came out. I was completely enamored with it but as a young mom with no money I couldn’t afford a 39 cent magazine let alone the book. I had no car so I’d pop the baby into our stroller and walk the mile and a half to the bookstore and pour over the book trying to memorize everything while said baby napped and walk back home again. I never have figured out what I was exactly, although I new right away what I was not. We moved and I didn’t see it for years. I found my copy about 3 years ago for 3 bucks. LOL…I WOULD LOVE to see you write about sewing for the types.

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  2. These posts so beautifully show your research background: clear, evidence based and so well written. I have never heard of Kibbe, or any of the other style typing systems. I tend to make repeats of what suits me (plain collared shirt/tunic, shades of blue or pink), but that is getting boring. I’ve been breaking out into newer silhouettes and shapes with mixed results. Now wondering if doing my own research would ensure greater success?

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  3. Very interesting! I’ve never heard of Kibbe either, and will have to check out Mirriam Style’s videos. You have put an astounding amount of energy into researching this, and I must say, it’s fascinating! Just listened to the Love to Sew podcast yesterday and the interview with Karen Templer, and she touched (very briefly) on body types. Her views on “slow fashion” were interesting also, and I’m getting the itch to basically toss my wardrobe and start from scratch. My body has certainly changed over the years, and maybe this Kibbe method can help me keep the style I enjoy wearing but in a way that suits me better. Perhaps. Not sure I’d have the time to invest in myself of this much investigation, but a rethink in my fashion habits is now a must.

    Just got the October Burda issue from the Great Britain seller (where ever that link is), they are great! A bit late, but hey it was $20 cheaper and now I have those a-m-a-z-i-n-g jacket patterns. Definitely making the winter coat (will likely take me the winter to sew it, tee hee), and the wide lapel jacket.

    Oh and I’m a total Eliot/Margo/Q shipper at the moment…lol…

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    1. Could you please tell me about the Great Britain seller of Burda. I was buying from GNM so and trying to find someone new. I am Canadian and I think you Ingrid are too.

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  4. I’ve loved all your posts about this topic! I cannot for the life of me figure out which type I am – I come out as mostly E’s some D’s, and a few A’s in relation to my face. That seems to indicate that i’m theatrical romantic, but none of the style recommendations feel right to me! I think it’s hard as a plus-size person to figure out some parts of my bone structure! 😛 If you ever take pity cases, I’d love your help!

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    1. I’d love to try to help! I’ll take a long look at some of your blog posts photos and see if I can offer some advice. Based on your info above (and having followed your blog) my gut response would be some sort of Gamine, but I’d need to think about it a bit more. Agree that it’s a bit difficult when you are in the plus-sizes to figure out the bone structure. I think that’s why it took me so long to realize that I’m a natural – I don’t think of myself as an innate athlete, and I think of my size as being mostly from fleshiness, but my bones actually are pretty thick in hindsight.

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    2. So I scouted your blog and looked through a fair bit of photos. I did the quiz assessment and I agree – I found a pretty even split of A’s, E’s, and C’s, with a few D’s as well. I’d hesitantly say you should check out the Soft Gamine category – it seems like you have sharpness in your features, but with softer edges on top. I think the recommendations for that type actually jive pretty well with your already awesome style too! I can see why Theatrical Romantic might come up, but I agree that it really doesn’t seem to suit you. Explore the Gamine space – I think you’ll like it!

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  5. Very interesting! I’d never heard of Kibbe before I read about him on your blog, but I’ve found his method works very well for me, where other style categorisation techniques never have. I particularly like his colour advice; it’s definitely about more than just skin hair and eye colour despite what seasonal colour analysts tell us 🙂

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    1. Definitely! I’m finding that basing color from the skin tone only is a good starting point (ie cool vs warm) then looking at Kibbe’s suggestions on how much color should be utilized in a look can help identify good combos quite a bit.

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      1. Yes; I think colour choice sends messages eg black can be edgy, elegant, or tough but not girly; khaki always carries an impression of practicality; and these are just as important as one’s natural colouring when selecting colours to wear.

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  6. I’m in two minds about Kibbe. I have identified my “Kibbegory” and I am a member of the “official” Kibbe FB group for my style ID. Kibbe himself frequently makes comments in the group. I think the system he has created is a wonderful thing that has really helped a lot of people over the years. However, there are quite a lot of things he says that I just don’t agree with – such as clothes not having a style ID, only people. I also hate that no interpretation is allowed in the group, at all. His Word Is Final.
    I find I’ve been much more comfortable with the (similar but slightly different) Yin/Yang system (by Rachel Nachmias, I believe?).

    I have Kibbe’s book and to be honest, I don’t refer to it much at all – perhaps I should sell mine! It would be fascinating to see it updated for the 2010s.

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    1. I think an updated version of the book would be amazing, especially for today when we have a much less defined style for the era. (At least, in my opinion today’s dress seems far less uniform than the 1950s or even 1980s for example.)

      I do agree with you about how intensely some people defend the Word of Kibbe elsewhere on the internet – it’s like, yes, it’s his system, and yes, obviously he would have a more correct vision for it than anyone else, BUT we cannot all afford to be seen by The Man. Plus, what is the point of knowing your own Kibbe ID if you still cannot choose your own clothes to go with it?

      I do agree somewhat with the idea that clothes themselves don’t necessarily have a single ID – I think certain pieces can be worn by different style types. However, I do think those pieces will read very differently on those different types, which can hopefully allow people to create their own sense of style within the Style ID recommendations. And I do think there are certainly some clothes that are so angler or so frilly that they would clearly be best classified as being pure yin or pure yang in lines.

      I have briefly looked at Rachel’s system, but perhaps I should dive a bit deeper into that one and see what she suggests…

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  7. I just discovered your blog through Gillian today, and I’m so impressed at the amount of thought and research that you’ve put into this process! I’d never even heard of Kibbe before today, but I’m excited to read your series on it. I’ll need to read up more on it, but my initial instinct is that I would fall into soft natural as well. If that turns out to be true, I’ll be quite interested to read your conclusions about patterns that work for you! I also love your whole Sew Geeky theme, and especially that you chose Brandon Sanderson as an inspiration. I haven’t read through his section of Wheel of Time yet, as I had to set the series aside after book 8 and it’s been at least a decade so I’d have to start over. But he’s one of my favorite authors otherwise.

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    1. Aww, yay! It’s always fun to find other sewing nerds on the internet. I’m sure I’ll be posting quite a bit more about Soft Natural styles, but probably nothing too in depth until I finish my Sew Your Kibbe series, which I expect will take me to the end of the year. That way, at least, I’ll have a lot of reference posts I can direct people to. I do think I’ll have quite a bit to say about the whole Sew Geeky experiment, and what did and didn’t work from that. I typically do a bunch of wrap up posts for the year between Christmas and New Years, so I expect there will be a lot of analysis during that time.

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