Sew Your Kibbe: An Introduction

So in my most recent Wardrobe Planning post I may have casually mentioned that I’ve been looking through my pattern stash with the mind of finding patterns that I both like and that fit my Kibbe Style Identity.  I’ve been having such a great time digging in and really analyzing the line, shape, and feel of the designs that I thought it might be a fun exercise to apply this level of thought to all the Kibbe types, to really get a good feel for the similarities and differences between the style identities and their subtypes.  Along with that, I thought it might be fun to do a “Sew Your Kibbe” blog series – each week I will showcase a style ID and pull patterns that seem to line up with Kibbe’s recommendations.   I’m hoping this will be entertaining, educational, and inspirational.  At the very least, I hope it might highlight new ways to think about your pattern stash, and possibly help you find patterns that would coordinate well in wardrobe planning!

From Skitch.png

Here’s a rundown of what I’m planning for my series:

  • I am using the Kibbe Style Identity as a basis for this analysis.  He thinks of things in terms of yang (masculine, strong, angular) and yin (feminine, soft, curved). His system is traditionally broken into 5 main types (Dramatic, Natural, Classic, Gamine, and Romantic), each with 1-2 additional subtypes, leaning either slightly more yin (soft) or slightly more yang (dramatic/flamboyant).
  • I will cover the 5 main types first, so we can get a sense of the major differences between the types, then go back around through the subtypes to look at the more nuanced differences between the style IDs.
  • I am going to focus on using mainly Big 4 and Burda patterns, and mainly from the past 10 years or so.  The main reason for this is I’m limiting my pattern search to my personal stash, because if I attempted to look through all the possible patterns of all time, I’d never finish.  Also, somewhat selfishly, I like looking through my patterns.  Personally, I also have some Knipmode and Patrones I could use for inspiration as well, but I wanted to focus on patterns that would be more probable to be sitting in a reader’s stash, or could be potentially easier to acquire, either through PDF downloads, current pattern sites, or through Ebay or Etsy.
  • I plan to do one style ID per week (hopefully, anyway – these posts do require a lot of time and research to put together!), which should *hopefully* allow the series to wrap up by the end of the year.
  • I’m going to work on Style Syntax’s concept of the three levels of dress; I will attempt to showcase casual, work, and fancy dress styles for each Style ID.
  • If you want to take the Kibbe Body Type test, to try to find your type before we start, I suggest looking here, or checking out this YouTube video.
  • If you want to learn more about the Kibbe body types, or can’t wait for more of my series, you should watch Aly Art’s whole playlist.
  • If you want to learn more about breaking the rules and think being stuck in a Kibbe box is not something you would enjoy, you should check out Merriam Style.  Her video on choosing wedding gowns and cheating on your Kibbe type are really helpful for framing a way of thinking about how to incorporate personal style preferences (ie, today I want to feel girly or badass) with a Kibbe recommendation that might not innately lean that way.

A few caveats and disclaimers:

  • I am NOT a part of the Strictly Kibbe Facebook group, because I avoid Facebook.  I am aware that he has reclassified some celebrities, denounced the validity of the body type test, and removed the Pure Natural, Pure Classic, and Pure Gamine types.  However, for the sake of this series, I feel it makes more sense to include the base types. Being able to compare the 5 main types will hopefully clarify the major differences of the style IDs.  It should then make it easier to see how the yin/yang influences affect subtle style points.
  • A lot of the time I think people classify a garment into a single Kibbe type and that’s it.  However, since I’m working with a (far too) large but finite number of patterns, we might see how certain patterns could work for different body types, but in different ways.  To me that speaks to the versatility of a pattern and not a flaw of the system.  Especially since the subtypes borrow extra features from either the Dramatic or Romantic essences, it would be logical for some garments to work well for multiple groups.  It just might be that for one group a garment would read as very casual, and for another it could perhaps look extremely fancy.  It’s why certain celebrities can get away with wearing chic button down tops and long skirts to an awards show, but others need to be dripping in sequins to look dressed up for the occasion.
  • Similarly, I feel the need to point out that all of this is based on my interpretation of the information on this system that I have been able to cobble together from the internet.  I do not have the full text (as it is increasingly difficult to locate or acquire, especially with the Kibbe system having something of a renaissance of late), so I’m working with what limited information I have.
  • Additionally, I’m looking at a limited number of commercial sewing patterns, so I’m not able to always find what Kibbe would consider a perfect look – but as long as it checks a few of his key points (and avoids the major no-nos), I will consider including it, especially if it helps to illustrate different levels of dress.  I will try to include both regular and plus size ranged patterns, when possible.  This is certainly easier for some styles than others.  I will also try to include a mix of BurdaStyle and Big 4, but, since my personal tastes fun a certain way, my Big 4 options may be limited for certain Style IDs.  Likewise, since BurdaStyle follows the fashion trends, their options for some Style IDs are not as numerous, or as recent.  I think this speaks to how the image of the “ideal” woman is constantly changing, putting to question, what is “ideal” anyway?  This is a much heavier topic to discuss, so we can perhaps leave this as a subject for a later post, after we have completed the series and have a bunch of working examples.
  • I am in no way saying that this is how you should dress – as always, do what makes you happy!  But I do think that, as people who sew, making mindful choices about patterns and fabrics can often lead to more successful results.  It always has to be that trifecta of fabric, pattern, and fit, and that can be hard to achieve if you seem to be sewing on a whim.  With limits on time/money/etc. having some forethought into pattern selection could be beneficial.  With that, I think that Kibbe’s classification system has a lot to offer in terms of critically considering a pattern before buying or cutting into fabric.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t (or shouldn’t!) break the rules – rather, it should allow you to “break the rules” in a more thoughtful, insightful way to achieve a desired effect.
  • I think we all somewhat innately know what looks good on us, or, at least, what we feel good wearing.  My hope is that this series will allow for better understanding of why that might be, and what else to look for that could potentially lead to similarly successful results.  Merriam Style recommends trying on clothes from each of the main types to hone in on a Style ID, but I am going to propose that you look at your favorite self-sewn garments.  Why are they your favorites?  What about them makes you feel good?  If you can’t pinpoint what it is, perhaps this series will help you recognize the commonalities of those garments and see what is recommended for other garments for that Style ID.
  • Finally, I really want to emphasize that these style selections will be my interpretations of Kibbe’s styles.  It is not in any way a direct translation of his vision, but more of a learning exercise to better understand and illustrate the different types of lines and styles that he recommends for the style IDs, and make that information more useful and applicable in daily life.  As always, I will welcome disagreements, input, and insight in the comments.

And with that, let’s get started!  I’m going to start this series off next week with the pure yang essense: Dramatic.  See you then!

36 thoughts on “Sew Your Kibbe: An Introduction

  1. Wow! A good deal to get through… But this looks fascinating. You know, I never realize getting dressed in the morning could be so… involved… When younger I didn’t bother much (nothing fit anyway), but now I care and this this looks terribly interesting. Will check out the Mirriam video too. Thank you for this!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I’ve always been a very “whatever” dresser, but I think today’s world is so visual and persistent that it’s hard to justify or maintain that feeling. Another topic for a lengthy follow up post I suspect.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very interesting. I have the book (which I donated once and rebought when still inexpensive). I previously thought I was a Flamboyant Natural but seem too fleshy for that so will say Natural with some classic (Soft Natural) and be intersted to see what you suggest.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Also, just did the style calculator. Came out 100% dramatic! While i feel on the kibbe scale I’m right in between Dramatic and Flamboyant Natural, i think perhaps it’s all those single colours on the Dramatic stuff that may be swinging me – it seems too austere. However perhaps it’s a perception issue…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think the main difference is a tailored vs unconstructed silhouette for Dramatic vs Natural. If you feel better in more loose flowing clothes it’d be more of a natural, and for Dramatic more tailored. Kibbe does say Dramatic can play with contrasted colors, especially bright and dark, to get a bold effect.


      2. Again, it’s both for me. Particularly when in consideration with the levels. I think best comparison for me is 1930s – high drama but with some drape as well as structure.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. That could definitely be a way to utilize both styles and make something your own! I’ve also seen some interesting topics on Merriam Style’s YouTube where she talks about which Kibbe groups can pull from each other a bit, and Dramatic and Natural were definitely close enough to do that to some extent.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Nice. Need to watch some more of her vids. It was a surprise to me i got 100% Dramatic though and it’s made me reconsider. I’ve ordered the style syntax workbook too, so it will be v cool to work through that. Thanks for all the great tips!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m looking forward to your posts. I’ve never heard of kibble before so I’m always about learning something new but not in a “cult obsessive “ way.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. WordPress ate my first comment but basically I’m very interested to follow this series. I tried doing the Kibbe thing before I started sewing and never really committed to it. It was hard since I could comfortably go between a few styles; maybe I’m a Kibbe chameleon?
    At any rate, this is going to interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Very interested to follow this series! I’ve been reading about Kibbe types for awhile now and have often thought how nice it would be to have some patterns that fit his recommendations. I do have the text and have gone through the quiz multiple times, but I find it hard to figure out exactly where I fit in his system. After watching the YouTube video with the examples, I think Soft Natural may actually be the best spot. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with for each type!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, I think the quiz can be a bit tricky if you don’t really know what the differences are. It wasn’t until I saw Aly Art’s video describing the differences between sharp, blunt, and rounded angles that I really understood how Natural fit into the whole picture. A lot of it is training your eye to see things. I also think it is really, really hard to type yourself. I think it’s safe to say most people have a somewhat skewed image of themselves, and that it’s hard to be objective for the quiz. Also, if it makes you feel better, rumor is that Kibbe was never really fond of the quiz and was forced to add it to satisfy the publisher. While some people swear by it and others are confused by it, I have to say I think it works, for the most part, but only if you really understand the differences between the options.

      I think Kibbe’s approach would have been more organic, which to some extent this whole process is anyway. I do like Merriam Style’s suggestion of just trying on clothes. It wasn’t until I wore some clearly Natural styles (which I never really gravitated to before) that the whole thing clicked for me. Hopefully Soft Natural works out for you, and that you can see yourself in the clothings picks when we get there!


  6. I just stubled across this post. I have been trying to make sense of Kibbe for a while, but it just doesn’t click for me… The fact that he reclassifies and changes the system probably means that even he is confused about it :/

    I have tried looking for similar celebrities etc, but they are spread all over the spectrum as well, so not much help there either :/


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