For an introduction to the Sew Your Kibbe Series, please see this post. The posts in this series are intended to be a well researched and thorough investigation of the Kibbe style recommendations, along with several example patterns for each “level of dress.” The posts in this series will be picture heavy and quite lengthy. You may want some tea.
After the first two posts about Kibbe’s Dramatic and Kibbe’s Romantic, I thought the next logical space to explore would be a true mix of yin and yang, the Classic. I’ve heard Kibbe’s Classic explained as the result of mixing equal parts yin and yang together in a blender. The result is a very moderate shape – nothing too straight or too curved; everything in even proportions. Kibbe’s Classic is described as a “Sophisticated Lady.” You can read more about Kibbe’s Classic here.
Body Type Characteristics
The following are Kibbe’s descriptions of a Classic Body Type:
CLASSIC PHYSICAL PROFILE
NOTE: : The following information should be taken as a broad outline of what makes a Classic. It is the overall combination of the perfect balance between the Yin and Yang extremes (symmetrical physicality and cool, reserved essence) that creates this Image Identity category. Therefore, slight deviation here or there is always possible and should not be worried over if it does not upset your Yin/Yang balance. Height: Moderate, usually between 5 feet 4 inches and 5 feet 7 inches. Body type: Evenly proportioned bust, waist, and hips. Slightly lithe and sinewy musculature. Moderate to slightly long limbs. Bone structure: Symmetrical, with a tendency towards slight sharpness. Slightly angular. Slightly straight. Tapered shoulders. Moderately sized hands and feet. Facial features: Chiseled, symmetrical and evenly spaced. Hair: Smooth and even surface texture. May be straight, wavy or slightly curly. Moderate thickness. Coloring: Any coloring is possible (warm or cool), although Classics are usually of blended or low-contrast coloring. High-contrast or vivid coloring is quite rare among Classics. If overweight: The body remains symmetrical, and the weight is usually evenly distributed. A Classic will not:
Be extremely tall.
Have large bone structure, or large hands and feet.
Have prominent or exotic facial features.
Be extremely petite with extremely delicate features.
Have an hourglass figure.
Have full, lush facial features (extremely round eyes, full lips, fleshy cheeks).
The following are Kibbe’s recommendations regarding the clothing and style choices that best suit his Classic image ID. The following recommendations will be taken into consideration for each garment type listed below:
SHAPE: Symmetry is the key to all your shapes. Whether slightly geometric or slightly curved, always blend the same shapes together in your look.
LINE AND SILHOUETTE: Your use of line goes hand-in-hand with your use of shape. Keep your outlines smooth and symmetrical with the emphasis on controlled and even edges, soft, straight lines or smoothly curved lines-softly tailored or slightly flowing. A clean, unbroken silhouette is your most elegant statement. Think “head-to-toe,” and blend everything accordingly.
FABRIC: Beautiful, luscious fabrics are an important element in your understated look, which stress your love of quality. Spend your money on the most expensive fabrics-here’s where it will show on you!
Moderate weights. Lightweights in very constructed and tailored garments. Matte finish or slight sheen. Very slight draping in constructed garments. Luxurious to the touch (French silks, Italian gabardines, etc.). Lightweight textures (raw silk, shantung, linen). Smooth knits (cashmere, softly ribbed, heavy jersey). Smooth chiffon and elegantly beaded fabrics for evening.
Avoid: Heavy fabrics. Rough textures. Sheer or clingy fabrics. Stiff metallics, and extremely shiny fabrics (unless lightweight).
DETAIL: Your use of detail should be clean, simple, and minimal-just enough to add an elegantly understated touch. It should never call attention to itself; it should only add to the smooth visual line of your garments.
Include: Slight, crisp shoulder padding. Clean, tailored necklines (man-tailored, notched, jewel, slashed, small V’s, turtlenecks, and narrow cowls). Crisp and finished cuffs. Elegant scarves in symmetrical ties (jabots, ascots, self-ties). Symmetrical lapels (notched, smooth shawls, or clean, piped styles). Tailored pants. Crisp gathers.
Avoid: Overly sharp, geometric, or angular detail. Unconstructed detail. Overly ornate detail and fussy trim. Overly animated or “cutesy” detail.
SEPARATES: Use carefully and sparingly. An obvious use of separates is counterproductive to your elegance. Make sure colors, textures, and prints blend together to maintain your smooth visual lines.
COLOR: Your use of color should accentuate your smoothly blended visual outline. This means that a mixture of colors in an outfit should blend together in intensity so as not to disrupt your clean and smooth silhouette. Monochromatic schemes are excellent, although you do not need to be limited to just one or two colors. The key is to make sure the tones (intensities) blend, instead of contrasting. Neutrals in exquisite fabrics are also quite rich-looking on you.
Avoid: Sharp color contrast. Multicolor splashes. Mix ‘n match color combos.
PRINTS: Should be symmetrical, evenly spaced and regular or realistic patters. Understated prints (pin dots, pinstripes, checks, blended plaids, herringbones, symmetrical paisleys, etc.).
Avoid: Oversized prints. Sharp and angular geometrics. Contemporary, avant-garde prints. Splashy watercolors or abstract florals. Ornate prints. Animated prints.
ACCESSORIES: Should be simple, clean, and elegant. Here is another place to invest substantially. The quality will definitely show!
Hats: Tailored, symmetrical shapes. Small and crisp with even brims.
Avoid: Oversized, ornate, or sharply angular hats.
Hosiery: Blend with hemline and shoe for one long line (one or two shades lighter than hemline) for a “light leg” look. Keep sheet or lightly textured.
Avoid: Opaque stockings. Contrasting the stocking with the hemline and the shoe (too choppy for you).
Jewelry: Keep your jewelry elegant, smooth, and symmetrical. Small, slightly geometric shapes are good, as are smoothly curved swirls. Be careful not to overdo! Go “elegant” instead of extreme.
Avoid: Extremely severe, angular pieces. Extremely ornate or intricate pieces. Overly dangly styles. Chunky and heavy pieces. Funky costume jewelry. A “no jewelry” look.
For the individual garment types, obviously, I will be focusing on the lines of the garment, as fabric and color choices would easily be controlled by the home sewer. It’s nice that he included a long list of acceptable fabrics though!
Jackets: Should always be narrow and tailored with a smooth outline. Standard length is best (just below break of hip). Lightweight unconstructed jackets are find when they are kept sleek and narrow. Blazers, cardigan-style, elongated Chanel (not cropped) are all good choices. Slightly longer jackets are possible when the corresponding skirt is also elongated to match.
Coats – Level 1: As I think may soon become quite apparent, Classic styles really can fit into multiple Levels of dress. I think the major distinctions will be fabric choice and amount of detail. Because classic lines are so clean, any amount of detail can really inform the perception of formality (or lack thereof) for a Classic. You may also notice quite a few of the Dramatic patterns I discussed making a re-appearance here. I’ve got some thoughts on this in the conclusion, but I think what’s important is looking at each pattern and seeing how well it fits into the guidelines, and if it also works to communicate your own sense of style.
Coats – Level 2: This middle level is the “native” level of Classics. As such, there are a lot of great patterns at Level 2 that fit quite well in the Kibbe guidelines.
Coats – Level 3: Many of these patterns could also work in Level 2 (or even Level 1), but have been showcased with fancier fabrics, so I thought I would list them here.
Jackets – Level 1: As with the coats, fabric choice or addition of detail can really alter the perception of a Classic’s jacket.
Jackets – Level 2: These patterns have style lines that work incredibly well with Kibbe’s recommendations.
Jackets – Level 3:
Skirts: : Should be kept smooth and simple. Clean lines. Soft and straight or slightly flared. Minimal detail. Moderate length to match jacket length (standard straight: one inch below knee; slightly flared, mid calf; paired with a long jacket). Softly pleated skirts.
Level 1: I think by adding those “avoid” touches (like pockets) to an otherwise Classic skirt, you can modify the Classic lines towards being more casual. Fabric choice will absolutely factor into the levels here – everything is so clean in line that a linen or ponte will read much more casual than a wool gaberdine or crepe.
Level 2: With Classics, you will notice that a lack of additional detail really makes the difference between the Levels of Dress.
Level 3: As with most things Classic, fabric choice and simplicity are key to elevating something to Level 3 status.
Pants: Clean, tailored styles with a minimum of detail. Plain front or trouser-pleated. Slim, narrow shapes.
Level 1: Kibbe says nothing about hem length in this specific recommendation, so I assume he meant for trousers to be a standard full length. However, many recent styles that most closely resemble the recommendations have been made in a cropped or 7/8 length. I feel that most could work as-is due to the Classic’s symmetry, but if you imagine many of these patterns lengthened I think they would provide a more Classic look.
Level 2: This level has a bit more of the tailoring elements (front pleats) that read slightly more formal.
Blouses: Smooth tailored styles (elegant silks and soft cottons).
Avoid: Flouncy or frilly styles. Unconstructed styles.
Level 1: I’m going to sound like a broken record, but fabrication and styling will do a lot to alter the perception of a Classic look.
Level 2: More styles that would work well for an office look.
Level 3: To find Level 3 tops, I had to veer away from the strict descriptions and focused more on the general Kibbe guidelines for Classics, as stated above in the Shape, Line, and Silhouette sections.
Sweaters: Smooth knits. Moderate weight. Ribbed or softly textured.
Avoid: Oversized and baggy sweaters. Clingy knits. Nubby or roughly textured knits.
Level 1: It’s really hard to find a Classic sweater that doesn’t read as Level 2. I choose to include this one as Level 1 just because I thought the styling was a good way to showcase how Classic can do casual:
Level 2: Most classic cardigans will work well for Classics.
Level 3: I couldn’t find any Level 3 sweaters. I think a Little French Jacket would be the Level 3 alternative. For the styles that utilize more tailoring, a soft knit sweater is never going to read as formal as a jacket with proper tailoring and really clean lines.
Dresses: Should always be elegant, with smooth shapes, softly tailored styling, and slim widths. Waist emphasis should be understated (narrow, elegant belts or ties). Shirtwaists, tailored wraps, soft sheaths, smooth knits, and belted coat dresses are all good.
Avoid: Sharply tailored styles. Flouncy styles with ornate detail. Oversized and wide styles.
Level 2: The Level 2 dresses remove some of the tailoring details and have even cleaner lines and shapes.
Level 3: A lot of my Level 3 Classic looks also overlap quite a bit with some Dramatic choices. Most of these also follow Kibbe’s “Evening Wear” guidelines as well.
Evening Wear: Symmetrical shapes with clean and elegant detail. Smooth fabric. Beaded fabric. Understated trim. Smooth chiffon gowns. Jacketed gowns. Tailored dinner suits. Beaded jackets and bodices. Simple little cocktail dresses.
Many of the Level 3 dresses would fit here, but I tried to find more extravagant examples for this section.
And with that we have another Kibbe ID down! According to Style Syntax, Classic’s have the easiest time finding a Level 2 wardrobe, and the most difficult time finding a Level 1 wardrobe. I would say this was pretty accurate with the proportions of sewing patterns I found, though I actually had more struggles finding non-gown Level 3 styles. Of all the types, I think Classic can have the least distinction between Level based purely on the pattern. So often the “feel” came from the fabric or styling in the model photo or envelope art. For many of these styles, fabric choice will be critical to signaling that a style is meant to be for casually walking the dog as opposed to wearing something chic as you walk down the aisle. It has been noted by other sources that of all the Style IDs, Classics are most likely to have success with small capsule wardrobes as having fewer, but more elegant/expensive looking items would be more important than having lots of variety to mix and match. Kibbe stresses the idea of having coordinating pieces that create a “whole look.” I think this is why so many of the styles I chose for Dramatic also seem to work well for Classic. The idea of vertical line is similar, but the Classic styles tend to have shorter hems and can have softer edges and slightly rounder details. The Romantic silhouettes are much farther from the recommendations from the Classics, though the influence can be seen from those higher hem lines, rounded necklines, or softer lapels. What is also interesting to note is the major differences we see between Classic and the other types. Neither Dramatic nor Romantic would do well in the Chanel style jackets – it would be dowdy and stiff on a Romantic and far too plain for a Dramatic. As we move forward into the subtypes I think we will see much more overlap of patterns, which makes sense, but we should also focus on what makes each type unique. We will especially be making constant comparisons with these Classic patterns because the alternative views often take a Classic pattern into subtype territory. Even in this post I was hesitant to recommend anything that would veer too Dramatic or Soft Classic, but it felt wrong to limit the number of patterns to those that were perfectly Classic. Part of this series is exploring where we can push the bounds, and what affect that will have for an overall “look” for a style ID.
To be honest, I actually had more trouble finding patterns for Classic than for either Romantic or Dramatic. Classics are tricky because you are constantly asking, is this too much? Is the shape too severe? Too soft? Too wide? Too detailed? For Romantics, it was totally the opposite – I was always thinking, is this enough? I was surprised with the amount of overlap between Classic and Dramatic, but when reading the suggestions the patterns did work well for both. I think those overlap patterns could read more casual on a Dramatic and more formal on a Classic. The overlap could also be due to pulling from home sewing patterns and not the entirely of images on the internet. I feel like Dramatic looks tend to come from higher end RTW, and the sharp tailoring is so specific that it wouldn’t be a feature that would have mass appeal in a home sewing market. I feel like I’ve been pretty honest when it comes to pointing out when a certain pattern falls outside of the strict guidelines though, and why I feel it would still work for that ID.
I would also say that I did have a comparatively easier time finding Plus pattern examples for Classic – the Burda back catalog is a goldmine of great Classic styles! I think Classic recommendations can be helpful to understand because, as pointed out by Merriam Style, Classic is really what you should go for when you really don’t know your Kibbe type, or if you want to add a neutral “background” type piece to your outfit. It may not add anything to your sense of personal style or add emphasis to your overall look, but it also won’t clash with your lines either. It’s sort of a neutral ground that anyone can utilize, which is perhaps why fashion’s idea of “classic” never goes out of style.
Coming Next Week: We’ve already seen the hard Yang Dramatics and the soft Yin Romantics, and we’ve just seen what happens when you blend them in equal amounts with Classics. Next week we’ll see what happens when Yin and Yang combine, but in a less blended fashion, as we take a look at Kibbe’s Gamine!