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.
We have finally reached Kibbe’s Natural, the last of the five main types. We have already covered the pure yang Dramatic, the pure yin Romantic, the blended Classic, and the mixed Gamine. On the yin/yang spectrum, the Natural group is a bit closer to yang, but it is influenced by the yin’s softening of the bone structure. This results in blunting the sharp angles of the Dramatic and creating a sense of width, rather than just a sharp vertical or a very rounded line, which allows for very different use of shape and line than we saw with Classic or Gamine. Kibbe’s Natural is described as a “Girl Next Door Chic.” You can read more about Kibbe’s Natural here.
Body Type Characteristics
The following are Kibbe’s descriptions of a Natural Body Type:
NATURAL PHYSICAL PROFILE
NOTE: The following information should be taken as a broad outline of what makes a Natural. It is the overall combination of the soft Yang (slightly broad and angular physicality, and fresh and open spirit) 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 to slightly tall, up to 5 feet 8 inches Bone Structure: Slightly straight. Slightly angular with blunt edges (as opposed to sharp). Slightly squarish. Broad shoulders. Blunt angular facial contours (nose, jawline, cheekbones). Hands and feet are moderate to slightly large and squarish. Body type: Straight and muscular. Lean and slightly lithe. Flat hips and slightly flat bust line. Slightly long arms and legs. Possibly long-waisted. Facial Features: Slightly broads, blunt, or irregular. Moderate to small eyes. Taut cheeks. Slightly wide features (open). Straight, slightly thin lips. Hair: Any texture is possible, but hair is frequently moderate to thick. It also tends to have a slightly matte finish as opposed to silky sheen. Coloring: Any coloring is possible (warm or cool), although Naturals frequently have low-contrast or blended coloring with skin that tends to suntan easily. If overweight: The body tends to remain straight (as opposed to becoming curvy). Excess weight tends to make you a little square in shape as it broadens the midsection. Extreme excess weight gives a very stocky appearance. A Natural will not:
Have an hourglass figure
Be extremely petite or extremely tall
Have overly exotic or prominent features
Be symmetrical with evenly spaced features
Have extremely sharp features
Have a boyishly thin figure with a lack of musculature in the arms and legs
The following are Kibbe’s recommendations regarding the clothing and style choices that best suit his Natural image ID. The following recommendations will be taken into consideration for each garment type listed below:
SHAPE Geometric shapes with soft or rounded edges are the key. Rounded-edged rectangles. Soft oblongs, rounded-edged squares, irregular shapes, and soft asymmetrics.
Avoid: Sharp geometrics. Circles and swirls. Ornate shapes.
LINE AND SILHOUETTE A relaxed, straight line is the outline of your look. Your silhouette is softly tailored, always unconstructed. Your outline should be fairly narrow and slim, in a loose and easy way.
FABRIC All soft textures are excellent for you, as is any fabric with a rough or nubby surface. Any wrinkly fabric works well for you, as do all woven fabrics. Knits are excellent in nearly any weight and thickness, from very finely woven to very heavy and rough. Moderate weights are best, although textures can easily be lighter (raw silks, linens, etc.). Plush velours, suede, and soft leather are perfect, and drapable fabrics are best kept to heavier weight jerseys. A matte finish is far superior to sheen for daytime (even your best silks are crisp orientals, etc.). In the evening, you can go very glitzy with hard-finished sheens (especially metallics, lame, thick brocades, etc.).
Avoid: Sheer fabrics. Clingy fabrics (except for knits). Flimsy fabrics.
DETAILS Detail should be kept minimal. Plain and simple is best for you. Any unconstructed or loosely tailored detail works well. Simple necklines (soft horizontals, boat-necks, clean slashes, deep V’s, loose cowls, notched collars) are best, and you should concentrate on open necklines for your air of casual chic. Soft-edged shoulder pads are very good, and lapels should be tailored, notched, or clean (lapel-less). Cuffs should be very plain. Pleats should be soft and deep, and gathers should be minimal. Dropped waist detail (loose sashes, over-bloused tops, ties, etc.) is excellent, as are slightly dropped shoulders. You can use small touches of hand embroidery or rough lace and eyelet for very simple trim.
Avoid: Extremely tailored detail. Extremely sharp or angular detail. Extremely oversized detail. Ornate or intricate detail. Any frilly detail. Any closed or restrictive detail. SEPARATES Separates are extremely exciting on you, and should make up the bulk of your wardrobe. Even in very conservative suited looks, you’ll do better with an artful mixing of patterns, textures, and colors than you will with an overly matched look, which tends to be extraordinarily dull on you! The type of articles that are usually described as “Designer Sportswear” (but aren’t actually sporty at all) are an excellent hunting ground for you! Your look is definitely mix ‘n match in the most sophisticated sense of the word, and you should expend most of your creative energy in this area!
COLORS Color is an area in which you should have lots of fun! Strive for zip, verve, and lots of pizzazz with bolds, brights, pastels, vivids, and wild color combinations-anything imaginative. Neutrals work well when they are used in beautifully textured fabric (raw silks, linens, luscious weaves, etc.), but you will feel a little dull without a few bright accents, either in accessories or jewelry. Break all the rules when it comes to color! Mix ‘n match with ease.
Avoid: Monochromatic color schemes-they are very dull and boring on you, unless the fabric is exquisitely textured beyond belief!
PRINTS Your use of prints can include casual styles that are soft-edged geometrics (plaids, stripes, paisleys, etc.) and funky prints in irregular shapes (abstract asymmetrics, leaves, animal prints, etc.). They should be of moderate scale to slightly large and will generally have a softly blended edge. Colors can be very wild and unusual if you wish, or more muted and earthy-looking.
Avoid: Small prints. Symmetrical prints. Extremely angular geometrics. Watercolor florals. Ornate and intricate prints. Extremely oversized prints.
ACCESSORIES Accessories should be kept minimal; plain and simple is your best look here. Unconstructed styles with soft or rounded edged geometric shapes are most effective. You can use bold colors to add spark if you wish, although neutrals are also fine.
SHOES Simple tailored styles. Low to moderate heel. High heels should be very angular and straight, not tapered. Stacked heel, wedged, and all flats. Evening sandals should be very bare, not strappy. Tapered toe, open (plain), or closed.
Avoid: Overly delicate or strappy styles. Ornamentation and trim.
BAGS Moderate-sized, unconstructed pouches. Shoulder bags. Simple geometrics in supple leather (envelopes, clutches, etc.). Box-shaped bags for evening.
Avoid: Overly delicate or ornate styles.
BELTS Leather belts should be simple and softly geometric. Textured or carved surfaces are excellent. Fabric sashes, ties, and dropped waist detail are also good.
HATS Unconstructed styles. Large, loose, and floppy. Shaggy-haired fur.
Avoid: Extremely tailored, crisp styles. Ornate and delicate styles.
HOSIERY A flesh-toned stocking is best for business. Funky stockings that are brightly colored or printed can be fun for you, and geometric textures can sometimes be effective.
Avoid: One long line of dark color. Dark stockings for daytime. Lacy or ornate stockings.
JEWELRY Jewelry should be kept on the chunky side, with soft or rounded-edged geometrics the shapes you use. Your jewelry can either be pieces of “wearable art” (handcrafted and museum quality) made by an artist or taken from another culture, or it can be bright and funky costume pieces that add pizzazz! Earthy materials are very elegant and sophisticated on you (copper, silver, amber, turquoise, etc.). Hard-finished enamels and glass are fun, especially when used in bold colors for vivid accents (big bright beads, chunky earrings, irregularly shaped pins, etc.). It is possible to get away with very minimal chains, tiny diamond studs, etc., but chances are you won’t be satisfied with this once you experiment with a zippier look!
Avoid: Ornate and intricate styles. Antique, rococo, and baroque. Dangly and delicate styles. Severe or sharply angular styles. Small jewelry. Symmetrical and classic styles.
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: Unconstructed. Relaxed shapes. Elongated (ending from the upper thigh on down). Relaxed and easy fit. Soft-edged shoulder pads. Textured surfaces. Patch pockets. Tailored, notched lapels, or lapel-less. Long cardigan styles with shoulder pads. Unconstructed double-breasted (left open). Long blouson with dropped waists.
Coats – Level 1: The “unconstructed” look seems to move in and out of fashion popularity on a regular cycle, but sewing patterns seem to love it always. Loose garments are always going to be easier to fit, so there are a LOT of natural styles available in the sewing pattern market.
Coats – Level 2: The main difference between the Level 1 and Level 2 options I used are the types of details and the narrowness of the relaxed and elongated fit. As with Classics, Natural looks will read quite differently depending on fabric choice, so it is quite possible that many of these styles would work for multiple levels of dress.
Coats – Level 3: The unconstructed look needs a bit of glamorous drama to be elevated to Level 3.
Jackets – Level 1: The jackets for a Natural look quite similar to the coats – just slightly shorter and with less weighty fabrics.
Jackets – Level 2: With the Level 2 jackets we start to see a bit more tailoring, though the details tend to be quite simple still.
Jackets – Level 3: Once again, the combination of fabric and details really helps to elevate something to being a Level 3.
Skirts: Simple straight skirts, Softly tailored styles. Culottes, gauchos. Simple tailored detail (plackets, pockets, trouser pleats, slits, low kick pleats, inverted pleats, button-front). Moderate length (one inch below knee). Very short skirts for fun/funky looks. Very slightly flared hemlines (kept flat through the hip area-these will have a longer hemline, mid-calf).
Level 1: It’s a bit difficult to find the right line between “simple and straight” and “too full,” but I did my best using Kibbe’s recommendations. I’m not sure if an A-line would be too much (he doesn’t explicitly warn against them), but finding something “straight” that was neither too full nor too pencil slim was a bit of a challenging judgement call.
Level 2: The Level 2 options could easily also fit into Level 1 depending on fabric choice and styling. Since the Natural look is primarily constructed by mixing separates, the overall look will depend a lot on how pieces work in conjunction and not just individually, but the details in the Level 2 looks will be a bit more tailored.
Level 3: The Level 3 skirts could be paired with a really elegant top or jacket to get a fancy evening look.
Pants: Nearly all styles are excellent, from very casual to very dressy. Simple tailored styles with minimal detail. Elasticized or drawstring. Unconstructed styles. Sweats. Jeans. Short, cropped, or long. Cuffed or cuff-less. Shiny, silky, or satiny evening styles, including pajama styles.
Avoid: Draped, tapered leg styles with gathered waists.
Level 1: When Kibbe said “nearly all styles are excellent” I decided to narrow my options a bit by focusing on those pieces he listed directly, and on the overall unconstructed silhouette he emphasizes elsewhere in his recommendations.
Level 2: Again, because “nearly all styles” look good, there are a ton of patterns that will work at all levels. This level has a bit more of the classically tailored styles.
Level 3: As with most of the recommendations for Natural, styling and fabric choice will be key, but there are some great examples of evening trousers here.
Blouses: Simple tailored styles with open necklines. Unconstructed styles. Smooth surfaced, or light weaves and textures.
Avoid: Severely tailored blouses. Frilly blouses.
Level 1: For Level 1 I focused on finding open necked t-shirts and basic tops, which could pair well with the trouser and skirt styles from above.
Level 2: The Level 2 tops are a bit more tailored, with a slightly slimmer, but still unconstructed fit.
Level 3: Many of the Level 2 looks could easily move to Level 3, so I only have one option here.
Sweaters: Nearly any sweater style works well for you. Thick knits, ribbed, nubbies, cable stitching, shaggy mohairs. Any and all lengths. Soft shoulder pads are also a good touch. Solids and wild prints.
Avoid: Overly delicate and overly fluffy knits with trim.
Level 1: Yet again we have a category where nearly anything goes, so I focused on finding styles that worked with Kibbe’s general recommendations, as well as searching for patterns that work with the specific recommendations listed above.
Level 2: For Level 2 I found options that are a bit more formal and could pair a bit easier with the Level 2 top and skirt options from above.
Level 3: Naturals are one of the few Style IDs that can easily wear sweaters at Level 3. Fabulous fabrics will help quite a bit to glam up the look!
Dresses: Dresses should be simple and unconstructed, with a narrow shape and a relaxed outline. Softly tailored styles work well, as do dropped and loose-waisted styles. A softly tailored coat dress with an open neckline or a narrow chemise in a beautifully textured raw silk or linen would be another choice. Nearly all knits are perfect, as are wrap styles, safari styles, T-shirt styles, and blouson or two-piece styles.
Level 1: Kibbe still gives us a lot to work with in the dress category, though there are more restrictions here than we got with trousers or sweaters. Again, with so many styles that could work, I tried to really focus on his specific recommendations.
Level 2: For the work/date level, I focused more on softly tailored styles and options that showcase finer fabrics to help with visualization.
Level 3: The Level 3 styles are a bit harder to find – I was often excluding gowns that were too wide or too detailed. I also dipped a bit into Kibbe’s Evening recommendations to make my selections here.
Evening Wear: Simple shapes with easy fits. Minimal detail. Bare necklines and shoulders. Smooth to slightly plush fabrics. Glitzy fabrics. Metallics. Bare sheaths. Strapless gowns with stoles and flings. Jersey cocktail dresses. Evening sweater-dresses with glitz. Evening sarongs. Evening separates (blouses, skirts, pants). Evening pants.
It was a bit tricky to find evening looks to fit all of the criteria, but I think there are a few decent options.
Wow! There were a lot of options for the Kibbe Natural, especially from Burda. Burda (as we have seen) drafts lots of patterns for every type, but they really like the styles that suit a Natural Style ID. Personally I think it is partly because unconstructed styles are a bit easier to draft, construct, and fit, but also because it seems to be part of the Burda aesthetic. I even had to narrow down my options a bit to contain this post to manageable lengths, and I still think I found way more options than I did for some of the other IDs. According to Style Syntax, Naturals most easily dress in Level 1 because of the unconstructed fit of the clothes, but I think many of these patterns could work at any level depending on fabric choice and styling.
As a note on Naturals: Kibbe mentioned for several categories that “anything goes,” and even for the skirts he allowed super short styles when the overall look is generally considered to be slightly elongated, which we did not see in any of his other style IDs. While I tried to stick to the explicit recommendations, that “anything goes” approach really meant that I could have included a lot of looks we’d seen for the other four IDs (but didn’t to preserve my own sanity). I think this is interesting to note because a majority of the 90s era super models are confirmed Kibbe Naturals of some subtype. The modeling industry is dominated by this Style ID (along with Dramatics) because they can look good in so many clothes, and because the taller Style IDs have a long vertical line that is more similar to the exaggerated croquis that most designers use. That doesn’t really impact us much as home sewers, but I thought it was interesting and worthy of note.
Anyway, at this point we have seen all 5 base types of Kibbe’s system, so we should have a fairly good understanding of what makes each base type different. When we compare Naturals to the other Style IDs, the uniqueness certainly comes in their need for unconstructed styles. However, their elongated line is somewhat shared with the Dramatics (though no where as severe in the tailoring), the soft smoothness of the fabrics comes from the Romantic side of the spectrum, their need for simplicity is much in common with Classics, just as their success with separates is shared with Gamines. I think understanding overlap can be good to help understand the continuum that is Kibbe’s spectrum, and why his system is self-contained and complete – drawing out the ven diagram of what “works” for each type really does cover all possible combinations, as we will see when we delve into subtypes.
Speaking of subtypes, we are finally there! I’m excited to look at how extra doses of yin and yang influence the styles that can work for Kibbe’s subtype IDs. Before we get there though, I wanted to highlight some of the interesting discussions in the comments on these posts, and I am planning on doing an “interlude” post before we move on. With luck that will come up later this week.
Coming Next Week: We’ve covered all of the base types and are ready to move on the subtypes. To keep things fair, I’m going to circle back around and repeat in the order we used to look at the base types, so we’ll be starting off our exploration of subtypes with Kibbe’s Soft Dramatic!