At this point in my Sew Your Kibbe series we’ve looked at the five main types in Kibbe’s style system. Before moving on, there have been some really interesting discussions happening in the comments, and there are a few things I wanted to highlight before we get to the subtypes.
(1) Do/sew/wear what you like!
I really don’t want people to think I’m telling them what to do/sew/wear and/or not do/sew/wear. If you really like something from a different Kibbe type, then I still say go for it because it brings you happiness! That’s what frosting sewing is for. And we all need a little frosting. My intent with this series is not to say that patterns are “off limits” because they aren’t in your type, but more just to simply explore the concepts of Kibbe through the lens of sewing patterns. All this is in hopes of understanding the concepts of line and visual harmony better, and eventually applying that to my own wardrobe and wardrobe planning (trying to adjust the cake to frosting ratio, if you know what I mean). What this practically means is, if you saw something that you absolutely adore and must have but it wasn’t in your type, it’s ok because…
(2) Kibbe thinks in terms of outfits.
If you look at Kibbe’s style concepts, it really is for making a whole outfit. I haven’t put his recommendations for hair/makeup in these posts because they are already so long (and those things are not directly related to sewing), but his description really is of a full outfit, including accessories and other items that add to the appearance. If you think Kibbe’s recommendations are generally working for you, but you still have that *one thing* you really love, I think you can make some concessions by trying to keep the overall impression in mind. You may also have to make concessions on Level of Dress when you do this (a Level 2 Gamine jacket might read as Level 1 on a Dramatic for example, due to the shorter length, but still have enough sharpness of features to mesh into an outfit), but it should let you incorporate special pieces into the overall look.
(3) It’s not impossible to pull from other Style ID’s.
I want to emphasize that I’m not posting every possible sewing pattern ever for each type (even though it feels like it sometimes), so there are lots of options out there that won’t be on the blog. It’s also important to keep in mind that the yin/yang spectrum is a spectrum – there is a lot of overlap between types (I discussed this a bit in the conclusion of the Natural post). We will start to see this even more as we move to the subtypes. Because of this I’m really going to focus on finding patterns that uniquely work for the subtype and make it distinct from the main type. However, Merriam Style’s YouTube had an interesting post about how to strategically cheat on your Kibbe type.
Based on her videos, the following body types seem to most easily be able to “cheat” from each other’s styles:
Dramatic and Soft Dramatic
Flamboyant Natural and Natural
- Natural and Soft Natural
Dramatic Classic and Classic
- Classic and Soft Classic
Flamboyant Gamine and Gamine
Gamine and Soft Gamine
Theatrical Romantic and Romantic
Soft Gamine and Theatrical Romantic
Dramatic and Flamboyant Natural
Soft Dramatic and Soft Natural
This makes sense because the subtypes all stem from the main type, so really they are just slightly modified versions of the main type, so some overlap is totally logical. Soft Gamine and Theatrical Romantic make sense because they are both more on the yin side of the spectrum with a bit of yang influence. Dramatic and Flamboyant Natural make sense in the same way because both are heavily influenced by yang. Soft Dramatic and Soft Natural both have yang influenced bone structures, but with yin softness on top, so the overlap there makes sense as well. What this means, practically speaking, is that while I’m looking for the best representations of sewing patterns to match Kibbe’s suggestions, they doesn’t mean it won’t work for other types, and this will be even more true as we get to the subtypes.
If you pull from a type that has more yin than your own, it will make you look sharper and more yang because of the contrast, whereas pulling from a type that has more yang will make you look softer, again because of the contrast. Knowing this is a great way to control your own personal style.
(4) Difficulty finding subtypes.
I think when people look at Kibbe’s system as a whole it can be confusing at first to find your place within it, especially if you are one of the Soft subtypes because the softness often disguises the bone structure to some extent. As we move through the subtypes I think it is important to refer back to the main types – if you feel confused between Soft Dramatic or Theatrical Romantic, it’s helpful to compare Dramatic vs. Romantic first – this can really help find the subtype. Same goes with Soft Natural/Soft Classic/Soft Gamine. Which of the main types would better serve you, if you didn’t have the options of the subtypes? This approach can really help avoid confusion when trying to find your Kibbe Style ID.
(5) This missing main types.
I don’t know how many people have fallen down the rabbit hole to the point of frequenting discussion forums and Facebook groups where Kibbe’s theory is discussed more heavily, but recently he has apparently declared the Classic, Natural, and Gamine categories to be nonexistent and moved all of his celebrity examples into one of the two subtypes for those categories. It’s his system, so he can do what he wants, but I still feel like these are valid and separate categories. At the very least, I thought it was important to understand the differences between the main types before moving to the subtypes because the general feel and style lines are very similar between the main types and subtypes. Personally, I’m choosing to consider the main types to still be valid, but I know the real Kibbe die-hards out there would argue with me on this point.
(6) Ingenue, Etherial and “Chameleons.”
The concept of ingenue has shown up in many different style systems, and many people wonder if Kibbe’s “D” on the quizzes corresponds to this. I don’t think it does. I agree with Merriam Style’s assessment that “D” is really referring to the Theatrical Romantic category for Kibbe’s system. Ingenue, on the other hand, is an impression that could really work for almost any of the Style IDs. Merriam Style describes it as “baby-face-ness,” but I would term it as a combination of features that adds a youthful, innocent vibe. I think we can see it more easily in the soft categories, especially Soft Gamine, but I’m pretty sure it can apply to other Style IDs as well (I often get mistaken for being younger than I am, but I am in no way a Gamine). Ingenue is something extra on top of the Style ID that adds an extra dash of youthful personality, but I don’t think it changes which ID you have. It may adjust your personal choices to some extent within your own category, but I don’t think it is in any way “missing” from the Kibbe system.
Similarly, I’ve seen arguments for “etherial” types – those who have an “other worldly” combination of features that can be described as “angelic” or “alien.” I also think this is not something that is missing from Kibbe, but something that could add a personal level of style on top of an existing ID.
Finally, I’ve been pondering the idea of chameleons – people that I feel can wear items from any Style ID and somehow make it work. This isn’t a concept I’ve seen discussed elsewhere, but it is something I’ve been thinking about. They often have that head-to-toe look down, but can mix-and-match from across the Kibbe recommendations and still look fantastic, where I feel most of us might look a little bit nuts. I also think these people can “transform” much easier with makeup/hair/accessories. My sister, I think, is one of these people. She’s a Kibbe Romantic, but she always looks amazing when she dresses up in costume and really becomes someone else, whereas I pretty much still look like me, but me in a wig. I’m not really sure how this fits into the idea of Kibbe. I know my sister has started to shop/dress within her Kibbe recommendations and really likes it (it makes everything coordinate and is much more focused for her while shopping), but I can see how a chameleon might have no interest in any sort of style typing system because they don’t really need one – everything just sort of works for them in an intuitive way. I’m not sure that I’ve got any great conclusions on this, but I do think it was worth noting in this general style ID round up post.
(7) Indie Kibbe Sewing.
I’ve been sticking to patterns from Burda/Big 4 because they tend to follow fashion trend cycles more closely than indie brands do, so the aesthetic is a bit more all over the map. I do plan to do a post about which indie brands would work best with each Kibbe type after I finish the main series, so realistically not until sometime early next year, but it is definitely coming.
(8) Vintage Kibbe Sewing.
This ties into my point of fashion trend cycles from above; there are certainly some decades of vintage that work better for certain style IDs than others, and I think that could be fun to talk about in an upcoming post as well. I know historical costumers get really touchy about representative fashion because styles can change a lot over a decade, and the point of Kibbe’s system is that you should be able to apply the concepts to any era of fashion to find what suits you best, but I still think there is something interesting to be said about how the “ideal” image changes over time.
(9) Kibbe for men.
Although Kibbe’s writings are geared towards women, the system can definitely be applied to men as well. I’m not sure that I have *enough* men’s sewing patterns to do a full round up of posts as I’m doing with the women, but I might be able to do a general post on what men’s patterns I do have and/or can find from indie brands. Let me know in the comments if that would be of interest. It also likely won’t show up until after the main series, but I’d be happy to expand on this a bit more. In the meantime, you can check out Aly Art’s awesome videos where she applies the Kibbe concepts to male celebrities:
(10) Does your Kibbe change as you age?
I think no. I think it is probably easiest to discern which type you are in the mid-20s to early 50s, and possibly before having kids, but Kibbe does describe how the style IDs look if they have gained weight over time. Gaining weight doesn’t change your ID, and I don’t think age does either. Your personal tastes within that style may change, and you may choose to go more (or less) conservative within that ID as you age, but I don’t think the ID itself changes. It comes back to the idea that this is a spectrum, and that there is a range and flexibility within each ID to make personal choices. Which brings me nicely to my final point…
(11) Your style is still YOUR style. (AKA Resistance to your Kibbe type.)
Kibbe includes a chapter on resistance to your Style ID in his book, and Style Syntax has discussed this concept as well. If your personal style and your Style ID match up well, it can be very easy to create looks that “feel like you.” It can be a bit more challenging if, say, a Classic feels the inner need to display the quirky expression of a Gamine, or if the thought of a ruffle makes a Romantic internally wretch. I think this is where personal styles comes into play. It is totally possible to add your own level of expression on top of Kibbe’s recommendations. To me he is giving you the blueprints, but you get to be the interior designer who decides how to zhoosh things up. I think it would be interesting to delve into the topic of adding personal style onto the Kibbe recommendations a bit deeper in a future post, but for now I’m really more focused on finishing the main series so I will be able to reference all of the types and subtypes with examples. Luckily, Merriam Style just released this video, which I think really illustrates this point with lots of good visuals:
And that’s it! I just wanted to touch on these topics before moving on, because I think they are important and worthy of more discussion, though I’m not sure when exactly I will take a deeper look and explore these topics in more depth. If you have any insight or suggestions for other Kibbe related topics feel free to discuss in the comments, otherwise we will resume our regularly scheduled programming with the Kibbe subtypes next week!
10 thoughts on “Sew Your Kibbe: Interlude”
An encouraging and thought-provoking interlude. I saw Aly Art’s videos on types for men but I haven’t watched the boring/fun one yet. I’ll check that out.
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I find your point on the Chameleon interesting. As an actor, I love becoming a different person and like your sister I can really transform when in costume. However, there are roles I have VERY infrequently been cast in and they are the Romantic roles – which is my style opposite. I do think the actor in me plays a part in having had a slightly scattered personal style at times. That’s why I’m loving Kibbe. It makes me feel more like me.
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Great points, all. You’ve given me quite a bit of food for thought, so thanks again. I’ve found an understanding of the main categories to be very helpful and in fact liberating. I look forward to the remainder of the series.
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I’m really enjoying this, and I think you’re right to emphasise that they’re guidelines not rules. My suspicion is that all ‘systems’ work well for a proportion of the population but there are always people they are less good for. I’m quite cheered to find this one works for me!
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It’s interesting because I’ve read a lot of “style advice” over the years, but this is the one thing that really stuck with me. With other systems (which typically try to “balance out” the body) I find that some things would work, but not others. It’s taken me a while to find my place within the Kibbe system, but I would say that the theory of it resonates with me, and the recommendations work well too!
The whole Kibbe thing is new to me, and will admit that when you first posted about it, it was rather overwhelming. But after having perused the different themes you’ve posted about (and drooled after all those lovely patterns), it’s much more interesting than I thought! But you are right, I think, in saying that they are guidelines. While I have yet to make a bunch of patterns based on this ( I’m such a sloooow seweristpersonthing) nonetheless I’ve looking at my wardrobe of what I wear now with these thoughts in mind, and many do seem to coincide with the concept!
There are still those patterns I WILL make, nonetheless, but now while (learning to) fitting, those ideas can maybe help me learn what might look right on my body.
Can’t wait for your Indie Kibbe sewing pattern lists! I love Burda as they tend to fit me well (Vogue patterns I’ve tried never fit the same way, Mccalls is ok) but there are many indie patterns out there that look interesting.
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I’m loving this series and don’t worry, it comes across that you don’t think of the guidelines as dogmatic. I love borrowing from all kinds of different styles as I see fit, but what I’m really starting to understand now is why some things work on me and others don’t. As a dramatic classic I can stray into different style IDs if I keep the overall silhouette narrow and keep the colours deep/neutral.
What makes me think the Kibbe system works is I’ve observed on myself that when wearing really severe yang (dramatic) styles they make my face look ridiculously soft/pretty, but extremely soft, yin styles can make my face and body look too angular. Ruffles in particular are a total no-no. I look much more like me and in balance if I wear things that fit more in the dramatic classic style. I mean, I’d love to wear soft dramatic and look all vampish and sexy, but it doesn’t really work that way on me. I look much more glam in simple, tailored, narrow clothes. The best RTW dress I ever owned was a black tailored shirtdress. Super narrow fit and military/utility details like epaulettes. I really need to make myself something similar!
I’d definitely be interested in a post on mens sewing patterns. Haven’t attempted to Kibbe the fella yet, but I’m sure he’ll be delighted (not!) when I do 😉
Thanks for the video links too. I’m looking forward to viewing them when the kids give me a few uninterrupted minutes 😛
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Also, I was prompted to look back into the Dressing Your Truth types which I did years ago, but had a huge amount of resistance to at the time. I was a type four, which I still agree with, and amazingly enough the guidelines fit really well with the dramatic classic ones. Also, I realised since finding out I was type four I’ve unconsciously gravitated more towards the type four bold patterns and tailored look. I used to think bold patterns were too much on me, but screw it, I feel happy wearing black and white stripes and large scale polka dot patterns.
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I meant to say I was prompted by reading back through some of your older style musings posts, so thanks for that!
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I think I’m a mix of 4/2 or 2/4 in that system – which would be bold colors in soft silhouettes? I suppose it amounts to the same thing as a winter Soft Natural which is where I think I fall in Kibbe. I feel like I’ve seen a lot of people moving towards that system lately, but I’m still enjoying the Kibbe sphere so it might be a while before I look into that system in more depth.