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. As always, you may want some tea.
In last week’s post we learned about about Kibbe’s Dramatic Classic, a style type that has the minimalist Classic lines, but with a hint of Dramatic sharpness. This week we will look at the other Classic subtype, Soft Classic. Soft Classic is the result when a majority of the features are Classic, but with a little extra yin added in. Kibbe’s Soft Classic is described as a “Graceful Lady.” You can read more about Kibbe’s Soft Classic here.
Body Type Characteristics
The following are Kibbe’s descriptions of a Soft Classic Body Type:
SOFT CLASSIC PHYSICAL PROFILE
NOTE: The following information should be taken as a broad outline of what makes a Soft Classic. It is the overall combination of the balance between Yin and Yang extremes with a slight Yin leaning (slight soft physicality with a refined and gracious 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, up to 5 feet 6 inches. Bone structure: Symmetrical, with soft or slightly rounded edges. Straight and slightly delicate. May be small and slightly wide (but with soft edges, not square). Shoulder are tapered or slightly sloped. Facial contours are slightly small and wide (nose, cheekbones, and jawline). Hand and feet tend to be moderate to small and slightly wide. Body type: Slightly rounded, tends to slight fleshiness. Soft arms, thighs, and waistline. Evenly proportioned bust, waist, and hips. Possibility of being slightly short-waisted. Arms and legs tend to be moderately short (in proportion to height). Facial features: Soft and full, slightly fleshy. Large eyes, soft cheeks, full lips. Symmetrical and evenly spaced. Hair: Any texture is possible, but it usually tends to be slightly wispy if straight. Coloring: Any coloring is possible(warm or cool), but Soft Classics usually tend toward blended or low-contrast coloring with a delicate skin tone. (Occasionally, a Soft Classic will have high-contrast coloring, but it still tends towards an overall subtlety as opposed to sharpness). If overweight: Body becomes very soft; facial features become very fleshy. A “thickish” look is usually the result of excess weight; the waist is the first to lose any definition. A Soft Classic will not:
Have a large or angular bone structure
Have exotic or prominent facial characteristics
Have a boyish or muscular body type
Have a true hourglass figure, with a waspish waist
Be extremely petite or small boned with extra delicate hands and feet
The following are Kibbe’s recommendations regarding the clothing and style choices that best suit his Soft Classic image ID. The following recommendations will be taken into consideration for each garment type listed below:
SHAPE: Soft, curved shapes with rounded edges. Smooth, symmetrical shapes that flow gently. Circles, ovals, subdued swirls.
LINE AND SILHOUETTE: Smooth, soft, symmetrical silhouettes with slight shaping. Gently flowing lines that flare or swirl. Clean lines that are unbroken. Smooth, horizontal, or diagonal draping.
AVOID: Hard-edged geometric silhouettes. Overly ornate or intricate lines. Wide, unconstructed silhouettes. Sharp, severely straight lines. Straight lines without flow or shaping. Overly crisp and fitted silhouettes with staccato lines.
FABRIC: Fabrics should be those of light to moderate weight that will drape softly and flow easily without being clingy. Finish should be slight matte or slight sheen, with a soft or plush surface (silks, cashmere, challis, crepe, suede, velvet, handkerchief linen, raw silk, shantung, etc.). Textures should be very light and soft. Fabrics that have a high-quality, imported look are excellent. Knits and wovens should be supple, light and drapable without being clingy.
DETAIL: Detail should be smooth and symmetrical, composed of rounded shapes with slightly intricate edges. Detail provides that extra touch of Yin (femininity), so it is meant to further soften and feminize your look. It is used as an afterthought, and should only suggest a Romantic streak. Be careful not to overdo it! Slight definition through the shoulders: small, crisp pads; shoulder tucks; gathers; beading; slightly ornate trim; etc. Clean, soft necklines. Draped necklines, soft cowls, jewel or scooped necks, subdued intricacy (gathers, shirring, soft pleats or folds, etc.). Tapered sleeves and a defined waist. Subdued trim is possible (beautiful and unusual buttons, or small gathers).
SEPARATES: Use carefully and sparingly. Separates are effective only if they are part of a well-matched, “ensemble approach” to your head-to-toe appearance. Keep the colors, textures, and fabrics elegantly blended and avoid a staccato look.
COLOR: Your use of color should be soft and luscious within your complimentary palette. Pastels and moderately bright tones are best while light neutrals are quite elegant in luxurious fabrics. Color combinations should be softly monochromatic, with intensities blending together rather than sharply contrasting. NOTE: This does not mean “all one color,” but rather that tones should softly harmonize. Light/bright color combinations are especially effective on you. Dark colors will need softening and brightening; either use them in accents or add a touch of soft texture or sheen to the fabric to dampen their starkness.
AVOID: Multicolored splashes. Head-to-toe dark color schemes. Sharply contrasting color schemes.
PRINTS: Prints should be soft, flowing, and watercolor. Abstract rounded shapes that swirl into each other are excellent.
AVOID: Sharp geometrics. Small symmetrical prints. Animated, “cute” prints.
ACCESSORIES: Should be clean, elegant, tapered in shape with a slightly ornate or intricate trim. (Be careful not to overdo!)
Shoes: Delicate, tapered shapes. Narrow heels and toes. Slightly bare (sling-back, open toe, etc.). Delicate, feminine flats.
Hosiery: Moderately sheer styles are best. (Slightly opaque styles in light shades are also good.) A “light leg” that blends the stockings and shoe one or two shades lighter than the hemline is your most elegant and sophisticated look. You can also match the shoe and hemline while wearing a lighter stocking for a more casual or fun look. As for going for the “one long line” effect or matching the hemline, stocking and shoe, use it with caution or it can be very dowdy on you! You can use it when your colors are light or medium tones. It is terrible on you when the colors are dark. The only exception is in the evening, when the dark stocking is ultrasheer; then it is a good choice, if you wish.
AVOID: Extremely opaque stockings. One long line of dark color. Three-color looks (stocking/shoe/hemline contrasts). Heavily textured stockings.
Jewelry: Jewelry should be clean, elegant and softly feminine. It adds a touch of sophistication and delicacy to your look. It doesn’t need to be overdone; simply suggesting your glamour with a hint of dangle, a hint of sparkle, and a hint of intricacy is quite effective. Shapes are round, ornate, and flowing while always remaining symmetrical. Circles, slight dangles, swirls, ovals, and clusters are all excellent. A slightly antique approach to your jewelry is best.
AVOID: Sharp geometrics. Heavy, chunky pieces. Rough, ethnic styles. Overly flashy jewelry. Too much jewelry. No jewelry.
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: Jackets should be softly tailored with curvy shaping (subdued, not fussy) that gently shows the waist. Short to moderate lengths are best, although a longer length is possible in a belted jacket or one that has a very understated peplum. They can have slight shoulder definition with crisp pads, and are best with such added detail as shoulder tucks or gathers and tapered sleeves. Again, such detail should be subdued and understated, not fussy or overdone.
Avoid: Overly tailored, sharp-edged, stiff jackets. Wide, boxy jackets that are unconstructed. Long, straight jackets that hide the waist. Extremely cropped jackets that are crisp and “perky.” Overly fussy or flouncy jackets with excess trim.
Coats – Level 1: The key to the Soft Classic look is tailored, but softened. I think the level 1 styes definitely use a more relaxed line to create this softness.
Coats – Level 2: The Level 2 options add a bit more tailoring, and a bit more shaping to create the fit.
Coats – Level 3: These coats would all look great in rich silks and fancy fabrics for a formal event.
Jackets – Level 1: As with the Level 1 coats, the jackets also have details that read either a bit loose or a bit too cropped to be “formal” on a Classic type. As with all Classic types, fabric choice will be key in creating an overall look.
Jackets – Level 2: We will see a lot more of the classic tailoring details in the Level 2 and 3 styles.
Jackets – Level 3: I don’t have a lot of options for Level 3, but I feel that, as with the main Classic type, fabric choice will do a lot to convey the formality of the garment.
Skirts: Skirts should be soft, smooth, and gently flowing. A straight skirt should be lightweight and slightly tapered at the hemline to avoid stiffness. Flared skirts are best, with an uneven hemline that softly flows. Waist detail should be soft and subdued with slight gathers or soft pleats that are stitched down through the hip. Bias-cut pieces that are added to the bottom of the skirt are also possible. Hemlines on a straight skirt should be short-never longer than one inch below the knee. Uneven hemlines will always be longer, gracefully grazing the mid-calf area. Slits should be small and elegant, suggested rather than overstated.
Avoid: Long, straight skirts. Sharply tailored skirts. Wide, unconstructed styles. Voluminous circles. Extra flouncy skirts-except for smoothly flared styles. Extremely tight or clingy skirts. excess detail that is overdone (draping, shirring, full gathers, ultradeep folds, etc.)
Level 1: As with so many of our Classic categories, additional details tend to make a style feel more casual, which is clearly evident in the Level 1 styles.
Level 2: The styles for Level 2 feel slightly more tailored, yet retain the overall feeling of soft, slowing styles.
Level 3: The Level 3 skirts have a bit more drape and flow to emphasize the fancy dress/evening wear aspect for the Soft Classic style ID.
Pants: Pants should be softly tailored styles in lightweight fabric. Soft pleats, slight gathers and a slightly tapered leg are nice details. Hemline should be just below the top of the ankle so as to show a touch of foot or shoe. (For extra feminine touch.)
Avoid: Man-tailored styles with sharp edges. Wide, unconstructed or baggy styles. Overly fussy pants with excess trim or detail.
Level 1: The Level 1 styles have the soft, slightly tapered silhouettes Kibbe suggests, but not as many classic tailoring elements as the styles in the higher levels.
Level 2: For Level 2 the tailoring is only slightly sharper, to give a more formal feel, but the elements of the silhouette and pleating are very similar.
Level 3: I think we’ve seen enough pleated, tapered trousers, but I did think these patterns nicely showed how they could be elevated to Level 3 with fabric choice.
Blouses: Blouses should be soft and elegant with soft edges or a suggestion of intricate detail. Soft bows, slight lacy edges, jabots, and draped necklines are excellent. Subdued trim – appliqué, shirring, gathers, beading, etc.- is also good as long as it’s not overdone. Fabric should be lightweight-with the slight sheen of silk best. Very soft and sheer linens, batiste, voile, etc., are also elegant.
Level 1: The blouses for Soft Classic have to find the right balance between being too detailed and not quite soft enough. For Level 1, there are a lot of great options for both wovens and knits that give a casual feel.
Level 2: The Level 2 tops have a bit more tailoring in addition to the soft gathers and draping we saw in Level 1.
Level 3: I think a lot of the tops from Level 2 could also work at Level 3, but I found a few tanks that I think would look fantastic under a formal evening jacket, or paired with one of the fancier skirts.
Sweaters: Sweaters should be soft and smooth. Lightweight knits are best, particularly when the finish is luxuriously soft to the touch. Cashmere, boucle, angora and silky weaves are all excellent. Lengths should be short to moderate. Subdued, intricate detail (appliqué, beading, shirring) is good.
Level 1: I think sweaters are great for a Soft Classic look, especially at Level 1. They add softness and provide warmth, without the formality that a fully tailored jacket would bring.
Level 2: The level 2 styles would be fantastic with an office look.
Level 3: As with the other Classic types, I think a tailored jacket would be better for level 3, but for Soft Classic I think the following styles could work over a nice dress.
Dresses: Should be graceful, flowing, and elegant. Flared shapes are best, and waist definition is essential (although it may be slightly dropped in a very clingy fabric). Soft detail with a suggestion of intricacy is excellent. Draping is always perfect!
Level 1: I think Soft Classics have some awesome dress choices, especially for casual spring/summer looks.
Level 2: Level 2 looks at a touch more tailoring, and would be better made in slightly more expensive fabrics. The details are also slightly more sophisticated.
Level 3: The level 3 styles are an interesting mix of party dresses and evening gowns. Many of these styles could also work at Level 1 or 2 if you made them in a very casual fabric.
Evening Wear: Symmetrical, flowing shapes. Slightly ornate detail. Lightweight, draped, and sheer fabric. Slightly sparkly fabric. Smooth fabric. Slight ornate trim (but not fussy). Chiffon ball gowns. Long gowns with flowing skirts. Beaded bodices and jackets. Ornate and fitted jackets, over gowns (shoulder tucks, shirring, etc.). Silk dresses. Elegant dinner suits with fitted jackets.
Many of the Level 3 gowns would work for evening, but I wanted to put even more intricately detailed designs in this category. There are a lot of wedding gown sewing patterns that work well for Soft Classic!
Whew! Another Kibbe ID down! Looking at these styles, I think it is pretty clear why Soft Classic wouldn’t quite fit in the Classic recommendations (they would be far too tailored), but also don’t belong in the Romantic styles either (too fussy/busy). I think there is a touch of overlap with both styles, but Soft Classic is definitely distinct from the other two.
It’s sort of interesting because there have been a lot of comments on the Romantic/Theatrical Romantic/Soft Dramatic posts that those styles can come off as a bit flouncy, fussy, or overdone. While Soft Classic pulls more to the yin side of the spectrum, I don’t find it to be nearly as flouncy; the emphasis on the Classic lines keeps the flounce in check. I’m curious to hear from those same people on this post; does Soft Classic have that same overly flouncy factor? Or is the subdued softness less overwhelming to the eye?
That thought sort of leads into another area of thought, which is that while some of these style IDs can look more or less flouncy or fussy when compared to each other, if they are being worn by someone of that Kibbe type, the overall effect shouldn’t read that way to an observer. I think that’s one thing I really like about the Kibbe system is that they clothes are there to compliment the wearer, and not the other way around. It has been noted by other bloggers/vloggers/etc. that the compliment “Your dress looks great!” is not the same as “You look great!” Now, as sewists, I’m sure we’d take a slightly different perspective on that commentary, but I can see the meaning behind the comparison; is the dress wearing you, or are you wearing the dress? I think Soft Classic is a particularly good type to consider this question, because, as with all Classics, the question of “is it too much?” should be key to picking out styles. Soft Classics get a bit more freedom in choosing styles with intricate details and designs, but they can’t go too much into the realm of Romantics without looking a bit ridiculous.
On a personal note, Soft Classic is the type I thought I was when I started this Kibbe journey, a little over a year ago. I knew Dramatic, Romantic, and Gamine were completely wrong, and I couldn’t imagine myself wearing the oversized styles that are so often shown on the Natural types. At first I was disappointed because I found Soft Classic a bit boring, but then I soft of accepted it and tried to understand the recommendations. Eventually I found the recommendations a bit restrictive, literally and figuratively. Every time I tried to dress “Classic” I’d take things off because they just felt so stiff. The extreme need for Symmetry by any of the Classic types really doesn’t fit with me at all either. In hindsight, I should have realized this because all of my favorite skating costumes have elements of asymmetry – NOT something that would work well for a Soft Classic. Now, I realize a costume is a costume, but when you wear them for 20 years you do develop a bit of a sense of style around them. In any case, I think I understand the Soft Classic recommendations much better now than when I was trying to dress that way, but having pulled all of these patterns really just highlights that this isn’t my type at all. While I don’t think this would be my worst Kibbe type, the shorter skirts, trouser styles, and need for symmetry really don’t describe me at all. Happily, I’ve since realized that I fit much better in the Soft Natural category, and I’m really enjoying considering the recommendations (and the shoulder mobility!) for styles in that realm.
Coming Next Week: We’re ready to move on to our next type with two subtypes, the Gamine! Gamines were already a mix of yin and yang elements, so it should be interesting to see what happens when we get a dash more yang. It tends to be one of the more popular style IDs, so I’m sure everyone will be excited when we resume next week with Kibbe’s Flamboyant Gamine!