The most wide-spread method used to establish what lines to wear for your body-type have been described through similarities to geometrical shapes and visual queues: hourglass, skittle, pear, column, rectangle, carrot, square, apple, triangle, inverted triangle, and so on and so forth. What these criteria normally consider are the bust, waist, and hip ratios and proportions to each other, leaving the rest of the body out of the analysis altogether. But what if you have a round, full face, and a boyish body-type, or if you’re petite? What if you are an hourglass or pear-shape but strong vertical lines just make you look like you’re wearing a potato sack instead of a beautiful high-end piece of clothing?
The major confusion stems from the idea that if you’re curvy you want to minimize those curves and thus you should apply the principals of vertical lines in those areas, and if you’re demarcated by the absence of curves, then you might want to invent them by layering horizontal lines where you want to add volume. The essential concept revolves around correcting extremes in order to obtain a finer balance: a classic look. Unfortunately, this sometimes works against you, as clothes aren’t constructed for your particular body, and seeking out those lines will invariably cause issues with fit, making you look frumpy, bony, bigger, or shorter.
Kibbe (a stylist to the stars back in the 1980’s) came up with a method, which he outlined in his book Metamorphosis, wherein he takes all these aspects (the three measurements mentioned at the start, the length of limbs which any seamstress would highly recommend taking into consideration, and the softness, which was missing from all previous considerations), plus the facial features that complement your body’s shape and obviously contribute to making your look work for or against you.
Most fashionistas treat the head and the body completely separately, as though we carried our top portion as an accessory to our bodies, and not as part and parcel of it. Kibbe doesn’t work on this plane, he views the two as inseparable, and he analyses them together, through a series of questions that cover all aspects: from the bone structure, to the type of curves in both body and face. If you’re interested in knowing more about this, I highly recommend watching Aly Art’s youtube videos on the topic, where she also includes the questions to ask yourself, and visual examples of people to help you answer and compare yourself to as a reference point. She does provide an enormous amount of information, so you may benefit from viewing her perspectives, and then using what you most agree with, while leaving the rest to the wayside.
Don’t despair if you don’t find yourself agreeing with everything. Go with the general concepts, and trust your instincts, they’re usually right! We are all instinctively attracted to things that make us feel comfortable and at ease, and this normally means a good fit, and positive reinforcement from both wear/style and outsider feedback. The result is a combination of your answers, and what you lean most towards, it’s not meant to be precise, it’s a guide to complementing your style, and nature. It is meant to inspire you to new heights and possibilities within fashion that you may not have considered before.
Kibbe style is actually a very helpful tool, as it answered some questions that have been bothering me for some time, like: if Oprah is an hourglass, why does she look so good in crisp, straight clothes? Or why do some people look great in block colors, or shapeless clothing despite their height/curvatures, and others seem like they’re being swallowed up by the very same clothes? Or why do frills, lace, and intricate details look positively delightful on some people, and completely artificial and misplaced on others? Well, Kibbe style gives you very specific answers to each of these questions!
Photo by Rafael Guajardo on Pexels.com
The Kibbe Body Types
There are five body types in Kibbe, which are further subdivided into pure-softer and harsher delineations, except for the most extreme of these five, the predominantly ying (soft), and the predominantly yang (dramatic), which are either pure or with slight curvatures of the opposing type. Let’s begin with the softest (ying):
The Romantic style features curves, delicate, sumptuous detailing, and everything one normally associates with femininity. This category being the most extreme form of ying, has only two offshoots: the pure Romantic, and the theatrical Romantic (ying curvature coupled with some sharpness in bone structure). The prototypical example of a Romantic is Marylin Monroe, whereas a more modern example of a Theatrical Romantic would be Salma Hayek, who is very curvy and soft, but has sharp delineations in her facial bone structure.
On the opposite side of the spectrum we have the yang dominant Dramatic type, which is marked by severity, sharpness, sleekness, strong angularity, or what would often be associated with masculinity. This extreme is subdivided into only two subcategories as well: pure dramatic and soft dramatic, which includes some ying curvatures. An example of a dramatic would be such a timeless beauty as Cindy Crawford. Due to the severity of their lines they look great in well structured clothing, blunt color blocks, geometric shapes, and other lines that go along with their muscular and bone structure. Oprah and Sofia Loren are prime examples of Soft Dramatics.
In-between these two extremes you have combinations and blends of sharpness (yang) and sumptuousness (ying): the Naturals (a more subtly curved sharpness); the Gamines (a juxtaposition of ying curves and fleshiness with yang sharp angularity) which is a beautiful play of opposites; and the Classics, which are perfectly balanced between ying and yang (a classic example would be Grace Kelly). Each of these three groups are further subdivided into three categories (Pure, Soft, and Flamboyant/Dramatic). In total, you end up with 13 body types, each with its own blend or combination of ying and yang.
In the Natural (a bit lighter and less blunt than a Soft Dramatic), with its subcategories, Flamboyant Natural (strong naturals with blunt edges) such as Cameron Diaz, and at its other end, Soft Natural (a softer version of the angular Natural), such as Sandra Bullock. This category of body types looks well in unstructured clothing, baggy styles such as Nadinoo (about whom I’ll write some other time), these are the most feminine/sensual looking of the “boyish” figures. Think of hippie styles (hair in particular), straight tunics, oversized sweaters, straight/boyfriend jeans.
Among the Gamines you will find many celebrities, characterized by great combinations of contrasts: feminine curves, or small dainty figures, with sharp angular bone structures. A typical Gamine would be Winona Ryder, or Kelly Osborne. They look their best in small cutsie clothes that cut up their figure like their features are divided up across their bodies. Their constitution makes them look eternally younger than their age, and some would even go as far as to consider them perennial teenagers. They might seem like Romantics, but the juxtaposition of sharp lines in their facial or body bone structure allow them a flexibility that Romantics do not possess.
Classics aren’t mosaics, as Gamines are, they are perfect blends, balanced ying/yang countenances. If you don’t know which type you fit into, the safest type of clothing (which most clothing companies attempt to emulate, as this remains the ideal body shape to which many women aspire) is the one suitable for Classics. The name itself states its audience, and aims. It’s timeless pieces blended between soft materials and finely tailored cuts. Classics are symmetrical and lack remarkable features, which in and of itself is remarkable.
How do you find your Kibbe Style?
You can purchase the Metamorphosis book online, which is out of print, and will cost you an arm and a leg, or you can google Kibbe Test and get it for free on a number of blogs, on Reddit, or even YouTube. Much has been said and written about this test, especially in terms of the difficulty in finding your exact Kibbe type. Like all methods before and since it, keep in mind that although it’s quite exhaustive, it isn’t carved in stone. These are always just guidelines, tried and tested, for sure, but guidelines nonetheless. If your style screams something different, all the power to you, go ahead and express your inner ego any way you like! These recommendations are only meant to help you decide what suits your constitution and complements it, rather than clashing with it and speaking for you (unless that’s what you’re aiming for).
I hope you’ve enjoyed this overview, and that you’ll give Kibbe a chance. I for one am somewhat relieved to know why I don’t look my best in sharp designs, and will embrace the occasional flourish, although I don’t think I’ll ever embrace full out Romanticism! And I finally have an answer for why I look larger than life or shorter than I am when I wear shapeless, stiff clothes. I’ll write more about respecting hijab within your body type another time, for now, enjoy taking the tests and figuring out what you can finally say goodbye to in your wardrobe!