When I first embarked on a journey of refining my style, I never imagined the rabbit hole I would find myself going down. At first glance, what may appear merely superficial, actually goes quite deep. As a woman who enjoys fashion and cultivating style, however, it continues to be a most fascinating journey.
Somewhere along the journey, I discovered the idea of style types and style type systems. A style type system attempts to pair a distinctive style type, and a particular “type” of person; be it on the basis of body type, personality type, or any other myriad of characteristics. Given that fashion, after all, is a form of art, and all forms of art are founded upon definite principles, as understandable and applicable as those of science, it seems logical that we use these principles in developing our image and style, right?
One such style typing system I discovered, with an almost cult-like following, is that of David Kibbe, the Kibbe Test, and Kibbe Body Types.
Who is David Kibbe?
David Kibbe is an image professional, who headed a personal appearance makeover salon (who knew such a thing existed), in New York City. In 1987 he released his authored Metamorphosis, a personal image and style book for women. In his book, Kibbe introduces a style type theory known online today as Kibbe Types.
As of 2020, weather Kibbe is still helping women transform their personal image seems largely unclear (any information is welcomed in the comments below). His now out of print book Metamorphosis fetches asking prices in the hundreds of dollars online. I managed to snag an original, reasonably priced hardcover copy for myself here.
What is the Kibbe Type System?
Kibbe types are a total image styling system based largely on and individuals balance of Yin and Yang. In his book Metamorphosis, Kibbe suggests analyzing the physical characteristics and personality essence to discover where on the Yin/Yang scale one falls, determining one’s Kibbe Image Identity Type. All elements of one’s personal appearance including clothing, hair, and makeup are considered to cultivate one’s “total look”.
“We’ll give your image identity a descriptive name to make it easy, clear, and exciting for you to create a total look that is a visual expression of all the wonderful things you truly are” – David Kibbe, Metamorphosis
So what’s so special about Kibbe Types?
In Metamorphosis, Kibbe proclaims that traditional style theories don’t go far enough, and hence, are tremendously limiting to help women cultivate their image effectively. Rather than seeking to create the illusion “perfect symmetry”, Kibbe typing encourages seeking true balance. Additionally, Kibbe suggests taking a holistic approach, a unified concept for your unique appearance, rather than following arbitrary fashion trends or theories.
“Today’s stars and role models tend to be somewhat bland, homogenized in their appearances when you compare them to those of the past, don’t they? .. Must individuality be sacrificed in the name of progress, convenience, and our fast-moving society? .. Well I say no!” – David Kibbe, Metamorphosis
Kibbe discusses using the art principle of harmony in dressing. Believing once your unique Yin/Yang is identified, translating it into the same Yin/Yang balance in the clothing styles you wear, create that harmony. As opposed to trying to live up to or fit into a status quo, Kibbe argues the need to accentuate one’s unique Yin/Yang balance.
“Balance, in its pure form, is achieved by enhancing whatever nature has blessed you with.” – David Kibbe, Metamorphosis
What is Yin and Yang? How does it translate into clothing style?
The principle of Yin and Yang is that all things exist as inseparable and contradictory opposites, for example, female-male, dark-light and old-young.
Yin and Yang theory in clothing style as described by in Metamorphosis as follows:
Yin: Curved lines. Graceful, flowing, silhouettes. Hourglass outlines. Fitted waists. Rounded shapes. Swirls, curves, circles.
Yang: Strong vertical lines. Stiff, smooth silhouettes. Elongated outlines. Sharp edges. Geometric shapes. Rectangles, triangles, etc.
What are the Kibbe Types?
The five main Kibbe Types are Dramatic, Romantic, Classic, Natural, Gamine.
(Extreme Yang) On the far left of the Kibbe Type spectrum. Characterized by a straight body type; extremely sharp bone structure, and very straight, narrow, facial features (small eyes, narrow lips, sharp nose and jawline, and prominent jawline with taut flesh).
(Extreme, Soft Yin) On the far right of the Kibbe Type spectrum. Characterized by a very soft and curvy body type, with more rounded bone structure (which tends to be full) and very rounded, lush facial feature (large eyes luscious lips; a soft, slightly full nose and jawline; and fleshy cheeks).
The pure balance between the Yin and Yang extremes. Features tend to be neither complete Yin or Yang.
On the more moderate Yang side, falling between Dramatic and Classic.
The combination of the two opposites. Unlike a blended balance of the Classic, the Gamine is a combination of Yin and Yang.
Since everyone has a complex mixture of different elements, the types are further broken down into subtypes include the following.
Soft Dramatic, Theatrical Romantic, Dramatic Classic, Soft Classic, Flamboyant Natural, Soft natural, Flamboyant Gamine, and Soft Gamine.
Making for a total of 13 Kibbe Types.
What are my thoughts on the Kibbe Types System?
After reading David Kibbe’s Metamorphosis, studying the theory, concepts, and types he proposes, and delving deep on the web on everything I could find; though not perfect, I think the Kibbe Type System is brilliant. Given that the Kibbe Types and Kibbe system are based on the ancient principle of Yin and Yang, and true principles of art, it’s very logical.
To be honest, however, I found it quite challenging to nail down my Kibbe Type. And after reading the book, taking the style quiz, and entering the “World of Kibbe”, I’m still not 100% sure. And therein lies my criticism.
The Kibbe system is great. Its comprehensive, and logical. Within the Kibbe System, however, some of the ideas can be quite relative, and can not be taken as absolute style law in my humble opinion. I however also believe it’s definitely worthwhile theory for style cultivators to be familiar with and take from. Overall I enjoyed the book, style theory, and ideas, and am super excited to implement some of the concepts into my own Metamorphosis.
What about you Bombshell? Have you heard of the Kibbe System or Kibbe Types? What do you think about using Yin and Yang to find your style? If you had to guess, which Kibbe type are you?
More Style Systems and Resources
Excited to discover and explore more style types, theories, and systems? We are! Subscribe to be updated when we do. If you’re anxious to jump ahead check out some of the other style type systems and resources below.
More Style Type Systems
McJimsey, Zyla, Caygill, Northrup, Kitchener’s
More Kibbe Types Resources
Style Blog Style Syntax, a style blog dedicated to Kibbe and other systems of image analysis.
This Reddit Forum is a good “Introduction to Kibbe”
Justine Leconte on Youtube, a Fashion designer and blogger. She has some great videos on fashion and style.
Merriam Style on Youtube, has some in-depth analyses on the different Kibbe Types
Aly Art on Youtube, is a beauty blogger, and singer, who also has some in-depth analyses of the different Kibbe Types, and Celebrity Kibbe Types.