How I Actually Use Kibbe’s System for Head-To-Toe Looks (updated)

Is Kibbe’s system still usable if the book was published three decades ago? I say ‘yes’! This post is ultimately about how I apply this system – not ‘how to dress if you’re a Soft Gamine’.

Greetings ❤️ This is an updated follow-up post to how I got to know and love Kibbe’s Metamorphosis. I am a Soft Gamine, but this post will probably be relevant for anyone interested in Kibbe’s system because I’ll share how I actually apply it. To me, the main thing about applying Kibbe’s system in practice is understanding my Yin-Yang balance. I don’t follow book recommendations to every last detail, however I find them extremely helpful regardless. Also, this post is ultimately about how I apply this system – not ‘how to dress if you’re a Soft Gamine’. Let’s begin!

Disclaimer – Please Read!

Before I begin, let me say that I’m not a Kibbe system expert. I am a passionate researcher and the goal of my posts about Metamorphosis is to share my understanding of the system with those who is interested about learning and using it. Since David Kibbe doesn’t certify or officially approves anyone to practice his system and/or offer typings (determining image identities), it goes without saying that the only expert is he himself when it comes to typing other people and theory behind his system. Besides, everyone interested in his system can become their own personal experts and use this system. You are free to study his system any way you prefer, but it’s my duty as a Kibbe’s system researcher to let you know that there’s a Facebook group called ‘Strictly Kibbe’ where David Kibbe himself explains his system. I’m simply informing you about it and if you choose to join it, there’s no way of knowing if your expectations will be met. In my posts about Kibbe’s image identities (aka Metamorphosis) I follow the theory David Kibbe highlighs in his book Metamorphosis (1987) the way I understand it. My goal is to share my own findings with everyone who wants to learn and use this system. I don’t offer typings (goes without saying – the reason is mentioned above) and always make sure that whatever I post goes in line with how David Kibbe himself presents his system. David Kibbe Official Website.

What Makes Me a Soft Gamine

For some reason many bloggers who discuss Metamorphosis claim that they belong to this image identity, so just to clarify: I don’t have any feelings about being any image identity and never had. I’ve discovered that I was a SG by applying David Kibbe’s guidelines and studying physical profile descriptions as well as doing an extensive research of the verified celebrity examples. Here’s what makes me a SG:

  • short vertical line (5’2”-5’3” or around 160cm) – Yin
  • curvy (curves are narrow, but not delicate, I maintain hourglass shape regardless of weight) – Yin
  • tapered shoulders – Yang
  • delicately square jawline – Yang
  • small bone structure – Yin
  • small hands and feet – Yin
  • large eyes, small lips – Yin & Yang
  • a bit elongated legs and arms in proportion to my height – Yang

So overall, there’s a bit more Yin than Yang, but there’s still a combination of opposites to make me a SG.

My Approach

Researching style and fashion history is my hobby, so I understand why fashion suggestions made in 1980s might seem ridiculous today. At the same time, I actually have a soft spot for 80s fashion and fragrances – I mean, just take a look at this Chanel ad – so much glam and chic!

In the 80s clothes were constructed to fit in a very specific way, often the shapes were exaggerated. Today we live in a different fashion environment because there are many styles, thousands of various brands, and we can choose whatever we want to.

In the Kibbe system, it’s not about specific garments or styles, but the overall Yin-Yang mixture that they create. Kibbe’s approach has taught me to never look at every specific garment as an individual piece, but as a part of an outfit, so everything counts here – shoes, hosiery, hairstyle, accessories, etc.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: A SG image identity is ‘created’ by a very specific set of very specific features. Shift any of them even a tiny bit and it won’t be a SG anymore. This is why the styling has to be just that – precise, deliberate, and specifically designed to reflect the combination of opposites – Yin and Yang.

How I Translate My Features Into a Head-to-Toe Looks

The overall book recommendations for Soft Gamines were:

Your silhouette is animated and staccato, composed of clean curves with sharply tailored nips and tucks at strategic edges. Your shapes are rounded (because of your extra dose of Yin), but they are crisp and formed, kept close to the body, as opposed to softly flowing. The sharp edges are always present through the shoulders, as well as tapering at the cuff, the collar, the waist, and the knee, and in detail such as pleats, plackets, and lapels. (This comes from your Yang side). Likewise, it’s always best to keep a well-defined waist.

Metamorphosis (1987) by David Kibbe

The major issue for me as a Soft Gamine is that I can get overwhelmed by clothing very easily. Unless I emplasize my petiteness and delicate bone structure I tend to look dumpy, like a walking pile of clothing. Why? Well, I have curves – they are the ‘outs’ of my body. If I don’t showcase the petite bone structure, clothing touches only the outermost points of my body, hiding the ‘ins’ (waist, delicate ankles and wrists) and I end up looking like a potato sack.

I solve that by tapered pants (ideally to showcase the ankle), tapered sleeves (no ruffles or bell sleeves), and avoiding wide, unconstructed styles (usually it’s A-line items, flare pants, flowy skirts that create too much ‘action’ around my legs, stiff wide coats). It doesn’t mean that I wear only tight-fitted clothing!

*There’s a completely wrong idea that Yin-dominated image identities need to wear more form-fitting clothes, which is total bullsh*t – anyone can wear what they prefer! In fact, I hate tight clothes – they feel and look restricting on me. Why tapered pants and sleeves then? Well, because it’s the best way to showcase my petite and delicate bone structure, which is my core feature and has to be emphasized otherwise I don’t get to really ‘dazzle like only I can’ to paraphrase the cover of the Metamorphosis book.

Small bone structure means small details – I simply can’t ‘handle’ large details. It refers to everything, e.g. prints, pleats, cuts, jewelry, haristyle (I’ll get to that later). The Yang ‘asks’ for definition, which is why details with undefined edges simply don’t work.

My curves need to be accomodated as well, and it doesn’t mean buying someting with enough elastane to stretch out on me – it just doesn’t look right, like it wasn’t made for me…Because it wasn’t. Stretchy doesn’t mean ‘appropriate for curves’ – it means ‘anyone can try and pull it off, while my task is to emphasize my features. Ideally, items that accomodate curves have nips, tucks, tapering, and gathers in strategic places – when these items hang on the hanger you see their shape is made to be ‘filled’, the same way a bra looks on the hanger.

IMPORTANT! If you are a Soft Gamine, try items with a tapered waist. Many trendy designs have too much bulk in the waist area and simly adding a belt doesn’t solve the issue! It just cuts the huge bulk into two. What does a tapered waist mean? It means that an item of clothing is fitted to the body in the waist (the narrowest part of the body) and slightly above it. Basically, it means that there’s no extra fabric in the waistline area.

A quick word on shoes: sometimes I go for lightweight styles, sometimes – heavier styles because it completely depends on my outfits. I’m not afraid to go outside of my comfort zone and I rely on David Kibbe’s recommendations whenever I do (it feels more reliable than choosing whatever I fancy).

Hairstyle, Makeup, Accessories

I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to talk about these things in too much detail because my own personal style can affect your perception of the use of Metamorphosis for Soft Gamines.

Remember the following: what I wear as a SG can not work at all on another SG because Yin and Yang can come from different ‘sources’ (e.g. Yang can come from elongated limbs, or elongated torso, or a SG can be a bit on the taller side like Brigitte Bardot, or Yang can come from delicate angularity alone).

In terms of hairstyle I usually go for Yin hairstyles like a bun, and I always wear soft bangs (even though I can beautifully pull baby bangs off if they are not shorter than 1cm or 1/2inch above my eyebrows) – bangs is my signature ‘accessory’.

For makeup: here book recommendations work 100%, and I’ve developed my signature makeup look long before discovering Metamorphosis.

Accessories are a must! I adore earrings and brooches most of all. I mean, just look at how brooches transoform these looks (both Bette Davis and Betty White are verified Soft Gamines):

Bette Davis, Courtesy of Google Images
circa 1955: Promotional studio portrait of American actor Betty White smiling and wearing a patterned dress with a heart-shaped brooch. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

David Kibbe’s approach definitely motivated me to pay special attention to accessories and I’d highly encourage every Soft Gamine to experiment with them – it can amp up any look. Scarves, all kinds of hats, scarves, gloves – they have all become essential for my head-to-toe looks.

The Most Important Part

The most important things I want to share with you, as a user of the Kibbe system to those who also use it or want to use it:

  • don’t look at the styles in the book and dismiss Kibbe’s system because of them – instead learn from them, see how outfits, hairstyle, and makeup can go in line with Yin-Yang balance. For instance, soft flowy fabric draping is Yin, deep pleats that hold their shape will most definitely be Yang, stiff fabrics will be Yang, tapered toe and heel – Yin, and so on.
  • David Kibbe especially likes the 1930s for Soft Gamines. It doesn’t mean ‘go wear retro’!! Just Google 30s styles and see how the outits were constructed. You’ll see what ‘tapered waist’ means, contrasting trims, high or closed necklines, the fit of skirts and sweaters, etc – all these things could accomodate delicate, curvy shapes. That’s a great opportunity to learn.
  • please, for crying out loud, don’t let all those fake ‘experts’ fool you into believing that Soft Gamines need to wear preppy style! They simply confuse ‘Kibbe Gamine’ and ‘gamine style’ – different things!! Any image identity can wear preppy style. The whole point of Metamorphosis is to allow every woman celebrate her own unique beauty in her own way.
  • try accessorizing. If you don’t know where to start, start with one accessory. A brooch, hair accessory, scarf, hat, gloves – anything! These things can bring whole outfits together
  • take your time. If you’re unsure about your image identity, there’s no need to rush it. The more you research, the clearer you’ll see your own features, and the more you’ll understand them, the easier it’ll be for you to apply it to your head-to-toe looks.

Kibbe’s approach to me is simple to apply because I use the Yin-Yang balance of things and what exactly would suit me – my outfits follow my features. I hope that my example of how I apply it in practice will be somehow valuable to you. I don’t have ‘before and after’ pictures and even if I did, I wouldn’t want my specific style to influence your own perception. The outfits that work for me will never 100% work same well on someone else.

Another super long post – thank you if you’ve made it this far ❤️

As always, looking forward to your comments!

See you my next post!

Alex

P.S. If you find my blog interesting, you can subscribe below – you’ll receive e-mail notifications whenever I post.

More on Kibbe image IDs:

Soft Gamine vs Theatrical Romantic in Kibbe System w/Examples

Misconceptions About Kibbe Image Identities (FG, SG, FN, D, TR, Classics, Gamines)

What Is Vertical Line In Kibbe’s System? w/Examples +FAQ

Why Kibbe Image IDs AREN’T “Kibbe Body Types”

10 Myths about Kibbe that ruin it for you

Meaning of Yin and Yang in Kibbe theory

5 Reasons why you struggle to find your image identity in Kibbe’s system

Height in Kibbe: why Taylor Swift, Lily Cole, and Zendaya aren’t Gamine

Why Rihanna isn’t a Theatrical Romantic

What Kibbe gets right and the ‘fruit body types’ get wrong

How I actually use Kibbe’s system w/examples

How I got to know & love Kibbe’s Metamorphosis: My story (feat. ‘Soft Gamine syndrome’)

The philosophy in Kibbe’s system

Author: Alexandra @YouAndMeAndCupOfCoffee.com

Passionate researcher and writer. Coffee maniac. Pilates enthusiast. Makeup and skincare junkie. Occasionally - movie and book reviewer. Come join me on my quest!

8 thoughts on “How I Actually Use Kibbe’s System for Head-To-Toe Looks (updated)”

  1. “I’ve invested into high-waisted pants and jeans – well, not high-waisted – they just fit on my natural waist – they fit very well and if not for Kibbe, I’d never discover this.”

    I know exactly what you mean. A friend tried to recommend that I wear Levi’s mid-rise jeans after telling her that I bought Levi’s 721s high waisted jeans. I had to set her straight lol. I’ve pretty much only wore mid-rise until last year and high waist jeans were a gamechanger. The new black jeans look amazing btw!

    I see that you added “skin-tight short skirts”. One of my style resolutions for this year is to try out skirts (I mentioned this under the post on Stylesyntax). I have a couple of skirts, wrap skirt from HM and a flounce skirt from F21 (I’ve tried it on, but haven’t worn it yet).

    I’ve found that A-line doesn’t work for me. I really want a plaid skirt (I know school/prep cliche), so I need to find out what silhouette works. Where do you buy your skirts?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment! Exactly – pants that sit on the actual waist just ‘break’ the silhouette in the right spot. Thank you – those pants are seriously cool! For some reason got nostalgic about button fly and it also works as an additional detail, so I couldn’t pass them off.
      Oh my, skirts! Never had luck with this kind of garment. In H&M sizing I fall in between two sizes sometimes – what fits in the waist doesn’t fit my hips properly, and vice versa. And it was only around three years ago that I finally realized that even short skirts need to be tailored same as pants in my case. Off the rack short skirts hit right above the knee, which on me doesn’t look right. I need either midi, or properly short – 15cm above the knee. Besides, there’s always the issue of waist – many skirts are being constructed to sit on hips or on the level of navel. A-line skirts look like a chunk of concrete stuck to my body 😂
      I have what I call an ‘international’ closet – I always go shopping whenever I travel and try to seek unique pieces out online. I also rarely spend too much money on clothes (H&M is my price range) – I prefer spending a bit more time looking for good items. I was actually looking for a plaid skirt around half a year ago and after many unsuccessful trips to different stores ordered it from a designer brand store on Aliexpress https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32918213117.html?spm=2114.13010708.0.0.3a994c4d2sxIc4 I like how it defines the waist, and then I got it tailored: evened the hemline & shortened, and tapered it on the sides to make it tight on the bottom, then a tiny bit of give on the hips (sits just right thanks to the tiny pleats on the waist and the rubber band on the back). The fabric is stretchy and warm, so I got a perfect skirt (even though it would be even more perfect if I’d be able to find something that fits off the rack🙄). I have to say I’m also very demanding when it comes to fabrics – I just can’t wear cheap polyester that collects static electricity and peels. So for me it’s basically an ocean of what I dislike and a rare whale that I like in there 😄
      I also discovered two directions to work on: shorts (or skort) and thrifting. As for skort, I’m trying to find something like this https://pinterest.com/pin/621848661033100097/ – I like the assymetrical hemline and buttons. I’ve decided to start thrifting more often recently, so by far haven’t found anything interesting that fits. On the same note: one of my favorite patterns is houndtooth, so I’d love to find such skirt.

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  2. Have you found that any particular stores carry more soft gamine styles? I have been searching and it feels so hard to find good options.
    Thank you

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    1. What do you mean by ‘soft gamine styles’? Soft gamine style in general has nothing to do with Kibbe Soft Gamine image identity. Kibbe SG’s can wear the soft gamine style, but they can wear any other style just as well. Me personally – my style has absolutely nothing to do with the style commonly known online as ‘soft gamine’ so I can’t help you here, if that’s what you mean.

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      1. I mean SG “lines” not styles. I was wondering if you have noticed that any particular stores carry more tops with little details or trims and contrasting details or color blocked things. I know tailoring is important but I’m hoping to find clothing stores that carry options that are closer to perfect to begin with. Does this make sense? Sometimes I feel like Boden has many options that look right for SG because they carry petites and they love contrast piping, color blocking and other tiny details but I’m looking for other options. Thank you

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      2. There’s no such thing as ‘SG lines’. David Kibbe refers to only ONE line – personal BODY LINE, which is composed of the features of every specific person and is unique. What works on one SG won’t necessarily work on another. Every outfit has its own purpose, every person has their own style, everyone’s physicality is different. I purchase clothing items relying on my needs and lifestyle, because I plan HTT outfits and then figure out what I need. Usually I shop at very different stores, nothing specific. If you are petite, then of course it helps to find stores that carry petites, but I usually need to hem my pants and sleeves if an item is otherwise suitable. Some brands like M&S or H&M or Zara don’t work for me at all though – too high waistline, too long tops, too wide shoulders, their clothing isn’t cut to accomodate the curves+petiteness at all, so I don’t shop at large mass market retailers and prefer small stores and/or small designers.

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