I think of great style as a marriage between body lines, as can be determined by the Kibbe Body Types Test as well as style essence. I’ve done a great deal of writing on the different body types because I think it’s important to get that part done first. Knowing your body type is like the sponge of the cake, it’s the structure.
Now, I’m focusing on style essences, which for me is like the icing on top. These two parts can be enjoyed separately, but the real magic happens when both are present. In style, this is the person who has perfected their unique authentic style. Their clothes fit and accommodate their body perfectly (body type lines) and they communicate who they are as a person (essence).
In this post, I will be discussing the Angelic/ Ethereal Essence- what it is, how it can be expressed, and how to tell if you have it. First, however, I think it’s important to fully understand just what a style essence is in the first place.
Note: In body types analysis, I used the Kibbe system of body typing. For essence analysis, I will be using both the Kibbe and the Kitchener systems. I am adding the Kitchener system as I think it’s both more comprehensive and intuitive, and I have had no issues with using the two systems together. In fact, I think they complement each other.
A style essence is different from a body type.
The body type is based on a person’s body geometry and identifying it helps a person to know their best clothing lines and styles so that they always look their best.
An essence is less tangible. It’s based on a person’s embodiment and personal expression and identifying it helps a person know their inner stylistic character so that they always look like themselves, or harmonious.
Essence, by virtue of how intangible it is, is difficult to describe. Like class and grace, it’s difficult to pinpoint, but you know it when you see it and it’s glaringly obvious when it’s missing.
A person dressed in a way that captures their essence looks wonderfully complete and they animate their look- they bring it to life. Conversely, even in lines that perfectly match their body type, a person who doesn’t dress for their essence will look dull and incomplete.
Let’s look at an example to illustrate this:
I’m not sure what Anya Taylor-Joy’s body type is, but at 5’8, she looks to be a Dramatic or a Flamboyant Natural. Regardless, what’s obvious about her is her dominant Angelic essence. She has that otherworldly look and she looks her best when she honors it.
In these lines, Anya looks stiff. These lean more Dramatic in essence due to the long vertical lines, the monochromatic scheme, the heavy, stiff fabric, and the dark colors.
At best she looks fine and at worst she looks constricted and weighed down by these garments. They don’t honor her light and surreal Ethereal/ Angelic essence and they take something away from her.
Here, Anya looks amazing. Her Angelic essence is on full display, in each of these looks I get the sense that she’s just about to fly off into another realm.
The feathers, lightweight fabric, loosely fitted silhouette, and gentle coloring all add to this light and airy effect and her long, loose, blonde hair ties it all together. She looks like a dream and she looks like the truest version of herself.
What Things Communicate Essence?
Essence is elusive, so it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what individual elements create it. In truth, it’s probably a combination of all of them; the style of clothing, the color palette, the hair and makeup, and the choice of accessories.
However, some of these are more fixed than others. For example, the style of clothing is likely dictated by a person’s body type and the color palette is likely dictated by their color season. So the elements that are left to play with to create or highlight the desired essence are hair, makeup, and the choice of accessories.
These tangible elements are the things that anyone can manipulate in an effort to recreate a representation of a particular essence. On the right person, it will come to life and look beautifully natural. On the wrong person, even if it looks beautiful, it will look like a costume.
Hair is communicative. Whether it’s tied or loose, sleek or voluminous, polished or unkempt, all of these variations create a different vibe for the person wearing them. Some styles will be more ‘them’ than others, meaning that some styles will capture their essence better than others.
Similarly to hair, makeup is a very communicative element of any ensemble. Whether bold or subtle, sharp or blurred, bright or subdued can create a harmonious look that highlights someone’s beauty and essence or one that clashes with it.
Accessories are fun and dynamic and they allow for the ultimate expression of a person’s essence because of all the options that are available. Not only do they complete a look by stylistically tying it all together, but the shapes, colors, textures, edges, and details of each individual piece can be used to communicate the essence of the wearer.
These intangible elements are the crux of an essence. These pieces come together to animate the packaging (as listed above) of a person’s embodiment- which is really what we’re judging when we talk about their essence.
One way that a person’s embodiment of their essence can manifest is in how they generally move. How they pick up and put down things, how they hold them, how they walk, etc. Certain people can be described as gentle, graceful, and poised- this is a particular embodiment. Other people can be described as fun, energetic, and even strong- this is a completely different embodiment.
How a person talks can reveal a lot about them, and particular ways of speaking lend themselves to certain essences. For example, a person can be bold and direct in how they communicate- this is a powerful and perhaps even dominant essence. Or, a person can be lighthearted and almost frivolous in how they communicate- this is a soft and perhaps even flirty essence.
A demeanor is all-encompassing but it can also be clearly worn on a person’s face and it’s how that person is perceived by most people. This is how a person generally outwardly presents. Some people are intimidating and intense, while others are warm and welcoming. Some are mischievous and some are pure and innocent.
That Indescribable Magic
I’m purposefully putting this here so that we can all remember that an essence can’t be boiled down to a formula. The truly animating part, that thing that brings a person’s essence to life is not something that I can pinpoint and describe. It’s the ever-elusive muse- it just is. Some people are just a certain way and other people aren’t. You either have a particular essence or you don’t.
If you do, then embodying that essence and allowing it to shine through will make you your most beautiful because it will make you your most natural, truest self. If you don’t have a particular essence, pretending to have it and trying to embody it will make you your least beautiful because it will be a cheap imitation of someone else.
There are no good essences or bad essences, there’s just what’s yours and what isn’t. Beauty is simply being true to yourself.
What is the Angelic/ Ethereal Essence?
The Angelic/ Ethereal essence can be described as the most divine expression of femininity. It is pure, mature, and mystical. It is power both potent and gentle.
Note: Throughout this article, I have and will use the terms ‘Ethereal’ and ‘Angelic’ interchangeably when describing essences. This is for ease and for keeping within what I see as the standard within the style essence space in general- I want you to know what I’m talking about.
However, I do believe a distinction exists between them and I will explain it in further detail in the ‘Ethereal/ Angelic Essence Icons’ section below. So please keep reading and keep that in mind as you do so.
There is no consideration for the Angelic/ Ethereal essence in the Kibbe world. David Kibbe seemed to feel it wasn’t substantial or differentiated enough to be its own essence.
So, for this essence, we are working purely with Kitchener who describes the essence as the most Yin essence. Women with this essence tend to have a soft appearance and look like they come from another time and another realm (otherworldly).
Outwardly, this is made up of designs and fabrics that evoke a sense of mythical airiness and floating away. The elements (patterns, details) are elemental and whimsical; the colors are soft, pastel, and glimmery; and the fabrics are light and airy.
Using the criteria set above, the Angelic/ Ethereal essence can be distilled as follows:
Angelic hair is light and airy. It’s long, often giving the impression of never being cut, and this length helps create the impression of floating away. The color is low contrast so as to create a gentle and faded framing of the face.
Ethereal hair has an edginess and may have an earthiness to it.
Angelic makeup is light and subtle, it tends to blend and blur into the face to create a beautiful blank canvas that radiates purity.
There is also a good use of shimmer or highlighter to create that heavenly glow. The colors are natural and the overall look is simple, subtle, and radiant.
Ethereal accessories evoke another time or dimension like the ocean or other worlds. Think of moonstone, the shimmer of pearls, and unique earthy elements.
Angelic accessories evoke heavenly landscapes and a sense of flying. Think of feathers, the color white, and soft and airy elements.
Angelic movement is subtle yet majestic. These women seem to float away or glide over the earth, they have such grace and command.
There is nothing dramatic or jerky, every move seems controlled and deliberate and effortlessly perfect.
Angelic speech is sparse and commanding. They give the impression of never having to speak, opting to rather influence with their aura.
In reality, these are women who don’t waste their breath going back and forth, they speak and it is done. But their power isn’t forceful, instead, they effortlessly persuade.
The Angelic demeanor is aloof, it’s elsewhere. It gives the impression of being just out of reach. These are women we may describe as ‘spacey’ or ‘in their own world’. Something of them and their attention is just never where they are and this is a big part of their allure.
People find themselves asking: What it would take to keep their attention? and Could I do it? Before they know it, they’re sucked in.
What Sort of Woman Does This Create?
A woman that is out of this world and that evokes something divine. She is mature, wise, and feminine. She is strong and capable and she leads with her authority, although she is non-threatening.
She is a moral role model and she embodies goodness and what is right. These women are breathtaking, but in a way so pure that it doesn’t evoke desire. She seems untouchable and unreachable.
Ethereal Essence Icons
Embodying an otherworldly essence is a tall order and I think women who do are rare, especially those who have it as their dominant essence. Only one really came to mind for me, 90s actress and everyday muse, Lisa Bonet. The other examples are the fictional female elf characters of the Lord of The Rings.
It was a challenge to capture the Angelic/ Ethereal essence in motion, how do you capture someone looking otherworldly or like they’re about to fly away?
So, I’ve been forced to discuss these icons in picture format rather than the GIF format I typically do.
Lisa Bonet is always the coolest person in the room in every room she’s in. It’s her aura, her effortlessly graceful, Natural, and otherworldly essence.
Lisa Bonet has both a Natural essence and an Ethereal essence, which makes her equal parts grounded and out of this world. She is an enigma.
In these images, I see a Goddess. Both of Lisa Bonet’s essences are clearly visible here. She looks like the embodiment of Mother Nature. Beautiful, sensual, earthy, and just out of reach.
That ‘just out of reach’ is the signature of the Ethereal essence woman. It’s an aloofness that comes from their looking and feeling like they don’t belong in this world and they’re just passing through. And we mere mortals just can’t touch them.
There’s something about this essence that makes them unreachable. It’s the sense that they’re better than us in some big and important way.
Another essence with this ‘better than you’ vibe is the Dramatic essence. In the case of the Dramatic, this comes from people projecting it onto these women in a slightly negative way, so the overall vibe is of them being standoffish and it makes us feel small.
With the Ethereal essence, this ‘better than you’ vibe is projected in a positive way. We’re okay with feeling like they’re better than us and it even makes us feel inspired.
I love these outfits on Lisa Bonet. They capture her essence so beautifully. I love the light colors, the watercolor patterns, the tassels, and the loosely fitted silhouettes. I love the light and airy throw-over kimono that flows in the wind as she walks.
I also love the full lengths of the dresses. I don’t know her exact body type as she is unverified, but at 5’2, she is a short lady and definitely Yin dominant. So, it’s rather surprising that she would look so lovely in floor-length dresses, yet she does.
I think this is another testament to her strong Ethereal essence. Ethereal lines are long and loosely draped- like an elongated S shape. The length creates fluidity, another key component that helps create the illusion that these women could just glide instead of walking.
When done in the correct light colors, flowy fabrics, and drapey/ loosely fitted silhouettes, the dresses communicate her Ethereal essence and allow her to carry the look without being swallowed up by them as we would expect a woman of her size to be. She looks amazing.
I love these two images because these outfits both have Angelic elements on them and they are so harmonious with Lisa.
The first look has the white fur shawl (white, light, and airy) and the second image has what looks like silver wings on the chest and shoulder area (wings give the impression of angels and flying). She looks amazing in both these looks and these elements take it to the next level.
Hair is such an important part of Lisa’s hair and the Ethereal essence in general. Her hair is iconic.
Again, I see both her Natural and Ethereal essences. Locs are a natural hairstyle, they are textured and come with a certain free and unkempt vibe.
Interestingly, it’s very important for hair to look natural in order to project the Ethereal essence. This doesn’t mean it has to be their natural hair or even their natural color, it just has to have that level of believability. I have to believe that your hair could be that long, light, airy or dark and unique, or whatever- it just has to feel harmonious.
What makes Lisa’s hair Ethereal on her is the length and the styling. Her locs have that Goddess vibe and a whimsical feel, notice the moon detail in the first image (left). I can easily picture flowers in her hair, or jewelry, or feathers.
The point here is that hair is central to the Ethereal Essence. Without her hair, Lisa Bonet is a different person. I can’t imagine her with any other hairstyle. It’s very natural and harmonious on her, I almost don’t know where she ends and it begins.
This is what happens when Lisa completely ignores her Ethereal essence. There is nothing in these outfits that communicates the lightness, fluidity, and otherworldliness of her essence and, as a result, she looks ordinary.
These clothes are stiff, the fabrics are heavy and the patterns are too solid, all of which are things that work against the delicacy of the Ethereal essence. This strips her of a lot of her specialness. She looks like a regular woman wearing regular clothes.
The first look (left) is the best on her because it at least preserves her Natural essence, and she overall looks free, cool, and edgy- just not magical. The third look (right) is just fine and insanely boring on her.
The middle look is the worst because the solid black color, stiff fabric, and boxy fit all create an outfit that just awkwardly sits on her, is dark and heavy and devoid of any lightness and delicacy. Here, the long length does swallow her up and she looks smaller than she is.
Lord Of The Rings Elves
Yes, really. I know they are fictional, but can you think of a better embodiment of the Angelic essence?
I know that throughout this article (and in keeping with what I see as the standard within the style essence space in general), I have used the terms ‘Ethereal’ and ‘Angelic’ interchangeably in discussing the essence, but I would now like to make a distinction between them.
I see the Ethereal essence as purely otherworldly, meaning it could be anything alien. While this otherworldliness can express as pure and sweet, it doesn’t have to. It can be dark and edgy, it can have density and weight.
I think both Tilda Swinton (left) and Willow Smith (right) are great examples of this Ethereal essence. I think their otherworldliness has an almost dark aspect and weight to it. I could believe them as both aliens and villains, so from another dimension but not necessarily good.
I think this is because both of these women also have a Dramatic essence, which is powerful and intense in nature, and this adds to their perceived edginess and depth.
I see the Angelic essence as otherworldly but in a strictly pure, delicate, and even sweet way. Think of what we conjure up when we think of angels. While the otherworldliness is central to this essence, there is a goodness and purity that underpins it.
I think both Halle Bailey and Liv Tyler are great examples of this Angelic essence. I think their otherworldliness has a goodness and a pure and sweet aspect to it. I could believe them as angels or other noble and virtuous guardian-like characters.
I think this is because both of these women also have an Ingénue essence, which is youthful and innocent in nature, and this adds to their perceived sweetness and purity.
Cate Blanchett- A Case Study
I think Cate Blanchett is an example of someone who embodies the otherworldly essence and has done so in both its pure and light (Angelic) and the dark and heavy (Ethereal) aspects. She can comfortably and convincingly play both the pure Elf and the dark and evil Villain.
However, like Tilda and Willow (above), I think the darker characters are more her because she also has a Dramatic essence, which gives her the edgy weight required to play the villain. I think this is why she went dark (as the Elf) and that too was so believable.
With this distinction, the LOTR Elves are clearly Angelic in essence. They are pure and they are good and they embody that lightness of spirit that is not of this world.
They also bring to life the non-sensual femininity of this essence. While incredibly beautiful, these women don’t awaken desire in the same way that Romantic essence women do. They lead with their Goddess energy which is more about power and grace, not sensuality.
Their clothing helps to create this impression. The long, flowy gowns are loosely fitted so there is an awareness of their body, but not in a way that evokes lust or desire. They are cut and styled modestly so that the body is almost fully covered.
They move with the body in a very fluid way that creates that sense of floating away. They are also very harmonious with the wearer such that they almost disappear on her so that all your attention is drawn to the face.
In a sense, it’s almost like they don’t have a body and there is nothing that someone could lust over or desire. This creates that sense of purity that we associate with Angelic beings.
Here again, the hair is important. It is long and loose, but controlled, communicating both a sense of freedom and order. The ultra-long length suggests that the hair has never been cut, again giving the impression of purity.
These Elven characters are wise, capable, and strong. They are good and pure and they hold themselves to a high standard of morality, and they embody it. They are breathtaking beings but their true beauty is within. This is the Angelic essence.
Sensuality ≠ Femininity
Past the packaging, an important part of femininity is about openness, receptiveness, kindness, and a general approachability. If a little child was in trouble, the woman she might approach for help is one who outwardly embodied this kind of openness/ approachability. This is femininity.
This is great news for all of us. I think we have incorrectly come to associate femininity with a particular look because of how it’s often portrayed and sold to us. I think this is why so often women shy away from the more ‘masculine’ body types in Kibbe and certainly from the associated essences. There is this belief that falling into one of these categories takes away your femininity, but this is simply not true.
Femininity doesn’t have a body type or favorite essence.
Femininity is simply the way of being for any woman in her true power. This is true in body types- Dramatic women look their most feminine when they honor their lines and lean into their ‘masculine’ recommendations.
As far as essences, I want to make clear that what I discuss here is a very superficial representation of what it means to be feminine. I can talk about movements, clothing, demeanors and general ways of being that are more or less feminine as compared to others, but that is not femininity.
Femininity as I understand it transcends these classifications. It exists for all of us and it is clearly visibly embodied by incredible women who fall into every category of body type and essence as I hope to showcase.
What does the Ethereal Essence Look Like? Celebrity Examples
While each of these women has a different Kibbe body type, what they have in common is an Ethereal essence. Essence doesn’t have a body type, so even though Cate Blanchett, Jourdan Dunn, and Tilda Swinton are all Dramatics, they all have an Ethereal essence.
They have in common that they look their best when their hair is long and low-contrast; when their makeup is neutral and shimmery; and when their accessories are lightly and softly colored and invoking an otherworldly vibe.
In short, they look their best when they look serene, put together, and light and airy because this honors their Angelic/ Ethereal essence.
True Essence > Body Type Essence
It’s important to identify your essence(s) because honoring them matters just as much if not more than honoring your body type lines. A huge mistake would be to assume that your body type dictates your essence, meaning that if you’re a Natural body type, then you must have a Natural essence.
Case and point: Anya Taylor-Joy
Again, I think Anya is a Dramatic or Flamboyant Natural type, definitely Yang dominant. However, she has an Ethereal Essence and she looks her most harmonious when she honors that.
In the first image (left), this hair is more Natural in essence. It’s relatively long and loosely, naturally curly. The color seems natural as well, I could believe that she is a brunette (I believe she is naturally blonde).
However, this Natural looking brunette color and style are very boring on her. She looks forgettable and not like what I think of when I think of Anya Taylor-Joy.
The middle image leans more Dramatic in essence. It’s long and sleek, severely pulled back, and dark. I think she looks better than in the first image, but it’s also far from being her best or most harmonious.
The last image (right), is the one in which she looks her best and most like herself. Even though she is famously a hair chameleon, this long, loose, blonde hair is her signature. In it, her look is elevated and so beautifully harmonious.
When I think of Anya Taylor-Joy, this is what I envision. The light hair color creates a low-contrast look and together with the long length and loose curls, creates that light and airy Angelic essence. She looks beautiful.
Make sure you know your essence(s) so you can style your hair, makeup, and accessories to honor them. This will bring out your best ‘you’. If you don’t honor them, even if you nail the body type lines, you’ll look incomplete and dull.
Essence can be difficult to define because it is so intangible in nature. I hope this post has been helpful in deciphering what the Angelic/ Ethereal essence is and how it manifests in people who have it.
Do you have an Angelic/ Ethereal essence? Do you agree with my assessment? I’d love to hear from you.