In this post, I explore and discuss the Dramatic Classic style identity and essence, focusing on a selection of outfits by British actress, Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
The basis of this analysis is primarily the Kibbe system of body typing, and secondarily the Kitchener system for understanding Essence. These systems are unique and independent, but I like to use them together.
Please keep in mind that I’m no expert and these are just my thoughts. They could very well be wrong. Anyway, let’s begin.
What Is The Dramatic Classic Body Type?
According to Kibbe, the Dramatic Classic body type is defined by a perfect (blended) balance between yin and yang with a yang influence. This extra yang or sharpness can come across in the bone structure, flesh, and or facial features. The overall look created is smooth and symmetrical with slightly sharp edges.
Dramatic Classic Body Type:
- Symmetrical bone structure, but with slightly angular/sharp edges
- Their legs and arms tend to be moderate/average or slightly long
- They have a bustline, waist, and hips that are somewhat straight and even in proportion
- At an “ideal” weight, they will appear fairly trim and compact OR they can appear slightly muscular
- Slightly sharp, square, or angular facial contours (especially in the jawline, nose, and cheekbones)
Following their lines, Dramatic Classics are best complemented by sleek, straight lines, fitted but geometric silhouettes, and slightly sharp edges. Fabrics should be high-quality and medium to heavy weight. All finishes should be sophisticated and the overall look should be symmetrical, angular, tailored, and clean.
What Is The Dramatic Classic Essence?
David Kibbe describes the Dramatic Classic body type style identity as ‘Tailored Chic’.
The Classic essence is timeless, reserved, sophisticated, and polished. Classics give off a traditional and elegant vibe. More than anything, they need to always give the sense of being put together.
Gugu’s Body Structure:
Gugu’s structure is small to moderate, but within that, all of her limbs fit proportionally from head to toe. No part of her is too large or small or draws attention to itself, everything is moderate.
I do see the sharpness in her, it’s subtle in her body bone structure but very prominent in her face, particularly her jawline.
Elongation/ Vertical Line
The vertical line is observed in the silhouette between the shoulders and knees and has to do with how fabric falls on the body. Dramatic Classics have a short to moderate vertical line.
Gugu has a short to moderate vertical line. As such, she looks her best in the short and midi lengths (left, middle). I think the least flattering of these three is the last image (right), where she has the longest-length dress. She doesn’t look bad, it’s just not as flattering on her as the shorter lengths in which she shines.
Dramatic Classic Hits
Heavy, Stiff Fabrics and Well-Constructed Garments
Gugu looks amazing in these looks. They are harmonious with her structure. The fabric is heavy and stiff, which creates sharper lines and angles- which matches her bone structure and more specifically the contours of her face.
The lengths are also perfect for her, knee-length or just-past-the-knee-length garments respect her short/ moderate vertical line. She looks great in each of these looks.
These are some more examples of Gugu in her element of sharp lines, stiff high-quality fabric, and fitted tailoring (at least on top). She looks beautiful in these looks. The lengths are moderate, which works with her structure.
Classic elements- Preppy
In these images, Gugu is wearing a lot of preppy, Classic detailing- I think of ‘preppy’ as classic meets ingenue (not that she has an Ingénue essence, I’m just talking about the stylistic details).
In this case, these are brought forward by the schoolgirl collar in the first image (left), the collar and buttons (middle), and the shirt and tunic style of the last look (right). The polka dot pattern of the shirt in the last image also evokes a Classic essence.
Fabric and Silhouette
In these three images, I think Gugu looks the best in the second (middle) and third (right) images. In these images, the fabrics have weight and structure, so they better support her visually and she looks great and harmonious.
In the first image (left), the fabric has weight but no structure. I like the collar and the shoulders, but it sort of just hangs off her after that and does nothing to flatter or accentuate her frame. She needs structure.
Related: Kirsten Dunst is a (Soft) Classic who not only looks great in her lines but who also wears them often. So, her Soft Classic Style Analysis has many great outfit examples to study and contrast.
Dramatic Classic Misses
In these looks, Gugu looks better as we move from left to right and the outfits get more ‘put together. She looks underwhelming and undone in the first image (far left). I feel like we caught her on her day off just as she was about to clean her house. This level of casual wear really takes away from her.
In the second look (middle-left), she looks okay and much better than in the first (left). However, it’s still a poor look on her. Here, what stands out for me is the fit of her jacket. The sleeves are too long and this poor fit takes away from the look because, for Classics, precise fit (think of a tailored suit) is important.
I like the third look (middle-right), this is how she pulls off casual wear. The fit of the jumpsuit is relaxed, yet it fits her well. The all-black ensemble, including her bag and glasses, creates a ‘complete set’ look. Lastly, the trim of the jumpsuit is made of stiff, sharp lines in the collar and cuffs which is the perfect detailing that pulls it all together.
Light and Delicate Fabrics and Unconstructed Garments
These dresses are too soft and feminine for Gugu. In all of them, I feel like the fabric and trims are too light, soft, and delicate for her, I think the waist belts stand out, and the dresses are too unconstructed.
All of these dresses would be better suited to a softer type like a Romantic where delicate fabrics and waist emphasis suits them best as they better follow and accentuates their prominent curves.
Related: Romantic Style Analysis: Beyoncé
As a Dramatic Classic, Gugu requires a heavier/stiffer fabric and a more prominent construction to match her prominent bone structure. In these looks, there is a mismatch that makes the dresses look off, particularly in the first two images (left, middle).
These are not some of Gugu’s best looks. For a start, the asymmetry throws off the balance that is so important for Classics.
In the first look (left), her one arm that is exposed stands out like a sore thumb. Without it, this dress would look good on her, but as is it looks odd and incomplete. In the middle look, the high-low hemline is another asymmetrical element that creates an imbalance within the look.
Secondly, the fabric of the second look is too light and the watercolor pattern is too soft and indistinct (the elements blend into each other). All of these factors create an altogether disharmonious look.
The last look is too long and has too much fabric, particularly in the skirt. The asymmetry of the one-shoulder design is further emphasized by the multi-colored sashes that fall from her waist to the floor.
I think these sashes and their colors may represent something in the movie, and if that’s the case, then the design is very thoughtful. [Though I have no idea if that is the case, I’m just going off a hunch. I have not watched the movie.]
Regardless, I can appreciate the thought behind it without being a fan of the execution, which is the case here. I find this dress to be simultaneously boring and busy on her.
A Silhouette Study
Gugu has a small frame, so her clothes are best when the lines follow that frame. As such, in these images, I think she looks better as we move from left to right and the silhouettes get narrower.
In the first look (left), the dress has too much fabric and she’s lost behind it. The middle look is better because the silhouette is narrower. However, I think the fabric weight is a tad light and how it drapes is slightly too soft for her.
Lastly, I think the length is too long for her. Not by much, but it’s noticeable to me. The ankle lengths of the first (left) and last (right) dress are much better for her. The floor length of the middle dress drags her down. I wish I could see her ankles and her shoes.
I think the silhouette of the last dress is the most flattering. It’s narrow and fitted, the lines are straight and sharp, and the length is flattering to her vertical line. While I don’t love the excessively shiny quality of the fabric, I do like that it has a weight to it.
Large and Flared
These flared silhouettes are too wide for Gugu’s small, narrow frame and she drowns in them. As a Classic type, she is best suited by fitted silhouettes, and this is even more important for her as a Dramatic Classic.
In the images above, the middle look is the least flattering because of its wide silhouette and lack of structure. Also, the pattern is too childish and unpolished for her, making it very distracting. It’s such a playful and fun look that I’m sure she enjoyed wearing- she looks so happy! It looks like she’s playing dress-up, which is exactly what she’s doing, so it’s fine.
However, from a body types analysis point of view, ‘looking like you’re playing dress-up’ is the definition of an inharmonious look. This dress is so far from her best lines and essence that it looks very separate from her.
The first and last dresses (left, right) both look fine up top because they are fitted on the top part of her body and they are both made from heavier fabrics with structure. However, on the lower half, the dresses flare out and the frame is lost and she suddenly drowns in fabric.
The lengths of these dresses are also too long for her and the way that the fabric pools at her feet further emphasizes the sense of her ‘drowning in fabric’.
A Silhouette Comparison
Here again, I think Gugu looks better in the yellow dress to the right with a slimmer silhouette. The flare of the first dress (left) creates a visual imbalance in her silhouette. She looks smaller than she is and she looks disproportionate.
Compare that to the second image (right) where she looks perfectly proportionate, not too small or too large.
Gugu looks better in the second image also because of the depth of the color as compared to the first one, where the very pale yellow color sort of disappears on her and she looks pale. In the second image, her skin glows and has a healthy warmth.
Gugu has clear and bright coloring with medium to high contrast. So, colors that can be described that way are the colors that look best on her. This is why, for example, she doesn’t look her best in nude lipstick (or dresses) but looks great in bright lipstick. We’ll discuss this more later.
Too Sharp and Ill-Fitted: Matronly
All of these looks age Gugu. They are too sharp and stiff and don’t accommodate for her yin. Remember that Classic is a perfect blend of yin (feminine, softness, roundedness) and yang (masculine, sharpness). So, while Gugu is a Dramatic Classic, which means she has extra yang, she is still predominantly blended.
These outfits don’t have enough accommodation for her softness. The lines are stiff and sharp and the fabrics are heavy. The complete lack of curve in the lines creates a silhouette that doesn’t follow the curve of her body and her femininity is lost. These are just clothes on her, but they do nothing to highlight her body and her beauty.
Waist Definition vs Waist Emphasis
In these looks, we get to compare what looks best on Gugu with regard to waist definition. Waist definition is a silhouette that is (gently) fitted around the waist area that typically suits Gamine and Classic types (and some Naturals).
Waist emphasis is a silhouette that is drastically fitted around the waist and typically looks great on curvy body types such as Romantics or Soft Dramatics.
The first image (left), features Gugu in a hot pink dress with a waist belt that provides waist emphasis. I think the belt cheapens the look on her and makes an otherwise okay dress look unflattering.
I think the three looks to the right all look beautiful on Gugu. They all have waist definition, in that they are fitted and showcase her waist but, in each case, it is in such a way that it is subtle and doesn’t disrupt the rest of the dress. In fact, it is a part of it.
As a Classic, moderation is the goal, which is why waist definition (and not waist emphasis) is best for her.
A Pattern Study
Moderate and Regular Patterns
Gugu looks beautiful in each of the patterns above. In each case, the repeating elements are moderately sized (small-medium), and the patterns are geometrically regular so nothing jumps out at you. As a whole, all of these looks are well blended and I perceive Gugu together with her outfit, it doesn’t jump out at me ahead of her.
Bold and Large Patterns
In these images, I do see the pattern first. I feel that it distracts me from her by being visually louder than she is. It’s a competition for attention and the patterns win. They are either too bright, too large, or altogether too loud such that they leave her in the background.
As a Classic, her composition is perfectly blended and moderate, so any pattern that doesn’t follow that makeup is inharmonious and stands out against her.
A Color Study
Gugu naturally has high-contrast coloration (compare her hair to her skin or her pupils to the white of her eyes, etc.). As such, she is best suited by high-contrast clothing as it harmonizes with this coloring.
In these nude (or close to nude) dresses, she looks bland. My eye doesn’t know where to focus and it’s as though there’s nothing to look at. She requires and looks her best in color and high-contrast suits her best.
Related: How To Find Your Color Season
Why Gugu Mbatha-Raw is NOT a Gamine
With her small stature, one of the other body types that Gugu Mbatha-Raw could have belonged to is Gamine, and because I think potential Classics who are trying to type themselves are often confused between the two, I thought I’d do a small segment on why she is not a Gamine.
I believe Tessa Thompson is a (textbook!) Gamine, so comparing her to Gugu is a great way to compare and contrast a Classic type to a Gamine type.
Starting with the image above, I think Tessa looks smaller than Gugu. They are essentially the same height, and they are both decidedly small women, but Tessa appears smaller. It’s a bit difficult to see in this image, but I also think Tessa’s head appears larger as compared to her shoulders (and Gugu’s head), which is a Gamine trademark. Gugu, in comparison, is proportionate.
Tessa Thompson looks amazing in all of these Gamine looks. The high necklines, bold patterns, and staccato effect type ensembles are all textbook Gamine elements, and she looks amazing in all of them.
In fact, it appears that for Tessa Thompson (and Gamines in general), the wackier the better. The more mismatched, bizarre, and busy- and of course, the more detail that an outfit has, the more it suits her. Otherwise, it’s incredibly boring on her.
Now, comparing Gugu to Tessa in similar outfits, she looks overwhelmed. These drastically different fabrics, (in some) high necklines, cropped and boxy pieces, bold patterns, and general juxtaposed styling look too busy for Gugu.
At best she looks interesting, but none of these looks are harmonious with her. I feel like she’s trying to be cool or fun or edgy. It doesn’t feel natural.
Here, Gugu appears alongside Ruth Negga (middle, a Gamine) and Lupita Nyong’o (right, a Classic). Here again, the gamine appears smaller, and even more so in this case, than either of the Classics.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw looks her best in clean and polished hair, meaning well-styled (no tousled effect or significant flyaway strands, etc.) and elegant. The above looks showcase her hair at its best.
I think Gugu looks her best in her natural hair. In the top row images, we see just how beautifully her curly mane frames her face. I see every part of her expression, both her strong jawline (yang) and the general sweetness she embodies (yin).
In this way, her natural hair is a neutral backdrop that makes her face and all its features shine. Gugu is a Dramatic Classic and a lot of her sharpness appears on her face. This is most evident in such hairstyles.
Gugu also looks great in sleeker or straightened hair, but again, I think she looks better in the curlier styles (middle, right) because they are closer to her naturally curly texture. I think she is least flattered by the bone-straight style in the first image (left).
Also, Gugu is known for her natural hair and it’s come to form a big part of her look, So, at least for me, I feel like a great deal of her essence is missing without it.
Gugu is best suited by short to medium (shoulder-length) hair. Anything longer starts to drag her down.
These are not Gugu’s best hairstyles. In one way or another, they are too delicate and fine which takes something away from her. For me, that thing is power. I think in these hairstyles she looks cute, and in some cases even matronly- either way, she loses a sense of fierceness.
In these images, Gugu’s hairstyles highlight just how important balance and moderation in styling are for Classics. Each of these looks could have worked but is thrown off by being too something, either by a little bit or by a lot.
In the first two looks (left, middle-left), the hair is too edgy. The raised bump (left) stands out. It’s a simple hairstyle, but it looks so edgy on her. I think the combination of the extra height of the hairstyle and its sleekness combine to make it separate from her. A similar hairstyle in her natural texture would look more harmonious on her.
The second look is great, but the side-swept bangs create a sense of asymmetry (and imbalance). She doesn’t look bad, I just notice that the hair in the front of her face isn’t symmetrical and it feels off. I would never notice this in a Gamine or Natural type.
In the last two looks, Gugu’s hair is too ornate. In the third image (middle-right), her hair is curly but it looks a bit unpolished/disheveled because the curls/ringlets are irregular. I think her face looks the best here because the curly hair compliments her, but the curly hair itself is not at its best and that’s noticeable because of how important grooming is for Classics.
In the third image (middle-right), the hair is too straight and fine, and the curly side bangs are too girly and fussy for her.
A Bangs Study
For Classics, the cleaner the look, the better. As such, Gugu looks better as we move from left to right. Looking strictly at hair, the last look (right) is the best because it’s the cleanest and most balanced.
In the first image (left), her bangs are too thick and asymmetrical. They cover too much of her face and it doesn’t look ‘clean’. In the middle image, she looks great. I feel like it’s the first look done right. She has asymmetrical sides-wept bangs but this time, the asymmetry doesn’t cause imbalance, it creates interest.
Why? Because the overall look is clean. The first set of bangs is cluttering her face. The second isn’t.
A Texture Study
I think this array of hair textures highlights just how much she is best suited by her naturally curly texture. Not to say that she doesn’t look good in all these hairstyles, but I think she looks more like herself (with added dimension) as we move from left to right.
Curly hair gives her power or, rather, acts as a more harmonious backdrop so that the power in her face comes through. Straight or wavy hair softens her appearance and that power is lessened. This is good to know because she can use it to create the essence she most wants to project at any given time.
This is obviously a costume, but it’s a great opportunity to see just how separate unkempt styling is on Gugu. Ignoring her elf/ alien (?) ears, and focusing purely on the hair:
This hairstyle is ultra-textured, has a lot of flyaway strands, and is ununiform in its styling- some parts are braided, some are curly, and some are straight- all of this creates a rough and unbalanced look that works against her Classic essence (poised, balanced, polished).
Gugu’s makeup is most flattering to her when it’s visible, clean, and precise. Gugu has clear coloring, so she is suited by bright colors in her lipstick rather than overly dark or nude palettes.
In the images above, the makeup is not balanced as there are elements that are overemphasized so that they stand out and create disharmony on her face.
In the first look (left), her undereye makeup is the focal point so, by design, it draws my attention. However, while she looks beautiful because she is a stunning person, this eye emphasis is all I see. I have to focus to try and see her entire face, which means she disappears behind her eye makeup.
In the last image (right), her lipstick is too dark and intense and again, I see it first before I see her. It’s not harmonious with her. Also, her eye is too bare. The lack of eyeliner is very evident.
In the middle look, I see the opposite problem, There is nothing to focus on. Her eye makeup is fine, but the nude lip feels like a missed opportunity. I feel like her lips disappear. As a whole, I think the no-makeup look doesn’t work well for her.
This is Gugu at her best. She looks stunning in these images. Her makeup is firstly visible, I can see it which is important for her. Here, the lines of her eye makeup are clean and precise, and she doesn’t have any blurred lines.
Next, her lips are bright (so distinct) but not in shades that are too intense or overpowering. When she does wear blush it’s very subtle which is great because it keeps her lines sharp and clean.
I love this look. I think Gugu looks stunning. I love this dress, the fabric is medium weight and slightly stiff, the lines are sharp and the silhouette is fitted. I also love the length, Gugu doesn’t often wear mini-lengths (at least I haven’t seen her do so on the red carpet), so not only does all this leg look amazing, but it also feels like a gift.
I love the hair and the shoes are cute. My only critique is I wish her lip was in a brighter shade.
I love this look. The color is amazing- bright and vibrant as suits her so well, likewise her lipstick. The fabric is medium weight and the length is long, but it doesn’t swallow her up as it cuts at her ankle.
The lines and elements of this dress are mixed, some yin and some yang, sharp and soft. For example, the deep V is sharp, and the arm and knee ruffles are soft. This works wonderfully on Gugu because she is a Classic type which is a perfect blend of yin and yang, and in her case- Dramatic Classic- with slightly more yang.
The pattern is potentially too youthful/ cute for her, but the repeating elements are regular and balanced so it’s harmonious with her essence and simply comes across as fun. All in all, everything adds up to create a beautiful look.
Love. Just beautiful, all of it. No notes. Here, I even love that her lipstick is nude because it allows the dress, which is in a spectacular shade of green, to shine. I think a bright lip would introduce too many colors (because she couldn’t wear green lipstick) and disrupt the balance of the ensemble.
This is Gugu looking spectacular in casual wear (for her). While the look is relaxed in fit, its structure is maintained. The lines are sharp and straight (or close to it) in both the clothes and her bag. The top and bottom are a literal matching set. Her makeup is clean with a distinct eyeliner and she’s sporting bright lips. Beautiful.
Simple, clean, elegant. The fit is perfect and the side detailing is symmetrical. The fabric has a good weight to it. I love the color and length on her. Her shoes and bag are clean and sharp, and they match.
I do (and will always) wish her hair was in its curly state, but I’ll live. She looks beautiful.
Pinpointing your Kibbe body type can be challenging because grasping the nuances of each body type can be confusing. I hope this Dramatic Classic body type and style analysis of Gugu Mbatha-Raw was helpful.
If you think you could be a Dramatic Classic, try some of the same outfits and see if they suit you as they do her.
Please let me know if this helped you and if you agree with my analysis.