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 Gamine 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:
GoT actress, Nathalie Emmanuel’s body type is unverified but at a height of 5’7, and taking her in at first glance, I can see why she’s a suspected Soft Natural or perhaps even a Soft Classic. Whatever her body type, she has a Gamine essence that she needs to honor to look her best.
In these outfits, Nathalie looks cute and even beautiful, but also rather underwhelming. In these Romantic and Natural leaning lines, her full self doesn’t come out and she just looks okay. I think she looks most beautiful and harmonious in the last image (right) because her hair gives her back the edge that suits her Gamine essence so well.
In these looks, I think Nathalie comes to life. These lines and styles honor her Gamine essence with the high neckline, cropped pieces, animated prints/ graphics, sharp edges, and weighted fabric. The playful edginess of the first look (left) and the boyish nature of the suit (right) are perfect Gamine elements that are just perfectly harmonious with her.
These photos are taken from a photoshoot and interview Nathalie did for the digital publication, Issuu, and I think they capture her Gamine essence beautifully.
The vivid colors, the bold prints, and the short, sharp lines all create that playful and mischievous vibe of the Gamine essence. Add to that the edgy hair and bold makeup and the whole thing comes to life. She looks amazing and like a full expression 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 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 Gamine Essence?
The Gamine essence can be described as a boisterous and youthful expression of femininity. It is bold, fun, and compact. It has an air of mischief and a boyish charm.
In the Kibbe world, this is the type made up of an uneven mix of yin and yang, meaning how it presents physically can be very different from person to person. Some features and limbs may feel juxtaposed with each other, creating a compact and boldly eclectic body composition that is always interesting.
It follows that the essence associated with this type builds on that idea of boldly eclectic compactness. The boldly eclectic part speaks to the ‘mismatched’ body parts that may occur in this type, and how beautifully they work with boldly mismatched or eclectic styling. Compactness refers to the compact size of this type which gives it that fun, bite-size feel.
Using the criteria set above, the Gamine essence can be distilled as follows:
Gamine hair is short, youthful, and fun. It’s no wonder that the signature hairstyle for this essence is the pixie. This hair communicates a certain freedom and unconventionality that is key for the Gamine and the boyish rebelliousness also associated with it.
The Gamine essence woman looks amazing in an ultra-short and boyish haircut. This is a quick cheat that can help us determine if someone has it or not. Where most women would look childish and less feminine in such a style, the Gamine essence woman looks fully mature and feminine.
In terms of color, Gamine hair can be bright, bold, and expressive and that would harmonize beautifully with this woman. They are free to embrace the unconventional.
Gamine makeup is centered on capturing the youthful energy of this essence so it must be fresh and clean. The eyes in particular are central to their beauty looks because they are typically large, expressive, and gorgeous. So a smokey eye is a key go-to that beautifully accentuates this feature.
However, this must be done in such a way that still feels fresh and clean- nothing too heavy. Lips should be subtle and natural so that they leave the focus on the eyes.
Gamine accessories are fun and bold. They can be bright and eccentric or more subdued, but they are generally unconventional and expressive in an attention-grabbing way.
Gamines can also lean into the ‘boyish’ aspect of their essence when it comes to styling. This can look like masculine shoes (loafers, combat boots, etc.), cigarette pants, or tracksuits. In general, they can pull off ‘low-effort’ styles and look amazing. Hobo chic was invented for them.
Let’s look at some women who can pull this off:
All three of these women look amazing in these ultra-busy, boyish, and somewhat disheveled looks. Most of us couldn’t dress like this (particularly Zoe Kravitz‘s outfit to the right) and not look homeless. These women somehow look feminine and cool.
Note: This is not true of every Gamine essence woman, and it depends on how much of this essence is present in her. For example, Reese Witherspoon has a Gamine essence, but she has a more dominant Classic essence. So a disheveled look would not work for her, hence preppy and put-together is her best and signature style.
Notice how all these Gamine essence women also look amazing in ultra-short, pixie haircuts. I also think it’s interesting that they all have different essence compositions. I think Rihanna has a Romantic-Dramatic-Gamine essence, I think Miley has a purely Gamine essence, and Zoe has a Dramatic-Gamine essence. However, in each of them, the Gamine essence is expressed enough to matter to their styling.
Gamine movement is spirited. It’s energetic, fun and expressive. It’s playful and mischievous. These are the women you expect to bust a move as they walk and it’s the most natural thing. Their movement may be playful and even a little silly, but it inspires joy.
Ellen DeGeneres and her dance entrances into her show come to mind. Regardless of the actual movement, it comes across as fun, light, and easy.
Gamine speech is random, quirky, and joyful. Above all, it’s expressive, so really anything is on the table. These are the people whom you just never know what they’re going to say and this makes talking to them fun and interesting.
This essence is also rebellious and cheeky, so some of their speech may be a little uncouth and spicy. It works for them, within reason, and they have a way of getting away with doing and saying things most others can’t. Here though, I’d err on the side of decency and maintain a throughline of kindness, respect, and truth. Shock value for its own sake is not gratifying for anyone.
The Gamine demeanor is cool and spunky. It’s cool but playful. It’s also magnetic. These are the women that everyone wants to be around because of their infectious energy. They are the party. You feel it when they arrive because everyone gets energized and you feel it when they’re absent.
While other essences are cool (Dramatic) and magnetic (Romantic), the joy of the Gamine essence is that it has these qualities while being non-threatening. The youthful aspect makes these women approachable.
What Sort of Woman Does This Create?
A brave and youthful woman who is fun and dynamic. These women are bold in how they show up and they are not afraid to play, in life and in fashion. They don’t follow rules and they march to the beat of their own drum. They are the embodiment of ‘cool’.
Often, these are the trendsetters who make us all wonder how they can get away with and pull off things that the rest of us would never dare to attempt. This playfulness and boldness is their superpower. Their ‘weirdness’ magnetizes them and they should never shy away from it.
Gamine Essence Icons
A classic and perhaps the most popular example of the Gamine body type and essence is British actress, Audrey Hepburn, who came to prominence in Hollywood’s Golden Era. A modern example of this essence who I think better embodies the fullness of it’s energetic aspect is American singer and actress, Janelle Monáe.
Audrey Hepburn is an interesting example because I think she also has a bit of a Classic essence, which subdues the boisterous/ mischievous aspect of her Gamine essence. In her films, she could very easily lean on her Classic essence and be ladylike and subdued and look very natural doing so.
However, I chose these three GIFs because they showcase her more cute and energetic, that is to say, her Gamine essence aspects. In each of them, I am struck by her youthfulness, her playfulness, and her charm.
In the first GIF (left), I especially love her eye mask which is bright and glittery and her bold red lip. The colorful display creates a playful scene that her joyful mood and expression complete.
In the middle GIF, we see her iconic hairstyle with the almost childish bangs that made her an unforgettable style icon. We can see just how stunning she was but also just how sweet, fresh, and innocent her essence is.
In the last GIF, we can see her pettiness. Audrey Hepburn looked so tiny and slight, but she was actually 5’7. That’s quite tall for a Gamine body type whose key characteristic is compactness.
The important thing though, is that she looked compact. She looked tiny and when I learned about her height I was shocked because I would have guessed much shorter. In this last GIF, she looks like a much smaller woman. She also looks playful and full of joy- a perfect embodiment of her essence.
I think Janelle Monáe is the perfect embodiment of the Gamine essence in its full form. Meaning the fun, energetic, quirky, rebellious, and even boyish traits. She embodies all of it.
In the three GIFs, I see every aspect of this from the way she dances across the screen (middle), to the fun and playful shoulder shimmy in the first one (left). I get the sense that she is a very cool person that’s easy to be around and that I want to be around. I feel like she’s always doing something fun and cool, even if it’s just sitting.
The last GIF (right), showcases more of the rebellious and weird/ quirky energy of this essence. However, it’s still fun and playful and just gives off a good vibe.
I loved Janelle’s tuxedo phase. She seems to be past it now, but she really owned that for the entire start of her career. It was obviously an artistic choice the reasons behind which I’ll never know, but I can speculate that apart from looking great, it also allowed her to move and express herself as she wanted.
She could be funky, cool, and weird and we could be dazzled by her talent without objectifying her or fixating on her clothing. Whatever the reasons were, the suits and her entire style captured her Gamine essence perfectly and she brought them to life in a way few women can.
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 Gamine Essence Look Like? Celebrity Examples
While each of these women has a different Kibbe body type, what they have in common is a Gamine essence. Essence doesn’t have a body type, so even though Reese Witherspoon is a Soft Gamine, Zoe Kravitz is a Flamboyant Gamine, and Emma Watson and Miley Cyrus are unverified, they all have a Gamine essence.
They have in common that they look their best when their hair is short and boyish, when their makeup is bold and fun, and when their accessories are bright and visually interesting. In short, they look their best when they look eclectic, compactly tailored, and playful because this honors their Gamine 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: Miley Cyrus. Miley is unverified and I won’t speculate on her type, but I do think she has a clear Gamine essence. She has that wildly energetic vibe and a seemingly built-in playful and mischievous embodiment. Let’s see how hair and makeup from different essences look on her vs hair and makeup from her essence.
In the first two hairstyles and makeup, Miley looks fine, good even, but certainly not memorable. The hair in the first image is better suited to someone with a Natural essence and I think on Miley it’s sorta just there and it drags her down.
The hair in the middle image is better suited to someone with a Romantic essence, I find it to be too ornate and perfect so it looks a little costumey on her. Her makeup is great, technically, but again it does nothing to bring her to life. She just looks okay.
I think she looks the most like her best and fullest self in the last image (right) which is the most Gamine in essence. The super short hair is a nod to the boyishness of the essence and the blonde coloring is fun and edgy. I love the bright red lipstick that adds a pop of color and overall the look is fresh and energetic, and it captures her perfectly.
Let’s look at another example: Cara Delevingne
Cara is also unverified, but she likely falls into the Dramatic or Natural Family. Regardless, I see in her an obvious Gamine essence.
In these images, I think the longer the hair is the more it drags her down so the first style (left) is her least flattering. The color is too dark and dramatic for her and the wet look is also not great for her as it leans too Natural in essence.
In the middle style, she looks fine but the overall effect is rather bland and I think it ages her. However, the move from long to shorter hair and unkempt to smoothly styled were both positive and the second look suits her far better than the first.
I think the last look is her best. The cropped, bleach-blonde pixie cut captures her true vibe and essence. She looks fun, youthful, and rebellious. Perhaps a better way to say that is she looks fully like herself and she comes to life.
So, 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. I hope this post has helped decipher what the Gamine essence is and how it manifests in people who have it.
Do you have a Gamine essence? Do you agree with my assessment? I’d love to hear from you.