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 Romantic 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:
Amal Clooney is very evidently a Dramatic body type. I don’t think she’s been Kibbe verified, but it doesn’t get more textbook than that. However, in my opinion, she has a Classic-Romantic essence.
Because of this, even though she is a Dramatic, in pure Dramatic lines and styling, she looks rather plain. She looks fine, but she doesn’t fully come to life. These head-to-toe monochromatic suits in stiff, sharp fabrics are textbook Dramatic. As such, she looks a bit underwhelming/ boring in them.
Her hair is basically always styled to honor her Romantic essence and her makeup to honor her Classic essence, so she always looks beautiful when you look at her hair and face. However, when we consider these looks as a whole, she just looks okay.
In these looks, I think Amal looks amazing. These clothing lines still honor her Dramatic body type because they are long and sharp (especially in the first two looks) but, unlike the looks above, they really play up her Classic essence as well.
The traditional pinstripe pattern of the first suit (left), the matching shoes and bag ensemble effect of the second look (middle), and the Chanel tweed skirt suit are all Classic elements and they elevate Amal’s looks by animating more of her essences. Add to that her Romantic hair and Classic/ Romantic makeup, and all of her comes to life.
She looks amazing and complete in a way that she just didn’t in the looks above.
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 Romantic Essence?
The Romantic essence can be described as the ultimate embodiment of sensual femininity. It is soft, lush, luxurious, and alluring.
In the Kibbe world, this is the type made up of pure yin that manifests as fully curved lines. There is no sharpness, everything is delicate and smooth. The bone structure is petite and the flesh that sits atop it is soft and lush.
It follows that the essence associated with this type builds on that idea of softness and lushness. The Romantic essence leads with sensuality and luxury. Sensuality captures that part of it that is delicious, magnetic, and alluring. The luxury part captures the packaging of this essence, everything that touches and frames them has to be delicate, softly draped, and glamorous.
Using the criteria set above, the Romantic essence can be distilled as follows:
Romantic hair is both long and voluminous. Big curls are a signature style because the circular patterns recreate the curved lines associated with this body type. Romantic hair is soft, touchable, and has some movement. It creates within the observer the desire to run your hands through it.
Lastly, Romantic hair is visibly styled. Whether the final look is more refined (perhaps the curls are brushed out) or intricately detailed, it is clear that time and effort were put into the hairstyle. The visibility of the styling adds glamour and that sense of ‘high-maintenance’ that accompanies this essence.
Romantic makeup is glamorous, yet soft and feminine. It should be elaborate and blended into a soft, watercolor face. Soft pretty colors (rose, peach, rust, pink) on cheeks and lips (glossy).
For a more bold look, a more intense lip color can be applied. Romantic lips are lush and sensual so playing them up creates a beautiful result- double points for a bold red lip because that is the color of passion. On a Romantic essence woman, it brings them to life and they look beautiful and glamorous.
Romantic accessories are luxurious and delicate. The edges are soft and rounded and the details are high sparkle and very ‘showy’. The details call to mind a Vegas showgirl/ old Hollywood glamour aesthetic- feathers, sparkly and luxe fabric (draped of course), soft fur, and of course- bling. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend in the case of a Romantic essence woman.
Romantic movements are flirty. They are soft, fun, and inviting. Every touch is a caress and it tends to linger. Their walk has a swish in the hips that oozes feminine power that invokes within themselves and others that seductive quality.
There is something about the embodiment of the Romantic essence that is naturally performative. It’s as though the woman with this essence knows we can’t help to look at her, and so she gives us something to look at. She puts on a show.
The way she talks, laughs, walks and even stands, is pleasurable for the observer. And of course, for the woman herself because she knows that this ability to pull and attract attention is the center of her allure and, in a sense, her power.
Romantic speech is light and playful. These are the people who lubricate parties because they make everyone feel sparkly and fun and sexy because they themselves are all these things. It’s not that Romantic essence women can’t be deep, they can be any and everything.
However, they tend to be the social butterflies that keep things fun and light by spreading their sweet, flirty essence from person to person or generally into the room. In this way, a Romantic essence person is the perfect plus-one because it’s almost impossible to put them down or to diminish their sparkle.
The Romantic demeanor is inviting and warm, but slightly (or perhaps very) intimidating. They might be smiling enough to convey an openness, but not enough to make that feel applicable to all. There is an exclusivity to them.
Picture a beautiful woman that you want to approach, but instead of doing so directly, you ask yourself, ‘Who can I ask to introduce me?’ There is a sense that entering their space is possible, but it requires an invite.
On the negative side, people with this essence often get all sorts of beliefs projected onto them. From people assuming they are probably ‘stuck-up’ or ‘full of themselves’, to people actively stopping themselves from complimenting them because they ‘probably get that all the time’- the world at large tends to have a very strange relationship with this sort of magnetic beauty.
What Sort of Woman Does This Create?
These are the women that can’t help but attract attention, and not just the male gaze either- I think they pull as much if not more of the female gaze because other women recognize and may even be jealous of the power of their outward femininity. This sensuality is then wrapped in luxurious and glamorous packaging- their finishes all sparkle because this is a woman who is meant to shine.
Romantic Essence Icons
The style of the 50s era is a great example of the outward representation of the Romantic essence woman. And, of course, there is no better representation of that woman than Marilyn Monroe. A modern example of someone who, like Marilyn, is a verified Romantic body type and who embodies the Romantic essence is Beyoncé.
Marilyn Monroe and the characters she portrayed on the screen, were the epitome of sensual femininity and of the Romantic essence.
As a verified Romantic body type (Kibbe), her petite, delicate structure and lush flesh created the perfect curvaceous frame for the Romantic essence to shine.
The packaging is most obvious, her hair is voluminous and curled (circular lines that mimic the circular lines of her body), the makeup is glamorous and highlights her eyes and lips, her clothes are draped to follow her curves, and her accessories are bold and luxurious. The fabrics are generally soft and lightweight, and the details are sparkly and glamorous.
In the GIFs, we see little glimpses of Marilyn’s embodiment of the Romantic essence. She moves softly and delicately, notice the middle GIF where she is caressing the perfume bottle. I get the sense that she is gracious, yet lively. Her grace isn’t calculated (how we might think of a Classic grace), it’s instinctual.
She is also very sensual. Marilyn Monroe was and remains a sex symbol and it’s easy to see why. She is effortlessly sexy. Yes, she put effort into it through the packaging but- as I’ve been trying to drive home- essence cannot be bought or manufactured. So, even without the packaging, she embodied femininity and sensuality. With the packaging, her essence was amplified and it made her a superstar.
In the first (left) and third (right) GIFs, we can see this sensuality at play. The way she licks her lips and sways her hips is powerful. By that I mean there is the power behind it, there is the power of a woman who knows that she has your attention because you can’t help but give it to her. She knows she is attractive and that you can’t help but be drawn to her femininity.
A person isn’t limited to one essence and Marilyn also had a very playful Ingénue essence that gave her an innocence such that, while very strong, her sensual energy was less intimidating and thus more easily palatable for mass audiences.
Beyoncé, and the persona she often animates in her performances and videos, is a modern representation of the vivacious flavor of the sensuality of the Romantic essence woman.
However, unlike Marilyn, Beyoncé doesn’t have an Ingénue essence. I think she is either a pure embodiment of the Romantic essence or she has a major Romantic and minor Dramatic essence. There is something more powerful and intense about her that gives her that ‘Diva’ feel. As such, the sensual part of this essence is more clearly dominant and mature in her such that she almost leads with Seductress energy. Her sensuality has claws in a way that Marilyn’s doesn’t.
What these two women demonstrate is the spectrum of an essence. Depending on what other essences are present in someone, how their Dominant essence manifests will be different. While both are sensual, Marilyn’s Romantic essence captures more of a lightness and innocence, while Beyoncé’s has a deeper intensity and power- both are beautiful and magnetic.
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 Romantic Essence Look Like? Celebrity Examples
While each of these women has a different Kibbe body type, what they have in common is a Romantic essence. Essence doesn’t have a body type, so even though Selena Gomez is a Theatrical Romantic, Jennifer Lopez is a Soft Natural, and Beyoncé is a pure Romantic- they all have the same essence.
They have in common that they look their best when their hair is polished and voluminous, when their makeup is visible and distinct, and when their accessories are feminine and luxurious. In short, they look their best when they look done-up and glamorous because this honors their Romantic 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.
If she had assumed that she had a Natural essence and did her makeup in a Natural way (‘no makeup’ makeup with ‘I woke up like this’ beach wave hair for example), she would look like a hobo. But when she’s all glammed up with showgirl hair and makeup, she looks like a goddess.
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 in nature. I hope this post has been helpful in deciphering what the Romantic essence is and how it manifests in people who have it.
Do you have a Romantic essence? Do you agree with my assessment? I’d love to hear from you.