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Who is David Kibbe and What is the Kibbe System?

Who Is David Kibbe and What Is The Kibbe System?

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Who Is David Kibbe and What Is The Kibbe System?

I like the Kibbe system of body typing and I think it’s a helpful tool for anyone who wants to understand and/or holistically develop their personal style.

However, it’s no secret that the Kibbe system is confusing as hell. Add to that, there’s a glossary of terms that come up again and again, whose understanding is critical for the new Kibbe enthusiast.

What is ‘Kibbe width’, or ‘double curve’ anyway? And what on earth is your ‘vertical line’?

 

In this post, I break down what all these terms and others that are common in the ‘Kibbeverse’ mean so you can have an easier time getting through it all.

 

A very necessary disclaimer:

I do not claim to be an expert on the Kibbe system, just a random internet enthusiast. I’ve done a fair deal of research which, at times, is based on other people’s interpretation of the system. I’m sharing what I’ve learned to hopefully help others better understand this new world. The views and ideas shared here are my interpretation of the system. They could be wrong.

 

Who is David Kibbe: The Man Behind The System

David Kibbe is a stylist who came into prominence in the 80s and is most famous for his book Metamorphosis: Discover Your Image Identity and Dazzle As Only You Can in which he outlined 13 body image identities. You can Find Your Kibbe Type by taking the test here.

 

The identities were based on how much Yin and Yang (I’ll explain this later) a person has and demonstrates. Going from most Yang-dominant to most Yin-dominant, the original 13 image identities are: Dramatic, Soft Dramatic; Flamboyant Natural, Natural, Soft Natural; Dramatic Classic, Classic, Soft Classic; Flamboyant Gamine, Gamine, Soft Gamine; Theatrical Romantic, Romantic.

 

Kibbe later modified this list of 13 down to a list of 10 by removing all the pure types. He now believes that nobody is a pure type, but they lean more soft (yin) or dramatic (yang) within their image identity.

The updated 10 image identities are: Dramatic, Soft Dramatic; Flamboyant Natural, Soft Natural; Dramatic Classic, Soft Classic; Flamboyant Gamine, Soft Gamine; Theatrical Romantic, Romantic.

As of January 2023, David Kibbe still lives in New York and continues to work as a stylist and uses his unique system to identify which image identify his clients belong to.

 

Understanding Kibbe: Learn The Lingo

Yin and Yang

The Kibbe system essentially measures a person’s Yin and Yang composition to determine into which category or body type they belong.

 

Yin: soft, small, curved, and rounded. In short, yin refers to elements that are traditionally considered ‘feminine’.

What is yin in Kibbe?

Yang: hard, sharp, elongated, and structured. In short, yang refers to elements that are traditionally considered ‘masculine’.

What is yang in Kibbe?

Kibbe Width

This refers to an openness to the features, particularly seen through the upper torso and back. Kibbe width does not mean ‘wide’ or ‘broad’ and we should be careful not to assign it in such a way.

To demonstrate this, let’s consider some examples:

What is Kibbe width?

If I look at the three women pictured above and had to judge who I thought had width through their shoulders, I would look at the size of the T-silhouette, as demonstrated. The T-silhouette measures the width of the shoulders as measured against their length and their overall width from top to bottom.

I would say that Charlize Theron (right) has the widest T-silhouette, followed by Kiera Knightley (left), and Gisele Bundchen (middle) has the narrowest silhouette.

 

Based on this, I would expect Gisele to be a Yang-dominant type without width, which is a Dramatic type. I’d expect Charlize to be a Yang dominant type with width, which is a Natural type (likely a Flamboyant Natural). Lastly, I’d expect Kiera to be either of the two.

However, in reality, while Charlize is a verified Flamboyant Natural; Kiera is a verified Dramatic; and Gisele is a verified Flamboyant Natural.

 

So, in Kibbe terms, Gisele has more ‘width’ than Kiera Knightley and a similar width to Charlize Theron.

So, again, Kibbe width is not broadness. Understanding it may take some time and practice because it’s not as straightforward or intuitive as we might first think.

 

So, what is Kibbe width?

Kibbe width is more a measure of openness in the structure and is designed to answer the question, ‘does this person have to accommodate their width? Do they have to take it into account when putting on clothes?’

Naturals and especially Flamboyant Naturals have to consider their shoulders when buying an item. They have to ask, ‘will this item fit my shoulders?’ and the answer to that determines whether they buy it or not.

 

Note: As a Flamboyant Natural, this is so real for me. I have always had to make sure that items, particularly closed tops (t-shirts, turtlenecks, etc.) and outerwear (jackets, blazers) would fit my shoulders.

 

I have a narrow frame and broad shoulders (for my frame), so a typical T-silhouette. You can see it in this post where I tried on different body type lines. So, I’m a size small everywhere except my shoulders and chest. If I buy ‘small’ t-shirts or turtlenecks, the shoulder line sometimes (depending on the cut) sits at the wrong place. So, I always fit items because accommodating my width is a thing.

Let’s look at what the absence of width looks like by considering some Theatrical Romantics: Jada Pinkett Smith, Mila Kunis, and Salma Hayek.

 

body types without Kibbe width

For me, all of their bodies are clearly compact but, unlike the other two, Jada’s is also visually wide and squarish.

However, she does not have Kibbe width. Theatrical Romantics do not have Kibbe width because even with a possibly broad appearance, their small stature means they will never have to accommodate for width in their search for clothes.

 

Theatrical Romantics, even the widest-looking ones, never have to ask, ‘will this shirt fit my shoulders?’. As such, they don’t have Kibbe width.

So, again, Kibbe width’ is not a function of visual broadness.

Petite: small-boned with a delicate bone structure

 

Kibbe Curve

In common language, “curves” means the general existence of a defined waist/having a desirable (somewhere between 0.6 and 0.80 according to science) waist-to-hip ratio. In Kibbe terms, “curves” means rounded lines in someone’s body.

As stated before, the Kibbe system is one of determining which accommodations are necessary for each body type. Having Kibbe curve doesn’t mean you’re curvy, it means you have to accommodate for curve in your clothing.

Let’s look at some examples to understand this better:

 

What is Kibbe curve?

According to Kibbe, Romantics and Theatrical Romantics are curve dominant. So, since Jada Pinkett Smith and Mila Kunis are Theatrical Romantics, they have Kibbe curve even though their outward representation is not what we generally consider ‘curvy’.

 

understanding Kibbe curve

In comparison, both Candice Swanepoel (left) and Gigi Hadid (right) are Flamboyant Naturals. This means that they are Yang types and further, they are frame-dominant and don’t have to accommodate for curve.

So while they are visibly curvy, their Yang bodies don’t require them to accommodate for curve in their clothing. That means that they can wear and actually look their best in free-flowing clothes that don’t follow their curves.

In contrast, curve-dominant types like Romantics need fitted clothing that follows their curves or they get lost. I’ll demonstrate:

 

Kibbe curve vs. no curve

Salma Hayek, a verified Theatrical Romantic, looks amazing in this figure-hugging gown. Her curves are front and center and she oozes sexiness.

In similarly tight styles, Cindy Crawford, a certified Flamboyant Natural, looks bound and restricted. Her clothes need to be looser and allow for movement to suit her lines and essence better. This also highlights that even when curvy (because I can see Cindy’s curves), Flamboyant Naturals are still frame-dominant. I see Cindy’s large frame more than I see her curves.

 

Kibbe Double Curve

‘Double curve’ is a way to describe a body that is made up of two circles (curved lines) sitting right on top of each other, like a snowman. For someone to have double curve, these curved lines have to clearly encompass most of their body.

There is a smallness required for this to be possible. So, typically, only Romantics, Theatrical Romantics, and occasionally Soft Gamines showcase double curve.

Again, double curve has nothing to do with whether a person is visually curvy or not.

double disclaimer: Double curve is one of the concepts I struggled the most with in Kibbe, so my understanding and thus my explanation may be flawed. Do your own research and see if this fits with what you find.

 

Let’s look at some examples:

what is Kibbe double curve?

In this example, Jada Pinkett Smith (right) has double curve and Hannah Waddingham (left) does not. Visually, Hannah is clearly curvier than Jada, but let’s consider how the ‘snowman’ sits on each of their bodies:

The ‘snowman’ sits comfortably on Jada’s body and, more importantly, it covers most of her body including her entire chest. She has double curve.

 

It sits well on Hannah from the chest down. I believe Hannah is a Soft Dramatic. This is unverified, but if correct, that would make her both frame and curve dominant- which I think describes her perfectly. She is both large and curvy.

So, her curves make a natural home for the curved lines of the snowman, but her large frame means it can’t fit over her entire body or most of it. Namely, her upper chest and shoulders fall squarely outside the demarcated area. So she does not have double curve.

 

Yes Double Curve:
body types with Kibbe double curve

All three of these women have double curve. Mila Kunis (left), and Selena Gomez (middle) are both verified Theatrical Romantics and Beyoncé (right) is a verified Romantic.

Their snowman encompasses most of their bodies and their entire chest. There is also a certain petiteness and delicacy to them and their bone structure.

 

No Double Curve:
body types without Kibbe double curve

All three of these women, while curvy, do not have double curve. I believe Hannah Waddingham (left) is a Soft Dramatic, I believe Kendall Jenner (middle) is a Flamboyant Natural and Jennifer Lopez (right) is a verified Soft Natural.

The top of their snowman does not cover their full chest. In each case, the upper chest falls outside of the demarcated area. What’s more, the shoulders are large and pronounced outside of that area in a manner that the women with double curve (above) are not. In other words, their dominant frame stands out.

A person with double curve will not have a large, dominant frame.

 

Kibbe Vertical/ Elongation:

The vertical line is observed in the silhouette between the shoulders and knees and has to do with how fabric falls on the body.

Kibbe vertical line/ elongation

In the images above, let’s consider the length of the skirt of each dress as measured against the entire dress and the proportions of the wearer.

In the first image (left), although it’s floor-length, the skirt looks short to me, making the whole dress seem awkward in its proportions. This means that the wearer has a short vertical line. As such, a floor-length gown will not visually sit correctly because she doesn’t have enough length to let it flow naturally.

 

In the middle look, Lupita Nyong’o looks great in her dress. She is a Classic, meaning she is perfectly blended and her vertical line is moderate (neither short nor long). The length of her skirt looks balanced and she looks beautiful.

In the last image (right), Blake Lively looks amazing in her dress. I believe she is a Flamboyant Natural, and she clearly has a long vertical line. The skirt of her dress is clearly the longest part of the dress and this length falls naturally over her frame. She looks perfectly proportional.

 

Kibbe vertical line

Here again, these floor-length full-skirt dresses highlight the presence or absence of vertical of the wearer. To support the long length, a long vertical is needed, otherwise, the dress will swallow the person wearing it.

This is what happens to Kate Bosworth in the first image (left). She has a short vertical line so this very long dress looks off on her. The skirt looks as though it’s shorter than it should be, and it swallows her bottom half. Visually, the skirt is not in balance with her as a whole and she looks out of proportion.

Jennifer Lawrence (right) is a Flamboyant Natural, so she has a long vertical line. While this style of dress is not necessarily her best, she carries off this length effortlessly. The skirt is clearly the longest part of the dress, and her frame animates it beautifully. She looks perfectly in proportion.

 

Kibbe Verified

A person or celebrity whom David Kibbe saw and typed in person. In the Kibbeverse, this is the most accurate typing that can be done and Kibbe is seen as the final word on any body types that may be causing confusion.

Unfortunately, very few people have been verified by Kibbe himself, which is why there is so much (heated) online debate on so many celebrities.

 

My Thoughts on the Kibbe System

I obviously love this system. I think it has great merit, the best of which is how it isn’t corrective in nature. Instead, it teaches people to view their bodies holistically and lean into and highlight what they naturally have.

That said, it is very confusing. I’ve circled through my fair share of body types to know just how confusing it can be.

In his defense, David Kibbe has clearly stated that his system is not meant to be a rigid body typing system. Rather, it is an image identity system based on someone’s physical traits and intangible and shifty ideas such as overall ‘softness’ and ‘essence’.

 

So difficult is it to grasp this system that David Kibbe himself is the only person who can unquestionably verify an image identity. While I understand this to an extent, I think this is where the confusion begins. As far as systems go, when one person’s view can trump even his own previous systematic analysis, it creates space for great misunderstandings.

Add to that the general hazy and ever-shifting nature of the ‘rules’ and you have the perfect scenario for confusing and even contradicting ideas on what David Kibbe means by certain things.

 

So, the system is imperfect. That said, it’s very useful and I think with some time dedicated to trying to understand the Kibbeverse, it can be grasped enough to be really beneficial to any user.

 

My advice is to give yourself time to play with the lines of the body types you think might be yours. Keep in mind that it’s difficult for most people to answer the Kibbe Test questions objectively (often because the language makes it difficult to understand the test because most of us don’t think about our bodies in those terms).

So, you might have some false starts- I would go so far as to say you should expect it. I’ve heard that finding your image identity can take about six months of experimenting, and this seems realistic.

 

My journey was much shorter, but I was determined and I think my type was rather obvious. What’s taken longer for me is learning how to translate the style recommendations for my body type into a real wardrobe. This is a long process I’m enjoying.

So, in short, use this system as a tool. Be patient with yourself and don’t lose your mind. Lastly, have fun with it.

 

Conclusion

Wherever you are on your personal style journey, the Kibbe system can be a great one if used with understanding and discernment. I hope this glossary will help in that understanding.

Did I miss something? Or did I get something completely wrong? Please let me know so we can continue to learn together.

Wishing you well and talk very soon,

Nonjabulo

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