“Soft Dramatic”, “Theatrical Romantic” and “Flamboyant Natural” look a lot like a new line of false eyelashes. In fact, these are body types of women according to the style theory known as Kibbe body types.
Published in 1987, Metamorphosis, A personal image and style book for women, was written by David Kibbe, a self-proclaimed style avatar and pioneer. Kibbe is an imaging professional who ran a personal-looking makeover salon in New York City in the 1980s, following the principles of his comprehensive imaging system known as Kibbe Body Types.
The system is largely based on a person’s supposed individual balance of Yin and Yang, or female and male energy. The main characteristic of Yin is soft and round strokes, while Yang denotes sharp and angular strokes. Within this spectrum are thirteen different body types, with a romantic body type at the far Yin end of the spectrum and a dramatic body type at the most extreme Yang.
If you’re curious about where you might fit into the Kibbe body types, read their descriptions here:
Yin Kibbe body types:
To the far right of the Kibbe-type spectrum. Size is moderate to small. The body type is soft and curvy
Size is moderate to small. The body type is soft and curvy but small.
The height is very small. The body type is rounded.
The size is moderate. The body type is slightly rounded and evenly proportioned.
The size is moderate. The body type is evenly proportioned between yin and yang.
Size is moderate to small. The body type is straight and unlike a mixed balance of the classic, the Gamine is a combination of Yin and Yang.
Yang Kibbe Body Types:
The size is moderate. The body type is lightly muscled and evenly proportioned.
Size is moderate to small. The build is soft and tends to be plump, with a short stature and hourglass shape.
Size is moderate to small. The body type is wide and angular.
Size is moderate to slightly tall. The body type is straight and muscular
Moderate to very large size. The body type is straight, wide and angular.
Moderate to high size. The body type is plump, especially around the bust and hips with long legs and arms.
On the far left of the Kibbe-type spectrum. The size is moderate to high. The body type is straight and angular.
To keep things simple, there are basically only five body types (Romantic, Dramatic, Classic, Natural, Kidney). According to the Kibbe system, each body type is then equipped with guidelines covering all elements of personal appearance including clothing, hair and makeup in order to achieve a totally harmonious look.
Despite its rather niche mode of categorization, the Kibbe system appears to have converted a considerable number of supporters. Several YouTube videos demystifying the different types and walkthroughs detailing how to dress accordingly have racked up hundreds of thousands of views. Where the appeal seems to lie is the emphasis on celebrating your features, whatever they are, and showcasing them by dressing the way you want, rather than trying to change them up. or disguise them to fit arbitrary beauty standards.
However, at first glance, there seems to be a glaring problem with this suggestion. Just click on any of the many blogs or videos dedicated to helping people find their Kibbe body type to see that it is primarily aimed at predominantly white women. Some of the common celebrity examples include Marilyn Monroe, Jennifer Anniston, Tilda Swinton, and Keira Knightley, with a few like Beyonce, Tyra Banks, and Rihanna. Despite the occasional attempts at diversity, it’s clear that the system is marketed based on how white women are shaped and experience their bodies.
Another problem extends to the tendency of body typing more widely. This desire to categorize women’s bodies has a long legacy of toxic messages, echoing the extreme makeover shows of the past. Objectifying women’s bodies for evaluation is nothing new, with the most common categories of unflattering fruits being used to dictate who is allowed to wear what.
These supposed rules aim to make you appear more flattering to the eye by emphasizing, hiding and minimizing aspects of the body. According to Kibbe, his system is all about emphasizing your features rather than trying to cover them up. However, it’s hard to see how this doesn’t play out in the same outdated accounts of what is and isn’t “flattering.” Millennials were found to be the age group whose mood was most affected by their clothing in a study created by Comfort in collaboration with University of Hertfordshire fashion psychologist Professor Karen Pine. He revealed that 17% asked friends to remove a photo from social media because their outfit was not correct, demonstrating how dressing has a significant impact on self-esteem.
Viren Swami, professor of social psychology at Anglia Ruskin University, explains: “Most psychologists hate to categorize people, mainly because we know that people more or less lie about any psychological or physical trait that you are dealing with. can think of. Categorizing people essentializes them. He says you are either or. Most people are neither, or – they’re somewhere in between. “
“The way the Kibbe has been marketed especially on this premise of body positivity, on its rejection of the emphasis on thinness and the emphasis on encapsulating the contemporary-looking ideal, is significant. He turns it around and says you can be different, but as long as you follow these patterns and rules of behavior. The problem is, it reproduces a lot of the nonsense that we see in mainstream society anyway, ”he says.
A 2019 online investigation conducted by the Mental Health Foundation found that in the past year, one in five adults felt ashamed, just over a third felt depressed or disgusted because of their body image. These statistics show that even in the age of body positivity, a large proportion of people still suffer from poor body image. Significantly, this then increases their risk factor for more serious mental health problems.
Most people have spent years ingesting toxic messages around their bodies, with shameful rhetoric disguised as fashion advice. However, that doesn’t mean that body typing systems can’t be helpful for some people. For those who swear by the Kibbe body system as the golden ticket to unlocking their personal style, this categorization system can help them see their body in a new and more positive light. As Swami elaborates, “This is pseudoscience. I think on an individual level, if it helps people feel more comfortable about themselves, I’m not going to object to it. But if you try to use it to help people at the population level feel better about themselves, it won’t work. “
Dressing for your body type, age, or gender has long been out of fashion. Whether it’s jeans and a nice top or a particularly comfortable WFH jumpsuit, choose what feels right for you and I promise you do it right.
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