- The Kibbe body types are 10 in total, classified into five groups – Romantics, Dramatics, Naturals, Classics, and Gamines.
- According to the Kibbe system, the principles of Yin and Yang should be followed to figure out your body type, where Yin is more delicate features while Yang is sharper.
We’re all familiar with the fruit-based body types, but have you heard about the Kibbe body types? Kibbe is a totally different body type system that was invented by David Kibbe, a fashion stylist who gained fame in the ‘80s. He outlines his body system in a book he published in 1987 called Metamorphosis.
I first came across the concept through an excellent video from Aly Art, and I found the topic fascinating. Kibbe identified body types based on the lines of the skeleton and the features and came up with a system that was more robust than ones based strictly on silhouettes. He gave the different body types names like “Gamine” and “Soft Romantic,” which I definitely prefer over the bizarrely objectifying “Apple” or “Pear.”
While some elements of the Kibbe body types turned me off, many others seemed extremely reasonable. Each body type description is filled with love and adoration. The fashion tips themselves are intended to be harmonious with the body type – there is nothing to hide or de-emphasize!
The more I learned about my own body type, the more it made sense! I started understanding why this one garment looked so great on me while another one didn’t.
That’s why I’m so excited to share this concept with you! The article starts with a brief history of David Kibbe and his invention of the body types, and then we get into the interesting part: what are the body types and what kind of fashion is best for each one? There are also some important critiques to be made about the Kibbe system, which we make sure to discuss.
Kibbe Body Type Guide: Contents
- The Different Kibbe Body Types
- Fashion for the Kibbe Body Types
- How to Find Your Body Type
- Critiques of the Kibbe Body Types
- Final Thoughts
The Different Kibbe Body Types
The cool thing about the Kibbe body types is that they’re all inherently celebrated as stunning! As you’ll see, we mention a few celebrity examples for each body type, and every woman listed is utterly beautiful. Occasionally, we’ll use words like “slim” or “wide,” so it’s important to clarify that they refer to the skeleton since the Kibbe body types don’t change with weight gain.
Yin and Yang
One of the core concepts behind the Kibbe classification is the idea of Yin and Yang. Within the context of Kibbe, Yin is defined as features that are soft, round, and delicate, while Yang is defined as features that are sharp, angular, and broad.
Both the amount of Yin and Yang in each person and the specific way they manifest inform the actual body type. However, the use of the term “Yin and Yang” in this context doesn’t sit quite right with me, as I discuss in a bit more detail in my critique.
The Romantic body type has the most ‘Yin’ properties. It’s curvy in all the right places, with a lot of softness. Romantics are short, as a rule, and they can seem a little wide. Their silhouette brings words like “voluptuous” to mind, while their features can be described as “full” or “lush.” Their limbs are usually on the shorter side, and they look very petite overall.
Marilyn Monroe is probably the most famous “Romantic” of all, but Beyoncé, Christina Ricci, Emilia Clarke, and Drew Barrymore are all also part of the list.
The Theatrical Romantic, like the original Romantic, is also Yin-dominant, but with some Yang angularity. In other words, womanly and petite but with a bit of an edge. A Theatrical Romantic is also short but not quite as wide as a Romantic. There is some sharpness in the shoulders, jawline, cheekbones, or nose. The overall look is voluptuous yet delicate.
Salma Hayek is a great example of a Theatrical Romantic, but Mila Kunis, Ann-Margret, and Hedy Lamarr are also good examples.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are Dramatics, who are all Yang. The dramatics are tall, modelesque women that are highly represented in the fashion world but less so in real life. They have a lot of angularity, especially at the shoulders, they either seem tall or actually are very tall.
Everything about the Dramatic body type is powerful and elongated – especially their arms and legs. Their features are often also quite angular, with elongated “fox eyes” and sharp cheekbones.
Keira Knightly is a fantastic example of a Dramatic body type, but there are many others: Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Katharine Hepburn, and ostensibly even Taylor Swift.
The Soft Dramatic still has a ton of height and drama but with some soft Yin touches. This Kibbe body type is like the reverse of the Theatrical Romantic – a long figure with some curves. The intensity shows up in the height and in the long limbs, as well as in prominent facial features. However, there is also softness, with rounded touches, especially at the arms, hips, or bust.
If you want to get a visual idea of what Soft Dramatic looks like, consider Sophia Loren, Barbara Streisand, and Tyra Banks.
Now we get into the more complicated Kibbe body types, starting with naturals. Once upon a time, “Natural” was a body type on its own, but in recent years Kibbe has moved away from identifying it, focusing on the more specific Flamboyant Natural and Soft Natural.
Flamboyant Natural has a tall figure, like the Dramatics. Instead of sharp angles, the Flamboyant Natural is broader and straighter, with wide, squared-off shoulders and a straight, undefined waistline. As a result, they look a little more down-to-earth than their Dramatic counterparts.
While this body type often sounds very masculine to women, that’s not the case at all. The list of famous women who fall into Flamboyant Natural is comprised of nothing but iconic beauties like Brooke Shields, Charlize Theron, Cindy Crawford, Natalie Dormer, Michelle Obama, and Nicole Kidman.
The Soft Natural is the softer and slightly more petite version of the Flamboyant Natural. Kibbe describes them as a “soft Yang with a Yin undercurrent.” Soft Naturals are shorter (no taller than 5”7) and slightly rounder but with that same broad straightness. They’re curvy, but not as curvy as the Romantics, and they don’t have any sharpness about them.
The list of famous Soft Naturals includes Katy Perry, Julie Andrew, Hellen Mirren, and Chloe Sevigny.
The Classics represent the balance of Yin and Yang, although in recent years, Kibbe has stopped IDing people as perfect classics. Instead, we now have just two types, so let’s start with the Soft Classics that have a Yin leaning.
Classics are not particularly tall or particularly short, although a Soft Classic will generally not be taller than 5”6. For lack of a better word, they have a classic look with a bit of roundness. Think, moderate height, a frame that’s neither narrow nor wide and slightly shoulders. The limbs can look a little short, but not overly so. They don’t have the intense roundness of a Romantic, but they are slightly curvier than a natural.
Some great examples of well-known Soft Classics include Grace Kelly, Naomi Watts, and Marion Cotillard.
The other Classic body type is Dramatic Classic, with a slight Yang leaning. They are very balanced but with some subtle angular touches. They can be a little taller than Soft Classics, though not always. The key is that they don’t look short. Their features will be slightly sharper with a few more angles in their body.
A Dramatic Classic is a complex type, but examples help bring the description to life. Jackie Onassis and Olivia Munn are both great examples!
Now on to gamines! I’m excited to start with Soft Gamine, which is my body type. The Gamine type has a contrasting blend of Yin and Yang (as opposed to the balanced Yin and Yang of the Classic), and the Soft Gamine leans slightly more towards Yin.
One of the main features of Soft Gamines is that they’re tiny. They’re always 5”5 or shorter, but the key is that they also look small. Their Yang comes through as some slight broadness in the shoulders or facial features. They’re curvy, but unlike Romantics they don’t come off as voluptuous.
To get an idea of what this looks like, look up photos of Lucy Hale, Wynona Ryder, Betty White, Octavia Spencer, and Maisie Williams, who are all Soft Gamines.
Now to the Flamboyant Gamine, who also looks extremely petite, but who embodies a touch more Yang. They appear short and angular, with some broadness at the shoulders and in the facial features. Unlike Soft Gamines, their limbs can actually look a little longer while their overall frame looks tiny. Their figure includes a lot of straight lines without much if any of the roundness of Soft Gamines. I can’t help but think of them as miniature Dramatics.
Audrey Hepburn is probably the most iconic Flamboyant Gamine of all, but other examples include Liza Minelli, Twiggy, and Zooey Deschanel.
Fashion for the Kibbe Body Types
Kibbe’s fashion advice to the different body types is that it focuses on creating harmony. While his original advice is also aligned with ‘80s fashion, it’s easy to narrow down those basic principles into more general advice that can be adapted to different styles and eras. The key is that the advice has more to do with silhouettes and materials rather than with fleeting trends.
Additionally, the advice is never about hiding or “balancing out” any flaws in the body type – the opposite is often true, with the goal being to emphasize and work with the unique features of each type.
Fashion for Romantics
With Romantic fashion, the ideal is to have clothes that echo the softness of the body type. Waist definition is always emphasized, and other tips include choosing flowy, soft fabrics, and “draped” silhouettes.
The modern trend of high-waisted shorts and trousers is excellent for Romantics since it really helps flatter their curves! Wrap dresses are also incredibly flattering.
Too much structure, whether it means sharp lines, stiff fabrics, or large, geometric prints will often go against the Romantic roundness.
Fashion for Theatrical Romantics
Like Romantics, Theatrical Romantics also benefit from waist-emphasizing clothes that hug their figure. Softly draped silhouettes and high-waisted fits are an excellent choice for both body types!
The difference is that whereas a Romantic might look uncomfortable in something that’s very tight or stiff, a Theatrical Romantic probably won’t have a problem with it. Theatrical Romantics also benefit from a few sharp details and can handle stiffer items easily. Small details, ornaments, and patterns can also work quite well.
Fashion for Dramatics
Dramatics benefit from echoing their intensity and angularity with their garments. Since they’re so tall, clothes that have a long line like a sleek, monochrome suit, a trench coat, or a column dress, are incredibly flattering. Wearing stiff or structured fabrics is great for emphasizing the power of a Dramatic physique.
They can still opt for a more feminine style with garments that are tight around the waist, but they can also get away with more straight silhouettes. When it comes to length, anything that goes below the knee is easy to wear, but short dresses or skirts (especially if they have a lot of volume) can end up looking much shorter than they are or even a little misplaced.
Dramatics can easily opt for minimalist outfits, and they don’t need to over-accessorize. When it comes to prints, geometric prints and straight lines look especially cool.
Fashion for Soft Dramatics
Soft Dramatics benefit from garments that echo their length while also offering a bit more softness. The same column dresses and monochromes look great but perhaps with a touch more of a waist emphasis.
Those drape silhouettes that look good on a Romantic can also flatter the Soft Dramatic, especially with a longer hemline or in a slightly heavier fabric. Round or feminine flourishes like bows, florals, or even just rounded shoulders can be quite nice. Large prints will be quite easy to pull off!
Fashion for Flamboyant Naturals
Flamboyant Naturals have the height without the intense angularity, so they benefit from echoing it with elongating looks in more relaxed fits. They can look restricted or uncomfortable in overly structured wear, although they can handle slightly heavier fabrics and some straight lines as long as the overall garment has some movement.
There is no need to worry too much about waist definition, with shift or tunic silhouettes working just fine. Flamboyant Naturals can also handle a lot of ornamentation and bold prints, and they can also rock layered looks.
Fashion for Soft Naturals
Like Flamboyant Naturals, Soft Naturals also benefit from relaxed fits, although they often need a bit more waist emphasis and fewer straight lines. They can also rock drop-waist looks as long as the overall silhouette is narrow. In general, draped silhouettes are totally stunning.
The same applies to separates, with a bit of definition at the waist but with otherwise loose, long garments being helpful. Patterns and added decorations can look great when they’re subtle or soft, but a lot of ornamentation can seem busy, especially around the face.
Fashion for Soft Classics
The balanced Classics benefit from clothes that are as balanced and symmetrical as they are.
They do well with clean, unbroken lines – the same minimalist vibe a Dramatic can rock but with a bit more waist emphasis and some added softness and roundness. Middle-weight fabrics and subtle prints work quite well, but Soft Classics can also have softer textures and less ornamentation.
Fashion for Dramatic Classics
Like Soft Classics, Dramatic Classics also benefit from symmetry and clean lines, but they can also handle some straight, texture, or more geometric touches. Things like straight shoulders or necklines work well, as do lines throughout the seams of a dress that help to echo the silhouette.
Waist emphasis can be nice, but it’s also optional. Like Dramatics, they don’t benefit from anything too flouncy or short and puffy.
Fashion for Soft Gamines
While the stereotypical advice for Soft Gamines is to embrace cutesy clothes, we’re not about that life. In reality, the most important thing in a Soft Gamine wardrobe is to have the same mixture of round and squared-off elements that are present in the figure.
There are a few key areas where the clothes need to have a tighter fit: around the waist, especially, but also at the neckline, somewhere along the arms, and at the ankles or knees if wearing trousers. Elsewhere, the clothing can be slightly more voluminous, as long as there are these points of figure-hugging tightness.
One phrase stylists often go to is some roundness but with “broken lines.” This means selecting items with patterns, color blocking, texture-mixing, or garments that have natural lines of separation. It’s also possible to use accessories like belts to create that separation when it doesn’t exist in the garment. Finally, higher necklines can be particularly flattering, as are accessories like chokers that mimic a high neckline.
Fashion for Flamboyant Gamines
With Flamboyant Gamines, the stereotypical advice is opting for an androgynous or boyish style, but once again, that’s just a stereotype. In reality, the key with a Flamboyant Gamine wardrobe is to embrace all of the sharp angles.
Once again, broken lines are super flattering, as are tailored fits and geometric silhouettes and shapes: think sharp shoulders, asymmetrical elements, straight or square silhouettes for garments, especially when it comes to separates. Once again, high necklines can be particularly flattering!
How to Find Your Body Type
As with any categorization system, it’s hard to get things perfect. Some systems can be so broad as to be too vague, while others are so specific as to be restrictive.
I think the Kibbe body types, for the most part, manage to straddle a pretty good line, but even so, some may find themselves really struggling to tease out their body types.
There are tests all over the Internet, although I’ve found them a lot less helpful than simply reading descriptions of the different Kibbe body types. Looking at videos of women with different body types also helped. Most of all, analyzing photos and trying to understand which kinds of garments worked and which didn’t was the most luminizing for me since I was able to envision myself wearing the same clothes.
According to Kibbe, there are only two people who can figure out a person’s body type: you or him (but only once he meets you in real life). Diving deep into descriptions and photos as well as considering what kinds of garments and silhouettes suit you will help you make the connections by yourself.
Finally, once I had an inkling as to my body type, I still felt like I needed external confirmation, so I posted a photo to the Kibbe subreddit. There, other users were able to confirm my suspicions, so I finally felt certain.
Critiques of the Kibbe Body Types
There are a few important critiques to be made about the Kibbe body types.
I want to start by getting a common critique that I disagree with out of the way. Some people simply hate labels and would rather not be defined and categorized. That’s perfectly okay, and if you don’t buy into labels, then obviously, the whole idea of the body types will be offensive to you. However, that doesn’t negate the fact that many others find it helpful when putting together a wardrobe.
If you can tease out what clothes make you feel good and why without any labels, then you don’t need the Kibbe categories in your life. However, if you find yourself struggling, this methodology can be quite helpful.
However, where I do find Kibbe’s categories restrictive and potentially harmful is when it comes to gender. In trying to describe how Kibbe’s fashion tips apply to the different body types, I found myself constantly wanting to fall on crutch descriptions like “feminine” or “masculine.” This is because Kibbe’s tips are ultimately quite gendered, even though he tries to stay away from these terms himself.
Kibbe used the same body types to identify men, and some of his advice is even quite similar. However, ultimately, the body types still exist within a binary that gender non-conforming people might find it impossible to navigate. While some trans people do benefit from Kibbe’s advice, others (especially non-binary people) will inevitably find it totally alienating since it still promotes the gender binary.
It’s also hard to ignore some of the communities that embraced the Kibbe body types. While the Kibbe system strikes me as very body-positive, some anti-feminist groups that extoll old-school gender roles hyper-focus on the Kibbe system, especially since Kibbe’s writing is so focused on how to enhance a feminine physique.
Next is the question of whether it was appropriate for Kibbe to use Yin and Yang in the context of body types and style. Yin and Yang body types are actually a concept that exists in Chinese medicine, and the concept of Yin and Yang itself is quite complex and steeped in Chinese traditions.
While Kibbe didn’t use the concept of Yin and Yang in a way that took it too far from its original context, and he clearly had some decent understanding of what it means, it still doesn’t sit quite right. It could be seen as Orientalizing when he could have just as easily invented new terminology.
Labels can chafe for some people, while for others, they’re freeing. When I learned about my body type and what kinds of clothes were best for it, things suddenly fell into place. It gave context to why items I found totally stunning on the hanger or when worn by my friends just didn’t look right when I put them on. The entire description of my body type, including the attitude it ostensibly represented, just fit with my conception of myself!
However, the opposite is true for many other people out there. The type they’re supposed to fit into doesn’t sound right, they don’t like the fashion advice, or they find the entire concept restrictive and condescending. If reading through this article puts a bad taste in your mouth, that’s okay.
There are some important critiques to be made of the Kibbe system, and I’m sure I’ve missed something or maybe I haven’t even scratched the surface! I’m also quite new to Kibbe, so it’s important to note that I may have gotten some details wrong.
Photos via Instagram