From pear to apple-shaped, determining your body type has long been a pseudo-scientific method for identifying which clothes most flatter you. Whether you’re an “Autumn” or a “Deep Winter,” style typing is alluring in its ability to further self-understanding through styling suggestions. Typing helps us discover which colors and looks are meant for us. But knowing your fruit or seasonal type has its hard limits. After all, since when are women fruit?
Enter David Kibbe.
A renowned stylist and proclaimed “image specialist,” Kibbe devised a one-of-a-kind style-typing theory entitled the “Kibbe Body Type System.” His 1987 publication of “Metamorphosis, A Personal Image And Style Book For Women,” introduced the concept to the world, taking the style scene by storm.
Kibbe body types base themselves on an individual’s balance of “yin” or “yang,” both of which represent feminine and masculine energy, respectively. Each of the body types categorized falls along two axes—yin and yang and contrast/blended or sharpness/softness. Think Twiggy versus Marilyn Monroe. Each person lands on the spectrum depending on their physical traits and personality or “essence.” Determining one’s type and essence can lead to breakthroughs in self-styling clothes, makeup, and hair which can result in an overall harmonious and put-together look that plays on your best features.
Kibbe’s body types are seen as archetypes of sorts, image identities that can also speak to who a person is internally through self-expression. According to Kibbe, traditional body typing is incredibly limiting and can lead to everyone looking the same. Kibbe instead seeks to encourage true harmony and balance by tailoring to each person with a holistic approach, embracing their natural look and saying no to trends and gimmicks. Recreating your essential yin/yang balance through clothing creates an effortless, tried-and-true appearance that requires following your natural “lines.” Above all, Kibbe’s approach is body-positive, avoiding altering your body to fit clothes and encouraging self-love, which we all could use some of these days. A fresh lens provides a method of self-analysis that overrides beauty standards and instead focuses on how to make you the best you can be.
Kibbe thinks in terms of dominant features such as fleshy versus muscular or more “taut” skin, and linearly as well—quite literally. Your “vertical line” is your silhouette from your shoulders to your knees. Some people look “longer” despite a petite height. Clothing and fabrics should match your silhouette’s line. A longer vertical can be accompanied by width and curve but can also be the sole feature on one’s body. Some people have plenty of width and curve across the arms, shoulders, bust, waist, and hips, and legs without a long vertical line. Lines vary because bodies vary and every person is different.
Kibbe focuses on five main categories: Dramatic, Classic, Natural, Gamine, and Romantic. Within each of these categories are a sub-variety, including Dramatic, Soft Dramatic, Flamboyant Natural, Natural, Soft Natural, Dramatic Classic, Soft Classic, Flamboyant Gamine, Soft Gamine, Romantic, and Theatrical Romantic.
Let’s dive into each subcategory’s features, proposed style, and celebrity counterparts.
Dramatics are often your typical model types. Sharp yang and a strong vertical are their dominant features. Dramatics are typically of moderate to tall height, often with long, sleek lines and limbs with narrow width. Facial features contain angular and sharp edges, with prominent bone structure. Definition is limited in the hip-to-waist ratio. This image ID suits a wide range of styles, which is why many models are often Dramatics. However, a Dramatic often contrasts glaringly in overly feminine or frilly styles, as it opposes their essence. Clean, tailored lines, neutrals, crisp and sharply geometric pieces look great. Think menswear goes sexy. A monochromatic suit honors the square Dramatic shoulders and hones in on the dominant feature of length for an endless air of charisma. Minimal detail is key. Severity is encouraged.
Celebrity counterparts include Tilda Swinton, Katherine Hepburn.
Soft Dramatics have the same elongation as their Dramatic counterparts, plus some curve and width in the bust and hips—i.e. sharp yang with “lush” yin. Soft Dramatics have length with prominent curve and because of this increased “softness,” SDs often suit the frillier, girlier styles that oppose pure Dramatics. Facial features are lush but not delicate in the least. SDs often look best with hair worn loose. Detailed fabrics like lace and crochet bring out their lushness while bringing complimentary contrast to their accompanying sleek drama. A Soft Dramatic will stun in a structured gown draped just-so with plenty of detail and an emphasized waist. Florals and tonal prints look beautiful. Plenty of adornments and ornate accessories bring out the best in this “Glamazon” type with a powerful essence of sensuality.
Celebrity counterparts include Taylor Swift, Sophia Loren, Ava Gardner, Sophia Vergara.
Flamboyant Naturals have width with a balanced vertical line. They possess sharp yang bone structure with some softness in the facial features—think blunt but not sharp—and yang fleshiness in the body. FNs are typically moderate to tall in height with a long vertical line and broad shoulders with larger hands and feet and muscular-leaning flesh. Minimal curve and narrowness with plenty of angularity often accompany this athletic type. Overall, FNs have a very “blended” appearance, meaning that they have both length and width, along with some softness in their blunt lines. Styling the natural lines of this type calls on creating long and unconstructed, bold, sweeping lines. Keep waist emphasis to a minimum. Wide trousers, long coats and cardigans, and pendant necklaces or scarves as accessories work great. Asymmetric elements minimize structure and help to create the “flowiness” this type has less of naturally while avoiding unflattering severity. Relaxed silhouettes, texture and unique prints add bold strokes. Flamboyant Naturals often suit unexpected color combinations that underline their boldness.
Flamboyant Natural celebrities include Cameron Diaz, Michelle Obama, Princess Diana, Cindy Crawford, and Claudia Schiffer.
The Natural body type is characterized by strong yang. Slight broadness with a moderate to slightly tall height accompanies the Natural. The waist is undefined and the torso is longer. Features are often quite blended without any one appearing particularly prominent. Naturals have a shorter vertical than their Flamboyant counterparts and a “straighter” overall shape. Adding volume and emphasizing the slight softness of a Natural’s features is the way to go. The goal is to create a relaxed outline that brings movement into a straighter frame. Kibbe himself called Natural style “girl next door chic.” Simple, clean makeup, slightly loose-fitting garments, a-line cuts, earthy textures, botanical-inspired prints and accessories, and oversize jackets are among the style elements a Natural can incorporate into their wardrobe. To dress Natural, think naturals. Cozy styles and grounded fabrics. Naturals also possess the unique ability to pull off silhouettes that many often reject—such as drop-waists and knitwear—as their minimal curve bodes well with the irregular look.
Natural celebrities include Kate Middleton, Jennifer Aniston, Kristen Stewart, and Katie Holmes.
Soft Naturals are characterized by width and curve. Width does not necessarily mean “bigger,” instead denoting the openness one has in their upper shoulders, upper back, and torso. Usually of moderate to shorter height, SNs look great in styles that create the longer lines they often lack. SNs are often softer and fleshier with an angular frame that is slightly hourglass with shorter limbs. Facial features are rounded with soft cheeks and a smaller yet wider nose. Overall, SNs do not possess sharper features, making them a great fit for more unconstructed looks with some waist or shoulder emphasis. Think oversize blazers and long skirts, cropped tops with high necks and hair worn loose. Relaxed lines with subtle draping and flow best suit this type, with natural fabrics like silk and wool bringing out the best of their essence. Pops of color and shimmer, plus asymmetric or unexpected elements in accessories go a long way with this type, adding some length to play up proportions.
Soft Natural celebrities include Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian, and Scarlett Johannsen.
Dramatic Classics appear to have a balance of yin and yang with an undercurrent leaning more towards yang. Bust, waist, and hips are straighter in proportion to one another. The flesh is often muscular with moderate to slightly longer arms and legs and narrower or tapered shoulders. Dramatic Classics earn their “dramatic” title by disrupting their “straight” look with added sharpness in the facial features and slight verticality. DCs may have a sharp, angular jaw, nose, and cheekbones with larger eyes and straight lips. Trim and tailored lines best recreate the angularity of a DC. Structured silhouettes with a touch of sharpness and clean, simple, sleek styles look best. Details like pleating and crisp cuffs play up the hint of drama in this Classic-family type. Color contrast is imperative, adding “umph” to angularity. DCs would look great in a pleated skirt with a cropped blazer and boots—simple with a flair for the dramatic.
Dramatic Classic celebrities include Jackie Kennedy, Olivia Munn, Phylicia Rashad, and Courtney Cox.
Classics are the most balanced type. It’s worth noting that David Kibbe dissolved the pure Classic into the Soft Classic category. A fairly straight frame of moderate height, the Classics look is very symmetrical. An evenly proportioned bust, waist, and hips accompany limbs of moderate length and weight usually distributes evenly everywhere. Facial features tend towards slight sharpness without any one prominent feature but an overall unmistakable softness. The waist is slightly defined with minor width in the bust and angular, tapered shoulders. This added layer of softness makes SCs suited to many styles, especially those with plenty of feminine flair. Blended bone structure suits a variety of makeup looks, but softer color palettes bring out the natural grace of this type. Clothing should mimic the symmetrical lines of a Classic. Soft draping, an emphasized waist, muted patterns, and classic accessories like pearls and kitten heels look stunning. Soft tailoring or slight flowiness with subtle waist emphasis works well too. The preppy look is at home here. A-line cuts, high waists, and dresses flatter this type immensely as well. SCs beautifully suits jeans, a t-shirt, and loafers.
Celebrities include Grace Kelley, Lupita Nyong’o, Meryl Streep, and Oprah Winfrey.
Flamboyant Gamine’s dominant feature is narrowness, sharpness, and length in the limbs without appearing tall. FGs are a high-contrast type, usually under 5’5”, boasting both yin and yang qualities with added elements of yang. Very defined and straight lines in the bust and hips with additional angularity and minimal width create a “leggy” look. FGs are known for their large eyes and slightly wide yet sharp bone structure. FGs have little to no curve and suit styles that emphasize their angularity and length. Geometric silhouettes with clear edges and sharp corners look best. Boxy pieces look phenomenal as well, with the yin component being all in the details, like feminine, glamorous jewelry contrasted with a square top and a-line bottom. Electric and bright colors bring out the playful boldness of this adorable type.
Flamboyant Gamine celebrities include Audrey Hepburn, Twiggy, Zooey Deschanel, and Tina Turner.
Soft Gamines have narrowness and long limbs and are usually petite with added elements of yin like rounded hips and a defined waist. Facial features are doll-like, with large eyes and rounded cheeks, fleshy lips, and a sharp or strong jawline. SGs differ from their FG counterparts in their added curve and asymmetry. Clothes that are fitted at the waist, collar, and cuffs are extremely important for the SG, as larger silhouettes can overwhelm and swallow them. Aim for clear waist emphasis with geometric influence in both silhouette and patterns worn. Lightweight, matte fabrics look best and vivid, intense shades play up the sharpness of this type. Bold, small allover prints go a long way in emphasizing the petite strength of this image ID.
Soft Gamine celebrities include the Olsen twins, Emma Roberts, and Quinta Brunson.
Romantics are purely lush yin, hence the name. Soft physicality and plenty of curves define this type. Romantics are typically voluptuous, with fleshy arms and legs and a small waist in proportion to their bust and hips. Large, rounded facial features accompany this type. Shorter limbs and no narrowness limit the overall verticality of their look. Romantics look best with their outline showcased. Waist definition is essential. Think a peplum jacket and trumpet skirt or tapered pants. Rounded and sweetheart necklines or feminine dresses work beautifully to showcase the soft, sensual romance of this type.
Romantic celebrities include Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Beyonce, and Madonna.
Theatrical Romantics often appear as pure curve with a slight hint of yang in the facial features or in elements like the shoulders, hands, or legs. TRs are particularly petite, often under 5’5” with a defined waist and double curvature between the bust and hips. TRs lack verticality—all their drama is in the curves and roundness. For this reason, TRs don’t suit younger, more playful styles, instead stunning in long, draping silhouettes that emphasize their curves and flowing, luscious sensuality. That being said, the theatricality of this type looks phenomenal in perhaps the widest range of styles, their essence being quite adaptable and malleable. Loose suits with a crop top, long flowing gowns that showcase leg, florals and patterns that don’t overwhelm the silhouette, and sexier styles that geer away from being too cutesy bring out the best in this final femme fatale type.
Theatrical Romantic celebrities include Selena Gomez, Selma Hayek, and Alexa Demie.
To determine your type, try looking at a full-body, centered and front-facing image of yourself. Draw a line from shoulder to shoulder and up and down to determine the width and verticality you possess. Viewing images of celebrities with a similar body to yours can also help, as can taking the quiz here: https://gabriellearruda.com/kibbe-body-test-with-pictures/
Several tik-tok stars also have accounts dedicated to this system:
Determining your type can help you gain a clearer understanding of what works for you and feels best. The hope in internalizing this system lies in its ability to develop a stronger sense of self and confidence for all those who utilize it. Whether you’re trying to find the right silhouette for your bridesmaid gown or revamping your whole wardrobe, learning your style strengths and celebrating your best features through a body-positive lens can only add to your life and enhance the love you lend yourself and in turn, to others.
The Kibbe system is for everyone—even non-women—and provides an interesting, useful, and fresh approach to styling yourself and honing in on what makes you who you are. Kibbe celebrates our differences through thoughtful consideration and the universal appeal of knowing exactly who you are and just how style can inform, create, and contribute holistically to how you present your beautiful self to the world.