You’ve probably already been introduced to the traditional body typing system, with your hourglass figures, pear shapes, apple shapes, inverted triangle, and rectangle shapes. But, there is another advanced body shape system that gives a whole new meaning to your look, and it’s called the Kibbe body type.
- The Kibbe Body Types
- Kibbe Body Types: The Foundation
- The 5 Kibbe Base Families
- The 13 Kibbe Body Types
The Kibbe Body Types
The Kibbe body type system involves 5 base categories and then specifies into 13 image-based body types. We will go over each Kibbe type in depth, shortly.
The system itself is based on embracing your natural body shape and taking into consideration both your skeletal system and your flesh that creates your full-body shape and style. As well as your facial features (flesh and skeletal). It also incorporates your personal “essence” and personality traits that can seemingly dictate your style and visual impact.
The kibbe body type system focuses on an axis of yin (curved, soft) versus yang (angular, structured). The 5 main types along the scale are: dramatic, natural, classic, gamine, and romantic. And within that scale becomes 13 more specified body types, which examine how much contrast/blending there are of each main family.
Each of these 13 types is labeled as a Kibbe Image Identity Type ( or an image ID) and it covers your entire look and style. It covers your entire appearance including style/clothing, hair, face shape, and makeup which in turn creates a more in-depth way to examine your body type.
Who created the Kibbe Body Types?
David Kibbe created the Kibbe Body types in 1987 with his book Metamorphosis: Discover Your Image Identity and Dazzle As Only You Can.
The book itself is not only out of print, it is also outdated. But it created a foundation for an evolved version of the kibbe body types. Which holds all the basic category typing that David Kibbe explains, modernizes it, and takes into consideration that the modern Kibbe system has become less rigid.
It is important to note David Kibbe feels (felt) that no piece of clothing or accessory was relegated to a specific body type. And that it has more to do with a person’s essence and their ability to integrate that piece into their style.
Understanding the goals of the Kibbe Body Type System
The goal of the kibbe body system is to help you narrow down your unique silhouette and to dress accordingly. And to expand your base understanding of why you gravitate towards certain styles, or why certain clothes just don’t seem to fit you.
Now, the original book is out of date, but that doesn’t mean you can’t embrace the Kibbe body system with some modern interpretations and evolutions.
David Kibbe believed the traditional body typing system was flawed and created a dumb-downed explanation of style and shape. Which lead to a homogenization of style and fashion.
Rather than focusing on trends and copying the latest style icon’s outfit of the day, Kibbe aimed for a focus on harmonious looks and individual style cultivated from your uniqueness.
Theoretically, he was an early adopter of the body-positivity movement. Focusing more on natural shape, embracing your unique attributes, and a base theory that your image and style are not limited by society ideals.
His philosophy includes an appreciation for the natural body and general disapproval of body distortion. Body distortion of your natural shape could include plastic surgery or extreme physical changes due to working out.
I don’t know if you’ve watched reality tv, but you know when you look at a reality starlet’s face and you can just tell they have had work done? Like, nothing about their face seems bad- in fact, from a societal perspective, they seem to check all the boxes for beauty… But, somehow, their face just doesn’t work? This is what Kibbe disapproves of, as those changes distort the natural shape and inherited features that he believes should be embraced.
Kibbe Body Types: The Foundation
The kibbe body type examines your balance of yin and yang and further looks at how contrasted or blended those attributes are.
The system believes in embracing yourself and resists the traditional body typing that endorses “hiding problem areas” or focusing on your “highlights”.
Yin & Yang
In order to understand the Kibbe body types, you first need to understand the balance of yin and yang.
Yin and Yang is specifically defined as :
a concept of dualism, describing how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one anothersource
It’s a dualism that has two opposing forces like light versus dark, or soft versus hard.
You body, face, and look is composed of a combination of attributes that can either be classified as yin (soft) or yang (structured).
YIN (soft/round): The concept of yin refers to soft edges, rounded shapes, hourglass figures, smooth lines, and flowing silhouettes.
YANG (sharp/vertical): The concept of yang refers to angular structures, harsh lines, elongated silhouettes, geometric shapes like rectangles and triangles, and verticality.
In order to understand the basics of yin and yang let’s go over some physical attributes associated with each.
|Petite or short||Tall, vertical|
|curvy or round||angular, lean, straight|
|full lips||thin lips, straight lips|
|round face||angular face|
|large, doe-like eyes||almond eyes or narrow eyes|
|soft cheeks||sharp cheekbones|
|sloped shoulders||broad or angular shoulders|
|soft jawline, rounded||sharp jawline, very defined|
|flow, soft fabrics||structured fabrics and tailored pieces|
|rounded nose, button nose||sloped nose, prominent nose|
But, that’s not all! Kibbe is very detailed and recognizes that there are other characteristics that can play into the impact of yin and yang. (see chart)
Petite Yin: Characterized by delicate bone structure and small features (nose, hands, feet, stature)
Lush Yin: Characterized by fuller lips, large eyes, hourglass curves, and a more sexual essence
Soft Yang: Characterized by blunt edges, broad/horizontal features, and a slightly broad physical body shape that still has verticality
Sharp Yang: Characterized by verticality, sharp lines and edges, elongated bodies, and very little definition along the waist.
Contrast and Blend
The terms contrasted and blended refer to the balance of yin and yang within the body (including face, body, and overall look) and how they are distributed within each portion.
A blended body type or image is one that is a mix of both yin and yang (within one physical attribute), with no prominence toward either category.
The blended body type falls somewhere between the axis with combinations of yin and yang throughout their body.
Here’s an example of a blended image/body type
Grace Kelley is a great example of a blended body type, classified as classic (and sometimes soft classic). Her skeletal shape is symmetrical but she has soft, rounded edges. Her features are delicate, but her waist is only subtlety defined. Her facial features are generally soft, but she has a more defined nose. Each one of the three categories bone structure, body flesh, and facial features (bone and flesh) are mixed with BOTH yin and yang elements.
Here’s an example of contrasted image/body type:
If you look at the chart above you can see the gamine type is the most contrasted. That is because is a (50/50 approximately) mix of both yin and yang. She has a yang body type (similar to Tilda Swinton, very up and down). But her big eyes, and soft eyebrows make her face yin. Each one of the three categories bone structure, body flesh, and facial features (bone and flesh) have an individual dominant yin OR dominant yang.
It’s important to realize this difference. All three of those categories: bone/skeletal structure, body/flesh, and facial features (both bones and flesh) can have a different yin and yang spread. If you are in a “pure” base family then all three of those categories have the same yin/yang balance.
I have generally classified yin and yang as feminine and masculine, because that is the easiest INITIAL understanding of the two opposing ideas. HOWEVER, once you grasp the two sides, I challenge you to look more at the physical attributes and think of them less as masculine versus feminine.
The reason for this is that we tend to want to view ourselves in a specific way which can cause misclassifications. For instance, everyone wants to see “feminine” features in themselves if they identify as or were born female. Which can bias your categorization and incorrectly label you.
So, once you master the yin and yang as two opposing facets or dualism, ditch the concept that they are exclusively feminine or exclusively masculine. Because there are drop-dead stunning versions of every kibbe body type.
ALSO, when Kibbe refers to fleshiness he does not mean your BMI or your actual weight. Instead, it refers to how you hold your weight. Is it soft flesh, or are you lean and muscular? Basically, how does your weight fall on your skeletal structure?
The 5 Kibbe Base Families
The Kibbe system is composed of 13 individual types, but they all fall along the axis of 5 main families: Dramatic, natural, classic, gamine, and romantic.
The dramatic body type is tall, vertical, and angular. And is composed of all sharp yang features in body structure, flesh, and facial features.
A lot of women don’t want this image ID because of the association with “masculine” features. As we discussed previously, yin and yang really don’t have to do with masculine versus feminine but rather a duality of soft versus hard, or angular versus curved. So try not to bias yourself by associating the dramatic with being masculine. In fact, most supermodels fall into the dramatic body type.
Features: The dramatic frame is tall and narrow with little to no definition in their waist to hip ratio. They are tall and have long limbs and a visible bone structure. (not a lot of flesh) They tend to be over 5ft 7 in.
Examples: Tilda Swinton, Kiera Knightly, Lauren Bacall, Joan Crawford, and Katherine Hepburn.
The Classic image ID is composed of 50% yin, 50% yang blended together. So each part of your natural body has an even balance of soft and sharp features. This produces an even, refined look that feels balanced.
Features: The classic kibbe body type has moderate height, usually between 5 ft 4 in and 5 ft 7 in. They have even proportions and are neither short nor long-waisted. Because of their balanced proportions they can give off a lithe, svelte appearance. They have a balanced feeling between their bust and hips but tend to be more straight. Their facial features are usually angular and symmetrical.
Examples: Grace Kelly, Ginger Rogers, Zhang Ziyi
There has been some recent debate on whether Grace Kelly is still classified as a classic. David Kibbe has noted she could be a Soft Classic. Because of the perfect balance within the pure classic, they are fairly rare.
The gamine body type is also an even mix of yin and yang, however, the key difference is that each feature is not an individual blend of yin AND yang, but is rather yin OR yang. So no blending! This would look something like round full eyes (yin), a sharp nose (yang), and a strong jawbone (yang), with widow brows (yin).
This creates a lot of contrast as each feature ( body flesh, skeletal, and facial features) all belong separately to yin OR yang.
Features: The gamine body type has a petite stature and is usually under 5 ft 5 in. They have a lithe frame that tends to show off some toned musculature. Their bone structure can be described as angular, and narrow but because of their shorter stature, it has an essence of delicateness. Their facial features traditionally have large, doll-like eyes, taut cheeks, and moderate-sized lips.
Examples: Mia Farrow, Audrey Tautou, Leslie Caron, Jean Sterberg
The natural body type is best described as “soft yang”. It is composed of horizontal features, blunt edges, and still has some of the verticality of the dramatic. So think tall but not necessarily narrow. Sloped shoulders but not petite in frame.
Features: The natural body type is moderate to tall, up to about 5 ft 8 inches in height. They can give off a squarish silhouette because of their physicality and lack of fleshiness. They have angular features with blunt edges. They are usually muscular but lean and toned. Their facial features usually have angular, straight noses with taut cheeks, and moderate lips.
Examples: Angelina Jolie, Liv Tyler, Ali McGraw
The Romantic body type is all about lush yin. It includes no sharp features or angles and usually embraces curves, rounded edges, and a more hourglass or voluptuous frame.
Marilyn Monroe is the poster child for the romantic body type. Everything from her facial features, her flesh, and her skeletal structure is round and soft.
Features: Romantics have “short” or petite bones and limbs. If they don’t have traditional hourglass curves their frame is still naturally rounded and delicate. Their features can include width but it isn’t the dominating trait and exudes a softness to it. Meaning you notice the rounded edges of their frame before you notice their width.
What should romantics wear: Romantics need to wear clothes that hug their curves and that drape snuggly around the body. Not only does this represent their essence but it also embraces and highlights their soft flesh.
Examples: Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, Drew Barrymore, Elizabeth Taylor,
The 13 Kibbe Body Types
- Dramatic (D)
- Soft Dramatic (SD)
- Flamboyant Natural (FN)
- Natural (N)
- Soft Natural (SN)
- Dramatic Classic (DC)
- Classic (C )
- Soft Classic (SC)
- Flamboyant Gamine (FG)
- Gamine (G)
- Soft Gamine (SG)
- Theatrical Romantic (TR)
- Romantic (R )
|Kibbe Types||Bone Structure||Body Flesh||Facial Flesh|
|Dramatic (D)||Sharp Yang||Sharp Yang||Sharp Yang|
|Soft Dramatic (SD)||Sharp Yang||Lush Yin||Lush Yin|
|Flamboyant Natural (FN)||Sharp Yang||Soft Yang||Soft Yang|
|Natural (N)||Soft Yang||Soft Yang||Soft Yang|
|Soft Natural (SN)||Soft Yang||Yin (petite or lush)||Yin (petite or lush)|
|Dramatic Classic (DC)||Sharp yang||Balanced||Balanced|
|Classic (C )||Balanced||Balanced||Balanced|
|Soft Classic (SC)||Balanced||Yin (petite or lush)||Yin (petite or lush)|
|Flamboyant Gamine (FG)||Sharp Yang||Yin (petite or lush)||Yin (petite or lush)|
|Gamine (G)||Sharp Yang||Sharp Yang||Lush Yin|
|Soft Gamine (SG)||Sharp Yang||Yin (petite or lush)||Yin (petite or lush)|
|Theatrical Romantic (TR)||Lush yin sharp yang combo||Yin (petite or lush)||Yin (petite or lush)|
|Romantic (R )||Lush Yin||Lush Yin||Lush Yin|
We went over the five main kibbe body families above, but here is a breakdown of the other 8 kibbe body types:
(SD): Sharp yang with lush yin
Soft Dramatics have an interesting combination because while they have long, narrow frames (yang) they also have prominent curves (lush yin). They often have strong shoulders or backs, but because of their curves and length, they remain in the soft dramatic category (as opposed to a soft natural or flamboyant natural). They are usually over 5 ft 5 in and carry their weight in the hip and bust area.
Example: Ava Gardner, Sofia Loren, Rachel Weis
For the ultimate style guide for soft-dramatics, including outfit ideas, check out my soft dramatic guide, here.
(FN): Sharp yang with soft yin
The flamboyant natural body type have a vertical skeletal structure with long limbs, but what sets them apart are their blunt edges and width in their upper shoulders and back. They have more curves than the traditional dramatic body types, but this is usually most prominent in their broader shoulders which creates a hip to shoulder disparity. They have broader facial features (that are blunt, not angular).
Examples: Cindy Crawford, Cameron Diaz, Victoria Beckham
(SN): Soft yang with yin undercurrent
The soft natural body type has prominent curves and width, however, this comes from their skeletal structure and not their flesh (like with romantics). They have broader shoulders that create a prominent horizontal line in their body type. They can be moderate to tall but they won’t appear taller than they are because their more prominent features are wide instead of vertical. They can also appear even curvier than some romantics because of their wider bone structures. So think blunt and broad bone structure softened by their flesh.
Examples: Marissa Tomei, Kat Dennings, Kim Basinger, and Betty Grable
(DC): Balanced with yang undercurrent
Dramatic classic body types have balanced bodies, and there is an even-ness that they exude. Their limbs can be long, but they don’t appear overly vertical because they have their shoulders and hips balancing that out. Their yang undercurrent is usually in their slightly angular edges. They have a moderate height (up to 5 ft 7”) and proportionate bust, waist, hip ratios. This body type is predominantly classic (balanced) with some angular (dramatic) notes.
Examples: Olivia Munn, Jackie O, Demi Moore, Courtney Cox, Brook Shields
(SC): Balanced with yin undercurrent
Soft classic types have the balanced features and bodies like their classic family members. However, they have a softness in some of their features ( especially in their face). They don’t have “wide” or “narrow” bodies and their bones are not considered long or short, they give off a balanced and refined shape. If they have curves, they don’t disrupt the overall shape of their body in any distinct way. Their height is moderate, usually up to 5ft 6 in. They have soft edges and their shoulders are usually slightly sloped. Their facial features are not prominent but they can be wide (nose, jawline).
Examples: Dakota Johnson, Jisoo, Marion Cotillard, Meryl Streep, Kirsten Dunst.
(FG): Mixture of Yin and Yang, with a a yang undercurrent
The flamboyant gamine body type is an unbalanced mixture of yin and yang. They are petite (under 5 ft 5 inches typically) with a narrow frame that leans towards yang because of the lack of waist emphasis and curves. They have straight bodies and long vertical legs that and can be described as almost colt-like. Their facial features usually consisted of larger eyes (yin), moderately full lips, and defined noses and jawlines (yang).
Examples: Audrey Hepburn, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Penelope Cruz, Liza Minelli
(SG): Mixture of Yin and Yang with an undercurrent of yin
The soft gamine body type, like the flamboyant gamine, has a petite stature (yin) with a narrow frame (yang) with potentially angular shoulders (yang). Their yin undercurrent is due to their compact curves. They are always small but not necessarily thin, but more narrow than the romantics. They are under 5 ft 5 in and have a delicate bone structure. They have small hands and feet and delicate (sometimes broad) facial features. They lean more towards fleshiness and have curves along their bust and hips, with moderate waist definition. They tend to have doll-like facial features (larger eyes, full cheeks, and moderate to full lips).
Examples: Bette Davis, Reese Witherspoon, The Olsen Twins, Judy Garland, Halle Berry, and Winona Ryder
(TR): Almost entirely Yin, slight yang undercurrent
Because theatrical romantic body types are part of the romantic family, they have shorter bones, and their body shape is defined predominately by their flesh. They are usually 5 ft 5 in and under. They are often small with a curvier silhouette. They have that traditional hourglass figure with softer shoulders, arms, and legs. Their facial features are small and delicate (yin) but with some sharp edges throughout the jawline, cheeks, and nose ( yang).
Examples: Mila Kunis, Vivien Leigh, Selma Hayak, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Rihanna
The Benefits and Pitfalls of the Kibbe Body Types
As you have probably noticed, there is a lot to consider when typing yourself with the kibbe body system. And it is recommended that if you want to figure out your type, that you ask other people to help you categorize yourself. This prevents innate bias and the impact of body dysmorphia.
The benefits of the Kibbe body system are that it teaches you to look past your weight and embraces your entire personality in categorizing yourself. When you look at more than just your bust, hip, and waist measurements, you can start to hone your personal style more effectively and realize why certain styles look “off”.
It also takes into consideration your personality and essence which can impact what style of clothes you gravitate towards.
That being said there are some pitfalls when applying the kibbe body system.
Because the kibbe body system was developed in the 1980s, it can have slightly outdated results. David Kibbe himself has contradicted his own advice, and “re-assigned” certain celebrities.
Another pitfall to the kibbe body system is the yin/yang association with feminine/masculine. This tends to shade our opinions and have us innately pick more feminine answers (when taking the test) because we identify or were born female. So, bias is a real issue with this system.
Furthermore, the test does take into consideration your ‘essence’, which can also be hard to categorize or be biased.
My advice…. The kibbe body system is useful but should not be overly scrutinized. It’s great to dig into and explore where you fit. But if you’re overwhelmed, or oscillating between two options, use the info as a guide instead of a definitive categorization.
Essentially the kibbe system is a standardization trying to further explore how we all fit into fashion and style. This can be a great starting place, but I suggest you don’t obsess over the kibbe system or become a hard-liner when it comes to the “rules”. Kibbe himself has re-classified people and said that you need to meet a person before you classify… So, really, it’s not a science.
How has the Kibbe Body Types evolved since Metamorphosis?
David Kibbe’s Book Metamorphosis was published in 1987, so it makes sense that the system itself has evolved since then. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- According to Kibbe, your body features are more critical than your facial features when classifying yourself under each of his 13 types.
- Your classification or image ID is not a piecemeal assessment. You must look at your entire body and do a gestalt assessment that takes into “either” “ors”. (which can be very hard to do on yourself).
- Height is a hugely impactful deciding factor. For instance, a gamine cannot be over 5 ft 5 in. The more petite kibbe types ( gamine, and romantics) are more constricting on height. Whereas, soft naturals, soft classic, and dramatic classics can have more flexibility when it comes to height range.
- The way your bones are structured and where or how your flesh lays on top is much more important than your actual bust, hip, and waist measurements.
- Non-binary people are included and respected in the system now
- The kibbe system does not work for everyone. It was touted as the style bible in the ’80s. However, as women’s style has evolved we find the classifications are not one size fits all. Some people may find great clarity using the system while others will feel more lost.
- You’ll notice there are fewer examples of the main kibbe families (dramatic, natural, classic, gamine, and romantic) because they require more extreme typing
WOW, I’m sure you’re overwhelmed by all the information thrown at you. But, that is to be expected.
My takeaway: The Kibbe body type system is extremely helpful if you’re looking to hone your style or dress better. But, it shouldn’t be taken as a science and you shouldn’t overly stress if you can’t figure out your own type.
If this body type system doesn’t work for you, check out the more traditional body type system here.
Otherwise, have fun exploring your shape, and let me know what kibbe body type you are!
You’ll DEFINITELY need this to refer back to, so be sure to pin the below image!