New York stylist and Kibbe Body Type Method founder David Kibbe calls the typical ‘hourglass figure’ and ‘pear-shape’ categories we’re used to “horrible information.” That’s why, in 1982, he designed the Kibbe Body Type Method as a way to better outfit his clients.
Since then, the method has become a fundamental for stylists and everyday, fashion-minded people alike to dress their unique shape perfectly. “Style is a journey. It’s not, ‘take a test and learn your type.’ It’s how to use technique to express who you are, working in harmony with what’s there,” Kibbe says. “You’re the star of your life and you deserve to have your place. I’m trying to help people get that.”
Kibbe breaks clients into 13 body types, each based on the balance between what he refers to as “yin” and “yang.” People with more yin tend to have soft, curvy features, while those with more yang are defined by their sharp, angular lines. “We want to look for these traits within our bodies,” explains TikToker Gabrielle Arruda, whose account is dedicated to the method. “The Kibbe system then examines where you fall on the yin-yang spectrum and how dominant each trait is. Essentially, one’s body is a combination of lines and shapes, and [the system is] trying to see what those shapes are.”
Within the Kibbe system, there are five main body types: Dramatics, Naturals, Classics, Gamines, and Romantics, with variations of each (Soft, Flamboyant, Dramatic, Theatrical). Each is defined by their combination of a person’s yin and yang, with height as a particularly important factor. “Your archetype is your major country, then it’s like your image identity is where you live within that country,” says Arruda. “Every single person is an individual. So everybody’s image identity, they’re going to express it their own way.”
It’s important to note that Kibbe’s system was originally based on Old Hollywood culture, with most reference photos featuring thin, white female celebrities. Kibbe has since typed celebs beyond the typical Eurocentric ideals of beauty to provide more inclusive, realistic examples. That said, he stresses that you should never compare yourself to others, which can distort how you see your body.
Since beginning his styling business, Kibbe and his wife have typed more than 35,000 people and counting. If you’d like to be the next, keep reading — here, Kibbe himself, with some help from Arruda, breaks down each style and how to find the one that’s right for you.
“The Dramatic is the extreme yang,” Kibbe explains. This body type accommodates vertical lines (read: tall with angular features). People with this body type have a narrow frame — think Katharine Hepburn, Tilda Swinton, Kristen Wiig, and Keira Knightley.
Soft Dramatic body types have “bold yang with a yin undercurrent,” Arruda says. They have the same long, narrow frame as Dramatics (they’re high on the yang scale), but have prominent curves. They are often tall with strong shoulders and usually carry most of their weight in their chest and hips. Famous soft dramatics include Ashley Graham, Adele, and Sofía Vergara.
“Natural is between a Classic and a Dramatic. They’re a yang but they’re not a sharp yang,” Kibbe says. He adds that nobody is a pure Natural — they will always have a yin or yang lean to their bodies. (More on that below.)
Much like Dramatics, Flamboyant Naturals are defined by their long limbs and long, vertical lines. “Her essence is in the Natural category, but she is either tall, long, and broader, or she has curves — overall she leans to the extreme yang,” Kibbe says of people with this image identity. Shirley MacLaine, Tracee Ellis Ross, Michelle Obama, and Charlize Theron all fall in the Flamboyant Natural category.
Arruda describes people in this image identity as having “soft yang with yin undercurrent.” Often curvier than Flamboyant Naturals, they tend to lean more heavily on yin features with soft, round characteristics. The width in their shoulders, chest, and hips are what keep them in the Soft Natural category, however. Doris Day, Jennifer Lopez, and Scarlett Johansson are good examples.
Kibbe describes Classic best: “Classic is the middle — the closest thing to symmetrical. There’s no such thing as pure Classic, but you have a person who’s basically symmetrical and leans to the curvy side.” Within this type, you’ll find Dramatic Classic and Soft Classic. (More on that below.)
Even proportions are a defining characteristic of Dramatic Classic body types. They are often medium height with longer limbs that don’t seem out of place on their body, and unlike Soft Classics, they have sharper, more angular features. Arruda describes dramatic classics as having “balanced yin/yang with a yang influence.” Dramatic Classics you’ll recognize include Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Lizzy Caplan, and Maggie Siff.
Much like people with a Classic body type, Soft Classics have a mostly balanced appearance. While their yin-yang combination is almost 50-50, they have more of a yin lean and a roundness in some of their features. Overall, Soft Classics are of medium build with very even limbs and curves. Chrissy Metz, Grace Kelly, Denee Benton, and Kirsten Dunst all fall into the Kibbe type.
“Gamines are a combination of opposites, so they’re small, they’re compact, but then that’s the yin part,” Kibbe says. “They’re elongated or sharp within that — that’s the yang.” He stresses that someone will always have more yin or yang influence, no matter what their shape. He also says Gamines must be 5-foot-5 or shorter, “because they’re compact.”
Defined by a petite, narrow frame, Flamboyant Gamines (think: Audrey Hepburn, Lucy Liu, Julia Garner) have more yang than their Soft Gamine counterparts. They often have more angular, toned bodies with long vertical leg lines, and often appear taller than they are.
Petite and curvy, Soft Gamines have more yin than their Flamboyant Gamine counterparts. Kibbe describes them as “a little more delicate” — they are more narrow and angular than Romantics, with some yang seen throughout their small frames. Famous Soft Gamines include Octavia Spencer, Leslie Caron, Audrey Tautou, and Thandiwe Newton.
“Romantic is the extreme yin,” Kibbe explains. They are the exact opposite body type of Dramatics. Known for their round features, these people are typically very curvy and tend to have a defined waist that contrasts with their hips and chest. Think of traditional hourglass figures, like Marilyn Monroe, H.E.R., and Aidy Bryant.
Often petite with more rounded features, Theatrical Romantics are defined by their overall softness. Arruda says people with this body type have “extreme yin with soft yang undercurrent.” They often have curvy frames and more delicate features overall. Vivien Leigh, Selena Gomez, and Mila Kunis would all be Theatrical Romantics, while Kibbe himself is the male version.
What Is My Kibbe Body Type?
Online tests can help you evaluate your body type, but Kibbe says “you can’t take a test and find your style.” Instead, it’s important to do the research yourself. He suggests standing in front of a mirror in something revealing, like a bathing suit or underwear, for more accuracy.
“The first thing you do is get yourself in a positive frame of mind. Do deep breathing, look at yourself, find something you love about yourself,” he says. “Then you can try to trace the outline of [your body]. That helps you see what your figure is and you can start to look for extremes.”
He also notes that people often get hung up on isolating particular parts of their body, but this process is about looking at the bigger picture — your figure as a whole. Here’s how.
Focus On The Overall Outline Of Your Body
While knowing your line is the most important part of finding your own Kibbe identity, Kibbe himself says there is “no such thing” as hip width in his system. “Line is not about focusing on individual body parts,” he says. “It’s about the one long outline of the body, starting at the shoulders and ending around the knees. When the hips ‘push out’ as the line continues, it automatically must curve around them as it moves downward.”
Are you more angular, or are you more curvy? Curvy, of course, refers to how a piece of fabric falls around your body if it hangs off your shoulders. Kibbe explains that if your bust and hips push this line out, you’re curve dominant, but if it hangs straight, your vertical is dominant. (Some people may have a double curve, accommodated in the Romantic type, which pushes out and around then cuts inward before curving out again around the hips.) Though generally associated with women, Kibbe says this same process will work for men, plus-size, and non-binary people as well.
Arruda adds why it’s not possible for someone to be a hybrid of two types. While it can be confusing, she says each ID and each family has a specific set of dominant traits that already takes into account other accommodations you might need. “In the Dramatic family, there are two ID options — Dramatic, which has a dominant trait of verticality, and Soft Dramatic, which accommodates vertical and curve,” she says.
Keep Your Height In Mind
It’s a game of “or” rather than “and,” when it comes to finding your own type and height plays a major part in this. Kibbe explains that “line comes first. Learn your line before you get to your image identity.” If you’re taller than 5-foot-7, for example, you can only be one of three types: Flamboyant Natural, Dramatic, or Soft Dramatic.
“A curved line cannot be dominant over a certain height, because once you get to a certain height, you have an automatic vertical — your height requires it. For the clothes to fit, you have to have the elongation,” Kibbe says. “On the other hand, a curvy person — they’re going to be smaller, because as soon as they reach a certain height, vertical takes over. But the reverse is not true.”
Research Before You Type Yourself
Finding your Kibbe Body Type requires a lot of research and patience. Like Kibbe, Arruda likes to refer to it as a journey. “It takes time to understand the terminology visually and be able to see your body in that way. The more hands-on you are with this process, the more successful you will be long-term.”
According to Arruda, the recommended time frame to accurately type yourself is about six months, as it takes time to really get acquainted with the lines of your body. During this time, she says you should be learning about the different body types and testing different silhouettes. “You should begin to start understanding the relationship between your clothes and your body,” she says. “Start to note why a piece of clothing really makes you shine or maybe why it seems to hide your best traits.”
How To Dress Kibbe Body Types
The Kibbe Body Type Method was designed to help users find clothes that embrace their natural body type and give a more harmonious vibe to their overall aesthetic. Kibbe wants people to be the best versions of themselves and celebrate their own individuality by embracing their body type.
Shop With Outfits In Mind
Kibbe says it’s important to know your image identity, lines, and color palette. Then, he stresses the importance of not buying single pieces. “Think head-to-toe,” he says. “If you shop for pieces, no matter how much you love it when you see it online, you’re going to end up with a hodgepodge [wardrobe].” Instead, he says everything you buy should be thought of in terms of an outfit.
For Arruda, dressing for her Kibbe identity — a flamboyant natural — means accommodating her dominant traits. “It means finding clothes that highlight these aspects instead of hiding them or fighting them,” she says. “Essentially, it is trying to create a harmonious relationship between the body and the clothing. You take into consideration the fabric weight, the texture, and the overall silhouette of the outfit or garment and align it with your body’s shapes and traits.”
Test Out Different Silhouettes
Arruda suggests trying different hemlines and silhouettes to find out what works for your personal shape. She says she was doubtful about her type at first, especially when she learned about the different style lines — but eventually, she found that she does, in fact, look better in open necklines and outfits that maintain her vertical line: “I was actually a bit shocked to see how much better longer-hem dresses suit me over a shorter hem — something I had never critically evaluated prior.”
Don’t Copy Your Celeb Body Type
You can also take inspiration from Kibbe-typed celebs, but Kibbe notes that stars are meant to be used as representations rather than imitations.
“[Stars] have stylists and stylists borrow clothes from designers. They only want to present a design, so they’re more interested in the dress than the person wearing it,” he says. “And actresses have endorsement contracts, so they have to wear certain clothes — you can’t learn [from] those.”