Obsessed: The Kibbe System

I called this section of the blog “amusements,” which was a huge miss on my part. Once I’m ready to write on a topic, I’ve passed “amusement” and am in the throes of obsession. Deep diving, swimming in an epic nerd out, and literally cannot talk or think about anything else. 

Going forward, we’ll call this section “Obsessed.” I loathe hyperbole as the internet’s first language, but no other word describes me in full nerd mode.

That bit of throat-clearing out of the way, let’s get into my latest obsession.

The Kibbe System

Designed by Manhattan-based stylist David Kibbe, the method uses a scale of angularity (yang) and roundness (yin), with thirteen types based on distinct combinations of these two traits in the body’s frame, shape, and facial features. For a pair of extreme examples, the actress Zendaya would fall on the far end of the angular side of the scale (Dramatic), while Beyoncé is on the far end of the roundness side (Romantic). 

Has Kibbe sparked discourse on why categorizing ourselves is a bad idea, what happens when internet communities clique up around “types,” and the myriad of issues we have with our bodies that makes it impossible to neutrally compare ourselves to others? Yes. And it’s all valid if you’re the kind of person who wants the internet to tell them who they are and frame your entire identity around it. 

I, however, use it practically: as a shortcut for clothes shopping in the infinite hellscape that is online retail. 

Le Struggle Post-“Skinny Black Girl” 

Last year, I wrote about my frustrations with creating my “adult aesthetic” in my post-“Skinny Black Girl” body and those struggles have been ongoing. Because I’m long-limbed, I dress “long and lean” but struggle with my breasts, waist, and hips as I’ve become curvier. Recommendations for hourglass figures (my breast-waist-hip ratio fits the description) ignore my body’s length and make me look stumpy. I’m widely considered “slim” or “slender” but feel like a cow in clingy, body conscious fabrics.

Then there’s my aesthetic. I live by “less is more,” so I go with understated and classic clothes. A) I’m lazy and b) I have pretty prominent features that don’t need much to stand out. When I play up my look in any way (dresses with dramatic details, fill in my eyebrows, wear any earring other than studs), I look striking. Not “damn, she fine” (though, true) but striking as in “unusual, extreme, prominent.” Again, I like to be understated, so looking too done up makes me feel unnatural and self-conscious. 

So when I found Kibbe content, I just knew I’d be a “Classic.” Moderate in every way, able to look regal and elegant in plain, simple styles, right? 

Enter My Kibbe Type: The Soft Dramatic

The name did not have me at hello. In fact, it had me in deep denial. Drama? In my wardrobe? Absolutely the fuck not. I’m a blazer, jean, T-shirt, and little black dress when feeling fancy type, so imagine my dismay when I was categorized alongside the likes of Christina Hendricks, Sophia Loren, and Tyra Fucking Banks

Seriously. Who purposefully drapes the shoulder on a COAT? I don’t have time.

But le facts. I couldn’t deny them. The “dramatic” description refers to my bones (angular shoulders, long legs, arms, feet, and hands) and facial features (sharp nose, cheekbones, and jawline). The “soft” is my shape and, specifically, where I’m fleshy (breasts, waist, hips, upper arms, and thighs). 

According to the Kibbe system, if I want to look my best (or make online shopping more efficient by zeroing in on lines, cuts, and fabrics that work on me), I should frame the long, lean line of my body with fabrics that drape rather than cling. Blouses are my friend; tailored, stiff button ups are not. Pencil skirts are cool, but they should fall over my hips instead of squeeze them. Straight cut and wide-legged pants? Hard Yes. Skinny pants? Proceed with caution. When it comes to dresses, midi lengths, high slits, and asymmetry will take me to goddess level. And shoes? The rounded toes everyone recommends for hourglass figures will only blunt my vertical line. Pointed toes will make my narrow 8.5s look long, but length is the point. 

Despite my hangups over semantics, looking back at my favorite photos and looks, I instinctually favor my body’s lines. My shoulders feature prominently and draped fabrics make my body sing

Fuck It. Embrace It.

I started my Kibbe journey swearing I didn’t have the energy to “dress my type.” By Monday morning, I was in a blouse, my favorite wide-legged work pants, and a pair of pointed toe loafers that I stopped wearing a month ago because I thought I looked like a witch in them. I switched the studs for chain link-styled hoops and even bothered to fill in my brows.

I was too much for myself every time I looked in the mirror, but you know what? That’s okay. Maybe Rob in her 40s is good with being just a little too much. 


Kibbe Resources

I am new to this and therefore no expert. But if you’re curious, here are some links to get you started. Before you start clicking, please remember that these are recommendations of things you could do. Also, David Kibbe is not a guru or a life coach. Or a mathematician with precise answers to unlock a better you. He’s a dude who developed a style theory in the 1980s.

At the end of the day, you’re the sole arbiter of your identity. Suggestions from strangers on the internet are just that — suggestions. If they don’t work for you, don’t use them. 

The 13 Kibbe Body Types & Their Clothing Lines – The Concept Wardrobe

The 13 Kibbe Body Types and Their Clothing Recommendations – Gabrielle Arruda

Kibbe Weight Gain Patters + Plus Size Examples – Gabrielle Arruda

[VIDEO] Body Types TEST / Kibbe – Aly Art

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a girl named rob

I used to be "skinny black girl." I'm now a slender woman on the other side of 35 with no new moniker who is not quite interested in writing under her given name. Still writing my life, a day (or some months) at a time. Also, still black.

10 thoughts on “Obsessed: The Kibbe System”

  1. If only there was a place to submit a bunch of pictures and it would spit out your type. But alas, one must interrogate themself and determine their type through deliberate study. 🙃


    1. It’s def a journey. I’m a nerd who loves nothing more than to get to the bottom of a topic, but I can see how that’d be off-putting for others. lol.


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