Style Experiments: Frame vs. Curve Dominance

So one of the terms I use around here when I talk about style typing is frame/curve dominance. Even if you haven’t nailed down a type (and honestly, you don’t really have to) just knowing if you are frame dominant or curve dominant goes a long way toward picking out clothes.

In Kibbe types, these distinctions are labeled as Dramatic/Flamboyant/Theatrical (frame dominant) and Soft (curve dominant). Why are there fifty thousand descriptions for the frame and one description for curves? Can’t tell you.

In Kibbe land, when you see “Dramatic Classic,” it means “a Classic who is Frame Dominant:” where a “Soft Classic” is a “a Classic who is Curve Dominant.”

In other typing systems, frame/curve dominance are treated as tweaks to the main style families rather than formal subtypes. Sometimes, you’ll see “Natural, with Yang” (frame) or “Natural, with Yin” (curve) as descriptors.

Let’s see an example, shall we?

I am a Frame-dominant Gamine. My best looks break up my vertical (a mix and match approach vs. one continuous look from shoulder to calf), while accentuating my body’s sharp angles.

Here’s how that works in practice:

You’ll see I’m leaning into full Gamine here. We have a cropped, fitted pant, with a patterned, high-collared top. Broken vertical line? Check. The oxford adds some sharp, boyish detail—also a plus for the Gamine.

Now let’s explore the contrast from left to right.

The left side version of this look would lean “soft” (curve dominant). The high waist on the pants, the blousy effect of the shirt with the slightly puffed sleeve—these are round, soft touches. Because I’m adhering so closely to general Gamine rules (and have noticeable curves at the bust and hips) it doesn’t look bad.

See what happens when I add the sweater on the right? Immediately, you lose the shirt’s softer details, putting emphasis on its straight, linear pattern. With the added layer, you lose the waist definition, but get a cleaner, sharper silhouette and more contrast between the black sweater, the striped shirt, and the maroon pants.

This is what it means to be frame dominant. Not that I don’t have curves (most ciswomen will have some curvature), but they aren’t my body’s dominant trait.

This was one of the more refreshing discoveries when I got into style types. As I gained my “grown woman weight,” I kept getting recommendations for hourglass figures that didn’t always feel quite right. Knowing it’s actually more flattering for me to tone done the overt femininity in favor of tailored, structured looks was a game changer.

So that’s today’s spiel. If you’re playing around with clothes like I am, experiment with your pieces to see what flatters you more: looks that emphasize your curves or your frame. Or if you’re a magical unicorn who looks great in both.

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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.

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