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Kibbe Body Types…A Way to Describe Our Body Shapes that Doesn’t Reduce Us to Pieces of Fruit…OR Just Another Sexist Construct?

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Ah, the Kibbe body type test. What an overly complicated and yet intriguing way to explore your style. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a tool to describe your body shape and physical presence in a way that I can only describe as a cult favorite in the fashion blogger world. If this is your first time hearing of it, I recommend you catch up here. It’s based on David Kibbe’s book from the 1980’s, which breaks down body styles into 13 varieties. These varieties are based on your bone structure, not your body weight, and (shocker) none of them is the name of a fruit. Once you have taken the test, you can make personal style choices based on the (surprisingly accurate and insightful) recommendations for your type. After reading about this method on other blogs, I finally decided to try this time consuming and slightly confusing technique myself (what exactly is a “tapered shoulder”?). Proponents of the Kibbe method enjoy the detailed profiles, where no one body type is seen as “ideal”. Because each body type has examples of really beautiful celebrities and actresses (are you an Audrey or a Marilyn?), taking the test does kind of make you feel glamorous, no matter what result you get. Critics of the Kibbe method, however, object to the method as a form of ‘male gaze’. Indeed, being reduced to an Audrey or a Marilyn is not necessarily something that today’s women are interested in, especially when it is done through a system that was developed by a man. (These are just some of the problems, there are more, but that will have to be a different post!) But I’ll leave it for you to decide….

Things I Like About the Kibbe Method

Anyone who has fashion nerd inclinations will love this method for it’s complexity and the thought behind it. I was a little skeptical going into it, but after getting my profile (Theatrical Romantic) and reading the fashion advice, I was really impressed that the style advice was so clearly grounded in the fundamentals of design. The Theatrical Romantic type is generally round, small and soft (Yin), but with elements here and there of sharpness (Yang). This type is advised to wear feminine silhouettes in luxurious and soft materials that harmonize with their Romantic aspect, and to use dainty but detailed accessories and small prints to play up their delicate features. In order to balance the sharpness of the Theatrical (sharper more yang or masculine) part, they are advised to bring in some accents that are angular, but to use sparingly. 

To me, this concept is similar to making sure that the interior design harmonizes with the architecture. If you have sleek modern architecture, although you may love antique furniture, ornate antique furniture is going to look out of place. In contrast, if you style that sleek modern home with minimalistic and streamlined pieces, you are going to really highlight the best features of the home. And likewise a beautiful Art Deco building is best appreciated when it is decorated with furniture that compliments and reflects the ornate aspects of the design. At the end of the day you should wear whatever it is that you like, there is no need to impose fashion rules on yourself if they don’t make you happy. Perhaps your personal aesthetic conflicts with your Kibbe type, and personally I think that you should wear what you feel expresses your insides, more than what flatters your outsides based off physical features. However, this method can be a tool when developing your personal style. I think this method should be used as an intellectual theory to style, which can give you insight into what types of clothing and accessories are most flattering to you, but in practice dressing yourself can draw on different theories…this is just one approach and should not be considered a rule.

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As Modern Women, Should we Disregard the Kibbe Method? What About Male Gaze?

As an art lover, I really appreciate this question. Male gaze is the act of depicting women using the concept of a masculine, heterosexual filter as the hypothetical audience. Traditionally in Western art, women were represented through the filter of the male artist, and the intended viewers, art critiques and patrons were male. As such, women were objectified in art, and were merely viewed, rather than having the power to express their femininity in a way that was intended for other women. But I think that we should be careful of dismissing an idea due to the indentity of the person who developed it….if a woman had developed the idea would people be critiquing it in the same way? And if not, is it right to evaluate an idea differently based solely on the demographics of the person who conceived it? Sure, context is important, and I do think that it’s sometimes relevant to understand the person behind an idea in order to fully understand the idea, BUT…I think we need to be free enough in our thinking to evaluate ideas based on the idea itself. Aren’t we limiting ourselves creatively as a society if we start outlining the types of ideas that different “types of people” are allowed to have? By making the distinction of the male gaze, are we reinforcing gender instead of neutralizing it? But what do you think? Have you done the Kibbe test? Does your type describe you well? Does being called a Marilyn make you barf? Let me know in the comments, I would love to hear different points of view. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you are a Marilyn or a banana, just be yourself. If you are interested in taking the Kibbe body type test yourself, you can find the one I took here. Want to read more? Check out the reason we started Countertrend Fashion, a fashion blog for the intellectual fashionista. Xo

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Vanessa Davis

2 replies

  1. Actually, women were the ones who came up with these concepts, and many of the names of the concepts. Kibbe expanded on it.

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