After writing so many posts about David Kibbe’s Metamorphosis, I think it’s time for me to reveal something that has been on my mind for a while – my personal story of how I got to know and love this system. I have written about Metamorphosis as philosophy, however that post has barely scratched the surface of my own exploration of Kibbe’s theory. So, following the suggestion of my subsriber Silver Roxen, I’ve decided to finally dive deeper, including the discussion of ‘Soft Gamine syndrome’ that I experienced myself.
In this post, I’ll tell you about my relationship with style and shopping, my style icons, and how discovering Kibbe’s Metamorphosis has put it all together for me. I will stick to the point, but there are quite a lot of details that need to be addressed to give you a full story, so grab yourself a cup of coffee (pun intended 😉) and let’s take a trip down memory lane for around 5-7 minutes. Oh and by the way! I won’t make this post picture-heavy – I’ll refer to my Pinterest boards for visual aid.
As a follow-up post for this one, I’ve described how I actually apply Kibbe’s system.
About Me & My ‘Soft Gamine Syndrome‘
I think this is essential for you to know the background and how I came to hate (and I mean really hate) shopping and everything feminine. I am 5’2” (160cm), narrow, but not too delicate. My shape is hourglass and it’s been this way from early teenage years. During my teenage years I came to love androgynous styles, because things that accentuated my curves attracted a lot of male attention I didn’t desire in the slightest. The clothes I wore were utilitarian clothing and I refused to wear anything feminine. Looking back, I see now that I simply ignored my femininity because I couldn’t figure out how to balance out my very Yang spirit and very Yin physique.
I never knew back then that David Kibbe defined my struggle in 1987 in his book Metamorphosis while describing the metamorphosis of his SG model:
An extremely petite and curvy young woman with a slightly angular bone structure, full and animated facial features, and slightly sharp facial bones (combination of opposites, extra Yin), Heidi was afflicted with what I’ve come to call the “Soft Gamine syndrome”. How does one integrate an outer physicality that clearly spells adorable, doll-like and bubbly, with an inner spirit that is filled with drive, spunk, energy, and ambition!
Fast forward to my 20s and I was still focused on practicality. Paradoxically, I’ve always been that friend you invite shopping with you because she gives you the best tips and will honestly say what looks bad or so-so, but I never could dress myself (probably because I couldn’t see myself objectively or just resisted my femininity). Another issue was the cuts of clothing I found in stores – I could never find anything that looked good on me. Things that fit my hips were always too big in the waist, and tops that fit my bust were always too loose in the shoulders. I lived in casual sweaters and shirts, comfortable pants, and boots. I also have small feet, so I could never find feminine shoes that would fit me, but would also be possible to walk in. And when I tried stereotypically feminine clothing or shoes on, I looked like I was buried in a pile of clothes.
As Dita Von Teese said in one interview, “I could never relate to the Sports Illustrated” models. It’s difficult to say what the beauty standards were dominant in the past decades, but it’s true that it weren’t delicate petite women – it was the opposite. It’s also true that beauty standards dictate what appears in mass market clothing stores.
It’s not difficult to put 2 and 2 together – the era of celebrating petiteness took place in the 1930s-1950s, but the 1990s screamed ‘tall supermodels’ – something I couldn’t relate to at all. I’ve never felt insecure about my height, in fact I love it, however I could definitely see how beauty standards influenced the designs and cuts of clothing. The majority of styles of mass market clothing were obviously designed to show long vertical off and some wideness, which always looked bulky on me and never comfortable. I opted for tighter-fitting clothing as a result.
My First A-Ha Moments
Roughly in 2010 I started watching Doctor Who (yep, back when it was still good). In 2012, the show introduced a new companion of the Doctor – Clara Oswald portrayed by Jenna Coleman. Now, this was probably the first time that I got style inspiration that I could use (the stars of old Hollywood were and will always be my visual and aesthetical inspiration, but I’m not into retro styles). I’ve started pinning her pictures and analyzing her outfits – you can see all of them on my Pinterest board. I’ve realized very quickly that I could relate to her sense of style (or at least her stylist’s taste) and that I could learn from it.
Around the same time I finally got the courage to start revamping my wardrobe, try new things on, and embark on a journey of searching my own style. The truth is, I’ve never felt good in my utilitarian clothing – it never felt right.
Through trial and error, I’ve discovered that:
- I looked best in outfits with top and bottom of very different colors
- I needed waist emphasis – not where the pants are cropped at the waist, but my actual waist
- I needed high neckline because it balances out my bust area
- I looked best in cropped pants
- chunky heels and wedges weren’t my best pick
- I looked good with soft bangs, but not loose hair
Reminds you of something, doesn’t it? Almost all same as the suggestions made by David Kibbe back in the 80s for Soft Gamines! And I had to spend months and years to figure it all out on my own.
Body Shape and Body Type Systems – Where To?
Like anyone who’s trying to figure their style (and their appearance) out, I looked into dozens of systems – geometric shapes, fruits, then face shapes, then seasonal color analysis, DYT – you name it, I’ve tried it! And every time something felt off. In many cases, my problem was the notion of an ‘ideal’ shape we should strive for – I wrote a post about it on body shapes and face shapes. Other systems, like DYT, felt restricting. That’s not to say that these systems are bad – it’s just that for me they didn’t work, so I kept looking.
I must say one more thing: I’ve always wanted my outfits to represent not only my sense of style, but my personality as well. I want my appearance to convey a message that I design, which is why I’ve never tried to copy someone else’s style – I only had inspirations. As a result of me trying to determine my preferences I’ve accumulated more than 800 pictures on my Pinterest board.
Discovering Kibbe’s Metamorphosis
I wish I would make some note for myself to remember the exact Google search terms that brought me to Kibbe’s Metamorphosis! I typed in something along the lines of ‘very feminine body, but don’t feel womanly at all’. I’ve started reading excerpts from the book and it immediately struck me – THIS IS IT! So simple, yet so overwhelmingly cohesive! I didn’t do the test and I didn’t (thank goodness!) go to YouTube for information – I’ve read about Yin and Yang, then Fantasy Quiz, then read about each of the image IDs and knew pretty quickly that I was a Soft Gamine. I couldn’t believe that a stylist back in 1987 wrote this and I never stumbled upon it, while these ‘fruit’ systems were all over the place. I know this might be just my experience, but every line about Soft Gamines seems like it was written by the author about me. Thank you Google algorythm for making this discovery possible for me.
David Kibbe’s writing style helped me quickly understand the meaning of his system because he’s enormously talented in writing in images – not just words. His system isn’t rigid – I’d compare it to a living being where each part is vital, but it’s simple in and of itself. As I was reading his explanations, they created hundreds of images in my head. Besides, the celebrity examples were all stars of old Hollywood whose features I knew by heart and it didn’t take me long to start understanding what Yin and Yang were all about. I think once you get the Yin and Yang balance, you have it pretty much nailed. Going along with the nature instead of against it seemed genius to me, and yet it was really simple. After a while, I understood why some pieces in my wardrobe were my favorites and other items I bought and never wore – it all depended on the cut, print, and fabric. I’ve realized that extremely stiff fabrics didn’t work for me, same as flowy silhouettes, because they didn’t go in line with my Yin-Yang balance. I also realized why I’ve always loved cuffing my pants – to get that broken line. Thanks to Metamorphosis I started trying new styles of pants and learned how to construct outfits to go along with the Yin-Yang balance I have. Another important thing is that I’ve never focused on the description of the archetypes (image IDs) as descriptions of my personality – I don’t think that’s what David Kibbe meant at all (many people get very offended by them for some reason). Similarly, I’ve never been into ‘vibe’ – I don’t think it exists for image IDs!
So in general, I can successfully apply this system because I don’t focus on specific parts of the system or overthink them – I just take David Kibbe’s words as they are – positive and inspiring, simple and practical! He says outfits should go in line with the natural Yin-Yang balance and that’s what I do – nothing complicated at all. I don’t try to ‘fix’ anything about myself or make it look different – I show my dominant features off and it creates that perfect balance, makes me feel & look like me, conveys my personality and doesn’t make me look confined, boxy, too coquettish, or whatever else I dislike.
Why I Write About Kibbe’s Metamorphosis
There I was – happy that I finally found a coherent system that gave me basically everything I needed to know how to dress myself in a way that would tick all the boxes. I didn’t even do the quiz – I found it useless and ignored it. And then I started wondering why there was so little info about this system and why the ‘fruit’ systems persisted when there was a perfectly simple system that celebrated individuality. So I Googled it.
Imagine my surprise when I saw that nearly every blogger (YouTube and everything else) seemed to present Kibbe’s Metamorphosis in a different way than I saw it. At first I was baffled and even did the quiz – I got Theatrical Romantic, which didn’t make any sense at all with my Yin-Yang balance. Then I saw things like ‘Soft Gamines are cute’ and ‘Romantics are the most feminine’ it simply startled me. I mean, Kibbe verified Soft Gamines are Bette Davis and Betty White! Cmon! I saw Kibbe’s system being completely distorted and confused with Kitchener’s system, Soft Gamine confused with Ingenue! And on top of all, people charging money for typings by photos and saying things like ‘if you’re struggling to find your body type, then you might be a Gamine’ or ‘if your head is big compared to shoulders, you have a short vertical line’. To say the least, I was speechless.
When one such ‘expert’ typed Taylor Swift, Zendaya, and Lily Cole as Gamines, I was even more shocked. It seemed like they’ve read a completely different book. Then I stumbled upon the only blog that made sense to me – Style Syntax. There I’ve read that David Kibbe actively participates in a Facebook group and still works in NYC, but NONE of these fake ‘experts’ even mentioned it. So it was clear to me that a perfectly good thing was ruined by those who want to make a quick buck off of YouTube videos and clicks, off of these ludacrice online typings, convincing their audience that David Kibbe hasn’t done anything to his system since the 1980s or that his writing style was too difficult to understand or that his system is about huge self-discovery that’s incredibly hard – all BS. Once again, something good was being ruined. Something that was completely free for me to use to my own benefit was being sold at, dare I say, steep prices. I’m usually the one not getting my hopes up, but here even I was startled by how low people go for money.
Why It Matters
I am sick and tired of being told what is beautiful and feminine. I think this sh*t has got to stop. I think that every woman is beautiful when she feels free and comfortable in her own skin. I am convinced that we won’t feel that way until we stop putting ourselves in boxes. David Kibbe’s system says ‘you are feminine, you are unique, you are precious, so let your STAR shine‘ and women are being told by society that they need to aspire to some ideal and that they aren’t good enough. I’ve seen what these things do to women of all ages – they are confined in their own insecurities, they feel the need to seek someone else’s validation, they are always slapped in the face with these f*cking ‘beauty standards’ like we’re some kind of chairs or cars – not people.
It’s easier to be told you’ve got a problem (e.g. round face) and how to fix it (e.g. just cover it on the sides with hair to make it appear ‘ideal’ – oval). We are so used to feeling ‘not enough’ that being told that we ARE enough is hard to digest. And this is why no fake self-proclaimed ‘expert’ can give you the real value that Kibbe’s system has – because to be able to earn money they’ve complicated the sh*t out of it and created myths and all kinds of outright lies to perpetuate insecurities in women. They are once again putting women in boxes. For instance, there’s a myth that Theatrical Romantic and Soft Dramatic are the ‘most feminine’, to which I have only one thing to say: to be feminine, you need to be a WOMAN – that’s it. In my post on Yin and Yang in Kibbe, I ask whether anyone would be able to say that Lauren Bacall isn’t beautiful enough because she’s Yang-dominant – I highly doubt anyone with eyes would be able to say that!
I feel that my story perfectly demonstrates how women experience the pressure of beauty standards in the society. I’ve been told countless times to ‘wear low neckline and all men will flock around you’ or ‘you need to wear something long, like a cardigan, to appear taller’ (which doesn’t work simply due to the contrast, as I’ve talked about in my post ‘Let your wardrobe be your friend‘). Many women never get over their insecurities and always feel that pressure without realizing it.
In my posts about Kibbe’s Metamorphosis, I don’t play an expert – I discuss it according to my own understanding. Only David Kibbe himself is an expert in his system because he created it. He unknowingly changed my life for the better by bringing tremendous value and I’ll forever be an advocate of his approach. I am trying to communicate two simple things: Metamorphosis is accessible to anyone because it’s not complicated and you can determine your image ID yourself if you take a bit of time to find out how the system works.
If my posts can inspire even one person to think that she’s feminine, make an effort to learn seeing her features through the lens of acceptance instead of criticism and insecurity, and try and celebrate her unique features however she prefers, then my goal will be achieved. It so happens that I too struggled with accepting and embracing my femininity and it was Kibbe’s system approach and philosophy that largely helped me change my perspective.
Now you know the whole story and where I’m coming from.
If you’ve made it this far, I sincerely thank you ❤️ I know this post is long, but there was no way around it. If you have any questions, don’t hesistate to leave a comment!
See you in my next post,
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