Down the Kibbe rabbit hole

Thanks to threads by caro in oz, Gigi and links posted by Suz, I got sucked into researching the Kibbe archetypes and I wanted to record my thoughts here. Apologies if this retreads ground already covered in the other threads, as this is as much for my benefit as anything else. :)

I found basic idea and the archetypes themselves very useful. From an aesthetic perspective, it makes perfect sense to accentuate your physical proportions and attributes with whatever you're wearing, which is what I've been trying to do all these years, so it's interesting to read how these have been interpreted by stylists.

I did the quiz and downloaded the spreadsheet. I reached the conclusion that I'm somewhere on a continuum between Soft Dramatic and Flamboyant Natural with a touch of the Dramatic. This made a lot of sense, considering my preference for loose pants, sharp shoulders, graphic patterns and oversized pieces. So far, so good.

Where it all collapsed a bit was in the style inspiration I found on the Internet. This is terribly subjective and there are interpretations out there which read to me as extreme and/or wide of the mark, not to mention a load of things I wouldn't be seen dead in. :P It's not really helped by Kibbe's own instructions, which in spite of their wisdom are by now terribly dated, as others have pointed out. 

However, I did find a few things which resonated. 

First, this graphic, via Pinterest, which struck me as a very good representation in contemporary styling of how I understood the type definitions. I can see immediately from here the outfits which would suit me best. I could easily wear SD or FN as they are, and D would also work with a little tweaking.

I found some interesting commentary on Style Syntax, who approaches the system critically, albeit from her own FG/SD perspective. Being a huge nerd and a visualisation specialist, I really like this diagram. Yin-yang is on the x-axis, blend-contrast is on the y-axis. I can see exactly where I fit in here. 


Gimme five... adjectives!

I had a little breakthrough on reading Suz's post on style evolution

I've never been able to describe my style with much clarity. I tend all over the map in terms of presentation, a result of buying and wearing things I like rather than trying to get this or that look. What I realised today was that my style is in fact a result of what I aim for in my shopping and wardrobe management strategies, so I should just find five adjectives to describe those. 

So here are five words that apply to my philosophy:


Simple, classic execution in garments. When in doubt, I default to quality, craftsmanship, artistry. This goes for buying both new and vintage. There is also a retrospective element to this, insofar as I've held on to pieces for years that fulfil these criteria. 

Unique pieces, distinctive styling, originality in design and personal authenticity. I like wearing things I won't see on anyone else in a way nobody else would wear them.

Diversity in looks, silhouettes, combinations and personae. Varied sources and cultural reference points. 

An androgynous interpretation of womenswear. Anything from menswear head to toe to assertively ladylike but never girly. A more accurate way of describe this might be gender-bending.

No fuss. Simple execution, functional details. Weather appropriate!

Where is this heading next? I've seen others using these descriptors as a means to move forward. What are yours, and how do you use them?


What makes an orphan an orphan?

I loved Angie's recent post about orphans, which prompted me to have a good look at a few things that I don't think are getting enough wear.

To be honest, although I moan about struggling to style the contents of my diverse and eclectic wardrobe, there isn't really much dead wood in there, and luckily I haven't made too many mistakes in the last few years.

For the most part, the orphans at the moment are either things that were in circulation and have dropped out of favour, or things that have some practical pitfalls that I didn't identify before I started wearing them. There are also one or two very nice things that for some reason look wrong every time I put them on.

For instance, in the first category right now are three pairs of shoes and a leather jacket in various shades of brown which I used to wear with grey, green, navy or purple. I don't quite know what to make of this, except that I'm not wearing this colour combination very much any more and I should probably hang onto them until I find another palette to make them work.

The second category are mainly statement pieces in refined materials that I worry about ruining - velvet, silk etc, or things that would get a lot more wear if I were less panicked about wearing them on the bike.

The third is almost impossible to pin down. I have two jackets that I like very much but something about the styling is just plain weird. I wish I could be more specific. Perhaps I should post pictures so you can all tell me.

What about you ladies? What orphans your orphans? 


5 Silhouettes. No Direction.

Beth-Ann kindly suggested I post a few more looks and tried to explain my style objectives clearly. I'm not at all sure of my objectives, so perhaps it helps to explain my current practices and how they've resulted in my closet being a grab bag of avant garde retro classics that I love to wear but struggle to style.

Disclaimer: this is long and involves advanced wardrobe diagnostics. If you can't be bothered to read, scroll down to the eye-candy and shoot on my outfits.


Here's how I roll:

- I try to practise slow fashion. I don't like rapid turnover and I prefer to keep things for as long as I can. 

- My budget is not unlimited and I like to buy the best quality I can afford, which means lots of thrifting, vintage and designer outlet bargains.

- I tend not to have a "shopping list" and my strategy is quite reactive. I'm more likely to spot something and know that it will work than go looking for something in particular (because when I do, I almost never find it).

- I buy things based on quality, fit, colour palette and wearability rather than any notion of a particuar "look" or persona. 

- I don't work in a formal office with a well-defined role that I have to dress for.

- I love experimenting with new styles and I'm really attracted to the unusual and original. 

- I try to future-proof my wardrobe because I don't want to look dated, so I try to steer clear of obvious trends.

- I sew a lot, which means I often make the things I want to make rather than to fill a particular need.

So I've ended up with lots of things I like, mostly nice quality and a few real trophy pieces. This becomes a problem when garments become part of an expressive collection rather than a working wardrobe, but I'm working on that.

Here are five looks from late October/early November when I was on an arty/eclectic kick. These are essentially smart-casual weekday looks I'd wear to work with close colleagues, meet with friends and maybe go out in the evening. I'd wear some of these in the classroom but not to meet business clients. I do have a load more business approriate looks, which tend to favour classically masculine tailoring: blazers, pant suits, brogues etc. There's also the more sporty/hipster/urban strand, which overlaps with what you see here.

1. Vintage silk shibori haori with Uniqlo HeatTech shirt, skinny pants from Marks & Spencer, Underground creepers. 

The haori was a HEWI which I hunted high and low through many, many kimono dealers before finding it. It's not hard to wear but it's more of a summer piece than winter. Worn over a couple of essentials: black turtle neck and slim black pants.

2. Striped Pirate cardigan by All Saints, waxed cotton dropped crotch pants BYBROWN, boots by Maison Martin Margiela. 

A FFB. These pants are the best. I have another pair in gold. The All Saints cardigan is ancient but still going strong. The boots look a bit beat up in the picture, but they've just come back from the cobblers Looking Like New.

3. Self-made skirt with short sleeved jumper from COS, layered over grey marl t-shirt.

I am loving this skirt, which I made very recently. A surprisingly fun layering piece under an oversized winter coat. Definitely a weekender.

4. Vintage '80's Kenzo jacket, jeans by Isabel Marant Homme pour H&M, hat by Uniqlo, creepers as in 1.

This is probably the most controversial of these looks, but also the one I like wearing the most at the moment. The silhouette of the fitted cropped jacket and men's jeans feels just so, and both pieces fit like they were made for me. But it's definitely advanced pattern matching and not exactly trendy. That's my default hat.

5. Self made top and skirt, boots by Maison Martin Margiela again.

This is becoming a go-to day-to-evening choice in the colder weather. I love the complimentary colours. The top is an absolute winter workhorse. 

So, where's the problem?

I'm trying to strike a balance between a lot of contradictory patterns. I like to keep things I love for as long as possible but I also like the challenge of unusual statement pieces. I want to future-proof things but I keep getting distracted by new trends. I want to make sensible purchases but my shopping strategy requires me to know what's right when I see it and make quick decisions. I want to look authentic, not eccentric. I want to distinguish myself but not stick out like a sore thumb. I want to wear my clothes and not the other way around. 

The biggest problem right now is styling. I need a better feel for what works together, and how I can work the things I love into looks that feel contemporary. I'm trying to find a way through this that will lead me to silhouettes and colour palettes that really work for me, figure out which are the key pieces that are pulling their weight, and build more sensible strategies from there. I'd like to develop something that resembles a philosophy or signature look, but I don't know if that's at all realistic given the diversity of content.

If you've read this far, thanks for sticking with me. I'd love to read comments from people who recognise the problem of accumulating things that really work over a number of years but still keeping it fresh. I'm feeling very uninspired by what I see in high fashion right now, so I'd prefer to develop my own personae using the materials to hand. Angie's wisdom has helped me a lot in the past, but right now I need to take stock of what I have and try and make sense of it. I think this may take a couple of years. 


Go to the full post to see all of the pictures →