Who Am I? Part 2—Your Personal Style Archetype
Understanding your style—your personal expression through clothing—simplifies your wardrobe choices. Similar to how our unique coloring is determined, our personal style is also expressed through multiple archetypes. The history of these archetypes can be traced to the early 1900s, when Belle Northrup at Columbia Teacher’s College described a range of personalities based on the Tao principles of yin and yang—yin being associated with qualities of silence and softness, and yang with qualities of dynamism and strength.
By midcentury, two professors of textile and design, Grace Margaret Morton and Harriet Tilden McJimsey, refined the concept, each developing an entire repertoire of style and color archetypes. The final jewel in this crown was added by John Kitchener, Director of Personal Style Counselors. He codified a total of seven style archetypes whose combinations encompass every personality, body shape, and coloring imaginable.
There are three mostly yang archetypes, three mostly yin, and one that balances both. By understanding where you fit into these archetypes, you will learn about the best clothing silhouettes, textiles, and patterns that flatter your body. As with the color archetypes, the principles apply equally to men and women.
We’ll start with the most yang archetype: “Dramatic” individuals have more intensity to their facial features. They also tend to be tall. Their style is not subtle or “cute.” It is coupled with a somewhat theatrical persona, which means they lean toward the avant garde. Clothing with more volume, exaggeration, and even shine works for them.
Dramatic women: Gal Gadot, Cher, Idina Menzel
Dramatic men: Russell Brand, Johnny Depp, Dev Patel
The next archetype is called “Natural.” If you truly are a lazy fashionista, it’s very likely you have a lot of this style because these types are relaxed in general; they don’t put a lot of effort into staying trendy. Comfortable, natural fabrics, body-skimming rather than hugging styles, loose knits, and ethnic motifs speak to them.
Natural women: Carole King, Ina Garten, Edie Falco
Natural men: Clint Eastwood, Bill Clinton, and Nick Nolte
The most yin of the yang archetypes is what we call “High Spirited.” HS types are born creatives, and they make that a signature of their style. Unconventional, quirky, and humorous, they like mixed patterns, prints, and accessories that are never too serious.
High Spirited women: Shirley MacLaine, Whoopi Goldberg, Rachael Ray
High Spirited men: Billy Crystal, Joel Gray, Chris Rock
The balance point archetype is called “Classic.” This style unites qualities of silence and dynamism. Classic types are typically conservative dressers. There’s something classy, almost regal about them. Even their casual wear says “refinement.”
Classic women: Michelle Yeoh, Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep
Classic men: Ryan Reynolds, Jimmy Stewart, Armie Hammer
The first yin type is the “Romantic.” These people are simply sensual by nature. One key is a kind of fleshiness to their skin texture. They love luxe fibers like satins and velvets, body-hugging clothing, florals, and larger round or serpentine patterns.
Romantic women: Julia Roberts, Elizabeth Taylor, Ashwarya Rai
Romantic men: George Clooney, Antonio Banderas, Jean Dujardin, Elvis Presley
The next yin, “Youthful,” is very different; they are defined by guilelessness and innocence. So, their wardrobe choices reflect that: crisp fabrics, little repeated patterns, smaller florals, and rounded motifs and shapes, both in silhouette and prints.
Youthful women: Meg Ryan, Michelle Williams, Marilyn Monroe
Youthful men: Paul McCartney, Michael J. Fox, John Denver
Finally, the most yin of all and the most rare: “Angelic.” This style definition was John Kitchener’s contribution, and it explains a personality that is refined, delicate, and rarer than the others. Softer textures, opalescent accessories, ombre patterns—just about anything that has an ethereal quality describes this type.
Angelic women: Tilda Swinton, Vanessa Redgrave, Darryl Hannah
Angelic men: Martin Landau, Macaulay Culkin, Jim Hensen
These general descriptions will be helpful to you in making future shopping decisions. If you look through your wardrobe, you might see similarities of style qualities that place you among a few of these archetypes. If you find an item of clothing that jumps out as dissonant, it’s likely that it violates your fundamental style or coloring.
In our next lesson, we’ll go over a very important consideration: lifestyle, or your day-to-day life as the determining factor for establishing a wardrobe.
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