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Soft Classic | Key items and Shopping Guide

Updated: Mar 3, 2022

Classic First, Romantic Second

Soft Classics are characterized by Balance First, Softness Second. Honor your balance and symmetry first, then add softness and roundness. Going to either extreme of Yin softness or Yang sharpness will look like you are trying too hard. A good approach is to wear an overall tailored silhouette but with soft, rounded edges. Soft collars, rounded accessories, delicate, tapered shoes, draped necklines, etc.

Kibbe's key recommendations for dressing your frame:

What to remember:

  • Clothing should be tapered at the outer points of the body (wrists, ankles) and the waist.

  • You can - and should - pull off small, crisp shoulder pads.

  • Use prints to honor your yin undercurrent - watercolor shapes, abstract prints. Avoid stripes, zig-zags, geometrics.

  • Accessories are a perfect way to insert a Yin element. Look for narrow to moderate width belts, smaller bags with rounded edges, circular earrings, or a rounded hat with a crisp brim.

  • Some subdued trim is possible (soft pleats, antique or unusual buttons).

  • Fabric should be high quality in medium weights, with an easy drape. Focus on neutrals and light tones, and maintain color harmony throughout your outfit.

  • Matte fabrics mostly, but shiny silks and metallics work for accents or in the evening.

  • Use separates carefully and only as part of a well-matched, “ensemble” approach to dressing. Keep the pieces well-blended and avoid color-blocking or too much striking contrast.

  • Waist belts should match the color of your top, or match your accessories.

What to avoid:

  • Hard-edged or unconstructed silhouettes.

  • Heavy, stiff, or bulky fabrics. Rough textures.

  • Detail that is overly ornate or fussy.

  • No detail at all (minimalistic).

  • Head-to-toe dark color schemes.

  • Tiny or “cute” prints.

  • Accessories that are chunky, angular, wide, or stiff.

  • Overly flashy, chunky, or just too much jewelry.

  • No jewelry.

Now, let's do a deep-dive into clothing items and combinations that work especially well for Soft Classics and that honor Kibbe’s recommendations. A note on clothing items: pieces of clothing DO NOT have a Kibbe type, HOWEVER, Kibbe does offer very specific recommendations in his book and in his FB groups on what to look for in your clothing items, and that is what we're going to be considering today.

Understanding the Clothing Levels

Level 1

This level is best for casual, generally daytime, wear. There is a little more leeway at this level to play around with the recommendations and experiment within your style. At this level, you are more likely to let comfort take precedence over your "lines".

Level 2

This level corresponds most closely with the traditional idea of businesswear - although what is now considered "business attire" is changing rapidly. Nevertheless, these items are most appropriate for any occasion in which you need to appear professional or simply "put your best foot forward".

Level 3

Look to your level 3 items for formal occasions - parties, weddings, or just anytime you want to look your absolute, drop-dead best! This level is less about being comfortable and more about incorporating more drama and elegance into your look.

Remember, many of the items within these levels are highly interchangeable depending on how you style them, the formality of your workplace, and your own personal style.

Soft Classic Coats and Jackets

Key Points:

  • Jackets should be softly tailored to gently showcase the waist. They look nice with slight shoulder definition and crisp shoulder pads, and are best with some gathering or pleating at the shoulder and a tapered wrist. Length should be short or moderate, unless belted.

  • Avoid: Wide, boxy jackets that hide the waist. Overly tailored or stiff jackets. Excess trim.

Levels 1 and 2 Coats and Jackets

The leather jacket at the end is light on detail, but tapers nicely at the wrist and features a gathered shoulder for a touch of yin.

Level 3 Coats and Jackets

The first one would technically be better without the fur detail, but sometimes Classics have to have a little fun!

Soft Classic Blazers

Every SC should own a blazer like these - it is a terrific basic for your wardrobe. On the blue blazer, the somewhat Yang element of the geometric notching at the collar is balanced out by the waist shaping and curved hem.

Soft Classic Skirts

Key Points:

  • Skirts should be soft, smooth, and flowy. Straight skirts with a tapered hemline or flared skirts with an uneven hemline are best. Straight skirts should never be longer than one inch below the knee. Uneven hemlines can be longer (around mid-calf area). Slits should be elegant rather than overstated.

  • Avoid: Long, straight, or wide styles. Overly voluminous skirts. Anything extremely tight or clingy, or with details that are overdone.

Level 1 Skirts

Level 2 Skirts

A crisp detail - like these small knife pleats - is balanced out by the soft floral and uneven hemline.

Leather skirts are a classy kind of sassy for Soft Classics! The blue skirt especially is styled beautifully for a SC - the color is softer than traditional black and the soft floral blouse is tucked in at the waist and tapers at the wrist.

Level 3 Skirts

This bubble hem (at or around the knee) adds a touch of fun for a night out.

Maxi skirts should be lightly a-line and have some structure to them.

Soft Classic Pants

Key Points:

  • Look for pants in lightweight fabrics with softly tailored style. Soft pleats and gathers around the waist are nice, and the leg should taper at the ankle. For an extra feminine touch, the hemline should graze the top of the ankle to show the top of the foot.

  • Avoid: Man-tailored, wide, or unconstructed styles. Any styles with excess trim or detail.

Level 1 Pants

Wide leg pants are not strictly within Kibbe’s recommendations, but the softness and flow of these makes them workable for Soft Classics.

Level 2 Pants

Classic styling does not have to be stuffy or uncomfortable! There are many soft, comfortable pant styles featured here. Showing a hint of foot and ankle adds some Yin femininity to the look.

A high-waisted look like this one can add some variety to your work wardrobe.

Level 3 Pants

Soft Classic Tops and Blouses

Key Points:

  • Blouses should be elegant with soft edges and detail. Soft bows, draped necklines, and subdued trim are all excellent. Fabric should be lightweight and may have a slight sheen or be very soft and sheer.

  • Avoid: Anything too sharply tailored or too wide and unconstructed. Avoid cute and perky styles.

Level 1 Tops

Level 2 Tops and Blouses

Level 3 Tops and Blouses

Soft Classic Sweaters

Key Points:

  • Sweaters in lightweight knits are best, particularly those with a luxurious finish. They should not be too long. Some subdued, intricate detail works well.

  • Avoid: Oversized, bulky sweaters or thick knits. Skinny rib knits.

Level 1 and 2 Sweaters

Ballet-style wrap tops and sweaters are always a hit. Even your casual sweaters should maintain some shaping at the waist.

Level 3 Sweaters

Matching twinsets can really look fantastic on you with the right piece of statement jewelry.

Soft Classic Dresses

Key Points:

  • Flared dress shapes with waist definition are best. Dresses should be graceful, flowing, and elegant. Draping is always perfect!

  • Avoid: Severely tailored or unconstructed styles. Fussy or flouncy styles.

Level 1 Dresses

Maxi dresses should have some a-line shaping, drape, and be in a flowy fabric.

Levels 1 and 2 Dresses

Feminine vintage styles work very well for Soft Classics.

Level 2 Dresses

Dresses are a great way to have some more fun with prints and patterns.

Level 3 Dresses

You can tell that this model is not a Soft Classic. She is probably a Natural, and her shoulders look stuffed into this dress, whereas a Classic would pull this off beautifully.

Soft Classic Accessories

A Soft Classic should always exercise restraint with their accessories. Less is more! The overall effect should be elegant and tapered, with some subtle ornate or intricate detail.

Shoes for Soft Classic

Slender heels and tapered shapes, with some detail for evening, are perfect for Soft Classics.

Bags and Belts

Avoid overly large or angular bags. These smaller, rounded shapes are ideal.

Soft Classic Jewelry

Look for delicate jewelry with a circular motif or a touch of vintage charm.

Hats and Scarves for Soft Classic

Hats should be neither too large nor too small. A rounded shape with a crisp brim is just right.

A Step Further: Understanding Your Lines

Remember that you are first and foremost a Classic. Your outfits should feature clean, unbroken lines, symmetry, and gentle waist emphasis. The Soft Classic’s goal is to walk the line between being overly structured and tailored, without letting the effect become too fussy or busy. A great way to honor your Yin softness is to dress in classic, tailored lines and then add softness through your details and accessories.

Many Classics worry that their tailored lines will make them look old-fashioned or boring. Not to fear. On another type, this could happen, but these lines are highly complementary on you and create an overall effect that will not read as “boring” to an observer - far from it! “Graceful Lady” can mean whatever you want it to mean within the context of your own style. You are not limited to cashmere cardigans and pearls for the rest of your life, unless you want to be!

Seek out high-quality fabrics that are not stiff - they should have a smooth drape and flow. The overall line of your outfit should be smooth and symmetrical with slight shaping. You look lovely with some gentle flare or smooth draping to your ensemble. Be cautious not to misinterpret “tailored” as “sharp” or “severe”. Tailored items should lightly hug the body, without pulling or gapping. You may benefit from finding a good tailor who can make off-the-rack items fit you better.

Be careful as well not to overdo the Romantic detail of your look. You want to suggest Yin, but you are still not a Romantic! Those lines will look fussy or silly on you. Think of incorporating a softly cowled neckline, some light gathers or pleats on a straight skirt, or light metallic jewelry with rounded edges. You look wonderful with only a single piece of jewelry.

Color is a helpful way to achieve a blend of harmony and softness. Lighter or muted shades are preferable, as are harmonious color combinations (e.g., navy pants with a pale blue top, or combine red with beige/tan instead of black). Pattern can look beautiful on you, but avoid bold geometrics and small, “cute” prints. Your best prints are soft and rounded, with watercolor or abstract shapes.

Always think of your outfits in terms of an ensemble. Colors, textures, and fabrics should blend elegantly throughout. This does not mean that you can only wear one-piece dresses or matching sets (although they’ll certainly look great on you!) but rather that you should consider the individual elements of your outfit in terms of their harmony with each other.

I really hope you have enjoyed this Soft Classic shopping guide! Don't forget the most important rule of dressing: ultimately, if you feel good in an item, then WEAR IT! You should use this system as a guide, not as a limitation.

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