True Summer Visuals and Soft Dramatic Styles

The term Soft Dramatic (SD) is one of 13 Image Identities from David Kibbe’s extraordinary book from 1987, Metamorphosis. If you can find yourself, it can be an astounding key to your best clothing line. I am so NOT a Kibbe expert. I’m certain that if he looked at my Polyvores, he’d think, This isn’t what I meant at all. Reader beware.

David Kibbe Metamorphosis



This question from J:

I’d like to add femininity to casual wear but sometimes I don’t know how. How to add glamour into your everyday life/work? I used to want to appear as strong as possible. Now I have softened it down a bit, and, big surprise, no one ate me. ;-)

I think I have the most difficulties separating the True Summer from the Soft Summer in the range of beiges/taupes/browns and the range of corals/reds. Kind of the colors that we see as warm per se. Maybe also some of the greens, that are not actually blue greens, but more along the grassier or khaki side. The more unusual Summer colors, I guess.


By the time we’re working with neighbour Seasons in 12 Season colour analysis, and from the same parent Season, like True Summer and Soft Summer, finding words to help you distinguish them is not possible, at least not for me. They’re just too close if you look at them one swatch at a time. Trying to find your colours that way may be part of why PCA fizzled 40 years ago. Going back and forth and back and forth and back and forth from one colour dot in a swatch book to a piece of fabric will only make you irritable and the store staff even more so.

My best advice is to learn to look at your entire palette when you try to match a garment to it. Have a read of the article Getting More From Your 12 Tone Swatch Book. This is a total woman, head to toe, all the colours together all the time, big picture situation.

If you’re a precision person, as Summers often are, you’ll want to own both True and Soft Summer swatch books. Compare them both to a garment by laying them flat and fanned out on it. You’ll see which is best. Sometimes, it’s very hard, in which case, it just doesn’t matter enough for clothing. For drapes, that would be a fabric I’d never use. How can you test with it if both work? When you look at only one, one anything, your visual system is stuck. It’s like asking someone if this colour looks good on you. They’ll say Yes. What they should say is, Compared to what? Show me two and I’ll LYK which one is best. That’s how our biology is configured to get information from vision.

You might want to own Colour Books from different companies. The more ways you see and read about your colours, the more sense they will make and the more recognizable they’ll become. You’re looking to replicate a feeling, not a particular colour.


Photo: surrahman
Photo: surrahman


Also, to my eye, color not only flows from cool to warm but also from one color to the other. So, sometimes, I just don’t know, if, what I look at is a grey with a lot of purple in it or maybe a very greyed down purple?

We’re not comparing apples to apples in that question. Colour always flows from cool to warm. It’s built into the physics of how light strikes objects. It cannot be altered or argued. In the 12 Season sequence, the heat setting of one palette shifts to a warmer or cooler setting as you move along to the next Season. If the two purples you describe belong to True and Soft Summer, one will be warmer. If you paint them as two dots and let them run together, then the colours will indeed flow into one another, but the two ends and any given colour between them will only belong in one Tone’s palette, the one whose colour dimensions (heat, value, chroma) match those of the colour.


True Summer and True Winter


I get the feeling of coolness and freshness that you described. What I don’t understand here is the softness. Soft as opposed to True Winter, yes. But then, when I’m in a store, all those colors mixed up, that is not the feeling I get.

Regarding the image above, understanding softness in your question to mean low saturation rather than draping fabric, and choosing apparel line and styles randomly just to demonstrate some colours:

Summer colours are on the left. They feel watery, misty, calm. Not heavy. Far from white. A little heathered.

Winter colours, on the right, feel more aggressive and intense. They have more green. More colour. They’re further from gray. It’s hard to tell though, because as colour darkens, or as one colour dimensions changes in any way, we find it tougher to judge the other two colour dimensions. The top one seems too close to white for a Summer and I don’t pick up heathering.

Neither one is at minimum or maximum saturation, because True Summer and True Winter are not. What matters most is that they’re cool. Even that’s hard to tell. Winter green can look warm, I suppose because the blue and yellow that made it came from Winter’s paintbox, where the yellow is intense.

What about the center column? I wouldn’t know if those are Winter or Summer any better than you would just by looking at them. I’d have to lay the palette on the garment and see if the two were equal or if one loses energy. You’ll see this happen. The Summer palette will dull if the fabric is Winter. The swatches will be much too strong and bold if the colour is Summer. You’ll be able to feel which one is at home for most fabrics. If you can’t, it would probably be fine. You might need to own the Winter Book. The more precise you want to be, the more precision tools you will need to acquire. True for carpenters, musicians, and colour matchers. Not a big thing. Probably costs less than two blouses. You won’t learn this by owning one Book. You’ll get it as soon as you own both.

Clothes in photographs are just like people in photographs. A little off. You can take a hundred pictures of the same person, same time, same place. They look different in each one. Can’t tell what’s true. In real time, our brain can adjust for that, like it does all the time with all the white we think we see that would not be pure white, were an artist to paint it. For survival, our brain has adapted to learn when to get visual information that means white, even if the colour isn’t white. We see many photos of women trying on clothes. When have you ever met anyone and had them look just like you expected? Never. If Mr Kibbe writes another book, I hope he puts in lots of group photos.

Photo: lpierard
Photo: lpierard


I do get a feeling of elegance. The same cheap sweater, that looked so funky and trendy in Autumn’s beige, managed to look somehow more expensive in the blue-grey. Seems elegant and calm to me and… nothing! There’s nothing added, no warmth, no pop. It just stays as it is. I used to judge that as boring and without personality. Now I’m open to see if one day it will show me that there actually is something. Maybe I just can’t see it yet. I wonder if what I’m asking for is a comparison of the visuals for the three Summers.

True Summer, like True Winter, isn’t an overly colour busy Season. In the Winter’s case, it’s because every colour is so much that one at a time is plenty. In the Summer case, there’s a tranquility, with none of the agitation that accompanies heat, whether smoke (Autumn) or sun (Spring). The softness of the colours means that they weave together more fluently than Winter. Even a hint of hectic or functional takes the feeling off track. Also no giggles, no sarcasm, no squirting (Spring), and no forcing, no pushing, no controlling (Winter). All is perfect and all will be perfect. Not rugged, earthy, productive, or work-related (Autumn), no showboat, glitter, or anything synthetic (Bright).

A visual for True Summer: the Japanese Zen garden.

Peaceful, green, strong, by no means self-effacing, monochromatic, courteous, the penultimate of diplomacy and respect, meditative, reflective, cool but not dark, searching.

Soft Summer visual is heavier, more solid and substantial, a rock garden, a woodland. Light Summer’s has movement and lightness, a fountain.


Photo: lemunade
Photo: lemunade


Maybe also some jewelry advice. [But I find it very interesting, that [other systems] are all about teardrops and elongated s-curves, all very looong, while you mention the circle as the True Summer shape.

That circle shape came from my imagination. It is not a fact, it’s a blend of what I have read, seen, felt, and thought about. There’s no more truth in it than if you said, I think Summer’s shape is a pentagon. There are no facts here and only a little logic. The left brain isn’t the one doing this. We’re not measuring anything. I could see spirals too for the true cool Seasons, though more in Winter since they begin and end in the deep center, which has True Winter written all over it. The trailing vine is definitely a good Summer shape. For many, their hair follows this line. Every Season could have many shapes. So could every body type. Some see triangles for Winter. I don’t feel it but I can see why they do. Spring is more triangly to me, though more the zigzag than the closed shape.


Photo: br44
Photo: br44


I’d just love to see your perspective on Soft Dramatic True Summer. How does this combination of colors and lines and whatever else there is look to you?

I know this woman from my life. She is indeed a True Summer. She’s 5’7″, sleeps till noon, reads all day, is far more busty than hourglass. In fact, I have no idea what her body looks like below her bust. Couldn’t tell you if she’s curvy or not, no idea what her legs look like. I do know that she’s a knockout.

She cooks like Julia Child, drinks like a sailor, wears a splashy sarong skirts and big chunk diamonds in her ears to have her backyard bulldozed. The sarong and diamond look is the only time I notice what she has on. She also favours mid-thigh tunic tops and straight Capris, which look pretty good as long as the print is a big, boozy Georgia O’Keefe vision.

Her right location is in a chaise longue beside a Vegas pool with a turban on her head, cigarette holder in hand, G&T on the go, watching the 18 year old pool boy at work. This picture absolutely needs up-there jewelry, exactly what Kibbe describes. Smooth, big, and $$$-looking. Andre, the masseur, is arriving later this afternoon.

These are casual clothes. It’s easy to fit this body in gowns and gigantic jewelry. What’s it look like at the parent-teacher interview?


True Summer Soft Dramatic 1


Like colour, the whole point is to bring together the person and the clothing lines that bring out the absolute best in each other. Finding the style in any palette would be tough because it’s just so exaggerated. The women who would look great in it have no idea who they are, not unlike fuchsia blush. For the general population, the image seems meant for the stage, not the office. Get Noticed clothes are scary when the crowd all looks identical.

She has much less texture and more opulence than a Flamboyant Natural. She won’t wear wedges, the FN could. Same big frame, big hands. A movie star who comes into her own on the big screen, loses something on a TV, and looks almost ordinary on a smartphone. A cocktail ring babe. Sunglasses and wide brim hats, earrings, necklace, rings, scarves. Drama, glamour. She can make the dainty, delicate, and simple disappear, not in the good way, like blue on Summer, which is so much part of them that it’s almost invisible, like their ultimate neutral, their perfect equal. Here, little stuff gets chewed up like it isn’t even there, the ultimate unequal.

Like all Summers, contrast outside her colour palette can disappear her. Stay inside your lightest to darkest range if possible, whoever you are.


True Summer Soft Dramatic 2


The only way to get your clothes look like yours is to wear your own line. That’s when you look normal and fabulous, as opposed to normal. Your clothes look like ‘just clothes but wow clothes’, like Bright Winter blue sapphire satin looks like just blue but wow blue only on that one type of natural colouring. These clothes are lusciously large scale. In this picture of Sophia Loren, it doesn’t seem as if she and her clothing bring out the best in each other. Nor this image. She’s not who we know her to be. The colours and lines next to her look as if she feels some way that she doesn’t at all. There’s no point telling the world that.

The True Summer colour analyzed palette is the opposite of exaggerated. I can see that it might be careful looking on this woman. Accessories and big shapes pull the whole thing in the right direction.

True Summer looks better in their greens and teals than their blues. Blue is too equal to their native wavelength, like a blue aura inside a blue force field. Such a good fit that you can’t tease them apart. All their blue-greens are unbelievably enhancing. Like if you can find the right red lollipop red, it’s more incredible on True Spring than their yellow, maybe even more stunning than their nectarines just by the power of red.

For an Soft Dramatic, no casual outfit will ever be casual by other body types’ standards. The clothes look normal in a Vogue shoot, not a Food Court. This is not a Natural body. Turtlenecks, hoodies, shirts, the clothes much of the industry provides are not the ones that best flatter her. How to do casual? Would wear kitten heels when the men arrive to replace the front porch, but not high heels. Will not wear shoulder pads to the Farmer’s Market. Will wear flip-flops when hosting the Fun Day BBQ for the summer cottagers and their kids. Is going to wear jeans, fleece, and flats just because they feel good.


True Soft Dramatic 3





14 thoughts on “True Summer Visuals and Soft Dramatic Styles”

  1. Hi ! Thanks so much for this article. I love to read your insights. I am a True summer and two things rang true with me in this article. One, that our blue greens are better than our blues (true! } and that circles are what you think of when you think of summer. I love hoops, gypsy type earrings, pendants with circles on them. I just thought that was interesting that you noticed that. Still on the hunt for a True Summer red. Very elusive. Even a lipstick would be great. I have found a yellow top at Ann Taylor Loft { don’t think you have that in Canada?} and the color “Soot” from Boden usually works out to my True Summer “black” or a variation of.

  2. Not sure about those shapes you have for soft dramatic – this type is usually classed as hourglass and needs difinate waist defination, rather than clothes that hang from the shoulders. The soft aspect in Kibbes comes from the very shapely waist and uniform top and bottom, a soft, female figure. The dramatic comes from a face which often doesn’t mach this, more edgey, some angles – as in Sophia Loren for instance, who is a classic soft dramatic, as is Raquel Welsh. Of course most of us aren’t this beautiful, but the same rules still apply. Whats this about not being “natural”? OK, being tall may make you stand out from the crowd at times (thats feels unnatural, particularly in your early years when you first aquire the shape and height). But we are totally natural, this is a real woman shape, strong and female at the same time – like a proud lioness. Most of us have to grown into this, it takes some getting used to accepting this amout of femininity as well as drama and owning it. Not an easy journey always.

  3. Yes, I can see that my choices are much more for FN. Ah, well, I get it now. It’s PinUp Girl we’re dressing.

    P. sent this, along with the very useful shopping links below: [The choices] seem for FN to me. That is except for the shoes and earrings. SD is a Kibbe of excess. If the clothes drape, they drape tightly. There is no looseness. The jewellery is large – very large. The heels are high and glitz and more glitz with possibly some glitz upon that.

    Altho there is a much longer list (I’ve just limited it to a few) of SD sites: (40s and 50s) (40s and 50s) (lingerie and hosiery, 40s and 50s) (30s, 40s and 50s) (various midcentury styles) (40s and 50s)

  4. Christine, I put together that list of links in the SD Facebook group, and I just want to mention that those links were complied as to reply to a thread talking about the 1940s styles seen in the show Bomb Girls (the links are to vintage reproduction/inspired shops). 1940s is the decade Kibbe has specified for SD, but a lot of the clothing in the above links deviate from the SD guidelines (like any decade, the 40s and neighbouring decades offered various styles) and I don’t want people to get confused. There was a lot of novelty prints and cute bakelite pins (very SG) as well as more utilitarian wear (very SN/N) in addition to the more glam styles, so it needs to be mentioned that not *everything* 40s is “SD appropriate” so to speak. :-)

    I agree with Karen that your choices in the Polyvores are indeed more FN. Shoulder emphasis and boldness is key, but so is a narrow silhouette that follows the curvy shape underneath. Sophia Vergara is one of the new SDs mentioned by Kibbe, and she dresses to her type fairly often.

  5. Yes, you’re on the right lines! But this pin up is more womanly than girly – less 50s pin up cutesy and more exotic diva – she’s taller than average and very grown up looking. T

    The Kibbs book is sadly no longer available, but a lady called Dwen has a very informative website – – on which she describes the types in great detail. If you’re interested – click on the “home” section first for a breakdown of the basic 4 types – then go from there to look at sub -catergories under each. Height is the first factor in the selection. Fascinating reading, especially if you can find your type. I had was typed by Kibbs in the 80s and came out as Dramatic as I’m 5′ 8″ and have that face shape rather than the Natural. No one fits exactly, some intuitive interpretation is needed, i.e. don’t get hung up if you haven’t got exactly that waist or bust,its the general feel of height and bone structure thats inportant.

    If you’re a certain height, the bones of face and body generally fall into line. This bone structure method of determining style (rather than “style” as in retro, glamour, boho, classic, natural etc) takes account of how a person is basically built. No matter how much you fancy pretty, tiny jewellery if your 5′ 10″ and big boned, it ain’t going to look good – you’ll look big and clumsy instead, likewise at 5′ 2″ and petite, big dramatic edgey pieces won’t enhance your essence. See what you think!?

  6. Another interesting article. the pictures of true summer and winter were very informative. as a summer, I often get off track when I’m shopping out in retail with my swatchbook and often tend to buy winter colors instead of summer. the idea of keeping it watery and heathered and soft, I will remember. Also the idea of laying my swatchbook out on a piece of clothing is a very useful one, to see if it blends, if it doesn’t jar…if it fits.

    I would love to own all the seasons’ swatch books! to contrast and compare would be so helpful. Comparisons like the one in this article are great and help me to understand the differences between the seasons.

    Having my colors done (color me beautiful) 30 years ago and knowing I am a summer is a tremendous help and was a revelation. It truly changed my life. But I am very perplexed as to where I might fit into the 3 summer season scheme because there are colors and descriptions within all three that fit me. Nevertheless what I do enjoy is that the colors you use in your polyvores are some that I wouldn’t have considered before and can play with now to see if they work for me. They expand my color universe.

  7. I love this blog, I’ve learned here a lot. Your articles are so deep well written and backed up with a lot of knowledge. One thing I don’t get are all the references to Kibbe are some kind of types 1-4. Sci/ART has strong foundation, it is based on science of colour and biology of colour perception. The philosophy, thoughts on colour can be taken further because of emotional part of colours (also scientific fact). But the “style” part such as Kibbe is just someone’s idea of style and although some can claim it’s universal – it really isn’t… it’s very 80′. It’s unnecessary categorizing – it’s opposite what style and fashion is about – fun, pleasure, excitement, learning new. I think it locks us in “types” that doesn’t help us or even prevent us from finding our own, true beauty and style. If you know your colours, your body shape, your environment (workplace etc.) your style will “appear” without squeezing into safe but narrow and boring categories.

    Ps. In some of your posts/videos I found out that it’s good to repeat your shape for example if your straight, wear straight cuts to avoid looking “off”. I think it’s one of this Kibbe/types idea. Very wrong! It would be like trying to repeat your hair colour – as I’ve learned in your blog it’s not the way… Wearing straight cut will give much straighter result than our true appearance and we will end up completely out of balance.

  8. I appreciate how much thought you have put into your comment, Dagmara, and I agree with you. Boxing oneself into a set of rules is not the answer. I do think it’s part of the answer, though, if the rules are more organized and accurate than one’s own random observations, especially about oneself where objectivity is an impossibility. I speak as much for myself and my own clothing past as I do about anyone else. The foundation for me is that we look best when we wear the colours and lines that we already are. This is what I like to see in others too. Of course, that’s just my taste, and there’s no such thing as wrong taste. I see people trying to balance face shapes or body shapes by wearing opposite styles and lines and I don’t find that appealing, but someone else might say it’s much better.
    Our real answers are found where self-discovery systems intersect.
    Also, to be a beautiful work of art, it takes the formula of the artist’s understanding of colour theory, perspective, etc., and also that unique and unmeasurable component, the artists’s emotion and vision.

  9. I have the face of a flamboyant natural and the body of a dramatic with a fat arse. I wonder what that makes me? Certainly not an SD, which would be lovely, but oh well. One copes.

  10. Thanks for pointing that out, Inge – I think between this and Kibbe I can start to figure something out.

  11. Hi Christine,

    One of my friend is a True Summer and we were wondering if there was a Red color in the true summer palette ?

    Thank you!


  12. Hello Christine, first of all I’m going to say ‘Bravo’ to a wonderful blog. I just read your article on the True Summer palette and Soft Dramatic visuals, and it has been very thought-provoking for me. I’m a True Summer (at least, that’s what my mother says, and she has a better eye for these things than I do), and as near as I can tell, I’m a Kibbe Soft Classic or a Romantic-Natural-Classic. I looked around on the internet, and one of the most comprehensive sites I’ve found for color and style identity is Truth is Beauty. On this site, Soft Classic is described as ”Sexy Sophisticate” and Romantic-Natural-Classic is described as “Sexy Prep”, “Elegant Bohemian”, and “Alluring L.L. Bean”. I’ve also seen Soft Classic compared to an English tea garden, which is amazing. What are your thoughts on all this? I’m really looking forward to some more thought-provoking articles to read.

  13. Thank you, Kathy. I am glad that you find value here. As a member of the general public when it comes to image archetype, I find the work at T-I-B is excellent, a beautiful, imaginative presentation of the archetypes. Another place to look is at the site of Rachel Nachmias at If you search Best Dressed at Pinterest, you’ll find boards about YinClassic, similar to Soft Classic.

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