What is a ‘clothing personality’ and why is it important?

I had my colours analysed back in 2010 and not long afterwards I went back to House of Colour for a Style Day. On the Style Day, amongst many other things, we talked about our ‘clothing personalities’ which are a key part of knowing what clothing suits you and why. What is a clothing personality you might ask? I will start by saying that personal style is about what suits you, it’s not about what’s in fashion. Your clothing personality explains why an outfit (even in the right colours) that looks great on someone else might look frumpy/at odds/like a costume on you. Personal style is about dressing to reflect what’s on the inside and knowing your clothing personality will help enable you to do this. Of course, two people who have the same clothing personality won’t necessarily dress the same, personal taste and personality comes into it too, but there will be similarities and the overall look (e.g. youthful or sexy or dramatic) will be the same. A clothing personality is designed to be a guide and an inspiration so that you are able to refine your clothing choices.

House of Colour aren’t unique in educating people about clothing personalities. There are several systems and most usually cover a version of the following style types:

  • Dramatic (statement dressing, think Victoria Beckham),
  • Natural (a much more relaxed and casual look, bohemian or sporty, think Elle MacPherson),
  • Gamine (young, boyish and fun, think Carey Mulligan),
  • Ingénue (youthful, feminine, elegant and pretty, think of Emmy Rossum when she was in Phantom of the Opera),
  • Romantic (sexy, grown-up, think Marilyn Monroe),
  • Classic (timeless, smart, think Kate Middleton).

David Kibbe came up with 13 ‘image identities’ in his 1987 book “Metamorphosis” but he doesn’t include a type for Ingénue. I was diagnosed by House of Colour as a ‘Natural Ingénue’ and this feels perfect for me so I decided not to research that system very heavily.

This brings me neatly on to David Zyla. I recently read Zyla’s book ‘Color Your Style‘ (which can be purchased on Amazon) and I really do like his approach to clothing personalities. He calls them ‘archetypes’ and so far I’ve been able to find my archetype very easily. I suspect knowing I’m a ‘Natural Ingénue’ in another system helped (considerably) but his descriptions are thorough and I do think that someone who knows their season would be able to identify with one of the archetypes (there are 6 per season). It’s also a very fun read. Zyla appears to have a lot of fans – a quick search on Pinterest reveals lots of different boards for each of the archetypes created by people who’ve read the book. I found these immensely inspiring after I was able to pinpoint my archetype and my own personal style board grew quickly as a result. I did find Zyla’s clothing recommendations in his book excellent.

The only real downside of the book is that if you’ve not had a colour analysis (that’s not a plug I promise!) you’ll find it impossible to figure out your season from the information given in the book, and you need to know what your season is in order to identify your archetype. This isn’t a fault with the book I should add – no book can tell you what season you are. It is impossible (of course) to know how your skin reacts to colour by reading a book, and this is a crucial part of identifying what season you are.

I have two Zyla-inspired Pinterest boards. The first shows my ‘true colours’ according to Zyla: (to find out what the different colours mean you can look at Zyla’s website)

I have to say, although finding these colours sounds simple I’m of the opinion you need a colour analysis before you can figure out exactly whether, say, peach is your more flattering version of pink, etc. My essence colour is in fact a fairly substantial mid-pink (a rose). The idea is that all of your ‘true colours’ flatter you, and a pale pink isn’t going to flatter someone (i.e. me!) if depth of colouring is important, for example.

Some clever person made an image for all the different archetypes and I’ve pinned them here:

You will need to read about the archetypes in the book to figure out which one you are, but the images are certainly interesting to look at and it’s nice to have them all there at a glance. If you buy the paperback version you can share it with your friends 🙂

12 thoughts on “What is a ‘clothing personality’ and why is it important?

  1. Hi.
    Can you share photos if the natural ingenue with us?
    We are trying to figure out what ingenue really is on several Facebook forums.
    It would be really helpful of you to shed some light on this.

    • Yes, I’d love to help!

      Here’s my Natural Ingénue pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/j9loveslace/natural-ing%C3%A9nue/. I’d describe the Ingénue clothing personality as youthful, girly and innocent (the word means “innocent girl or young woman”). I often think of the Flower Fairies. It’s not sexy like Romantic, but it is feminine (as opposed to the cheeky tom-boy Gamine). Someone who is an Ingénue often looks young despite their age, which can be a double-edged sword. The Ingénue clothing type is usually mixed with another type. When I was first diagnosed as Natural Ingénue (or Nat Ing for short) I was genuinely astounded. I didn’t think I looked youthful or innocent, and I started to ask those around me how they saw me. I asked “Do I look innocent?” and they would laugh at me and say, “Yes, of course! How could you not have noticed?”

      Most pictures I see online of Ingénues are mixes. This image captures the Ingénue essence for me (the long floaty dress would imply Nat Ing rather than just pure Ing): https://www.pinterest.com/pin/324681454358695755/.

      You don’t have to be young in age to be an Ingénue, and contrary to some information out there, Ingénues do not grow up into Romantics! Taylor Swift is definitely part Ingénue. Kylie Minogue too. I think Kylie is Romantic Ingénue, hence she’s cheekier and sexier. Birdy is another example, definitely Nat Ing. In terms of the kinds of clothes that suit Ingénues, generally soft shapes (rather than sharp which would suit a Dramatic). Ingénues typically benefit from waist definition. Anything too low cut (tops), too fitted (pencil skirts) or short (skirts) looks rather odd (too sexy). Ingénues need pretty detail. Lace is good for this. Pointelle, broderie anglaise, patterned chiffon, small or medium-sized floral print (depends on what suits you personally, scale-wise). Sparkle is good (keep it delicate), glitz / bling isn’t. Flats or low heels are good, anything high looks inappropriate. Ingénues are often associated with the Victorian era. Capes and capelets look great. Jewellery is often a big part of an Ingénue’s life! Pretty and delicate are essential keywords. Charms, marcasite (the detail), filigree, a little bit of glitter / sparkle. Plain just makes the (Ingénue) wearer look plain, both in clothing and jewellery. Frills, ruffles and tucks are pretty but mustn’t become too big otherwise you’re heading into Romantic territory.

      Does that help? Happy to write an article on the Nat Ing type if you’d like 🙂

  2. That was really helpful…thank you so much…
    We would love to hear more about the type you were given…

  3. Hmm this is so interesting! At the end of our colour session we were shown the style board – some were pointed out to be dramatic classics or classic dramatics (can’t remember the right way round, sorry!), another a natural classic and then I was the last one and everyone, esp the stylist/analyst pointed toward ingénue AND romantic. I really am intrigued now and would go to the style class in an instant if it wasn’t post Xmas & the bank balance being a little lower than I would like at the moment but at the mo I’m still sitting on the fence a bit regarding booking the style class. I’m not entirely confused/astounded; having a quick read around your blog (I like it so much I will probably have read every single entry by the end of the w/e, haha! 🙂 ) I can see that you are Deep Summer AND natural ingénue perfection, you have such a pretty femininity about you that seems so natural (even just from seeing the photos post analysis) it makes me think of Provence in late summer and lavender and anemone flowers (the ones that are more the Deep Summer shades! We had a Deep Summer at the class I took I must admit otherwise I probably wouldn’t be so au fait with the particular shades!) Now having a google around now home it does make sense to me the whole ingénue thing in (my interpretation!) the way I am attracted to or delight in pretty things, past boyfriends have often referred to this naïve innocence sort of schoolgirl-ness about me/my character (I was 24/25 then so definitely did not feel like I could be seen in that way!!!) AND the romantic bit does make sense in the way I have always coveted 1950s things, am often mesmerised by glamorous/alluring Hollywood/European actresses like Marilyn Monroe/Ava Gardner etc. AND I recognise that even though I am small in terms of body type I am really curvy. I always used to hate being an hourglass type shape as I wanted to wear the skinny jeans and whatever that my (probably gamine) friends were wearing themselves!). I just wonder how you work a style/clothing personality combination that is all about innocence and girly as well as ‘sexy’ and alluring? I suppose that’s why I do need a style day and will now try and prioritise saving for this in budget but in the meantime if you yourself have a better way of describing the Romantic Ingénue I’d be overjoyed to read it here! I am a Jewel (or was it Bright?) Winter so also wondering whether that can work with the cute ingénue ness – the magentas and electric blues and scarlets seem so “HELLO, look at meeee!” (Not necessarily in a bad way, mind. Just readjusting as hid in a lot of beige!)

  4. P.s. I realise you haven’t seen me in person so is a bit cheeky/challenging to ask you to elaborate on Romantic Ingénue as if it was jn relation to me! I know this is why I will still benefit going back to my stylist for the style day. I just wonder how ppl/stylists tend to describe the Romantic Ingénue in general – like also does one personality always tend to dominate more, perhaps? Is anyone just the one category? I guess Kylie is already a gd e.g. u’ve listed of R.I as I can see that there is a cute/cheeky sexiness to her and when she performs. Anyway apologies as I have now written a mini novella on your blog. Kind regards, Alia

    • Alia, I was so thrilled to read your comment! And I completely understand your eagerness to learn more. There’s more to a style day than the clothing personality aspect but it’s certainly a super exciting part. There are lots of gorgeous Romantic Ingénue Pinterest boards that are worth a look, I’d definitely recommend having a nose at those. In terms of how I understand it… Ingénue is youthful, child-like and innocent in terms of looks. The emphasis is on pretty rather than sexy. Full-on romantic is sexy, grown-up and more glamorous. You would think that the two couldn’t go together, but indeed they can (I have a friend who is a Romantic Ingénue, in fact). Romantic Ingénues in comparison to your bog-standard Ingénue need a little more glamour. They are the epitome of delicate sexiness. Fewer frills, more ruffles. A little glitz. Lower, softer necklaces. Higher heels (which don’t really work for this 5ft 10 Natural Ingénue ;-)) My Romantic Ingénue friend looks great with a slightly more glamorous, retro-inspired up-do, and rocks heels and a full skirt in a way that I just can’t. She looks great wearing multiple (pretty!) necklaces (the glitz) and her hair needs a bit of volume and movement (a wave / curl), as opposed to a poker-straight look which would suit a Dramatic more I imagine. For anyone, regardless of which clothing personalities they are, the trick is to get the balance right between the two (assuming you are assigned two, most people are). Personally I find if I go too Natural I look scruffy. If I go too Ingénue I feel very uncomfortable and silly. There is a pleasing balance, for me, of mixing the pretty with the practical. The challenge for the Romantic Ingénue is to look glamorous without being overtly sexy, to look innocent without looking naive. Is that helpful at all?

      I’d certainly recommend starting your own Pinterest style board and at the end of the style day you can come home and see how close you were! You’ll be pleased to know that the things we are instinctively drawn towards and love are usually the things that suit us best so no need to worry about it, just have fun with it.

      At the end of my colour day I looked at my consultant’s style board and was drawn towards the Romantic woman. I was sure I was going to be a Romantic in fact, being so tall and all. The thing that astounded me the most at the end of my style day (apart from turning out to be a Natural Ingénue) was that it was pretty darn hard to be impartial about how I saw myself. As fun as it was trying to figure myself out (and there’s nothing with doing that for fun) I couldn’t have figured it out on my own. I needed someone knowledgeable to see me with fresh eyes.

      Whilst you’re waiting for your style day you might like to have a read of David Zyla’s book, it’s good for a bit of (cheap) fun. I read it after my style day when I knew my clothing personality and enjoyed relating to the Sunset Summer archetype. I’d love to hear how you get on with your style day so if you feel like dropping me a line afterwards and letting me know what you are, I’d love that 🙂

  5. The only David Zyla book I can find is called ‘The Colour of Style’ – is that the one?

  6. I really only see info on Nat Ing and not much on Ing Nat. I recently had my style done and was told I’m an Ing Nat

    • Hi Anna! Technically I’m an Ing Nat too, but I think we all have a slightly different interpretation of it based on body shape, season and personality. My understanding is that the Ing Nat needs flowing, looser fitting clothes vs waist definition and/or something more fitted. Detail is important for both Nat Ing and Ing Nat, but scale can be bigger for the (Ing) Natural. Does that help at all? Would love to know what sort of content you’d like to see for Ing Nats specifically, if you have thoughts on that. What do you find you wear a lot of as an Ing Nat? Leggings are an important part of my wardrobe!

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