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Let’s talk all about how we can understand ‘Kibbe body typing’ through the lens of Body Geometry. I will use quotations for the image IDs since a lot of what I’m saying can sometimes (not always) be an impossibility in Kibbe’s system, and since I’m also referring to the image IDs very loosely, as we’ve come to know them online.
Building on Kibbe’s system, I’ve introduced the approach of using bone structure to determine the main McJimsey/Kibbe type, and then seeing how the physique alters the lines of the bone structure. I don’t use body type descriptions (such as “Theatrical Romantics” are narrow hourglasses), or, the feel of a body type (such as “Gamines” look childlike) how I sometimes see mentioned when discussing “Kibbe body typing”. Unlike Kibbe, I don’t use yin and yang.
Through the lens of Body Geometry, we can understand why the line recommendations are what they are, why you can be a curvy “Flamboyant Gamine” or “Flamboyant Natural”, a tall “Soft Gamine”, how there can be ‘in between types’, and how the body types test works (and doesn’t sometimes).
First, let’s reformulate the five main types into the five main bone structures, and I will use quotations, like I had mentioned, for the Kibbe image IDs that the five main bone structure types are associated with, because they aren’t equivalent, but rather, analogous. The five main bone structure types are Sharpened (“Dramatic”), Beveled (“Natural”), Blended (“Classic”), Rounded (“Romantic”), and Mixed (“Gamine”). Let’s also stress the three main physique and feature types—Taut/Firm, Moderate, and Soft. We will understand the line recommendations for these types without using yin and yang.
The reason I use the terms physique and features is because I am only referring to two aspects of the figure and facial features—the actual flesh on your arms, and how soft or taut it reads, and the cheeks. This is because it’s the flesh and cheeks that will soften the angles of your bone structure the most, and either make you look soft or firm, not necessarily your eyes, lips, or hourglass shape. Indeed, you can look very firm, and still have an hourglass shape (like Jennifer Love Hewitt) This is also why Body Geometry can be used as a complement to all kinds of other body typing methods (vertical proportions, apple, pear, etc), and it can also be used as a complement to essence.
It’s Jennifer Love Hewitt’s taut cheeks and firm physique (despite being an hourglass shape and very curvy) that I believe make her look so perfect in ‘Flamboyant Gamine’ lines (she is Mixed-Taut), and she is Kibbe-verified FG. This is the same reason why, Jennifer Lawrence, who is a bit more curvy (perhaps a moderate hourglass), is also “Flamboyant Natural” (she is Beveled-Sharpened-Taut). I use Taut and Firm interchangeably because they affect the lines of the bone structure in the same way.
As the physique and features lay on the bone structure, they can sometimes transform the initial lines that the bone structure creates. If the physique is taut or firm, it’s very simple—we can see the lines and angles of the bone structure clearly, and the lines the bone structure calls for remain the same. This means that Sharpened will still look great in long clean and angular silhouettes, Blended will still look great in smooth clean silhouettes, Mixed will look harmonious in a mixture of opposite lines, and Rounded will be flattered by, still, Rounded (“Romantic”) lines, even if all of them have a taut or firm physique.
I believe this is why Mila Kunis, “Theatrical Romantic” still looks great in ‘TR lines’ even though she has a straight figure. When the taut/firm flesh lays on top of her bone structure, the bones are already primarily Rounded. So placing something taut on top of a rounded angle won’t make the angle sharper! Try taking a thin cloth (not a soft fluffy one), and place it over something rounded in shape. What happens to the shape? Nothing—it was rounded even without anything on it, so no matter what we put on it, it will remain rounded. Through the Body Geometry lens, this is why there is no “Soft Romantic” or “Soft Theatrical Romantic,” but there is a Soft Classic, Soft Natural, Soft Dramatic, and Soft Gamine.
With moderate physique, it can sometimes smooth sharper angles (as with Sharpened-Moderate—Cate Blanchett, to calibrate, Sharpened-Moderate is in between the analogs for “Dramatic” and “Soft Dramatic”). But a moderate physique won’t do much to change Blended line recommendations, because Blended already has smooth angles, so there’s nothing to smooth. A moderate physique on a Mixed bone structure will smooth some of the angles slightly, but since Mixed has some Rounded bones too, the effect isn’t significant. And Moderate on top of a Rounded bone structure does nothing also, for the same reason a taut physique on a Rounded bone structure does nothing—the bones are already Rounded, if you smooth that angle, you’ll only still see that it’s Rounded just like if you hadn’t smoothed it.
Finally, a soft physique will alter the lines of all the bone structures except for Rounded, because again, adding something soft on top of a Rounded angle, we knew it was rounded with or without the softness on top, so there is no change. This is why there’s no ‘Soft Romantic.’ But for all other types, a Soft physique softens the angles, and also shortens the lines slightly. The slight shortening effect is because when you soften a shape, you also make it look a little bit rounder, and making a shape rounder also makes it look shorter. For example, take a rectangle and a circle of the same height—the circle will look shorter. It’s a bit of an optical illusion. By the way, widening a shape will also make it look shorter. Try drawing some shapes for yourself to see these effects!
When we add a soft physique, you might notice a pattern in all the soft “Kibbe types”. We always add lightweight fabrics, intricacy or rounding of the lines, and brighter or softer colors. This softens the look and adds a bit of ‘weightlessness’. Adding a soft physique creates a sort of ‘plump’ effect, which will make the movement of the lines seem more ‘up and light’ than ‘grounded’. Intricacy in antique jewelry or in a lacy fabric adds this kind of weightlessness and makes for a ‘light’ look rather than a ‘grounded’ one. Lightweight fabrics obviously look light, and bright colors also have more of an ‘up’ movement than the ‘grounded’ feel of deep neutrals. Through the Body Geometry lens, this is why the Soft “Kibbe body types” always alter their lines in this way.
But remember, we always add this lightness or softness on top of the already existing lines of the bone structure. So Beveled|Soft (“Soft Natural”), takes their base, which is some longer and looser lines, and they will add, because of their softness, some intricacy, some lightweight fabrics, tapering (this creates some rounder lines because tapering at the hemline or cuffs will look more round than a straight untapered cuff or hemline) and some brighter colors. But again, we add this to their long lines and loose silhouette that is determined by their Beveled bone structure. Blended|Soft (“Soft Classic”) will take their Blended bone structure line recommendations, and do the same thing, so they will have clean lines, symmetry, and also, adding the softness, some tapering, lightweight fabrics, lighter or brighter colors, and intricacy—we can see “Soft Classic” line this way through Body Geometry.
We can do this for all the body types, thinking of it as an initial bone structure, and then seeing the effect the physique has on those initial lines that the bone structure creates. Notice that we aren’t using yin and yang as Kibbe had originally formulated in his system, and we also aren’t using essence or a ‘feel’ for the body types as some others have suggested. Additionally, we aren’t using body type descriptions (such as a “Theatrical Romantic” being a narrow hourglass, again I’m using quotations because I’m talking generally about the image ID). Indeed, Mila Kunis has a straight figure but she is a Kibbe-verified Theatrical Romantic, so we don’t use body type descriptions. We are only using the lines of the body to determine the lines of the silhouette.
Knowing which line recommendations come from the bone structure, and which ones come from the physique allows us to understand ‘in between types’. For example, Sally Field is in between Mixed|Soft and Blended|Soft (in between “Soft Gamine” and “Soft Classic”, but she’s a verified Soft Gamine), so she would, in practice, wear something I would call ‘understated “Soft Gamine” lines’. Some other in between types are Jackie Kennedy (in between “Natural” and “Classic”, Blended-Beveled|Moderate, Kibbe-verified Dramatic Classic), who looks amazing with a symmetrical look, relatively clean lines, but a touch looser than the average Blended type to bring in some of her Beveled influence. Others are Jessica Chastain (in between Soft Natural and Soft Classic, Blended-Beveled|Soft), Cate Blanchett (in between Dramatic and Soft Dramatic, Sharpened|Moderate, Kibbe verified Dramatic), and Brigitte Bardot (in between Soft Natural and Soft Gamine, Mixed-Beveled|Soft).
Now let’s think about the body types test. Someone can say that they have 7 D+E and 8 A+B, and they can be either “Flamboyant Gamine” or “Soft Dramatic” based on where their answers come from. In that sense, the body types test “doesn’t work” because FG and SD are practically opposite in their line recommendations. But if we reformulate and take another look, we can see that “Flamboyant Gamine” is actually the analog of Mixed|Taut—they have a Mixed bone structure (from the test, taking only the questions about facial bones and skeleton), and either taut cheeks and flesh, or both (also from the test), and we should omit the questions for eyes, lips, overall shape, bust line, hipline, and waistline. Sharpened|Soft (“Soft Dramatic”) could have the same count on the test as our Mixed-Taut person, but the placement of the A+B and D+E would be different. Sharpened|Soft would have a sharpened bone structure with soft physique and flesh. This is more or less consistent with the yin and yang placement descriptions of the body types from Metamorphosis.
Let’s take a few more body types test examples. Hayden Panettiere would be Mixed-Taut in Body Geometry because she has a Mixed bone structure, and a firm physique. She could be “Soft Gamine” if we use the original body types test, however I would place her in the analog for “Flamboyant Gamine” which is Mixed|Taut. What if you have 50% D+E and 50% C answers? In that case, it doesn’t tell us anything once again. You could either be Blended|Soft (with your C answers coming from your bone structure), or you could be Rounded, with your C answers coming from your flesh and features (and therefore your D+E answers coming from your bone structure, making you a Rounded type). Prioritizing the bone structure gives us much more information and an accurate placement into the most harmonious lines.
But does the new ‘body types test’ work every time! Not really. I have always said, and always will say, the real test is the lines. Especially in Body Geometry. For example, the body types test in the way I’ve formulated doesn’t work on Charlize Theron (no system is perfect! I would place her into the lines for Beveled|Soft). Other times, even using only the bone structure questions, the D+E answers won’t be rounded enough for example to offset how angular the A+B answers are. There are levels to which a certain feature is short, rounded, long, or angular. So the count alone could be a tiny bit misleading, but it will lead you into the vicinity of your type pretty well.
Let’s take a detour and discuss the idea of the ‘tall Soft Gamine,’ an impossibility in Kibbe’s system--Gamines have short lines because they’re short. I’ve seen Lily Cole be used as an example for a need for something else, that ‘je ne sais quoi’—essence. She has an ethereal-ingenue essence, and that’s why she looks good in certain things. I completely agree—she does have an ethereal-ingenue essence, and she does look good in those styles. But just like Body Geometry can be used as a complement to other body typing systems, it can also be used as a complement to essence. Essence doesn’t replace Body Geometry, and Body Geometry doesn’t replace essence. I would place Lily Cole into Mixed|Soft (the analog of “Soft Gamine”). With Kibbe, Gamines have short lines because they’re short, but with Body Geometry, the Mixed type has short lines because the lines are interrupted by a mixture of opposites. The eye follows the bone structure and sees rounded-sharp-short-long, instead of one long line of sharp-sharp-sharp-sharp. This interruption causes a breaking in the lines. Another example of a tall Mixed type is Adut Akech (although I can see her taking influences from Sharpened, so perhaps she is Mixed-Sharpened, tying in a few line breaks, fittedness, and at the same time, some longer lines really suit her, provided that there’s fittedness, and open necklines tend to drag her down).
I’ve seen a pretty good argument that tall “Gamines” (Mixed) types still can’t have long lines, and that tall people can’t wear Mixed lines well, despite the interruption in their lines because they have the length of their limbs, and their long vertical line, and having those long lines implies longer lines to their silhouette because these elongated features take precedent. I would say if there is enough length to their limbs and vertical line, this plays a role, as it does with Adut Akech. Some of these tal Mixed types in this case would take some influence from Sharpened, and while it’s flattering for them to include some longer lines, it’s also a good idea for them to incorporate higher necklines, and fittedness to frame some of that interruption in the line breaks in their silhouette.
Now, let’s take a look at where the line recommendations come from, without yin and yang, starting with “Dramatic.” The Sharpened bone structure has long bones, so they have longer lines, they have angular bones, so they have some angles to their lines. They also have smooth fabrics that fall cleanly because we want to create that long clean line. Because Sharpened has angular bones, we want to avoid a flowy look to the hair, and instead go for a more angular look. So hair lengths that aren’t too short (a bob and longer since we don’t want short lines) in an angular cut are best, but so long as the hair can maintain an angular look (this is why longer hair isn’t recommended).
We can also understand the line recommendations for “Natural” without introducing yin and yang. The Beveled bone structure has wide and long bones, so they have wide (loose) and long lines, but they have beveled angles, which are echoed by the folds in the fabric of their loose silhouette. You can also think of a beveled angle as nothing more than a wide sharp angle (here is a sharp angle, using two long straight lines /\, and if we widen it, we get a beveled angle / \). The texture that’s recommended for Beveled also creates those Beveled shapes, some beveled angles to the textured or nubby fabrics. The tousled hair creates beveled angles, and the volume to the hair creates width to echo the width of the bones, while the length of the hair echoes the long lines of the Beveled bone structure.
Once again, without yin and yang, we can take a look at the ‘Classic’ line recommendations. The Blended type has moderate length bones, and smooth angles, so this absence of angles or roundedness implies simplicity, symmetry, moderate length lines, no severe line breaks, and a smooth silhouette. Because they don’t have any of those beveled angles, and they have smooth angles, we also want a smooth surface to their fabrics and textures. Their hair also has a smooth outline to echo their smooth angles, and moderate length to echo their moderate length bones.
Let’s move on to “Romantic” line recommendations, once again, without yin and yang. Rounded has short and rounded bones, so we would want tapering (to create rounded lines), waist definition (which creates a rounded line at the waist instead of a straight line), lightweight fabrics will fall to go with the rounded shapes of the bone structure instead of laying stiffly and creating angles that aren’t there and therefore reading as disharmonious. Hair has small rounded shapes because the Rounded bones are short and rounded (and short bones are small). Short lines also match the shorter bones. We also want some fittedness, provided that the fabric can still fall in curved lines, because the bones are small and we don’t want to drown them. I often see Beveled|Soft (“Soft Natural”) lines mistaken for Rounded (“Romantic”) lines. A flowy maxi dress would be Beveled, not Rounded.
Finally, let’s do “Gamine” line recommendations without yin and yang. Mixed has a mixture of opposites so we want an interruption of the lines. If Mixed wears an oversized outfit, we won’t see this mixture of opposites because the rounded lines will be completely drowned and invisible, but at the same time, we can also somehow see that the Mixed bone structure can’t handle oversized looks. So we want to fit the mixture of opposites and define it. The mixture of opposites also implies line breaks to create shorter lines, and it calls for a dynamic look (that dynamic mixture of opposites), so we can introduce some dynamic animated patterns to echo this. Fittedness implies fittedness at the cuffs, hemlines, and neckline, and a fitted neckline is a high neckline! Shorter lines imply short hair—a pixie cut. But Mixed can also look good with long hair, provided that the hair has a lot of lift, since their lines have that upward light movement.
And wrapping up the ideas, we can also see, without yin and yang, how a taut, moderate, or soft physique changes the lines of the bone structure like I had discussed already. This is how I’ve come to see body typing through my work.
Writing this, I felt the post was more complicated than I envision the body types. In my mind, body typing has really become very simple—there are five main bone structure types—they determine the underlying lines of the body, and on top of them, there’s the physique. However, even though Body Geometry is simple, explaining it as it relates to ‘Kibbe body typing’ isn’t simple because it’s a completely different lens through which to see it. It’s similar to trying to explain Artistic License (my color analysis approach) through the lens of another color analysis system—no matter how good the other system is, or how clear I can be, it’s still an inherently confusing way to explain something. Or, if you like math, changing a coordinate system from Cartesian to polar, and always pausing to refer to how the changed coordinate relates to the other one. It would be confusing! And indeed, people change coordinate systems because they find the problem more intuitive and easier to solve in another coordinate system. I find it easier to think of the body types in this way.
In the future, I hope to make more content on Body Geometry directly as opposed to in comparison, although sometimes it may still be helpful to refer to the ‘Kibbe body types’ or any other systems where it would help people to connect ideas. My hope is that Body Geometry will be so intuitive that the words Beveled, Sharpened, Blended, Rounded, and Mixed will be as ubiquitous as apple, pear, and hourglass. This is why I’m so happy to see anyone and everyone (even other stylists) using these terms—you are more than welcome to. I believe this is knowledge that everyone should have when they’re dressing themselves, and it’s not beyond anyone to grasp or understand. Remember before we found the body types however we found them, it was like the Dark Ages….would I look good with a pixie cut? Who knows! Now it’s less mysterious. I hope everyone can have access to this information because it’s truly so revolutionary. Imagine walking into a store, and the associate says, “oh you’re Mixed! Take a look at these pretty things to wear!” Just like they would say, ‘oh you’re warm! Try this warm red lipstick!’
I’m looking forward to reading your comments. <3!
CommentsMarianne (4 weeks ago) (Reply)
This feels like the introduction chapter to Body Geometry, it's an important first step, although probably not the more exciting to write for you I guess.
I'm looking forwards for the next post which should dive deeper.
So the Body system type would be:
Sharpened bones + taut/firm flesh (Kibbe's Dramatic)
Sharpened bones + moderate flesh (Cate Blanchett, who would fall under Dramatic following Kibbe, but doesn't quite fit)
Sharpened bones + soft flesh (Kibbe's Soft Dramatic)
Beveled bones + taut/firm flesh (Kibbe's Flamboyant Natural)
Beveled bones + moderate flesh (Kibbe's Natural)
Beveled bones + soft flesh (Kibbe's Soft Natural)
Blended bones + taut/firm flesh (Kibbe's Dramatic Classic)
Blended bones + moderate flesh (Kibbe's Classic)
Blended bones + soft flesh (Kibbe's Soft Classic)
Rounded bones + taut/firm flesh (Kibbe's Theatrical Romantic)
Rounded bones + moderate flesh (which would fall under Kibbe's Romantic)
Rounded bones + soft flesh (which would also fall under Kibbe's Romantic)
Mixed bones + taut/firm flesh (Kibbe's Flamboyant Gamine)
Mixed bones + moderate flesh (Kibbe's Gamine)
Mixed bones + soft flesh (Kibbe's Soft Gamine)
Putting Rounded|Moderate and Rounded|Soft together, there may be some nuance which would fit best one, but not the other. Although probably not enough to make a separated set of recommandations, but still, I would keep the possibility in mind.
The one category which I'm not sure is well served under your system is athletic women. Do they fall under taut/firm flesh? Under soft flesh? I have seen athlete galas and some of these women are struggling.
Would you try to do a Selena Williams analysis?
Anonymous (3 months ago) (Reply)
I truly appreciate and enjoy your effort and incredible work and thoughtfulness you put into your content. However, I can't agree on a hypothesis that height is not important for the body lines/type of clothing that looks good on us, although I'm not Kibbe enthusiast neither, since his system caters mostly to petite people like himself and his wife, allowing them to have an 'appearance of vertical line' long enough to fit into any
body image type, whilst taller people are squeezed into 3 types basically. We are dressing our body, not our face which can match our body type or not. Carefully styling our best lines and our make up/hair, we can achieve harmony with our essence and face, or pull off disharmony which can be also interesting and aesthetically appealing if that is who we are and how we want to present ourselves. Photos are not real life. Movement, angle, light can be very, very deceiving. Cherry picking images can lead to very wrong conclusions. Speaking of which, both Taylor Swift and Lily Cole were not wearing wrong lines for their body type on images you've chosen as an illustration in your videos, they were wearing wrong pieces. Actually, with right items, they are both rocking tailored suits which would suit fabulously tall/yang bone structure types like SD, D and FN. Their soft faces look great in them as well.
Arielle (3 months ago) (Reply)
This is great, Merriam! I have always loved how analytical you are about body shapes and geometry. So much of the other content available on it from others (youtube, reddit, facebook, pinterest, etc) is focused on "vibe" and ends up recommending shapes that are, truly, not harmonious with the lines of the type they recommend for. Or, there's this idea that "David Kibbe said it was this way, so it is". But if body types follow any kind of pattern, that means they can be analyzed and multiple individuals that have analyzed it can comment on it in a thoughtful way! So, thank you for providing that analysis and clarity.
Anonymous (3 months ago) (Reply)
This is filling so many flaws in the Kibbe System and so successfully separating Shapes/Lines from Essence/Personality. More people would benefit from learning your typology. Hope to see more content on Body Geometry! Great thoughts and post!
RitabugClub member(3 months ago) (Reply)
Great post! I totally agree with your method. I have a very hard time viewing my body without taking flesh into account though. I loved before when you drew the kibbe body types and the teddy bears. Would you please please please do it again with skeletons and use your system this time? I have such a hard time visiualizing what about a skeleton reads as narrow, blunt, etc. Other than I can imagine a narrower rib cage vs. a wide one.
Grace (3 months ago) (Reply)
Thank you for your blog and vlog videos I think body geometry is great. One of the things I have noticed is also the varying degree of softness in the flesh. I am soft dramatic but the softness in my flesh comes mostly from my chest and a bit my hips/thighs but not in my arms. A bit like Sofia Vergara. You mentioned in a video about this varying degree of softness of size in arms by how much they work out but I know for myself no matter how much I work out the are still slender. I wonder if you have any thoughts on this.
Alesa (3 months ago) (Reply)
Hi Merriam, I just love how clever you are! Thank you for sharing this wonderful information. It very much compliments the consult I had with you. Finding my Sharpened & Soft lines in the shops here in Australia, yet alone in my colours and the right fabric texture, is tricky. Some clothes seem to be such a strange mix of random lines and fabric textures that I wonder if they would work for anyone at all haha... But no more will these pieces ever again get near my closet :) I wholeheartedly share your vision of designers and SA's that are informed about this Xxx
Anonymous (3 months ago) (Reply)
Amazingly detailed, yet simple and intuitive insight! Great work as always! :-)
Marisa (3 months ago) (Reply)
Yes, Merriam, yes! Thank you for this beautiful and thorough description. I recently found your Youtube channel--and have been binge-watching/ re-watching all your content. Body Geometry and Artistic License make SO much sense to me. I figured out I have mixed/soft lines with warm/delicate coloring. I'm 38yrs old--and have struggled so long--what a relief to finally have this clarity! Last week I did a massive closet purge. And with what I kept--I took needle/ thread and tailored some hemlines. I also kept my favorite basic tees--with good lines--but disharmonious colors (optic white, blue-gray, etc)--so I trotted off to my local art store and bought some fabric dyes--and transmuted all my shirts into ivory, peach, beige, champaign, light cream, etc--SO delightful! Then I practiced online window shopping--which used to be so overwhelming--but armed with my new self-knowledge, I effortlessly and enjoyably skimmed through hundreds of items--quickly discerning my matches. And oh--did I mention that last week I also got my hair cut into a long/ choppy bob? It hasn't been this short since gradeschool--but it just feels/looks right for. So I guess I'm just saying--I'm already a living testament to the fact that these systems remove the "mystery" of how to dress myself--so that my innate "mystique" can simply shine through:))Thank you, thank you.
Anonymous (3 months ago) (Reply)
In my case I had a really hard time figuring out I’m blended. I do miss a better explanation about what makes a blended bone structure. Smooth angles Is the best description I’ve heard so far. I also prefer the term blended over balanced or moderate.
My bones are really narrow it doesn’t really read as “moderate” or “balanced” to me, which are words they like to use for classics. I feel like I hardly see anyone else around me I can compare myself too. I feel like there’s nothing moderate about my shape. I’m a narrow hourglass. Most of my bones are a mixture between A and D, with two actual A answers in addition (arms/legs and cheekbones). I can’t tell if my bones are big or small, they are just really narrow so I had a hard time coming up with answers for the kibbe test. In my case the lines speak for themselves.
I’ve tried interpreting my bones in multiple ways in the quiz so I’d be SD, SG or TR, I’m closest to a SC I think, but that doesn’t accommodate for the slight sharpness I have. I like this system better than kibbe and I hope it catches on.
Anonymous (3 months ago) (Reply)
The body geometry system has been so helpful to me, I'm looking forward to seeing more content about it!
Anonymous (3 months ago) (Reply)
I love written posts and this one was great! Explanations like these are needed. It would be great if you could do a livestream so we could have more of a "chat" with you :)
Yvonne (3 months ago) (Reply)
Body geometry is deepening my understanding of the lines of the body. I now understand why thicker materials like flannel, corduroy and denim (with no stretch) on the lower half of my body - bevelled (I think) with softness -emphasises my short legs and makes me look wide. The upper half of my body is sharp and a bit more taut/firm and is flattered by medium to thicker fabrics. Very lightweight fabrics on my upper half emphasises my slightly sharp shoulders and is unflattering over my bust but the same lightweight fabric falls beautifully over my lower half. Knowing this certainly helps with clothes shopping, as does the knowledge I have gained from your videos about colour. I now know I am warm and muted. Keep up your great work Merriam!