I came across Merriam‘s work through her clarifying videos where she shares powerful and insightful tips in understanding Kibbe’s analysis of the body and how to use it to benefit our style and image. The tips provided by Merriam are a wonderful guideline for people who may be confused or uncertain about what flatters their body the most or about what kind of style do they feel more comfortable in. It was also thanks to one of Merriam’s videos that I came across Teal Swan’s work!
In this interview, we’re going to discover what has lead Merriam into this particular line of work and what motivates her when it comes to body analysis and color combination. We’ll also understand better how style has an impact in our overall wellbeing as we have mentioned before when Skin at Heart interviewed Personal Stylist Deborah Ferrari some time ago.
1 – How was your passion for personal style born?
I’ve been interested in it ever since I could remember, but I would say my passion for style was born from my love for painting, and from my relationship with my mom. When I was little, my mom would draw princesses with me, and she is also talented in sewing and clothing design. Basically since I was three, drawing and art were my favorite activities that I could do for hours. Then I got into painting when I was around eight or nine years old, and fell in love with that.
I painted all the time, and my favorite subject matter to paint was women of all kinds. I don’t know exactly why, but I was drawn to the lines of the body, and how they flow into each other. I then became interested in abstract paintings of feminine forms as a representation of different feelings and states. At the time, I didn’t think that this was connected to my interest in style, but now I see that this kind of study really lends itself well to what I do now!
I became interested in color analysis about eight years ago, when I found that cool and muted colors were my best, despite societal expectations of olive skin tones always looking great in warm colors. I knew there was something there with color analysis, and I thought on it a lot, and was inevitably constructing my color analysis system, incorporating what I had learned about color over the years through painting, and always noting and studying which colors looked best on the people in my life.
Finally, I became interested in Kibbe maybe only three years ago when I first stumbled upon the concept. I was really excited about working with the lines of the body to create harmony, and also found that the system was absolutely amazing! I wanted to share what I had learned throughout the years about color and style, so I started my business as a style consultant!
2 – What distinguishes Kibbe’s body analyses from other methods? (What makes Kibbe’s method so complete and accurate?)
I could talk for hours on this! This is only my interpretation and understanding of Kibbe’s system, and I hope I do it justice. Kibbe’s system is opposite to a lot of other methods out there that strive to inevitably ‘fight’ against our own natural lines instead of elevating them and working with them to create harmony. Not only that, but most style advice doesn’t take into account the bone structure as well as the face to create an overall look. We only have advice for hourglass shapes, or pear shapes, and other shapes of that nature. But how about the angles and lines, and how about the bone structure? An hourglass shape can have more angular bones, shorter bones, longer bones, look taller, or shorter–these are all important factors when considering the lines that we wear.
I also interpret Kibbe’s system as a set of lines for a body type, and not a certain style. Any body type can achieve any look if they know how to use their own lines to create different effects. One item that may look fun on one body type can look quite elegant on another. It’s this personalization that makes me so interested in Kibbe’s theory!
3 – What’s the impact of the colors we choose in a look, in each person’s body tone and in a person’s mood?
Colors are an integral part of any look. A dress in black or red can look very different, and create a different look than that same dress in white or placid blue. It’s always wise to be mindful of the associations we have with colors as humans when we think about creating a certain look or feel. Color psychology is also an important factor. When we wear our own colors, we can feel more comfortable and confident, and also exude an air of self awareness. And other factors of color psychology can also be quite interesting–wearing the same color as our eyes may communicate trustworthiness, and wearing a color similar to our skin tone may communicate vulnerability and openness. These are all important factors to consider when we’re thinking about styling ourselves and how we want to create the look we’re going for.
Just like with lines, and how one item can look very different on two different body types, the same color can look very different on different people. A color that may look very bright on one person may look quite muted and soft on another because color can be relative.
Finally, incorporating colors we love is an art. It’s so important to love the colors we wear because how we feel about our look can impact our mood. But self awareness about how colors look on us is also important for feeling like our colors are working with us instead of against us. We may love a bright yellow on our friend, but on us, it may not look the same way. Still, with knowledge of color analysis and color theory, we can incorporate all of our favorite colors into a look.
4 – What are the main general tips when it comes to personal style that you as an expert could give based on your experience with your clients?
Here’s my message: please stop copying instagrammers and celebrities! Likely, their looks won’t look the same on you, and won’t create the image that you’re going for because of the different effects that lines and colors have on different people. I would recommend to instead focus on keywords and concepts that you want to communicate through your personal style. Is your personal style ‘fun, edgy, and sophisticated’, ‘badass and serious’, or ‘flirty and elegant’? Whatever your personal expression is, focus on that! If you see a person whose style you really love, ask yourself what you like about it–do you like that it’s casual chic? A casual chic outfit for you will be different from casual chic from your style inspiration!
After you have your concept of the style you’re going for, figure out your body type, and your undertone. These will be your tools! You can learn about your lines and colors from a lot of resources, and you can also experiment and take some photos of yourself in different looks. Photos are so important because I think we’ve all been there–we think something looks one way, and then when we see photos later, we realize this wasn’t what we were trying to express. Research your lines and colors, and experiment with how they look on you personally!
To further your ‘study’ of lines, you can find a celebrity who has your body type, and study the effects that different lines have on them. This is completely different from blindly copying a random celebrity. Since this celebrity that you’d choose has the same body type as you, they have the same ‘tools’, the same ‘lines’ at their disposal. Now let’s say you’re going for an elegant look. Find some images of this celebrity looking elegant–see what lines do this for them. A high neckline can look elegant and sophisticated on a Gamine body type, and quite stuffy on a Natural body type. Likewise, a draped look can be very elegant on a Natural, but look a bit sloppy on a Gamine. Study these effects, and experiment with them in your own looks!
5 – What’s the impact of personal style in our overall wellbeing? (How come the way we dress has such an impact in our attitude and the way we behave throughout the day?) Since we are spiritual beings having a physical experience, in what way is our expression through personal style important?
I’m so happy you asked this! Our personal style is an expression of who we are. Some may say, ‘well they’re just clothes, and it’s shallow to care about how we look’. I don’t think this is the case. Our body is where we live, and no one calls it shallow to want to live in a space that’s aesthetically pleasing, inspiring, and consistent with who we are. Any steps that we take toward creating this are worthwhile. In some ways, I see personal style as decorating a space into how we want it to be so we can do our best work, and be our best selves. We do live in our bodies after all, no matter how you think of it spiritually (either our soul if you’re religious, our spirit if you’re more into general spirituality, or our brain if you’re a complete atheist…..whoever we ‘are’, we live in our external body).
But in some ways, it’s even deeper than that. When we care for our space and our bodies from a place of self love, we feel empowered and confident. And when our personal style is an expression of who we are, we can feel a sense of alignment between our inner and outer being. This kind of alignment is so important from how we dress ourselves, to the way we act and behave, all the way to how we ultimately choose to live our lives. Personal style is a one piece of the puzzle. For some, it can even be a first step. It’s a practice of figuring out who we are, how we want to express ourselves, and who we want to be in the world.
Finally, since what I’ve just said seems a bit fluffy… It’s important to note that not everyone is born into a life where they can simply ‘choose’ who they want to be in the world. Most of us aren’t. My personal philosophy is to honor ourselves. We are all unique in our circumstances, our bodies, our personalities, and our preferences. I’ve found that living with a sense of pride in who we are and what we have can foster a sense of personal fulfillment. How does this even relate to style? When we put care into how we present ourselves from a place of self acceptance and dignity, it can change our entire attitude toward ourselves and the people around us. When we show up with an intentional attitude of care, I believe it sends a message to our inner being that we are worth the time and the energy.
This might be why so many people feel it’s so important to their moods to they look their personal best. It’s this magic combination of self-care, self-acceptance, dignity, and alignment between our inner and outer beings! Even though style is just one aspect of our lives, it’s not everything….still, getting dressed is the first thing we do in the morning, and sets the attitude and tone for our entire day, and our lives are a collection of our days.