In Shopping for the Real You I describe multiple ways to help you determine your individual style, based on seven basic archetypes and their combinations. The amount of each archetype expressed through your personality, features, and body type creates an overall picture of your unique style.
One of the rarest of these archetypes is the Angelic type. More than 60 years ago Grace Margaret Morton, head of the Textiles and Clothing Department of the University of Nebraska, identified the first six style types. But it was John Kitchener of Personal Style Counselor, my mentor and the current Director of PSC, who identified and codified the Angelic style archetype in the 1980s.
Angelic style, the most of all seven, is on the opposite end of the spectrum from the very yang Dramatic archetype. Angelic types are individuals who might have lidded eyes, are generally fairly tall, and something about them says, “wispiness.” I asked John about how he came up with it.
“I kept uncovering an imbalance in the PSC system,” he said. John was concerned that those with the most Yin qualities ended up being thrown in with the Youthful category.
“The Angelic idea had been percolating inside me for some time,” he said. “It wasn’t until I was on leave from PSC in Washington, DC (1987-89) that the Angelic Essence seemed like a reality. The designer Romeo Gigli was introducing ethereal-looking garments in layered chiffons that would later inspire works – even to this day – by Vera Wang and Eileen Fisher. When I layered these designs onto certain Angelic style type, such as Vanessa Redgrave and Darryl Hannah, the new Angelic style essence gelled easily.”
And thus was born the seventh style type: Angelic. Its addition to the PSC style analysis system created beautiful symmetry: Three yang types, three yin types, and Classic in the middle.
What makes the Angelic type interesting is that in their waif-like qualities they express their own kind of drama: you can’t look away from them. They are uniquely mesmerizing. But if you spoke with a quintessential Angelic type you’d probably learn that being mesmerizing is something they don’t care to be. They are, after all – rather unearthly.
John describes three quintessential contemporary Angelic types in the public eye: Darryl Hannah, Tilda Swinton and Cate Blanchett. In Darryl Hannah’s case she is tall and sensuous (which means she does, in fact have some of both the Dramatic and Romantic style essence) but her overall persona is more like the mermaid she played in Splash – fragile, vulnerable, and other-worldly. It was recently revealed that as a child she was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. All that adds up to describe an individual who is not as grounded in the fast-paced Western world as more yang types.
Such an archetype would most likely look out of place wearing something in a wildly bold, dramatic pattern, or a stiff suit, funky overalls, or a heavy black coat – except, of course, on the runway. Many models have a good amount of “Angelic” in their style. Their very malleability makes them perfect for designers as they seem to get out of the way of the clothes they are wearing.
But generally, it’s something of a challenge for Angelic types to find themselves reflected in popular fashion because they are somewhat rare. Designers make a living, after all, by creating fashion for as many customers as possible, not for the rare.
Those who have a good deal of the Angelic style type certainly don’t always have to wear floating, diaphanous or sparkling fabrics and styles, but at least some part of their ensemble should be soft, or shimmer or move gently. If you have a significant percentage of Angelic/Ethereal in your own features and personality, you may find that you already have incorporated many of those elements in your wardrobe. If you haven’t, give them a try. You’ll probably have an “aha” moment.
When I had my own style analyzed by John he explained that I have about 5% of the Angelicstyle type. Everything else in my features, coloring, and style is pretty much evenly distributed between the Natural, Classic and High Spirited style Essences.
“How can I translate that little amount of Angelic into my wardrobe?” I asked John.
“Shoelaces,” he laughed.
Here’s to the Real You!