Just Put Your Lips Together and Blow: Sex Appeal for the 10 Archetypes
“I think- and I’m sure all switched on girls will agree with me- that sex appeal has absolutely Number One priority.” - Mary Quant
Mary Quant is one of my all-time favorite (and I think most underrated) designers. Still, I admit, the first time I read this quote, I nearly threw her book across the room. Anything that gets you that riled up is worth thinking about, and so I have, and in doing so have come to more or less agree, though perhaps for different reasons (who can say?).
When I met Christine, or even perhaps before when I started reading her work, I started to become aware through her discussion of color analysis of the importance of biological signals in getting dressed. These are important because they were handed down to us by evolution and they don’t need to be taught. We instinctively understand that if someone’s lips are purple and their face very pale, they are probably very cold or perhaps have lost blood. Conversely a person whose face is very sallow might have a fever or be about to be sick to their stomach. Nature tuned us into what to another species would surely be very subtle differences in appearance for one very simple reason- survival. And while most likely if you are reading this, you will surely be enjoying life in the developed world away from the constant burden of continuing to exist, your mind is still wired to interpret these signals the same way.
Each member of a species has two main jobs to ensure survival. 1. As much as possible, stay alive as an individual, and 2. Procreate. In the language of biology, sex (and also when, where, how, and with whom) is not so much a moral issue as just a fact. It is in our DNA to define an adult human in his or her prime as one who is capable of procreation. Notice I did not say necessarily willing, or available at any time, but just capable. Also worthy of note that women are as aware of these signals as men, albeit maybe slightly less intensely. In modern societies, much of this is communicated through clothing choice (as well as makeup and hair).
There are two kinds of species members who are not in the aforementioned category- those who are too young, and those who are too old. I’ve already spoken about projecting an overly young impression on my blog. On the other side of the coin, if we dress in a way that says “I’m done with sex forever” that might read on a very instinctual level as “I’m out to pasture”.
I’m of the opinion that understanding that sex appeal is an important part of a healthy adult appearance doesn’t mean we need to parade our body parts around at all times. Clearly that would not be practical or appropriate. What I would suggest instead, is that in order to maintain sex appeal, we need to have two basic goals, dressing our body shape to best effect, and exuding the type of psychological allure which is natural and believable for each particular woman (and man, but they’re not readers here).
Dressing the body shape to best effect is the subject of probably hundreds of books, blog posts, & etc. and the primary goal of most style systems. The best approach is a subject of debate, but in my experience, the central tenet should be “go with what you’ve got”. If you are long and lean, wear long and lean style, and if you are short and curvy, wear short and curvy styles, for example. I do not suggest trying to create optical illusions with your clothing to convince onlookers that your body is something other than what it is, for the very simple reason that it doesn’t work. We can all see you, and to think otherwise is to suffer from an unproductive delusion. The only significant change you can make to your perceived body shape with clothing is to add bulk, by way of piling on excess fabric. Often this is done unwittingly with the intention of “covering up” an area the woman believes is a problem, but whether or not we agree about the area in question, this strategy typically has the opposite effect intended. Pile fabric onto your large rear, and I promise you it will look larger. Following this strategy requires a good working knowledge of one’s own body, which is not something I can impart to you here, though many readers will have discussed this matter more in detail with me at their PIA.
As for the second goal, just knowing your image archetype is one of the most powerful things you can do to understand your own allure. It’s something that is very hard to see on our own, as we are each a picture that is forever inside our own frame. It may seem that some IAs have more sex appeal than others, but that just isn’t so. The incredibly creative human mind can experience desire from an infinitely diverse pool of motivations. This is contrary to the image painted by modern media of a very shallow pool of limited desire-inducing qualities that are virtually impossible to achieve (especially all at once). Certainly Hollywood studios of the past were not perfect in that regard, but I find a lot of inspiration there in explaining the appeal of each of the archetypes.
For instance, whenever I think of the appeal of a Dramatic type, I can’t help but think of Lauren Bacall. In her best roles, she was mysterious, dangerous, and powerful. When commenters talk about her, they describe her as a “woman who knew what she wanted and exactly how to get it”. We are at her mercy, playing by her rules, and nobody said she would play nice. Watch her here, and see if you can pick up the relationship between the lines she’s saying and her physical presence: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kv2K62fTXIs
Nothing about her is softened, and every bit softer we could try to make her would be less and less sexy, because that isn’t her kind of appeal. Often the Yin Dramatic has the mistaken impression that she is sort of a large scale Romantic. While it is true that she will also blend in some of the appeal of the Romantic, she is first and foremost a Dramatic type and will need to express the same thrilling boldness in order to invoke her kind of desirability.
Natural types have an appeal which is most definitely centered in the body, what might be called sensuality. It may not be necessary to show the body (though it often feels very normal and not at all risque or tawdry when they do), but we must feel a sense of freedom around the body of a Natural. Like the Dramatic types, the yang quality of their appeal is more outward moving (charisma) than inward moving (magnetism), but it’s definitely softer, lacking the red alert of the Dramatic. Naturals are approachable, yet still unhindered by maintaining the status quo. Demonstrated by Jane Fonda here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7euiG3tT2R8 Like Lauren above, she’s in control of the situation, but it’s light, playful even, certainly not dangerous. We’ve come off of the knife’s edge and we can let our guard down. The feeling is happy and relaxed, and she feels like someone we could know. That kind of openness to connection is precisely the Natural’s appeal.
The Classic is not effective at conveying the kind of overt sex appeal that comes from showing the body, and consequently they are often perceived as just not being sexy. Watch Grace Kelly here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsBXV8i_ZLM Christine may have summarized the appeal best when she said "you have to earn it". The obvious ways of creating sex appeal look cheap next to her. On the other hand saying "by appointment only" is different than saying "closed for business". Classic is the language of wealth. In the clip above, Grace conveys that in under two minutes, and is able to do so because the message from her physicality, her manner, and her dress align. Men (or anyone) will want her because being with her is aspirational and exclusive, like belonging to one of those country clubs where you have to wait for someone to die and then really impress a bunch of people just for the privilege of paying 5 figures a year to belong.
Like the Classic type, Gamine woman often feel themselves ill at ease in the kind of magazine-sexy clothes that center around being very revealing. Her appeal is much more kittenish, like a game of cat and mouse that goes on forever. No one does kittenish better than Audrey, of course. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Wd2aS7pegE Hopefully you can imagine how a neckline cut down to there would only be a distraction from what’s really so enchanting - her youthful aura, and air of cheeky rebellion. Being around the Gamine woman is exciting and inspiring because of her electric energy and irreverence. Her appeal is “catch me if you can”, and we inevitably want to.
Finally, the Romantic. It seems almost redundant to talk about what her kind of sex appeal is, and the focus here with clients tends to be more on how she avoids being nothing more than that. In her case what’s important is to balance her sex appeal with softness. Watch Marilyn here, there’s no denying she is sexy, but it’s not because she’s forcing it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWwSEM5lI-U The Romantic diminishes her appeal with sharpness as much as the Dramatic does with softness. At best it will feel strict and at worst tawdry. Simply dressing to flatter her figure is sufficient.
When looking at movie characters for reference, it is important to note that what we are trying to do is to capture that essence in clothing, not to be any one particular way as people. I have put together a catalog to demonstrate how to translate these concepts into clothing for each archetype. While we all contain multitudes and are many different things to many different people, we have only one physical body.