Before discussing Romantic, Ingenue, and Ethereal types in detail, I want to generally discuss what feminine means in the Style Identity system.
Let me start by being clear that feminine beauty is not the only type of beauty. Dramatics, Naturals, and Gamines all embody beauty that isn't traditionally feminine, but is powerful nonetheless. And Classics are beautiful with a femininity that is subtle and restrained.
Before continuing, I should also let you know that right after this paragraph is a picture of a sculpture of a naked woman. Art, as far as I'm concerned, but probably NSFW for some people.
Pause, pause, pause...
OK, let's dive in. :-)
Feminine Visual Beauty
When we look at another human, we perceive their physical characteristics and make a judgment about their gender almost instantaneously.
This is usually an unconscious process. When it's not unconscious and not immediate, it surprises us -- hence our fascination with androgynous people.
Humans are not as sexually dimorphic as many primates. Average visual differences between women and men are objectively small. A visitor from another planet might not notice the differences.
But we humans are exquisitely sensitive to them.
Which makes sense from an evolutionary perspective: if an animal can't easily tell who's a potential mate, that animal might not pass on her genes.
Here are many of the ways in which men and women, on average, visually differ.
Descriptors of the masculine and feminine style identities derive from these differences.
For example, because narrow-seeming eyes are more characteristic of men than of women, they characterize the masculine (or "yang") style identities.
Because narrow chins are more characteristic of women than of men, they characterize the feminine (or "yin") style identities.
And so on.
The curving line.
Perhaps the defining element of visual femininity -- what immediately and strongly reads as feminine -- is the curving line.
Curved lines read as feminine because, from head to toe, the average human female has more obvious curving lines than the average human male -- in the curved hip, in the breast, in the apparently rounder eye, in the apparently rounder face, in the fuller lip, and so on.
All of the feminine style identities are defined by curving lines.
But the type of curving line depends on the style identity. More on that soon.
Categorizing the visual feminine: Romantic is not the only type of feminine beauty.
The Romantic type, which is present in all style systems that I know of, is defined by lush, round curves and mature, womanly femininity.
In many systems, Romantic --also called Alluring, Sensuous, Soft, or Sexy -- is the only type of feminine beauty.
Systems who conceptualize Romantic as the only type of feminine beauty are flawed, though, because people can read as beautiful and distinctly feminine without reading as va-va-voom.
Romantic does seem to be the variety of feminine beauty that men mainly notice -- which might explain why it's the only kind of visual feminine in some systems created by men.
But I agree with John Kitchener and others who believe that visual femininity can be fairly divided into three subcategories.
Romantic, Ingenue, and Ethereal.
All people who are discernibly female have some amount of Romantic, Ethereal, or Ingenue. These are the the three feminine style identities.
A woman without any amount of any of these would appear as a man, or completely androgynous.
If someone visually reads as distinctly feminine, you're seeing a rather large portion of Ingenue, Romantic, or Ethereal.
But which is it?
My next posts will be more detailed individual explorations of Romantics, Ingenues, and Ethereals, in that order.
I know many of you are like
The good news is, they're already partially drafted. :-))
A fun way to gauge your relative amounts of masculine beauty (Dramatic, Natural, and Gamine) and feminine beauty (Romantic, Ingenue, Ethereal) is to determine whether you'd be convincing in drag.
If you're a woman, could you pass as a man? If you're a man, could you pass as a woman?
Here, Glenn Close is pulling it off pretty well. There's no question she has a lot of Natural or Dramatic.
Hillary Swank -- Another beautiful woman with a lot of Natural or Dramatic.
Not even a Photoshopped beard can make Salma Hayek look masculine, though. She has too much Romantic.
Here's a man, Cillian Murphy, who makes a gorgeous woman. He's got a ton of Romantic or Ethereal.
Lee Pace has a lot of Ingenue, I'm thinking? Very believable.
Liev Schreiber, not so much. I'm thinking he's mostly Natural with some Classic and Gamine.