Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

A forgotten maestro of British fashion

Bill Gibb remembered - my piece in today's Telegraph:

In the summer of 1970 a friend and I laboriously made ourselves long coats out of multicoloured patchwork velvet squares. The sleeves were gathered at the armholes because we didn't know how to fit them, and they fell like the tunic of a medieval page-boy, wide at the wrists. We were dedicated followers of fashion who had grown out of Chelsea Girl, the 1960s equivalent of Topshop, but it would be a year or two before we discovered the vintage stalls at Kensington Market. With our hennaed hair, kohl-rimmed eyes and Biba purple lipstick, we wafted about in Afghan dresses, skirts made of Indian bedspreads and loose velvet tops from India with tiny mirrors inset in the embroidery. Nothing matched. The clash of colour and texture was the point. The only rule was that you must not look anything like your mother, who had outrageously started to wear her skirts an inch or two above the knee.

Twiggy’s outfit for the Los Angeles premiere of The Boy Friend, 1971

Because we were only teenagers, what we knew about clothes came not from the fashion press (Vogue was scarily grown-up), but from copying everyone we knew. So I was completely unaware, until I opened the pages of a new book about his life and work, that for a period of about three years in my late teens and early twenties, I had been a walking advertisement for Bill Gibb. Gibb's early death at the age of 44 in 1988, and his too-brief period in the 1970s as one of the defining designers of his age, has meant that he has been partly forgotten - except by those who wore his clothes. He dressed Bianca Jagger, Elizabeth Taylor, Anjelica Huston, Marie Helvin and Twiggy, who described Gibb as 'my knight in shining armour', after he rescued her car from a snowdrift on a cold London day in 1967.


Toby Wollin said...

Fascinating about his connection with Kaffe Fassett, who is still going strong, especially in the yarn craft arena. But Gibb truly was a creature of the time; I remember making myself dresses out of Indian print bedspreads when I was in college in the early 70s as well. It was a time when a lot of people thought nothing about making over clothes ..I remember a big thing was to take blue jeans, split up the legs, insert either a piece of another pair of jeans or Indian print spread or something else to make a skirt. That was a very popular thing to do. Since I was the only person on my dormitory floor with a sewing machine, I was pretty popular, even if it was only to borrow the machine.

Rosaria said...

Linda and Toby's experience mirrors (ahem) my own, even though I wasn't brought up in the UK. Learning to sew was part of the school curriculum then, and I did my fumbled best.

However the skill became useful when I wanted to create my own wardrobe, a mishmash of East and West. Kaftans, crushed velvet skirts, paisley sip-front mini dresses with neru collars.

But what I really secretly admired, and could not emulate, were Yves St Laurent's 60s shifts, geometric prints and pant suits, especially the tuxedo.

My mother wore things vaguely, conceptually related so of course I had to be polar opposite. She was pretty trendy for her age and I used to borrow her shoes.

rosaria said...

(correction) mini dresses...