Bill Gibb suits us!

detail of skirt showing shell design

In today's blog, curator Jenna Rose shares the story of our new Bill Gibb acquisition, now on display in Gallery 1: Collecting Art, at Aberdeen Art Gallery.

Among the many exciting tasks we undertake as Curators, one is the responsibility of acquiring new objects for the collection. Every year the service is offered a huge variety of items. The additions contribute to the richness and diversity of the Collections and the stories they can tell. With National Fund for Acquisitions and Art Fund support we recently had the pleasure of acquiring a skirt suit designed by Bill Gibb.

Bill Gibb Skirt Suit featuring long, light pink skirt and top, with a brown marbled jacket and motif on skirt

Skirt Suit, 1973, Bill Gibb

Bill Gibb (1943 – 1988) was born and raised near New Pitsligo in Aberdeenshire. During the 1960s and 1970s he became renowned as one of the UK’s top fashion designers.

This newly acquired satin and marbled leather skirt suit speaks of Bill Gibb’s talent, creativity and vision. It came about after he was asked to provide four examples of his work for a Harpers & Queen Magazine photo shoot in 1973. Bill Gibb was at the pinnacle of his success having launched Bill Gibb Limited and his first solo collection that year.

He designed the skirt suit especially for the eminent actress Charlotte Rampling to model at the shoot. He is thought to have worked on it nonstop to create it in just one week. On the day, he realised he had nothing to put under the jacket, and it is thought the buttoned satin top was run up in just one hour.

photo of skirt suit from behind

Skirt Suit (back), 1973, Bill Gibb

Three of the outfits featured in the shoot went on to be produced in limited numbers but due to its extreme complexity in design, and high cost, this skirt suit design never went into production. It was instead purchased privately by Bill Gibb and Charlotte Rampling’s good friend, Jenny Rylance-Marriott. She was married to Steve Marriott who was frontman guitarist and vocals of the band, Small Faces.

Bill Gibb was aware of the value of celebrity endorsement and dressed rock stars, actresses and film stars from Rod Stewart to Elizabeth Taylor. The satin and leather ensemble is significant as our first acquisition of clothing representing Bill Gibb’s famous clientele. The outfits provenance illustrates the designer’s appeal to high-profile personalities.

We have the matching fashion sketch within our collections showing Bill Gibb’s early design concept and annotations detailing the fabric types and colours to be used.

line drawing of skirt suit

Sketch of skirt suit for Spring '73, Bill Gibb

The ensemble contains several elements of his signature style, such as the attention to detail, exuberant trimmings and flowing multilayering of fabric, and demonstrates his experimentation with mixing fabric, colour, and pattern. His work at the time was characterised by pleated gathered fabrics and 'waterfall' outlines, shell shapes and bright colours.

Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art. The National Fund for Acquisitions contributes towards the acquisition of objects for the collections of museums, galleries, libraries, and archives throughout Scotland.

Aberdeen Art Gallery is open everyday and admission is free. See you there!