Fashion Inspiration: Bill Gibb 🌼

In recent weeks, I have been buying all the fairytale/storybook style things, especially while cottagecore is big and there’s a great selection of things in that style from all the more generically trendy retailers. But I was flipping through some coffee table fashion books* and was reminded that nothing ASOS pumps out can possibly match the stuff produced by Scottish designer Bill Gibb. He came to fame after winning the Dress of the Year award from Vogue in 1970 and was best known for fantasy and folklore inspired dresses and coats with psychedelic print mixing in 1970s through his death in 1988.

Most of these images are from the Victoria & Albert Museum. See more of them there or in more compact form on this Pinterest board I made.

*specifically 20th Century Fashion in Detail, though that is not a book I would actually recommend because I found it infuriating that they had full color photos only of the close-ups and you were stuck with a line drawing and your imagination for the full garments.

Anyway, here are some pieces that I hope will be a fun but related detour from what might be creeping into your Instagram feed, featuring

  • whimsical colors (pastels or bold primary colors, palettes that would be common in children’s book illustrations)
  • painterly/illustrated print fabrics
  • checkerboard, stripes
  • paisley, florals
  • decadent fabrics (lots of silk)
  • piping everywhere
  • ribbon trim
  • square necklines
  • puffed sleeeeeves
  • large and elaborate collars
  • general extravagance of the 1970s

To start with, this is my absolute favorite Bill Gibb piece. PUFF SLEEVES! Square neckline! Confectionery colors! Stripes AND florals! RIBBONS! It’s like the fairytale princess version of those lace-up gigot sleeve waffle knit blouses I collected from Free People.

One thing I often like the idea of but not actual items of is painterly print fabrics, but I really like how it adds a more modern element to the very historically inspired dress cut. The wicked witch of the west tights are also fun.

Fashion sketch! They’re not terribly practical, but I love loose cut hoods with some drape as they feel more old-timey/fantasy and I hope they make a comback at some point.

I love this butterfly collar detail as a more wearable whimsical style.

More dramatic butterfly appliques

The beading! And the seams finished in metallic thread! Also I love how the quilting on the main fabric looks like the paneled bits that show up on butterflies like the monarch.

Similar puff sleeve + square neck thing that’s been everywhere this year, although more of a peasant/boho flair with the edge trim and paisley.

This one looks like something that belongs in Alice in Wonderland

I like how the sleeve flare kind of mirrors the collar, and the gathers in the skirt with shoulders.

But my favorite detail in this piece are the bumblebee buttons! I don’t own that many proper shirts with buttons, and none of those have plain buttons that I’d be interested in replacing, but that’s a DIY upgrade I’ve always been interested in trying.

Look at this CONFECTION of a dress. The double shawl collar! With twirly piping!

Pintuck pleats! Continuing on the back! (One of my peeves is when clothes are clearly cheaping out by not continuing the design elements on the back, when it isn’t something that’s going to interfere with wearability)

And once more, for good measure: Most of these images are from the Victoria & Albert Museum. See more of them there or in more compact form on this Pinterest board I made for the post.

Recent outfits

Some outfits I’ve worn in the last few weeks that have some of these 1970s fantasy / 2020s cottagecore elements. Not as extra as any of the above examples, of course, but it’s been fun getting bits and pieces into my more casual outfits.

I love the color palette and fabrics here. Super autumnal and textural, and adventure-ready vintage inspired vibes from the bomber, boots, and loose trousers while keeping some girly bits in with the florals and patchwork.

Tan fleece bomber (Uniqlo U via eBay), ditsy floral print mask (Old Navy), patchwork tee (Anthropologie via Poshmark), burgundy high-waisted pleated cotton trousers (Urban Outfitters), and brown lace-up granny boots (Comfortiva via Nordstrom)

The sleeve and the overall length are longer than I’d like as it feels a bit frumpy (and this was already an XS, I’m not sure it was made in a smaller size), so at some point I’d at least like to have a go at shortening the sleeves, but for now this works great as a more fun casual option or with a jacket over. It’s fairly thick and the ribbing is wide enough to add a little structure, so even though it’s not conventionally flattering I think it does at least read like a piece with personality worn for fun rather than have a vibe of something being worn to hide in. I also like how there are more saturated red/burgundy patches which go well with bright lipstick.

Square neck + puff sleeves + long full skirt (Free People oasis midi dress, springdust, in small) with the fleece bomber and pointed toe patent leather lace-up boots (Marc Fisher). I love the color+fabric combo here for a sort of woodsy fairytale vibe, and I’ve been storing the jacket and the dress next to each other in my open wardrobe so that I can see it all the time.

I’m not the hugest fan of 3/4 sleeve and I think at some point I’d like to see if I can get the sleeves altered to a slightly shorter version of the sleeves from the Doen Sol dress (which I think this is a dupe of, or the Sol dress is an upscaled dupe of this).

I couldn’t find our iron/steamer FOREVER and just went ahead and wore this chelsea collar shirt with all its wrinkles. Not ideal but don’t come for me, I’m aware of it and I wasn’t wearing it to a job interview. Either way, I really like the proportion of the collar on this one and the subtle ruffle edges. A good balance of statement elements and wearability for me. Styled with basic straight leg jeans cause I wasn’t feeling super extra that day but with the MVP derby flats to accent the vintage style of the top. (Vila Petite “long sleeved blouse with collar detail in white, via ASOS, size EU 40, Madewell Perfect Vintage Jeans in sumner wash curvy petite 28, Trotters “lizzie derby flat”)

More reading:

Bill Gibb, 1976, knitwear of his own design (from the Wikipedia page)

More cottagecore-esque fashion (rural romanticism) through the ages

Thanks for reading! Do you have any favorites of the fairytale/romanticized rustic fashion eras? I think until recently I was most partial to mori kei since it had the most sweet-yet-“””practical””” aesthetic of the lot above (vs full on drowned-Ophelia dresses or the dresses that could potentially have their decade associations overshadow the fantasy elements), but I really do love how it’s morphed into an even more wearable version in the last year or two with cottagecore.

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