After dressing Madonna for four tours and 17 music videos, it was no surprise that Arianne Phillips was chosen to design the costumes for the Material Girl’s film “W.E.” The period piece tells the parallel stories of the romance between King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson and a young woman decades later enthralled by their story.
Phillips had to create a wardrobe spanning more than a half-century for characters from all walks of life. The daunting effort puts her in serious contention for a second Oscar nomination following a bid for “Walk the Line” (2005).
Phillips explains to Gold Derby that research was a pivotal part of the process that helped shape the more than 60 wardrobe changes for Wallis Simpson portrayer Andrea Riseborough. “I started with museums and I talked to a lot of personal collectors,” she says. “Luckily, we had access to all the film reels and documention and books.” In addition, rare materials and some of their personal wardrobe were available for study.
Imagining what the royals wore behind closed doors proved to be a bigger challenge. “My philosophy in general as a costume designer is that when you’re doing some biographical, the most important thing is to absorb — absorb as much of the research and what really happened,” Phillips says. “True events, true pictures, reading, looking at photos, film footage, whatever you can get your hands on. And then at a certain point, you just kind of have to throw it away and move forward and figure out what is right cinematically for the movie you’re making. Because it’s not a docudrama. It’s a film. It’s an entertaining film. And what existed then might not be appropriate and you might not even know. That certainly was the case with ‘W.E.'”
Dressing characters on different continents, in different time periods, and from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds makes Phillips’ work on “W.E.” perhaps the most varied of the year. Expect her to cited when nominations for the Costume Designers Guild Awards are announced on Jan. 19. That group nominated her for “Walk the Line,” “3:10 to Yuma” (2007), and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” (2001).
Watch the full interview below.