west side story
Though Arianne Phillips first made a name for herself as Madonna’s stylist, she’s also an accomplished costume designer—her work in Walk the Line was nominated for an Oscar (and you could argue that the sight of Reese Witherspoon in all those color-coordinated outfits was part of the impetus for the current dress obsession). Phillips’ upcoming project, 3:10 to Yuma, comes out on September 7. She talks to Style.com about Sergio Leone, white leather jackets, and Clint Eastwood.
How would you describe 3:10 to Yuma?
Even though it’s set in the 1800′s, it’s not a costume drama or a costume-driven film. It’s by the same director as Walk the Line, James Mangold, and it’s a remake of a fifties movie starring Glenn Ford.
Do you have any favorite westerns that you watched for reseach?
I like character- more than plot-driven westerns. Some of my favorites are Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns. For me, the European sensibility and take on the American West was a good balance of drama, visual style, humor, and iconology. They’re really stylish. I also like Sam Peckinpah’s movies from the seventies. Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven was amazing. I also watched more commercial westerns like Silverado and The Quick and the Dead. It all went into an aesthetic western pot and got stirred around.
How else did you do research?
I read a lot about pioneer families and Native Americans. It helped to understand the context of the whole outlaw culture and the survival aspects of living in the West after the Civil War. A great resource here in Los Angeles is the Gene Autry Museum. It’s a clothing archive. I was really inspired by the clothes I found there—there are many stories to be told in them. Men would repair and patch or even sew their clothes themselves. They couldn’t just walk into the Gap; they lived on horseback. Sometimes after killing a guy, they would steal his clothes. They were very resourceful. I found a white leather jacket there that directly inspired the one for the character Charlie Prince, which is getting a lot of attention.
Is there a period you’d ideally like to work on?
I haven’t touched much on the twenties, thirties, or forties—just a little bit in Larry Flynt. Those are periods that I’d like to discover. But it comes down to story and characters for me. If that’s not there, I might as well do a forties fashion shoot.
Which do you prefer: costume or fashion work?
I don’t have a preference. A steady diet of one or the other would probably drive me crazy! One informs the other. Both have clothing in common. In my editorials I often work in tableau form, which really informs my eye in doing three-dimensional [things].
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