Job description: Costume designer
Breakthrough: Has achieved ultimate crossover success in her field by crossdressing “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” on the big screen to wardrobing Madonna’s Drowned World Tour
In the works: Guy Ritchie’s remake of Lina Wertmuller’s provocative “Swept Away”
If clothing is a language, there are few costume designers who speak pop culture as fluently as Arianne Phillips.
As head of Madonna’s “glam squad” on the Drowned World Tour, Phillips honed her trashy/classy aesthetic, mixing couture, ethnic, cowboy and punk.
For John Cameron Mitchell’s transsexual rock goddess in the feature “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” she draped him in a hodgepodge of sparkling garments inspired by “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and ’70s glam bands to create transgender chic.
Heightened sexuality through ambiguity is the undercurrent that connects much of Phillips’ work, from Madonna’s “mother/fucker” T-shirts and punk kilts to Lenny Kravitz’s filmy shirts and low-cut jeans. Her film work reveals a similar sizzle, from “Tank Girl” to “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” from “Charlie’s Angels” to “The Mod Squad.”
Unlike designers who get their start on fashion shoots or musicvideos but abandon those genres after they’ve transitioned to film, Phillips believes those areas of the business keep her fresh. “Since I work between the fashion, music and film worlds, it is my job to be informed. I see myself as sort of a pop culture vulture. It is my guilty pleasure and passion.”
For the just-wrapped film “One Hour Photo” and Guy Ritchie’s in-the-works remake of “Swept Away,” Phillips has climbed out on the fashion edge again, this time by using designer clothes “for the first time ever on a film.”
Phillips admits it’s not making her job any easier. “For a film about shipwrecks, there sure are a lot of costumes!” she says.