Interview

5 Things You Might Not Have Known About Costume Designer Arianne Phillips

Curran's own Gracie Hays sat down with Arianne Phillips, costume designer for HEAD OVER HEELS, and they chatted about costumes, Curran and Madonna.

 HEAD OVER HEELS costume designer, Arianne Philips

1. Arianne is a Bay Area native:

I have so many friends and family in the Bay Area, so I could not be more thrilled to have our debut of Head Over Heels in San Francisco. I always look forward to any chance I can get to being in my hometown. All the inspiration that created the person I am today comes from the Bay Area.

2. She worked as Madonna’s stylist for 20 years:

Before I started working for her, I had this really intimidating perception, but the moment we met, that immediately evaporated. I learned so many invaluable lessons from working with Madonna, in terms of her work ethic and her organic ability to continually reinvent herself and challenge herself. I think that really has to do with how integrally involved she is in all aspects of her work and the fact that’s she’s not focused on what other people’s opinions are. Working alongside her has afforded me the best education I could ever have and it’s really formed the artist that I’ve become; now I’m more invested in the process and less invested in the outcome.

3. She’s not using any previously-embellished fabrics for the costumes in Head Over Heels

Because it’s a mashup of these different sensibilities, we don’t have to be period-specific—I get to create something completely new with these costumes. I started with a Tudor silhouette, but I’m deconstruction that in terms of the shape and the volume. I made the decision not to use any period-correct fabrics, like jacquard or brocade, or anything previously embellished, because I wanted the costumes to have a very modern feel. I’m using completely flat fabric; all of it started out white, and we’re dyeing, printing, or painting directly onto it. When I started thinking about embellishments, I was inspired by the techniques of trompe l’oeil and Chagall. We also got permission from The Go-Go’s to use their sheet music for “We Got the Beat” as a pattern for some ensemble costumes.

4. Arianne always knew she wanted to work in the arts:

My parents encouraged it. They were very Bohemian artists themselves, and I think they gave me what they didn’t have as kids. They had been raised in the ’50s and had been pushed to follow more conventional career paths. I think they really suffered because of that. They were artists, but they were never able to really pursue it. My parents never held back from exposing me and my sister to as much culture as possible, though. I was always participating in theater as a kid, whether I was acting or doing lights. Funnily enough, I never really did costumes as a kid, but I did pretty much everything else.

5. Arianne grew up going to the Curran:

My parents took me to the Curran many times. I’m actually fairly certain that I saw my first live theatrical show there sometime back in the ’70s. Going to the Curran as a kid was the big time. It was very, very exciting. We all got dressed up, and it well planned for well in advance. I didn’t come from a particularly wealthy family, so we really treasured the opportunity to come to the theater. Those early experiences really taught me how to dream.


HEAD OVER HEELS performances begin on April 10th at the Curran. This limited engagement leaves the Bay Area for Broadway on May 6th.

Single tickets can be purchased here. Tickets are also available as part of #CURRAN2018, our first-ever subscription offering, featuring four extraordinary shows: three brand new works and the smash hit DEAR EVAN HANSEN.