No actress personifies the vivid style and nutty playfulness of the flower power years more than Goldie Hawn. From the disheveled crop of sunny blonde locks and psychedelic mini dresses to the teeny bikinis and hand-painted slogan tattoos, Goldie’s most notable looks left an indelible stamp on 1960s pop culture. For three years her giggly, dizzy blonde routine and flawless comic timing charmed American television viewers and made her the most popular member of the ‘Laugh-In’ roster and her work on the legendary TV show led to her first starring role in a major motion picture, 1969’s Cactus Flower.
In Cactus Flower, Goldie is cast as a Greenwich Village-dwelling hipster, Toni Simmons. By day she is a clerk at record shop Stereo Heaven; at night she is dating Dr. Julian Winston (Walter Matthau), a much older dentist who has no interest in settling down. The thing is he doesn’t want to give up Toni, either. Therefore, the sneaky bastard tells her that he is already married. After putting up with his shenanigans for a year, Toni eventually gets fed up and makes a half-hearted (and failed) attempt at suicide. As a result, Julian has a change of heart and decides he wants to get married after all. But first he must prove to Toni that he is on the verge of divorce, thereby convincing his smitten nurse (Ingrid Bergman) to act as his estranged wife. In the meantime, Toni befriends her foxy young neighbour, an unemployed aspiring writer named Igor Sullivan (Rick Lenz) and as you might expect, hilarity ensues. Goldie’s performance as the kooky, but ultimately savvy, Toni won the hearts of critics and Motion Picture Academy members, who awarded her an Oscar for ‘Best-Supporting Actress’ in 1970.
The lucky costumer who got to dress Goldie’s minuscule frame in Cactus Flower was legendary designer, Moss Mabry, the mastermind behind James Dean’s iconic red windcheater from Rebel Without a Cause. Goldie’s wardrobe in the film reflects late 60’s ‘youthquake’ culture, her closet filled with a kaleidoscopic collection of the tiniest of dresses, mini skirts and hot pants (basically, how Goldie was already dressing on ‘Laugh-In’ and in real life). But more importantly, her youthful costumes illustrate the generation gap between her and the grey suit and tab cuff wearing Julian, and help to foreshadow who she will ultimately end up with when the credits roll.
The floaty chiffon babydoll that Toni wears in the opening scene not only emphasizes her youth, but also clearly coordinates with the interiors of her Greenwich Village efficiency. Between the shade of bubblegum pink and the childish silhouette, along with Goldie’s fair blonde locks and blue saucer eyes, she looks like a doll that would easily blend in on the bed alongside the furry throw pillows and floral bedspread.
Toni dons a couple of suits in Cactus Flower and wouldn’t you know, neither of them is particularly suitable for work. The navy blue number, with its cropped jacket and bitty a-line skirt, was paired with a silk checkered blouse, worn for a day out to the Guggenheim (see an original costume sketch of the suit HERE). The dressier ruby, velvet suit for the discotheque (called ‘The Slipped Disc’!) was worn with a soft pink ruffle blouse, reflecting the influence of antique clothing and Edwardian style on 60’s fashion.
While a suit was not appropriate for a day at work, apparently hot pants were. Worn here with a matching belted tunic and light blue blouse, Julian remarks of Toni’s ladder climbing in said shorts, “Do you always stand up there like that?” to which Toni replies with one of the best lines in the film, “Nobody around here looks. Most of our customers are classical.”
While bell-bottoms peaked in popularity in the 1970s, by the late 60’s, they were just starting to pick up steam. And trend-setting Toni was clearly an early adopter. Her flared pants here in a bold Indian-printed fabric are indicative of fashion’s move away from the plastic fantastic designs of swinging London and the growing influence of the traditional art and textiles from countries like India and Morocco.
Lady in Red:
The little red dress with the billowy sleeves that Toni chooses to dance in is actually very similar to a frock designed by Barbara Hulanicki for her brand Biba: a-line shape, peasant sleeves and shoulder buttons are all signature Biba elements. The red colour makes it easy for the viewer to pick Toni out of the nightclub crowd (because who would want to miss a moment of her dancing?). Along with it she wears a chunky layered gold necklace; a styling choice that is present throughout the film.
When Goldie won that Oscar for Cactus Flower, she didn’t make it to the awards ceremony due to scheduling conflicts: she was in London shooting her next film, There’s a Girl in My Soup with Peter Sellers. (She also forgot to watch the ceremony and only knew she had won due to a very early morning overseas phone call from a Columbia studio executive). Within months, she also appeared in her final episode of ‘Laugh-In’ opting instead to focus on film. Cactus Flower has since become a well-preserved time capsule of 60’s-era fashion, lifestyle and young adulthood.
By Stacey Appel
Stacey is a fashion writer and stylist based in Philadelphia. Her first book, Michael Jackson Style, was published in 2012. See more of her work HERE.
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