Examining Goldie Hawn’s Style in 80s Romcom Overboard

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Overboard, 1987(Film still)

From how to dress for life on a yacht, to expert thrift store tips, this oft-overlooked 1980s classic has it all

It has been 30 years since Overboard, the unashamedly and quintessentially 80s romantic comedy, first hit the cinemas screens. Directed by Garry Marshall and loosely based on the 1974 Italian film Swept Away, the farfetched feel-good classic is the last of the three films in which real-life couple Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell starred side by side. With dashings of slapstick humour, Hawn plays the insufferably rich and rude haughty heiress Joanna Stayton, who one night falls overboard from her yacht whilst scrambling to find her wedding ring. When discovered the next morning by a garbage scow she is suffering from amnesia; unable to remember her name or indeed anything about her life, her equally unbearable husband opportunistically chooses not to identify her and spends the following weeks partying aboard the yacht.

After watching the saga unfold on the news, Dean Proffitt (Russell), a carpenter whom Joanna has previously scorned whilst he remodelled her onboard closet, is determined to seek his revenge, claiming her as his wife “Annie”. Against all the odds and despite the disparity in their social standing the pair fall deeply in love. Bridging the opposing sides of 80s fashion, Hawn’s character’s wardrobe is used throughout as a hyperbolic device, an exaggerated metaphor for her personality and lifestyle. Whether lounging on a yacht or doing chores around Proffitt’s house, her style has established traction.

The Signature Style 

There is a duality and dichotomy at play in the wardrobes of Hawn as heiress and housewife, going from one extreme to another. As Joanna, spending her days moaning to her mother on the phone or intermittently barking commands at her staff whilst languidly lounging on the yacht’s top deck, her heavily accessorised outfits are the pinnacle of glamorously tacky 80s excess. Invariably co-ordinated with the interior design of the ‘Immaculata’, her opulent sunbathing outfits onboard are as vulgarly theatrical as her character. A shiny white high-legged and plunging neckline swimsuit is paired with a white sequined cloak complete with gold shoulder pads and tassels. Reclining on candy-cane striped cushions in another scene, she appears almost naked in a zebra-printed front and nude mesh-backed thong swimming costume with only an iconic black hat featuring a plait of fake blonde hair tied with an oversized bow, to conceal her modesty. Late-80s glamour is accessorised with costume jewellery, angular statement sunglasses and cigarette holders aplenty, whilst her signature peroxide perm is tightly fastened in a bun with a diamond-encrusted hair clips or absurd floral or fruity fascinators.

In complete juxtaposition, duped into believing she is not only Dean’s wife but also the mother of his four unruly boys, amnesia-ridden “Annie” is dressed in mismatched second-hand clothing. Hawn decamps from lamé and sequins to wear a refuse worker’s uniform boilersuit and hospital scrubs before settling in ill-fitting Salvation Army purchases found by the boys under the guidance of Dean’s best friend Billy (Michael G. Hagerty). Over time she begins borrowing Dean’s oversized T-shirts and dog-blanket plaid shirts, wearing them with pairs of baggy blue Levi’s 501s finalising her sudden style shift from transatlantic couture to stereotypically laid-back but hands-on American wholesome country mom. Grappling with chores around the house, there is an enviable effortless to her outfits, as if she fell into the overflowing racks in to a Paris Guerrisol in the best possible way.

The Modern Manifestation

Both poles of Hawn’s 80s fashion are simultaneously undergoing a resurgence. Maximalism à la Joanna Stayton could be found throughout the Spring 2017 Paris Haute Couture shows; evoked in the silhouettes, shoulder pads and sequins of Donatella’s Versace collection, the embellishment of Ralph and Russo or in the more flamboyant pieces at Fendi. The couture and country of Joanna and Annie were effectively married in the metallic cowboy boots that models wore at Galliano’s Margiela couture. Annie’s wholesome country aesthetic is echoed in Balenciaga, where over the last few seasons Demna Gvasalia and Lotta Volkova’s playful approach often elevates the overlooked, commonplace and everyday. The moral of the film is that money doesn’t mean happiness, but it can definitely make life a lot easier. Both dressed up or down Hawn’s character has fun with fashion, but why prescribe to either aesthetic when you can dabble in both?