Movie Muse: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg


You may not be familiar with the 1964 French musical film Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg), but you’re sure to recognize the star it skyrocketed to fame. Catharine Deneuve, France’s most successful actress, model, and style icon got her start as the ingenue in this film directed by Jaques Demy, before she became well-known as the archetypal 'ice maiden' in films like Roman Polanski's Repulsion and Luis Buñuel's Belle du Jour.


The film tells the story of an ill-fated romance between the blonde, doe-eyed, 17-year-old Genevieve (Deneuve) who works in her overbearing mother’s tiny seaside umbrella shop, and the tall, dark, and handsome auto mechanic Guy (Italian actor Nino Castelnuovo). The film’s dialog is all sung, and Genevieve and Guy croon and dance their love for one another until he is suddenly drafted into the Algerian War and leaves her behind with their unborn love child.

Demy’s splashes of vibrant color—characters will sing in front of a hot pink wall, skip down a sea green alley, and tango into a vivid red dance hall—belie the story’s tragic ending (no spoilers here!) Deneuve’s 1950s fashion is as brilliant, and matures with the growth of her character; as a love-struck innocent teen, her Easter-egg colored cardigans are always matched to the bow in her blond coif, while by the end, her elegant updo and rich furs in practically the only black in the film illustrate her transformation into an unhappy trophy wife—and don’t forget Genevieve’s classic Burberry trench coat and the titular umbrellas which whirl across the screen in every shade and pattern. This visually-striking musical is as much a treat for the eyes as for the ears.

Our shopping picks channel the saturated colors and vintage French style of the film:

1. Genevieve and her mother sell umbrellas of every color in their tiny boutique. Protect yourself from summer downpours in this cheery polka dot umbrella.  Barneys New York Blue Polka Dot Umbrella – $140

2. The vintage interiors of Demy's film are candy-colored and filled with unmistakably French touches like this toile teapot for a cup of tea to comfort a broken heart.  Fish's Eddy Toile Red Teapot – $36.95

3. Genevieve has a different brightly colored cardigan for every day of the week. J. Crew Featherweight Cotton Cardigan in Bold Peri – $62

4. The folds of this ladylike and vintage-inspired circle skirt look beautiful as you twirl into your lover's arms. American Apparel Mid-Length Circle Skirt in Blood Orange Peach Skin – $58

5. Genevieve is color coordinated down to her dainty ballet flats, perfect for breaking into a song-and-number at any moment. Repetto BB Suede in Yellow – $265

6. The rain protection that never goes out of style, Genevieve wears her Burberry trench (with the classic plaid lining) to see Guy off at the train station. Burberry Double Breasted Metallic Detail Trench Coat – $895

7. A diminutive hair bow is the perfect girly touch. Hot Topic Black Taffeta Hair Bow Clips – $3.99

8. This romantic chair matches the candy-striped wallpaper of Genevieve and her mother's French flat. Shabby Chic Black Striped Chair with White Frame – $401


Photo credits: altfg.com, smh.com.au, oldhollywood.tumblr.com, listal.org