Sara Semic rounds up five fantastic style lessons you can learn from the 60’s musical, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg…
Jacques Demy’s 1964 musical film The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, set against the sumptuous backdrop of the coastal town of Cherbourg and its jewel-tone houses – which its citizens allowed Demy to paint over – is a visual feast. Starring a young, doe-eyed Catherine Deneuve who dwells in vividly saturated wallpapered rooms, every visually delectable frame is a paint box explosion of colour. A paean to MGM musicals like Singin’ in the Rain and An American in Paris, the story begins as a saccharine-sweet fairytale of young romance, although it evolves into a wistful and tragic tale of loss and compromise.
Young blonde siren Catherine Deneuve, who plays Geneviève, wiles away her teenage years working in the colourful confines of her mother’s tiny umbrella shop in Cherbourg, and finds respite in her rendezvous with Guy, a young and handsome car mechanic who cares for his sickly aunt Elise. But when Guy is suddenly drafted to serve in the Algerian war, Geneviève is left behind, alone and pregnant with his child. Whilst wistfully longing for his return, she also begins to attract the eye of a wealthy young jeweller, whom (*spoiler alert*) she is encouraged by her mother to marry, and to let go of her dreams of life with Guy as it once was.
Despite the bittersweet notes in the plotline, the film also throws up a confection of sartorial delights in the form of Deneuve’s constant wardrobe rotation. From the pastel-hued cardigans of her teenage years to the glamorous fur coat she dons in the final scene, Deneuve offers the ultimate masterclass in 60s style and elegance.
Lesson 1: Dress for your environment
Costume designer Jacqueline Moreau was asked to match many of the outfits to the set’s bright technicoloured walls and interiors. In every shot the chromatic of the clothes, from powder blue to lemon yellow, is perfectly matched with the décor and the locations, making every scene reminiscent of a colourful French patisserie. Coordinate your wardrobe to your wallpaper and you’ll be Instagram catnip.
Lesson 2: Wear a different candy-coloured cardigan for every day of the week, and match your hair ribbon accordingly
Take cue from Geneviève’s rotation of macaron-hued knitwear and invest in some candy pink or lemon yellow cardigans as an antidote to the grey and drizzly autumn. Not only are they practical and cosy, but they’ll inject some much-needed joie de vivre into your monochrome winter wardrobe. Extra points if you find some matching coloured ribbon to tie your perfectly arranged hair with.
Lesson 3: A Burberry-style trench is always a chic option for rainy days
In the rain-drenched Norman city of Cherbourg, you never know when the heavens will open up, so the key is to be prepared with your attire, whatever the weather. A Burberry trench will always be a chic and practical saviour for such fickle-weathered environments, and keep your pastel knitwear dry. Echo Deneuve’s styling and leave your calves exposed.
Lesson 4: Make sure your hair is carefully coiffed, no matter how wretched you may be feeling
They say that when you’re feeling down and in the dumps, the best way to give yourself an instant boost of morale is to dress up and make extra effort with your appearance. Deneuve takes heed of such advice, boasting perfectly arranged blonde locks even in her most melancholic state, showing us that no matter how torn up you may be feeling, you can still look put together.
Lesson 5: Always dress as if you might bump into your ex
In the film’s final snowglobe-like scene, where the star-crossed lovers have a chance encounter after many years apart, having moved on and found other partners, Deneuve can be seen to have grown out of her innocent cardigans and ribbons. Instead, she adopts a mature dark chocolate-coloured fur coat, marking her shift to life as an unhappy trophy wife, where colour seems to have all but faded from her wardrobe and life. Nonetheless, the choice of outerwear paired with the giant pearl earrings and up-do succeeds in making her look highly glamorous and desirable – an excellent look for when you just so happen to bump into an old flame.
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