A parasol is defined as a light usually small umbrella carried as protection from the sun. The word parasol literally means ‘for sun’ in Spanish. The name parasol, which we know today, comes from its old Italian French name parasole, which is derived from the Italian word parare, which means prepare or ward off, and the Latin word sol, which means sun or sunlight. So, use the parasol and ward off the sun! Parasols originated in the East Indies about 5,000 years ago. In 3000 B.C., the Egyptians used parasols as a sunshade for sun protection. This was a royal privilege and bearers did the carrying. Around the 1st century B.C. the parasol spreads to ancient Rome and Greece. It took the Italian Renaissance in the 16th century to introduce the parasol to European soil. King Louis the XIV soon after brought them to France. A parasol appeared on a street corner in Windsor, Connecticut, in 1740 carried by a fashionable lady. It had been brought all the way from the West Indies and may have been the first parasol in North America.
Because of their high cost and limited manufacture, parasols of that early age were almost exclusively used by nobility, royalty and clergy, symbolizing wealth and power. Another very important cause of parasols popularity was the view point on beauty, which often demanded that rulers and nobility carry pale skin that was not tanned by sun, a tradition that survives even until today in Japan, where pale skin is regarded as one of the most important factors of female beauty.
The parasol is most often associates with fashion trends in Victorian society in England and the United States. Perhaps the main reason for it popularity was the Victorian admiration, or even obsession for a fair complexion. It was more than a sign of beauty, it showed the world that a woman was a lady and didn’t have to work outdoors. The parasol was as a much a part of a well-dressed lady’s outfit as were her gloves, hat, shoes and stockings. A fashionable lady carried a different parasol for each outfit. They became popular gifts for men to give their ladies. Like the fan and lacy handkerchief, the parasol was both practical and helpful aid to the subtle art of flirtation. Parasols continued to increase in popularity until the Edwardian era in the early 1900s.
Lace parasols have had a long and rich history in Europe, especially during the 1600s and early 1900s. Apparently, it is from these eras, which saw the height of the opulence and elegance in Europe's society, that lace parasols today are associated with items of luxury, feminine class, and elegance. Nevertheless, their expensive price, women owned lace parasols in different colors to match every outfit – a long dress gown or dress with fitted top and full, heavy skirt, which was the central clothing for women at the time. When riding in a carriage, ladies would make sure that their driver pulls down the carriage's convertible top so her lace parasol is beautifully exposed.
While older women have long used parasols for protective purposes, it has been only recently that young women have seen them as a fashion accessory. After remaining out of fashion for about ninety years, parasols had a resurgence around 1990 as many women no longer considered it healthy or wise to be in the sun too long. Increased awareness about skin cancer contributed to the renaissance of parasols. Parasols are being carried again in increasing numbers in the U. S., Great Britain, France and especially Japan. There was an exposure in a baby showers’ trend to use the sunshade parasol as a center piece. The parasol is a true newest and oldest fashion accessory trend.