The actual origin of the umbrella is so ancient as to be lost. Perhaps
the umbrella was evolved from a primitive shelter of leaves carried by Adam
long before the earliest known civilizations. As social life developed from
family to tribe and from tribe to small kingdoms the leafy shelter developed
into a canopy, which became more ornamental and converted into a symbol of
umbrella entered Europe via Greece, Italy and Turkey. Tradition has that the Normans brought the umbrella to England with them, presumably as some
sort of canopy regalia, in 1066. Jonas Hanway was the first Englishman to carry
an umbrella regularly. (Gays Trivia: “The Art of Walking the Streets of
London,” 1712) In those days, the only covered transport was the private coach
or Sedan chair. The umbrellas were very heavy, made with whalebone or
cane ribs, mounted on a long, stout stick of about 1" in diameter and
covered with a heavy cotton fabric, waterproofed by oiling or waxing. Only on a
few public buildings had gutters and fall-pipes. The water simply ran off the
roof into the street. Sometimes it was collected in gutters under the attics
and poured out like a miniature Niagara Falls, through the mouths of grotesque
gargoyles at each corner of the building. The choice was then either to
carry one of these portable tents or get soaked wet. By 1787, the umbrella had
achieved some considerable measure of popularity within a short period of time
and the French ladies’ umbrellas had achieved remarkable elegance. On the
continent, they were used as much as a sunshade as protection from rain.
And it is from this period and via the sunshade that umbrellas began to develop
into something lighter and more graceful. This was partly due to the use of
finer fabric of silk and by the substitution of lighter materials. In the late
1800's came the development of the Fox
Steel Ribs and Frames, and so the modern umbrella was born.
Parasols were used in France from early
in the century. In the end of the eighteenth century, the parasol’s cousins, umbrellas,
were used to keep the rain off; and parasols to protect from the sun both in
Britain and America. The basic umbrellawas
invented more than 4,000 years ago. There is evidence of umbrellas
in the ancient art and artifacts of Egypt, Assyria, Greece, and China. These
ancient umbrellas, or
parasols, were first designed to provide shade from the sun. An umbrella or
parasol is a folding canopy supported by wooden or metal ribs, which is usually
mounted on a wooden, metal, or plastic pole. It is designed to protect a person
against rain or sunlight. The word “umbrella” typically refers to a device used
for protection from rain. The word parasol usually refers to an item designed
to protect from the sun.
A parasol is defined as a light usually small umbrella carried as protection
from the sun. The word parasolliterally 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
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
I came to work for the Learning Resources Center (LRC) at the ITT Technical Institute in September 2005. During my professional career, I worked in special, public, and academic libraries since the age of sixteen – including Latvian State Science and Technology Library, International Fine Arts College, Main Library at the Miami-Dade Public Library System, and Art Institutes Miami International University of Art & Design. I received my Master's of Library Science and Bibliography at the LSU (Latvian State University) in 1976. At my free time, I enjoy running, knitting, reading, and writing.
I published three poetry books, and a nonfiction book called “Fashion Librarian” about fashion resources, study and teaching, and information literacy for fashion design.
You can contact me at email@example.com.