Parasols – Protection from Sun, Heat, and Curious Eyes

Why wear a parasol? Vintage style blogger and Youtube creator Christine Cochrum of Chronically Overdressed shares her parasol collection and tells us why use this fun vintage accessory.
Parasols – Protection from Sun, Heat, and Curious Eyes

The earliest parasol-like device can be found depicted in the art of the Ancient Egyptians. It was made of palm leaves or feathers.

Parasol protected from the harmful rays of the sun, but only a chosen few: those of high status, and royalty. The poor had to work manual labor in the sun, which allowed a privileged few the status of undamaged complexion.

The parasol became widespread in ancient Persia, then drifted to China and to Southeast Asia, eventually arriving on the subcontinent of India. From there the parasol would spread to the hot, dry climates of Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Interestingly, parasols were not used in the Middle Ages.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, parasols were popular among European and American women and were viewed as an essential part of a lady’s outfit (same as their gloves, hat, shoes and stockings). By the early 20th century, waterproofed umbrellas started gaining more which made high-value parasols outdated and unfashionable.

But now, let’s hear from Christine!

“As a very fair-skinned woman, and an esthetician, I do my best to stay out of the sun or at least shade myself from the harmful UV rays, that is what attracted me to using parasols in the first place. I also overheat quickly, so I find that using parasols helps to protect me from the sun in both ways.

I currently live in Hawaii, where it’s sunny year-round, and the sun is quite hot most of the year. My parasols protect from both heat and sun and add a little something special to my ensembles.

Of course, some may ask, “why not just wear a wide-brimmed hat” to shield you from the sun? Well, that’s easy, parasols are simply more versatile for me. I can move it around to make sure that my face and arms are shaded from the sun. A wide-brimmed hat typically can’t do that, and you’d have to move your whole body to be in the proper position to shade everything. I’ve always loved the look of a parasol, there is something so special about popping open your parasol as you stroll down the street. But there is an added bonus. I can shield myself from anyone who wishes to try and take a sneaky photo of me while I’m out. This happens more often than you’d think.

Finding parasols is not as difficult as you might think. I’ve bought parasols online on Etsy, eBay, and Facebook. But I’ve also found them at flea markets, estate sales, and antique malls. I prefer to see them in person to ensure that they are intact and working properly, so I’d say wherever I can find them in person is probably the best for me.

I have about 20+ parasols in my collection (with a few still in storage). They range from brand new modern pieces to my oldest pieces from the Edwardian era, however most date from the 1930s and 1940s.

As much as I would love to see more people sporting parasols, sadly, I don’t see them coming back in style. I’m sure people who wear contemporary styles wouldn’t even consider using a parasol. Here in Hawaii, many people simply use umbrellas to shade themselves but rarely do I see anyone using an actual parasol.

But for us vintage lovers and historybounders, I think parasols will always be in style.

Fun Fact: Most parasols are made of light-colored cloth or paper. Lighter colors reflect the sunlight and heat, so it keeps you cooler under the parasol. Darker colors absorb the heat, transferring down onto you. So, it’s best to look for light colors to stay cool.”

Follow Christine:
Chronically Overdressed

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