Obsolete Fashion: Would You Party with a Parasol?

A parasol is a lightweight, umbrella-like structure carried for protection from the sun, and most often made from lace, cotton, or silk. The word parasol literally means “for sun” in Spanish.

Parasols did not appear in America until 1740, but they originated in the East Indies about 5,000 years prior to that. By the 1860s, large bonnets and hats had gone out of fashion, and Victorian ladies adopted the parasol as a way to protect themselves from the sun. In this way, the parasol became a status symbol, since fair skin indicated a lady didn’t have to work. A “lady” was never seen carrying an umbrella, as umbrellas were used by gentlemen to escort ladies from carriages to doors, but when a Victorian lady rode in an open top carriage or strolled outdoors, she always kept her parasol up and on display. The parasol was trimmed with an assortment of materials, such as silk tassels or cotton lace, and made specifically to complement certain outfits!

In the 19th century, a parasol was a popular gift for a gentleman to bestow upon his “intended.” Due to their extravagance and expense, it was considered a serious impropriety for a gentleman to give a lady a parasol as a gift unless his intentions were serious, and it was likewise considered indecorous for a young lady to accept the gift unless she was serious about the guy.

In the 1920s, a tan complexion (which indicated leisure vacations to exotic locales) replaced fair skin as a status symbol, and parasols were relegated to the attic.

Today, with increased awareness of damaging UV rays and skin cancer, women are becoming more proactive about protecting their skin. Do you think it’s time we brought back the parasol, or are you a sunblock-only kind of gal? Cast your vote, and/or leave a comment below!

Your thoughts on the parasol?


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  1. Avatar
    Kaylie 06/21/2010 at 4:07 pm #

    The parasol needs to be brought back in action!

    Besides from the fact that a parasol has the potential to spruce up any outfit, it also has the power to help protect your skin.

    Cute and effective? I’m all for it!

  2. Avatar
    Lisa 06/21/2010 at 4:44 pm #

    When I visited South Korea last summer parasols were everywhere! The women there seem to be very conscious of skin protection. Plus the sun just felt hotter! I bought a lovely black & white polka dot parasol to keep me cool and it worked wonders. Unfortunately it was cheap and broke before I could bring it back stateside.

    I’d definitely use one here in Chicag though, especially on the beach!

  3. Avatar
    Casey 06/21/2010 at 6:12 pm #

    I LOVE using a parasol! I have a couple in my closet which I pull out constantly to keep my fair skin from burning while I’m outdoors. My favorite is a little Chinese paper parasol I picked up at Epcot last year; I take it everywhere! Plus, it’s a really fun fashion accessory that can lend a lot of whimsy to an outfit! (I have a picture of me with one of mine at Disney last year: http://www.flickr.com/photos/elegantmusings/3762452578/)

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    Cloud 06/21/2010 at 8:01 pm #

    Actually, the correct literal translation from Spanish is not, “for sun,” because the parasol is derived from the word for sun (sol) and the verb ‘parar,’ which means, “to stop.” So the correct literal translation would be, “stops sun,” which better suits this cute and functional fashion accessory 🙂 !!

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    Amy 06/21/2010 at 8:56 pm #

    I’ve been looking for inexpensive, pretty but not lace-y or frilly parasols – you should carry some!

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    robin humphrey 06/21/2010 at 10:24 pm #

    ahhaha i am so pale everyone asks me where my parasol boy is! I love parasols! Anything Victorian just seems so fancy and fun

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    Erinn 06/22/2010 at 12:39 am #

    Living in Arizona we need a comeback of the parasol! The summers are intense and shade is sparse!

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    data recovery 06/22/2010 at 7:58 am #

    Umbrella is generally used in rainy season, but now a days umbrella using in preventing skin from direct sunshine which have UV rays and skin cancer

  9. Avatar
    c_tyler [of thegirltyler.com] 06/22/2010 at 8:45 am #

    I would have killed for a parasol at Bonnaroo the other week and kept an eye out for one at vendors (those are hippie/indie chic right?). As someone with a sun allergy, even spf 50 was not enough in the heat and shade was at a premium. It would have been really great to have a fashionable way to make my own!

  10. Avatar
    Sarahnargle 06/22/2010 at 11:18 am #

    I party with my cream lace and gold wooden-handled parasol any chance I get!

  11. Avatar
    Chyna 06/22/2010 at 11:48 am #

    Parasols totally need to be brought back! They’re so stylish and handy for any summer day. They’re also quite flattering to the eye.

  12. Avatar
    Anna 06/22/2010 at 11:55 am #

    Parasols are sooo elegant and practical. They protect you from skin cancer look great and if anyone attacks you on the street you can beat them with it.

  13. Avatar
    Kelsey 06/22/2010 at 3:00 pm #

    Since moving from Pittsburgh to Phoenix, AZ it’s been a constant battle with my skin. I am very fair, and I love trying to keep my complexion light (in pgh it was a lot easier!). If outside, I’m always getting beat down by the sun. I’m actually on the hunt for a cute parasol. I would love to buy one from modcloth with my next order! ;]

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    Suzanne 06/24/2010 at 6:45 am #

    I’m going to echo what Lisa said. I live in Canada, but I see Asian women all the time carrying parasols on sunny days. I want to join them, but I fear people will look at me weird! I’m the palest person ever, I could really stand to use a parasol.

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    Cassie 07/13/2010 at 12:54 pm #

    I am a fanatic about my skin! I wear huge sun hats, use spf 50 everyday, and breezy cover-ups whenever possible. Last year, I bought a parasol at the Renaissance Faire and it was the BEST thing ever!! I used it all day, and I didn’t get as hot or as sunburned as everyone else in the party. I agree with Suzanne though, It would be weird if I used it anywhere else. I’m THIS close to trying though! Even if they AREN’T a fashion. We should all band together and START it. 😀

  16. Avatar
    Guyomar 10/17/2010 at 4:04 pm #

    Love parasols – they’re gorgeous. Topshop had a some pretty frilly ones last year.

  17. Avatar
    Amy 01/01/2020 at 4:13 pm #

    This was when women had respect for their appearance, you wouldn’t catch a woman walking around stores or outdoors in pajama pants and house slippers. Women didn’t leave the house without gloves and a parasal and men would wear hats and as soon as they entered a building off it went as a form of respect. It’s rather sad we have became so relaxed in our public appearances.

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