Umbrellas, parasols and other means of keeping the rain and sun off of oneself have been used for many years. It is hard to imagine that in our days where a “tan” is one of the marks of summer beauty! We also have such things as suntan lotion and such that we can use, but in those older days, one had to wear long sleeves to keep the sun off, stay in the shade or carry a parasol!
Just as fans were a very important young ladies accessory, so too was the parasol. A pale complexion was very highly prized in the 19th and early 20th centuries and so a parasol that kept the sun off one’s face was a very needful thing. It was also seen as some what of a status symbol as those ladies that carried parasols were proclaiming that they did not have to work outside the home or out of doors.
So what was a parasol made of? Unlike an umbrella that was thick and made to shed the rain, parasols were much more elegant and feminine. Very often a parasol was made of a lightweight cloth like linen or some other such material that would not let the sunlight beat down. Often they where decorated with fancy materials such as fringe, lace, embroidery or braid. They often were also made of a patterned or floral fabric. Many times a well-to-do woman might have a different parasol to match every outfit!