Summer is vacation time, outdoor enthusiasts rush to the art and fashion birthplace – to Italy. Rome, Florence, Pompeii are the pearls of ancient civilizations, art, and architecture. Tourists are fond of strolling along ancient streets, feeling a fabulous atmosphere of the past. But many of them feel uncomfortable since shade is scarce under the hot Italian sun in summer months. And only few tourists remember about such an important accessory as a parasol.
Indeed, the sun is beneficial for the health. However, staying in the open air under the sun for a long time will not only make you feel uncomfortable due to the body overheating, but will also lead to severer consequences. Doctors have proven that the open sunbeams contribute to the melanoma development, which can lead to skin cancer, premature skin aging, and vision disorders.
Therefore, parasols are not only fashionable and beautiful accessories but an effective way of protection on hot summer days as well.
It was first mentioned in ancient Egypt, as well as in Chinese engravings and ceremonial books dating back to 1000 BC. One version claims that a parasol of the eastern design was invented by a Chinese carpenter who built “a roof to carry” for his wife.
In the days of old, white skin was traditionally seen as a sign of nobility. Perhaps that was the reason why a parasol gradually turned from a sun protection tool into an aristocratic accessory and a symbol of power, authority, and wealth. Parasols were painted by hand, decorated with feathers, embroidery, precious stones, and cost a fortune. In ancient Egypt, a parasol was a symbol of power, and pharaohs were the only ones who could use it.
There were multi-layered parasols. It was a common belief that the more layers-domes, the higher was its owner’s position at the court. Thus, the king of Siam used to walk under a parasol with seven domes decorated with diamonds and gold. The king of Burma had a parasol consisting of 24 domes, for which he was called “the lord of 24 umbrellas”.
In the birthplace of democracy, in ancient Hellas, a parasol ceased to be a synonym of power.
Parasols were made of various materials: in ancient China they were made of special rice paper and covered with wax and varnish, in Japan they were woven of straw or reeds.
In the Roman Empire, noble Roman patrician women protected themselves from the sun using elegant parasols made of leather with metal spokes.
After the Roman Empire collapsed, references to parasols can only be found a few centuries later, in the 12th century, and again they act as a symbol of power. This once – of the papal one.
In 1414, when Pope John XXIII entered Constance city, the local public was astonished by an unusual object that was solemnly carried after the pope. One extremely observant eyewitness – Ulrich from Richenthal – described this “cap” on a pole, which in medieval Italy was called ombrello or umbella (from the word umbra – “shadow”). The umbrella, along with the apostolic keys became a symbol of the secular power of the popes and turned into an important heraldic symbol.
Besides popes and emperors, only the doges of Venice had the exclusive right to use parasols. Common people preferred to protect themselves from the sun using brim hats and coats.
Parasols as a women’s accessory was introduced in the European fashion by the French king Henry IV’s wife Maria Medici at the beginning of the 17th century. Gradually, parasols became an essential attribute of a European lady. Moreover, the amount of decoration, lace, flowers, and flounces on such a parasol could tell one about its owner’s wealth and status.
Elegant lace folding umbrellas we are used to appeared in the 18th century. Fashionmongers dressed in multilayer long skirts couldn’t stay in the scorching sun without additional protection from heat. Besides fans, a parasol matching the dress color became an essential attribute of the women’s look.
Tips for choosing parasol.
Nowadays, a variety of parasols to suit every taste are available: from classic austere design to extremely uncommon parasols.
To create a classic or romantic feminine look, you should decide on retro-style lace umbrellas or paper painted Chinese-style umbrellas.
For a formal suit, a sports or casual look, you can choose a parasol made of satin or nylon.
Topmost! If you take a parasol for a walk to protect you from the sun, choose one of light shades only; white is the best. The fact is that black color doesn’t reflect sun rays and absorbs the visible spectrum of white (solar) light. When it is hot and everything is exposed to the direct sunlight, dark or black ones heat up faster.
A parasol is an unusual accessory that complements the fashionable look. At the same time, a parasol matching your clothes, a scarf, or a bag looks eye-catching. Therefore, when it’s hot and sunny outside, don’t forget to take a parasol!