Parasols where known to have been used over 4000 years ago in China, Egypt, Greece, Rome and India. The first known parasols were made from palm fronds and other large leaves and natural materials, straddled on wooden spokes. In China, the spokes were sometimes made from ivory. It wasn't until the late 1800s that metal spokes were as common as wooden ones.
As parasols evolved, skin, cloth and even paper was used and were carried by nobility and wealthy women. Parasols were introduced to the Western world through traders following the Silk Route.
In the 1920s, it became all the rage to spend leisure time at the beach from the Jersey Shore in the USA, to St. Tropez in France, to Bondi Beach in Australia.
For the porcelain skinned beauties who wished to remain so, (unlike fashion designer Coco Chanel who introduced the 'tan' as chic and denoting one's wealth (someone who had plenty of time for lounging in the sun!), a cotton or paper parasol was as important as the swimsuit, ballet-slipper style beach shoes and bathing cap.
Many parasols were purchased at the beach from vendors. They were used and then kept as souvenirs.
Other parasols, like this pretty floral patterned one, made from printed, sheer voile, were used at social events and coordinated with a woman's outfit, sometimes even made with the same fabric as the dress.
|Image from Death on the Nile. Agatha Christie|