The first umbrellas functioned as portable canopies, probably assembled from the broad leaves of a tree. Seen in ancient artifacts and sculptures from China, Egypt, Greece, and the Near East, they often indicated divine or royal status, and were generally entrusted to attendants to carry.
Parasols (from the Italian para-, against, and the Latin sol, sun) and umbrellas (from the Latin umbra, shade) became fashionable accessories in the eighteenth century. These terms have been used interchangeably, though the latter is associated more with rain. The unusual hybrid “en tout cas” (in any event) offered dual protection from both sun and rain.
During Japan’s Edo period, beautiful paper umbrellas enjoyed great popularity. They are frequently seen in colorful woodblock prints protecting users from sun, rain, and snow.
Queen Victoria started a trend for “carriage parasols” in the 1840s, which were used when riding in an open carriage. The fashion remained current for several decades.
Indeed, the chic nineteenth-century woman in Europe and America was rarely seen in public without a parasol, which safeguarded her complexion and showed off her discriminating taste. Such well-dressed ladies were depicted by many artists of the day.
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