The lowly umbrella: an often forgotten accessory. Despite its rugged tenacity and reputation as a tool to be used against mother nature, the umbrella has for centuries been a part of fashion culture – from peasants to royalty.
The ancient Egyptians used parasols (a lightweight umbrella) as protection from the sun, decorating them to coincide with their apparel. The Chinese made use of the parasol for the same reason, taking it a step further by associating the style, color and use with social standing.
Jumping forward to the 1900s, the umbrella became a vital part of pop culture in movies, books and TV. Gene Kelly’s iconic umbrella served as dance partner in the 1952 movie-musical Singing in the Rain, while Mary Poppins used hers as a method of transportation in 1964. The Penguin from Batman Returns (1992) loved the umbrella so much, he weaponized it.
Dapper Belgian detective Hercule Poirot was never seen without one in Agatha Christie’s novels, Scarlett Johansson caused a mild frenzy for the translucent “Bubble” umbrella after appearing beneath one in the 2009 film Lost in Translation, and today’s savvy New York business person would not be caught without one, lest they find themselves soaked for a midday meeting.
The umbrella, while often underappreciated, has earned its place in fashion history.