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Portable Shade Devices Deployed in Streets August 2, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Fashion, Lifestyle.
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Valerie Steele, director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, says that people are carrying umbrellas more on sunny days because of concerns about global warming and danger to the skin. It can be an emotional aid, she says, in “an uncertain environment.”

The word “umbrella” comes from the Latin word for shade. Originally, umbrellas were used for sun protection. In earlier civilizations they were a status symbol — Egyptian royalty are pictured with umbrella-bearing attendants. (The modern equivalents are the valets who have carried umbrellas for celebrity royalty, such as Michael Jackson and P. Diddy.) The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that carrying umbrellas was okay for women but not for men, the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica tells us. In the mid-18th century, a British traveler wrote home from France of the en-tout-cas, an umbrella that protects from both rain and sun. And he suggested that Brits should start carrying them.

Guidebooks through the years have urged visitors to the British Isles to carry an umbrella at all times. Historians tell us that British soldiers even toted their umbrellas to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

A legend accompanying a watercolor of a parasol at the National Gallery of Art explains that parasols were introduced to the United States in 1772 by a Baltimore entrepreneur. “Soon the fashion centers of Philadelphia and New York took an interest in this kind of accessory,” the legend reads. “By the 19th century, parasols were commonly used by women for carriage rides or for promenading.”

The umbrella, on the other hand, “was declasse,” says Steele. “You were supposed to have a carriage to keep you from getting wet. Only middle-class people carried umbrellas.” In the mid-19th century, Louis Phillipe of France carried an umbrella. He was known as the Bourgeois King.

Parasols were considered a more genteel thing in the southern United States, Steele says, where many people wanted “to keep their skin as light as possible.” The same was true in India. She adds that parasol carriers were also trying to avoid heatstroke.

Today the answer to the umbrella and parasol is a 24/7 omnibrella. All-weather umbrellas are offered in gift catalogues.

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