It’s not often we need to shelter from the sun but on days like we have been having recently you can see why they may have been a popular item in the past.
Of course, a tan was not fashionable in years gone by – it indicated that you were probably someone who was obliged to work outdoors for a living. So, women were encouraged to keep the sun well away from their skin. I have come across a great little blog on the subject by Kate Tattersall http://www.katetattersall.com/parasols-during-the-early-victorian-era/
Kate explains that the history of sunshades goes back thousands of years.
but they reached Europe in the 16th century. They could be heavy and unwieldy, some were made of leather but silk, paper, and cotton grew in popularity.
During the 1700s parasols had already evolved into a woman’s fashion item, designed and decorated to match each promenade dress or walking suit, and was clearly defined as a sunshade; not for rain and snow. To make them collapsible developed around 1800, but ribs would break, paper tear, and the materials mildew if left damp.