Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Monday
Jun172019

Walking Papers

When I was in my late teens I started to wear broad-brimmed hats in summer for protection from the sun simply because I loathed the stickiness of sunscreen and decided I would only put up with it at the beach. From sun hats to parasols was a small step, and I began to collect parasols – because if a hat gave you some protection from the sun, how much more a parasol? (And from summer hats to their winter counterparts was a small leap, and thus a lifetime love affair with hats was born.)

The first proper parasols I found were Chinese and Japanese oiled and plain paper parasols in thrift stores. They were not something I found often, but when I did they were usually inexpensive: under $10, some even under $5. The most recent acquisitions are the two that I am carrying in these pictures. I was thrilled with the flower-shaped one (possibly a Japanese one, with its cherry blossom painting), and the small one I deemed was very convenient to carry in my tote. And since I took this photo, I have found yet another – a green paper parasol.

I did see one oiled paper umbrella once which was priced around $20, but since it wasn’t significantly different to the ones I owned already, I passed on it. A quick look on Etsy ascertains that $20 is a very low price; there are many for $80 or more.*

I always assumed that the coated paper parasols were lacquered, but in fact they are oiled to make them waterproof. As the oiled paper ages it becomes rigid, and easier to break, but with sufficient care one should last for 20 years. I suspect mine are past their use-by date and won’t test them out in the rain, although I’d love to!

Japanese family group, 1920s. (Image found on Pinterest; no original source linked.) Kyoto 1955, by Kansuke YamamotoAccording to Wikipedia, the oiled paper umbrella originated in China, and spread to Korea and Japan during the Tang dynasty (7th–10th centuries). Early umbrella materials were mostly feathers or silks and only later were they covered in paper; it’s unknown when the oiled paper umbrellas were invented. You can read an interesting history about the Japanese wagasa (umbrella) and how they are painstakingly created by hand here. It’s not surprising to learn that the craft has dwindled after WWII, when synthetic umbrellas made their way to Japan. Today production of handmade wagasa is very limited.

If I ever go to China again, or to Japan, a new one will definitely be on my list of desirable souvenirs. I wonder if anyone makes feather ones? What a fashion statement that would be – something else to add to my list of Holy Fashion Grails!

Parasols on the beach, 1920s; click through to the link and scroll to the very bottom of the page to read more about beach parasols in this era.A lovely modern image of a woman with an umbrella in the snow

Fashion Notes

I am wearing a classic Chinese-style silk blouse with mandarin collar and frog fastenings by Sarah-Jane, which I found in a thrift store in country Victoria; the pants are modern, by a French label bought online. My bangles, ring and earrings are cloisonné, also found in thrift stores; the technique of cloisonné had spread to China by the 13–14th centuries where it became hugely popular; to the present day it is one of the world’s best known enamel cloisonné. The fabric necklace of insects and flowers was a souvenir from Hang Nga Guesthouse, popularly known as “Crazy House” for its architecture in Da Lat, Vietnam, and likewise, the beaded and embroidered slippers are a Vietnamese souvenir, bought in the main market in Saigon.

*All prices in Australian dollars

Photos: March 2018

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