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Entries in umbrella (35)


Sometimes Mother Does Not Know Best

Must… protect… hair… And also not be recognised whilst doing so.I love my mum. She is not, however, a woman overly interested in fashion and style. She believes in being appropriately dressed for the occasion; she favours modest attire (not too low, not too short); eccentricity receives a dubious frown, and she has strict notions of what looks ridiculous.

“You look like a gypsy!” she declared when I wore an emerald green Indian paisley printed hippy skirt with bells sewn in the hem (I was at art school at the time); too much ethnic jewellery is condemned as ‘drangulije’ – a lovely Croatian word for gewgaws; but her favourite Croatian phrase was an exhortation to ‘be proper!’ Er, perhaps I was a bit of a hoyden when I was younger. And more recently, when I wore my tomato red 40s hat on a visit to the parental home, it was not received with any degree of approbation: it was too odd in Mum’s book. In summary, one should not attract undue attention to one’s attire.

So I was justly indignant when my mother recently suggested that in case I should find myself outdoors in inclement weather, I should carry in my purse a plastic bag that I could place on my head in lieu of an umbrella. I’d like to see her do this. A more ridiculous notion I have never heard!

A plastic bag on the head would be a perfect substitute for an umbrella.

Prada’s clear plastic raincoat that turns opaque when wetMelbourne was experiencing some nasty winter weather at the time, and mum professed concern at my mode of transport to and from work: on foot through the Botanic Gardens. She questioned me closely on my attire, and I informed her reassuringly that I was wearing my red wool and cashmere coat, so was very warm. But that, apparently, was quite inadequate, as there are long splits on the sides under the sleeves. A plastic raincoat would be far more practical. Regrettably, I do not own a plastic raincoat (but if I ever saw one of those fabulous transparent ones Prada made a few years ago, I would snap it up).

A plastic bag on the head would be a perfect substitute for an umbrella. A good quality plastic bag, naturally; not one of those nasty cheap ones from the supermarket.

“Ven it is vindy, the rain blows under the umbrella and you get vet, darling!”

“But mum!” I protested between gales of laughter, “I would look like a lunatic!”

“Who cares! At least you vould be dry!”

“People would call the police if they saw me!”

“Bah! You are talking nonsense.”

It was remarkable how she could carry on with her exhortations even through my continued laughter. I need hardly add that on this occasion I did not take my mum’s advice!


Umbrellas Anonymous

It’s the last day of winter! I don’t know about you, but I shall be celebrating with my annual ritual of throwing one umbrella into the rubbish bin.  

I bought this cute polka-dotted umbrella to replace my beloved old one (which itself was not very old). Knowing full well how fragile they make them these days, I treated this one tenderly, hardly daring to use it; only taking it with me if possible showers were forecast – merely as a precautionary measure. If thunderstorms were assured, I took my sturdy black vintage umbrella with me instead. It defies a gale.

So I cannot understand how, after three or four gentle uses over the space of a month, three (THREE!) spokes on this umbrella have snapped. It’s a disgrace.

This has happened to other people too. I know, because they all poured out their tales of woe when I aired my rage. What is to be done?

I think I shall start a group, and call it Umbrellas Anonymous. People of the world unite! Let us all take our broken umbrellas with us to China and whack the CEOs of these shoddy manufactories over the head. That’ll teach them to rain on our parade. 


In: Polkadots. Out: Lace.

Sob. Another coveted belonging destroyed, this time by the elements.

Last year I was holidaying in Vietnam, the end of my trip coinciding with the start of the monsoon season.

Of course the rains started early and I have not a few memories of being caught out in them, most notably riding down a mountain through a dangerous rockslide on the back of a motorbike. A more pleasant recollection: sitting inside an icecream parlour, sipping on delicious lychee syrup with orange icecream, and watching Pasteur St become so flooded the water quite literally lapped at my toes.

[I was] sitting inside an icecream parlour … watching Pasteur St become so flooded the water quite literally lapped at my toes.

I had already bought and discarded one nasty umbrella, and in Saigon I realised I needed to purchase another. I found a pretty fold-up umbrella with a lace pattern in blue and beige – right up my alley – in MNG.

About a week after I returned home, there was a wild storm in Melbourne. I unfortunately chose that very afternoon for a jaunt into the city to replenish my art supplies. Foolishly I opened my new umbrella in the midst of a gale: a disastrous decision. One of the spokes immediately snapped.

In denial, (I hate it when souvenirs break), I repaired the damage by means of wire and some gaffa tape. Since then, a second spoke has snapped, and I was forced to admit it was done for.

A ludicrously frivolous replacement has been found: candy pink, with ruffles and polka dots. The label: Michiko Koshino; the source: a new boutique called Lion in Love. I am almost scared to use it; it is as fragile and light as its predecessor, and probably doomed to be as short-lived.

…sometimes I feel like Mary Poppins, about to take off in a high wind…

Ever opened a vintage umbrella? The spokes are made from steel, and there are always twice as many as their modern counterparts. Alright, so sometimes I feel like Mary Poppins, about to take off in a high wind, but they are robust.

They just don’t make them like they used to. Yet another example of the capitalist conspiracy against consumers: make ’em breakable, and replaceable. If it wasn’t for the fact we desperately need the rain, I’d be praying for good weather!


What I actually wore #0017

Serial #: 0017
Date: 13/01/2009
Weather: yet another scorcher… 37°
Time Allowed: 5 minutes

The normally unreliable meteorologists had predicted another sizzler today, but since we’d been having a streak of hot days I knew they would be bang on the money again.

On a hot day a dress is the best option, and since – as per usual – I had not left myself much time to dress in the morning, it took me about two seconds between eyeing this dress and whipping it off the hanger. Although it’s lovely vintage polyester, it’s a loose-fitting shift so I figured it would be cool enough. I found it in the Salvo’s a year or two ago priced at about $10.

The pattern reminds me nostalgically of the Viennetta icecream of my seventies childhood.

Once upon a time I wouldn’t have touched such a dress with a barge pole simply because of its fabric, but I took an immediate liking to it when I saw it on the hanger. The pattern reminds me nostalgically of the Viennetta icecream of my seventies childhood. That’s why I picked the white patent wedges: they’re like a delicious dollop of whipped cream, the finishing touch to an indulgent dessert.

A purely practical accessory today, the umbrella (another vintage find, this time on eBay) nevertheless didn’t create quite enough shade to protect my legs as I walked home after work, when the temperature peaked. I could feel the heat radiating up from the concrete sidewalks. I really love the contrast of colours though: the turquoise a solid block of coolness against the richness of the coffee ripples. Icecream anyone?

Dress: vintage
Shoes: Scanlan & Theodore
Umbrella: vintage
Sunglasses: Agnès B
Earrings: vintage
Watch: Kenneth Cole
Rings: Roun


Getting out of the noonday sun

I am a firm believer in the efficacy of a pretty parasol, and for years now have been almost single-handedly determined to bring them back in fashion – if only for their practical use. Even my mum uses one. The day I wore this outfit I was meeting her one very hot day in a local park; I was amused to find she was carrying her own blue umbrella. Like mother, like daughter.

Hand-coloured etching of an English walking dress by an unknown artist, for Rudolph Ackerman's ‘Repository of Arts’, 1812. Image from ‘The Fine Art of Fashion’ by Julian Robinson, Bay Books, Australia. When I first started using a parasol, I was about 20, and on holiday in Queensland. It was a lovely cream sunshade made from Battenburg lace – you can find them easily on eBay these days – but I picked it up in a gift shop at the Pacific Fair shopping centre for a tidy sum. I still have it in fact, though it’s a trifle water-stained. At the time it accessorised a fabulous cream shell top and wide-legged pants that were micro-pleated in the Fortuny style, and I wore my hair in a bob. I thought I looked bohemian – my conservative friends would undoubtedly have used the term ‘outlandish’.

I thought I looked bohemian – my conservative friends would have used the term ‘outlandish’…

Hand-coloured fashion photograph by Talbot of the actresses Mlle De Gonet and Mlle Alice Guerra in dresses by Drecoll, for ‘Les Mode’, 1913. Image, Ibid.

I found the pink umbrella above about three years ago, in a charity shop, by employing one of my friend Rapunzel’s old adages: “always look up”. Hanging from the ceiling by their handles were two parasols. Almost breathless with delight, I asked to see both of them. They were both so bright and frivolous I was sure they must be props from an old costume department somewhere.

It did not take me long to decide which I would buy: they were each $35, but I couldn't possibly pass over black pom-poms! The other umbrella was blue and beige, and not nearly as pretty; I would leave it for some other lucky prospector, who would think they had struck gold.

Centuries ago, women used parasols to protect their complexions from the sun – brown skin indicated one was a member of the lower orders, doomed to toil the fields. Then Coco Chanel burst onto the scene sporting a tan, and ever since parasols have been out of fashion. But I feel the cool breeze of a change.

Pochoir fashion print by Jean Saudé of a dress by Martial et Armand, published in ‘Luxe de Paris’, 1913. Image, Ibid.Over the past few summers I have seen more and more women in Melbourne using sun umbrellas, and never more so than during these past few blazing hot weeks. We pass one another in the city streets and smile with superiority: we’ve discovered the secret to beating the scorching heat, and carry our own shade with us. Not to mention reducing the threat of skin cancer.

I’ve collected a few images of vintage parasols here. Italian Vogue’s images below must be from some time in the 90s; unfortunately I don’t have clothing credits so I can’t tell whether the umbrella is vintage. However, what’s important to note is that the shoot has been styled with a romantic, vintage theme. It is certainly lovely to look at, but few people dress like this in public (not even me!). What I would love to find are images of sunshades worn by thoroughly modern women.

Ellen Von Unwerth, Italian Vogue.

…we’ve discovered the secret to beating the scorching heat, and carry our own shade with us.

This article from British Vogue is also from the 90s, I believe, with some modern examples of parasols. I particularly love the yellow one on bottom left. Sadly, it would not afford much protection from the sun, see-through as it is.

From British Vogue.

An excerpt from the article above:

The parasol, that most charming of accessories, has emerged after decades of neglect as this summer’s frivolous plaything. Since the twenties, the bottle of sun oil has been the skin’s only fashionable protection: now the new pursuit of the lightest, safest of tans has brought the flirtatious parasol back to the catwalks…

Although it is officially autumn now (my favourite season) there may be a few more hot days to come, so put up your umbrellas ladies. It is past time parasols had their day in the sun!

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