“The Umbrellas of New York”

How to brighten up a rainy day
Photo: coloredmondays.tumblr.com

For many people, an umbrella is a disposable necessity, an inconvenient appendage, and just one more thing to carry around and most probably lose or ruin. Others rightly see it as a vital addition that can add that all-important finishing touch. The recent spate of wet weather has illuminated the importance of this often overlooked and all-important accessory.

The Ancient Chinese invented the umbrella

The history of the umbrella spans almost the entire duration of modern human civilization. The ancient Chinese are credited for having the earliest recorded use of collapsible umbrellas, with texts from as far back as 2,400 years referencing umbrellas that could slide and close. It wasn’t until the 16th century that the umbrella became popularized in the western world.

The first lightweight folding umbrella in Europe was introduced in Paris in 1710. In 1759, a French scientist named Navarre presented a new design for an umbrella combined with a cane. Pressing a small button on the side of the cane opened the umbrella.

Hans Haupt and his umbrella invention
Photo: sfilate.it

Some of the most important inventions in umbrellas happened in the 20th century. Hans Haupt created the foldable pocket umbrella in 1928, and Bradford E Phillips secured a patent in 1969, which was described as the first “working folding umbrella.”

There’s no question that the wrong umbrella can ruin an otherwise great outfit. Conversely, if you choose the right one, it can complement or even elevate your ensemble. At the recent FLO Awards Luncheon, which was held on a gray, damp day, designer Shannon McClean stood out because of her remarkable hat and dress and because she accessorized with a beautiful parasol.

Shannon McLean with her Pearl River Mart Parasol
Photo:Marilyn Kirschner

It shielded her from the elements and created the ideal punctuation mark. An assortment of solid and printed nylon parasols, priced from $12.50 to $21.50, are available at pearlriver.com.

An umbrella acts as your portable environment, and it can be the most prominent thing people will see when it rains. Instead of something dull, why not choose something artful, colorful, or out of the ordinary? Just the simple act of wearing a red umbrella with an all-black outfit is highly impactful. With this in mind, I’ve selected 10 distinctive umbrellas. They are priced from $31.99 to $737 and are anything but a run-of-the-mill. Go ahead…Rain!

Color Wheel Umbrella
Photo: moma.org

This striking generously-sized Color-Wheel Umbrella brightens any day. Composed of 24 distinct panels (as opposed to the eight panels that make up traditional umbrellas), it surrounds the user in every shade of the rainbow when open. Made of 100% nylon, it has a lightweight manual open/close black metal frame and black rubber-coated handle. It is for sale at moma.org and is priced at $55 for non-members and $49.50 for members.

Mondrian white mini umbrella
Photo: moma.org

Stay dry on the go with this compact, collapsible umbrella printed with a pattern inspired by Piet Mondrian’s Composition in Red, Blue, and Yellow (1937–42), an artwork in MoMA’s collection. For sale at moma.org, it comes with a printed sleeve and is priced at $40 for non-members; $35 for members.

The Starry Night Umbrella
Photo: amazon.com

Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” is one of the most iconic paintings. Why not use it as a cover on a rainy day? OREZI’s Starry Night Art Umbrella is windproof and waterproof. It has a practical C-Shape Handle, and it folds, which makes it perfect for traveling. Priced at $31.99, it is for sale at amazon.com.

Issey Miyake Aya Takano 2004 Limited Edition Umbrella
Photo: 1stdibs.com

This full-sized Issey Miyake umbrella features the artwork of Aya Takano. It is a 2004 Limited Edition umbrella in perfect unused condition. Priced at $737, it is for sale at 1stdibs.com

Versace Crete Des Fleur Umbrella
Photo: fwrd.com

Versace’s “Crete Des Fleur” umbrella features the instantly recognizable and iconic Versace Barocco print in black, white, and gold. It has a gradient acrylic hook handle, gold-tone metal Medusa accent on the open/close spring, and it is sold with a protective cover. When open, the canopy measures 43″ in diameter and is approximately 37″ in length. Priced at $250, it is for sale at fwrd.com.

Alexander McQueen black and gold skull handle umbrella
Photo: neimanmarcus.com

Alexander McQueen’s edgy “Skull Umbrella” features a gold-finished 3D skull handle. It’s like carrying a piece of jewelry. Made of a technical nylon gabardine, it features a wraparound press-stud tab fastening and gold-tone and silver-tone hardware. Measuring approximately 16″ in length when folded, it is priced at $560 and for sale at neimanmarcus.com

ShedRain Iridescent Auto Stick Umbrella
Photo: nordstrom.com

ShedRain’s auto-touch iridescent umbrella has a steel-chrome shaft and 50″ arc. It reflects light in the most flattering of ways. Priced at $34, it is for sale at nordstrom.com

10 Corso Como dotted print fold-up umbrella Photo: farfech.com

10 Corso Como’s dotted-print umbrella measures 10.2 inches by 2.4 in width. It has a telescopic handle, touch-strap fastening, and a wrist strap for added convenience. You can’t beat the price. It is $39 and is for sale at farfetch.com

Scully & Scully Golden Handles Rose Umbrella
Photo: scullyandscully.com

Scully & Scully actually has a section on their website devoted to “Luxury Umbrellas.” This glamorous Italian umbrella features a golden handle topped with a sculpted rose. The two-tone ombre red exterior of the umbrella complements the sleek black shaft. When opened, the interior of the umbrella canopy features a riot of red roses and provides excellent protection from the elements at 45″ wide. It even looks good closed. Made in Italy, it is priced at $450 and for sale at scullyandscully.com.

Scully & Scully Sterling Silver Handled Striped Umbrella
Photo: scullyandscully.com

Handsome handles plated with .925 sterling silver and solid craftsmanship define this Italian hand-worked umbrella. When opened, the umbrella provides a generous amount of protection from the elements at 45″ wide. It is priced at $345 and for sale at scullyandscully.com.

There are two other versions, one in dark gray pinstripes on black and another, red and cream lines on blue. Any of the three would make a great Father’s Day gift for the guy who has everything.

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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