Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Portable Shade

"The parasols this year look like big, beautiful flowers that have grown and blossomed at will without having a single pretty fancy restrained or pruned away. Like all of this Springs work they are characterized by a picturesque and irresponsible variety that refuses adherence to any one pattern. Any sort of parasol may he carried with the assurance that the more it differs from every other parasol the more it will he approved." -- The New York Times, May 1, 1892.

The days are growing longer, which reminds me that everyone should use sunblock. I like Neutrogena's SPF 30 for sensitive skin, but sometimes I forget to apply it or to tuck it in my purse before going out. My two failsafe measures are a large hat and a parasol, both of which are much harder to overlook and leave behind.

I have a large head covered with a lot of thick, long hair. Finding hats that fit is difficult for me, especially as I frequently wear my hair pulled or pinned up, and so I decided to make one, thereby guaranteeing a good fit. Last year, I found this pattern by Lily Chin, and I executed it in jute twine from the hardware store for a rustic look. Lily models her hat pushed back from her face, but I wear mine level across my forehead to shade my face and throat. I made two hatbands which coordinate with just about everything I wear; I swap them according to my outfit and pin them with an antique brooch. The hat draws lots of compliments, but the parasol draws stares.

On eBay, that bargain-hunter's playground, I found a Chinese paper parasol, dated about 1920. Its paper canopy was torn in several places, so I mended it with tissue paper and Elmer's glue. The patches are white, but I haven't figured out how to stain them to match the rest of the canopy without dissolving the paper. They don't show much, fortunately, so I may leave them as they are. The parasol shades me well, allowing only dim sunlight to touch my skin. I used it for most of last summer, and between it and the hat, I didn't get sunburned once. As fair as I am, that's quite a feat.

We all need some unprotected exposure to sunlight (ten to fifteen minutes a day, I have read) to help our bodies make vitamin D, a nutrient necessary for regulating the body's calcium and phosphorous levels. Sunshine feels good, and it's good for us. But baking our skin, whether in the sun or a tanning parlor, is a great way to wind up with prematurely aged skin or, at worst, skin cancer. Even if your skin is olive or dark, excessive sun exposure can cause damage, but paler people are much more susceptible.

Enjoy checking out the parasols at these links. Maybe we'll start a trend!

Darna's East Angel Harbor Hat Shoppe -- elaborate, hand-decorated parasols and hats
Designs by Victoria -- parasols, fans, and other goodies
Lace Parasols: Undercover Elegance
Luna Bazaar -- colorful paper parasols
Pamela's Parasols
Parasols at Gentleman's Emporium -- oodles of other lovely wearables and accessories, too.
Shooting Star History -- patterns and supplies for making your own parasols


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