The 1930s saw a whirlwind of fashion changes as the world crawled, then ran from the dark days of the Great Depression. Clothing had evolved in direct proportion to the stabilization of the economies. By 1939, women’s hats sprouted brims and decorations thought expensive and frivolous in 1930. Accessories, long ignored or thought obsolete, grew new life with practical applications applied from the lessons of those hard times still fresh in everyone’s mind. The umbrella was one such come-back kid in 1939.
By combining the usefulness of the umbrella and the style and statement of the Parasol, the end of the decade ushered in a new found love for the Parabrella! For twenty five previous years parasols and umbrellas had fallen from favor. At their peak in 1900 the parasol-umbrella industry was a $30,000,000 industry. For that time and the value of the dollar then, it was an insane amount of money. By the early 1930s that had dwindled down to a $5,000,000 industry. The parasol, or sun protector, was discarded about the same time that the automobile became every increasingly common. Prior to the automobile, fashion dictated that the wealthy kept from tanning their skin lest someone think they were a field worker. Men wore white suits to show off that they need not toil in hard dirty labor and women shielded themselves from the sun for the same reason. It was a status symbol as much as a fashion statement. When the car was introduced the same people wished to demonstrate their ability to go on vacation in their fancy cars and having a “little sun” now was a sign of health and wealth, the complete opposite of what it had meant.
During the hard times of the Great Depression, the umbrella fell victim to practicality and thrift. The penny-wise masses saw no need for an umbrella when a raincoat was sufficient. Even rain drenched England, where a man might be judged by the way his umbrella was furled, saw a decline in sales and use. It would be the English, however who would bring it back for both men and women and help usher in a new love and appreciation for the practicality and elegance of the umbrella and parasol.
The London umbrella shop, Thomas Brigg’s & Son’s had for generations supplied English Royalty and English gentlemen umbrellas, riding whips and walking sticks. The man in the streets knew nothing of Brigg’s until in 1939 Neville Chamberlain was photographed with a smartly furled black umbrella from the shop. The press flocked to the Brigg’s shop to get details of Chamberlain’s distinguished accessory. The polite clerk explained that it was stock 57/6 model made of fine black silk, hand sewn and hand riveted and could be had for $12.00. Descriptions of it were flashed around the world and men everywhere once again became umbrella-conscious.
Also in January of 1939 Queen Elizabeth paid a visit to the United States. Her Majesty the Queen carried with her a wardrobe of parasols. By combining the curved handle and the waterproof qualities of Prime Minister Chamberlain’s umbrella with the Queen’s decorative and sun shielding parasol, manufacturers created the parabrella and it became a sensation that completely changed the U.S. summer fashion scene that year.
The vintage and vintage inspired crowd, ever so keen to recognize the practicality and elegance of the parabrella, have embraced the use of this iconic accessory. Caught in downpour, or the fending off the blazing sun at a car show, the modern vintage inspired gal has given new life to an old friend. Modern manufacturers like Tatyana have created authentic and practical parabrellas with loads of wonderful 1930’s styling. Colors, polka dots and lots of charm it’s a must have accessory for any woman who has ever been caught in a cloud burst or needed some relief from the sun. Fun in the sun…or rain!