ASK ALISON: How Can A Girl Carry A Parasol Without Looking Ridiculous?

This one's easy: JUST DO IT!
Publish date:
May 9, 2014
shoppables, sun protection, fashion, style, Ask Alison, parasols, styling advice

Hey Alison,

Do you have any ideas for making a parasol work during the summer? This is my first year in Los Angeles and I'm already way more tan than I've been since I was a wee child. I'm trying to avoid turning into a California Raisin!

The ruffle, pagoda and paper ones are lovely, but seem really hard to pull off without looking costume-y. How would you style them for real life?


Well, Berae, the short answer is this: JUST FUGGIN’ DO IT. As long as you are carrying your parasol outside in the sun and not while strolling through an air-conditioned shopping mall, it is performing an actual function and is therefore exempt from all the normal rules of fashion and style.

Having said that, there are a few guidelines to follow if you want to make sure you don't look like you're wearing a frilly-frocked Gothic Lolita costume in the middle of summer unless it's totally intentional. The real secret to carrying a parasol without looking ridiculous is to treat it as an afterthought that just so happens to look adorable with what you casually threw on that day.

Paper is best.

I like a paper parasol for a myriad of reasons, but mainly because it's the most casual parasol there is and doesn't call a lot of attention to itself. Plus, if you lose it, you're only out about eight bucks -- so there's no real heartbreak! A loose, printed dress, classic straw tote and a single, simple, eye-catching piece of jewelry is the best way to elevate a lowly paper parasol to star status.

But if you don't do paper, crochet is second best!

I'm obviously biased, because this black crochet parasol from classic Hollywood goth/taxidermy/Victorian mourning supply shop Necromance is my regular summer go-to.

Style yourself in my graven image by wearing your goth-princess parasol with a louche streetwear tee, denim pencil skirt, shiny sandals and rocker-chic fringed bag.

A softer, sweeter way to sport a crochet parasol is with a simple round-necked T-shirt, floral printed shorts, hot & sexy Swedish MILF clogs, woven leather carryall and some dainty mixed-metal jewelry.

Remember: a pagoda-style parasol is a whole lot of look.

That's not to say you can't pull one off -- but just be aware that when your parasol is making a big, pointy statement, you want to make sure the rest of your outfit whispers. A plain T-shirt dress, cheeky tote bag, bow-bedecked flat sandals and sparkly button earrings will do the trick nicely, allowing the pagoda to be the high point of your ensemble.

A little fringe never hurt anybody.

I heart a fringed parasol HARD, because it instantly calls to mind the bedazzled umbrellas that were so common at the second-line parades of my childhood. What started out as a purely functional item to block the sun during a New Orleans jazz funeral procession has become a literal art form -- the fringed, feathered, glittered, jeweled, tasseled, streamer-bedecked parasols that hit the streets at Mardi Gras every year are absolutely breathtaking. This lady even put a giant light-up octopus on her parasol:

While I wouldn't recommend a light-up octopus for everyday wear, a slight amount of fringe and embellishment is perfectly fine -- just make sure to temper the frilly vibe with a broken in pair of boyfriend jeans, classic Birkenstock Gizeh sandals, and a bright, flowing tank-style blouse. (You can also add a pair of girly heart-shaped shades to the mix if you're feeling frisky!)

Oh, and ruffles are A-OK too!

What could be overly saccharine look instead goes edgy when done up in zesty stripes paired with hot pink. And when you're already carrying an out-there accessory like a parasol, it gives you a license to match your shoes to it without looking too good-girly.

Really, the only rule you need to follow when you carry a parasol is to avoid clocking passersby with it and to always be aware of the extra space a parasol takes up. They aren't really a great idea in a packed crowd or at a street fair. You need plenty of room in order to properly twirl your parasol to your heart's content -- without putting someone's eye out in the process!

I'm on Twitter: @IveyAlison.