Talk to any dermatologist, and they’ll tell you that if you want to avoid looking like one of the California Raisins, the best thing to do is invest in some fancy sunscreen, buy a good sun hat, and wear long sleeves in 90-degree heat. Or, they’ll also tell you, don’t go under the sun at all. As a fair-skinned blonde in Los Angeles, I’ve decided to stake out some kind of middle ground, becoming the kind of person who carries a parasol (I still wear sunscreen, though). Parasols have been around for thousands of years, and it’s because they’re the simplest, most practical sun protection there is, especially those versions with UPF, the fabric equivalent of SPF.
Beginners, take note: Parasols may seem hard to pull off in real life, but really, the only rule to follow when carrying one is to avoid clocking passersby with it. I’ve got a parasol on deck for every summer outfit and social occasion — these are the five in my current rotation, many of which I buy in multiples.
I like a solid-colored paper parasol for a number of reasons, but mainly because it’s the most casual parasol and doesn’t call a lot of extra attention to itself. Plus, if you lose it, you’re only out about seven bucks max, so there’s no real heartbreak. I buy at least a dozen of these every summer and spread them around my life, so I’ve always got one on hand — at work, in my car, in my boyfriend’s car, and at my mom’s house. I pack an extra one in my tote when heading to the Rose Bowl Swap Meet, and always wind up gifting it to a grateful, sun-baked pal or stranger.
The most dramatic parasol of all is a pointy, pagoda-shaped one. This one is striking already because of its height, but when you add an arresting black-and-white color scheme, you’ve got a true statement piece. Since it’s already a lot of look, I’ll wear it with a plain T-shirt dress and flat sandals.
A black crochet parasol is my go-to when I want to add a bit of goth style to an outfit. Crochet provides a bit less sun cover than any other parasol, so you have to be careful, but it also allows you to peek through it while still giving yourself a bit of shade, which is quite convenient if you’re trying to spy on someone at a garden party. You just want to make sure you don’t wind up looking like some frilly Gothic Lolita, so I’ll use it while in a T-shirt and denim pencil skirt.
These gorgeous, handmade fabric parasols by Lily-Lark are wearable art. Each one features a UPF 50+ coating that protects you from over 98 percent of UV rays (UPF is the measure of how much sun protection a piece of fabric provides) and is made in Chiang Mai, where the bamboo frames are hand-carved by local artisans. I love this Scalamandre-esque zebra print, but there are plenty of other gorgeous ones, and what is particularly special is that the parasol canopy fabric is never glued to the frame (it’s attached at the end of each spoke instead), which means it opens and closes like a well-oiled machine. The Tesla of parasols.
Unlike some of these others, this floral-print, lace-edged parasol-and-umbrella combo will have you covered in the case of a sudden rainstorm, and the treated fabric is rated UPF 40+ to protect your skin from summer sun, too. I’ll break this one out when it’s a true scorcher and I don’t have my precious Lily-Lark handy — the floral motif is a bit “old lady” for everyday use.
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