Melissa Jones: A Parasol for Regalia

It’s the height of summer... the sun is beating down on you and making you squint to see the action. What do you do? In 16th century Italy, if you were a person of means, you might grab your parasol and head out to face the world. Or have your servants grab it and hold it for you. ;)

This parasol was commissioned by the crown of Atenveldt for regalia. Here in Atenveldt, land of the glorious sun, it can get quite hot and it is always bright. Retinue often carries a Chinese paper parasol over the Queen as she’s watching the list, or going about her duties. The problem with this is that you have a difficult time shading the Queen while trying to avoid getting in her personal space, braining her with the handle, or poking her in the eye with the shade. Most undignified! One event, the Queen’s parasol was misplaced. I had packed two of my parasol styles, one of which is a processional style parasol. I lent it to their majesties and that’s when it was decided that one of these would be quite useful for regalia.

I have found two main parasol construction methods for the pre-16th century conical canopy styled parasols. One is a ribs and stretchers style which looks a lot like what we think of now when we think of a parasol or umbrella. There is a central slider that goes up and down the center pole, ribs that run along the seams of the panels, and a receptacle to hold the ribs and center pole at the top.

The other style is made with a wooden hoop running along the bottom edge with a pole inserted at the center top. Kind of like a hoop skirt on a stick. :) In portraits you will often see this style being carried by retainers behind a person of wealth with the long pole going back at an angle while the canopy remains almost parallel to the ground. I have found that when the parasol is extended over someone like this, it causes the fabric to pull on one side so that the parasol is a little tighter looking on one side than the other and the base is not quite parallel to the ground. You can see this happening in the portraits as well, like Giovanna going to the mine by Jacapo Zucchi in 1572 (left). 

I decided to make the design an interpretation of the Atenveldt heraldry. The top is the glorious Atenveldt sun shining down with the rays reaching towards the edge of the parasol on a blue ground. Around the perimeter is a wreath of laurel leaves done in silver; the heraldic white. To adorn the top of the parasol is a crown. To finish it off, some decorative skirting with a little bit of beaded bling along the edge.

The canopy of the parasol is made from silk twill that has been dyed to Atenveldt colors. Originally the silver leaves were going to be gilded leather leaves, but the decorative beaded fringe on the skirting ended up adding a lot more weight than anticipated so I switched to painting them on to try and save additional weight and take pity on the retinue that would have to hold it. 

The finial of the parasol is a crown made of leather for lighter weight and less risk of damage when being tossed about. It is decorated with leather paint, pearls, and bracelet findings. I made a special velvet padded box to hold the crown so that it does not jostle around in its box and risk damage. I have also made a backup parasol topper that is simply the wooden base that the leather crown is attached to. This slides into the pocket of the bag that is with the parasol so that incase the box that holds the crown is misplaced they can still assemble the parasol.

The wooden pole has been painted gold and has a decorative glass drawer pull for the handle. It is a cobalt blue glass with bronze metal accents that look like a sun on the bottom and a solid cap to help protect the glass on the top. A copper coupling is applied around the base of the pole at the handle to help strengthen this area. The hardware to assemble the parasol both for inserting the decorative drawer pull handle and the bits to join the topper to the pole is found in the hardware section of my hardware store. There is a receptacle screw that is basically a tube with wood screw threads on the outside and machine screw threads on the inside. You simply pre-drill a hole for this to go into and screw it into place. Then take one of the two sided screws that are half machine screw and half wood screw (that match the same size as the machine screw portion of the receptacle screw) and insert that into the top of your pole. You can now fully disassemble your parasol for easier packing and travel.

In the 16th century, a wooden hoop or hardened leather ring would have been used for the frame portion around the base of the parasol. As a modern “twist”, I used plastic coated hoop wire instead. This allows the canopy to be twisted up like a car shade and easily stored in a travel bag.

If you are curious to read more about my parasol research and construction methods, as well as to see the other styles out there, please see my full handout.



© 2001 - 2011 Anabella Wake (Known in the SCA as Bella Lucia da Verona) I hold copyright on all information on these pages, and on all images of clothing/costume that I have made. You are allowed to make one facsimile copy for your own use provided that this notice is included on each page. Please ask permission to copy, disseminate and/or distribute my work - I would like to know when and how you are finding this information of use.