Well into the month and those notorious ‘April Showers’ are certainly making their presence known! On the plus side, we can celebrate the fact that spring has sprung by ‘dancing in the rain’ and picking daffodils. Both activities, I think you’ll agree, made considerably more enjoyable when possessing a brolly.

While the umbrella is top of our list when it comes to being useful, (especially living in the UK) it’s also somewhat of a fashion accessory. Seeing as it’s a vastly required item, it’s great that we have access to a huge range of products to suit individual styles and requirements.

As well as for practical uses, including day-to-day life and sports, the umbrella as a must-have accessory is evident throughout history, and has been used as a timeless prop across many mediums, from high-end fashion and photography, to performance, music and everything in-between.

Practicality


Getting the practicalities out the way, evidently the umbrella has been a hugely beneficial item for centuries.

Derived from Asian practice, and for the original purpose of 'shading one from the sun', Catherine of Braganza was said to have introduced umbrellas (then parasols) to England in The Restoration Period.

After 1676 many ladies adopted the same enjoyment of the item, which also gave way to its appearance in art. It quickly became a desirable and beautiful accessory – one that evoked elegance and status.

Jacques-Joseph Tissot (French artist, 1836-1902) - 'In an English Garden.'

Jacques-Joseph Tissot (French artist, 1836-1902) - 'In an English Garden.'

Less than a decade later and the great British public cottoned on to the idea that a waterproof parasol, (then coined umbrella) could benefit them greatly. And from here on it quickly became an essential item for everybody.

Early Umbrella advertisement

A glass slide that would have been displayed after a silent movie at the cinema. It dates back to c. 1914 and reminds people not to forget their daily necessity!

Fashion and Status


From here on in, the connotations ‘useful’ and ‘glamorous accessory’ have continued side by side for the umbrella. It’s also been awarded iconic status in the world of fashion thanks to influential figures giving it significant credibility.

Marilyn Monroe on the beach with her brolly

The infamous Marilyn Monroe endorsed the glamorous and 'chic' brolly by modelling on the beach in 1949.

Marilyn Monroe arriving at Universal Studios with her brolly

And here she arrives at Universal Studios – demonstrating not only glamour with her accessory, but playfulness and fun.

Umbrellas are also favourites in high editorial fashion - having been designed by powerhouse designers such as Burberry, photographed by legends such as Richard Avedon, and appearing on the front of top mags - none more prestigious than Vogue.

Vogue often uses umbrellas in their imagery Vogue often uses umbrellas in their imagery

Performance


Looking lastly to popular culture, we can see that many iconic figures have also used the umbrella as an integral prop in performance.

Turning importantly to the most topical – let’s see why it is that we all whistle that tune:

"Singin' in the Rain" from MGM's classic musical of the same name

'Singin' in the Rain' is a 1952 American musical comedy film directed by, and starring, Gene Kelly. This classic, and often described ‘greatest musical of all time’ may be a far cry from how we respond to such downpour, but it’s not hard to see why the scene and music is rooted in the minds of many, as Kelly performs with such energy and style.

He certainly makes good use of his prop, and this effortless 'energy and style' seems to have inspired others in his wake as we often see the umbrella on film and stage. For example, Cornwall's finest Kneehigh Theatre and their adaptation of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.

Kneehigh Theatre's adaptation of 'Umbrellas of Cherbourg'

Kneehigh Theatre's adaptation of 'Umbrellas of Cherbourg'

This trend of singing about our unforgiving weather is still ingrained in the music industry and we can thank Rihanna and her hugely successful hit ‘Umbrella’ for the wettest summer to date. Again, thanks for that.

And there you have it. As well as the positive influence of many artists, stars, and iconic figures, it’s likely we started ‘singin’ in the rain’ simply because the umbrella put us in a considerably better mood! It’s undoubtedly a fun, eye-catching, and hugely ‘useful’ accessory that we simply cannot do without!

Photo sources: bjws.blogspot.co.uk, theneotraditionalist.com, flickr.com, news.trawickandmartin.com, telegraph.co.uk