A Spoonful of Sugar
MARY POPPINS HERSELF would happily confess the number of times her umbrella was a lifesaver—helping her blow town right before being asked troubling questions like, “Why is the banister so well-dusted?” or “Why are my children spending time with vagrant chimney sweeps?”
Luckily, Mary’s nannying skills bear no reflection on her taste in getaway devices. Likely the highlight of her wardrobe, her umbrella’s classic design syncs with the authority and propriety of her personality. Sixty years later, it’s still a very popular design, meaning it’s safe to say two things about Mary: She’s good at fixing families in a needlessly circuitous manner, and has a knack for picking a fine umbrella.
HOW SWEET IT IS
More than just a tool to keep one dry or an escape device for magical nannies, a nice umbrella can complement an outfit. It may come as a surprise to some there is an actual category of umbrellas dubbed “fashion umbrellas.” The grouping, which now encompasses all umbrellas designed to exhibit a higher-end look, began with Mary’s classically familiar style. As explained by Lynn Schatz, marketing manager for Parsippany, New Jersey-based Avaline, the traditional design with the wooden J-handle, exaggerated tips and point, and slightly more domed canopy, became popular around her era in London. A symbol of authority and class due to its expense at that time, the pattern has retained its status, and is still the primary template for fashion umbrellas. Today, the category has branched out and become framed by nebulous descriptors like “high-end” and “executive,” but basically, fashion umbrellas are categorized as those meant to look a little nicer, and value appearance over brute durability or low production cost.
A subset of the stick umbrella category (golf umbrellas being the other main grouping), fashion umbrellas may seem to have a broad classification. Their emphasis on style, however, does translate into tangible attributes common amongst their varying designs. Fashion umbrellas usually begin at around a 48" arc (“arc” being the measure of umbrella coverage area), a size that is more personal, meant for one or maybe two people. They often have a wood or metal frame, leaving fiberglass for larger golf umbrellas. Schatz mentioned, too, that fashion umbrellas typically forgo features like double-canopy windproofing, as that isn’t in line with their intended purpose (surviving on a golf course for six hours and looking professional in an executive’s hand are functionally different tasks). Fashion umbrellas, however, do have additional features that their more utilitarian counterparts do not.