Umbrellas in Fashion

As the wet weather approaches, you can keep dry with one of our designer umbrellas that will help you take shelter from rain showers in style. Our collection of ladies’ umbrellas features vibrant prints that will help brighten up even the dullest of days. Whether you’re looking for bright florals, vintage polka dots or one of our signature Scottie dog designs, you’ll soon forget about the rain when you’re using your beautiful Radley Umbrella.

What is an Umbrella ?

An Umbrella (also known as a parasol or brolly) is a folding canopy supported by wooden or more often metal ribs, mounted on a pole. The essence of an umbrella design is to protect someone from rain or occasionally sunlight. When protecting yourself from rain, the terminology umbrella is commonly used, whereas, when you want to protect yourself from the sun, a parasol is used. The two terms can be interchanged as they theoretically mean the same thing, the only difference is the material of the canopy, as an umbrella will use a waterproof canopy.

An umbrella is a hand-held device sized for personal use, some of which are compact enough to fit in a handbag – these are called fully collapsible umbrellas, and then there are non-collapsible Umbrellas, where only the canopy collapses and not the poll. These non-collapsible umbrellas are seen less but are still an option. There are also golfing umbrellas which are much larger, so wouldn’t fit inside a handbag, but are still portable. Another popular type of umbrella is a large parasol which can block the sun for several people and can be fixed or semi-fixed devices. These large parasols are usually used in outdoor seating at restaurants or on patio tables, outdoor furniture and are also commonly seen on holiday. The holiday sun blocking parasols are often referred to as a beach umbrella.

The origin of the term Parasol and Umbrella


This word originally comes from France and is a combination of two words; ‘para’ meaning to shield, and ‘sol’ meaning sun. Hence a parasol shields the user from sunlight.


The word has evolved from the Latin words ‘umbella’ which is a flat-topped rounded flower, and ‘umbra’ meaning shade or shadow. The word describes the shape of the umbrella.

The History of the Umbrella

When we think about umbrellas, we would almost always associate them with rain. When Umbrellas were first invented, they weren’t designed to be an everyday item to protect us from the rain, they were designed as parasols, which protected you from the sun. Umbrellas also originally had prominent roles in various world cultures as religious and status symbols.

The History of Umbrellas Across the World

Ancient Egypt

The first recorded use of a parasol was in Ancient Egypt, dating back to 3500 BC. They were very simple in design, being created of a wooden stick and a palm leaf canopy. They were originally only used by Kings and Queens as a sign of wealth and nobility as the canopy kept their skin pale, which showed they didn’t have to be outside working.


The first time that an umbrella was used was in 1100 BC in China. It was classed as an umbrella rather than a parasol, because the canopy was coated to make it waterproof. This umbrella also best represents the modern style umbrella that we see today, as it had a very similar opening and closing mechanism. Umbrellas within China are also a sign of status and wealth, and royals used red and yellow umbrellas, whereas, everyone else would use blue umbrellas. Similar to Ancient Egypt a sign of wealth was pale skin because it showed that you had an upper-class job and didn’t have to work outside in the fields.


Around the same time that China started to produce umbrellas, so did India. Similarly, to China, umbrellas in India were seen as a sign of status and wealth. Just like on the red carpet members of royalty would have specific staff to carry their umbrellas for them. Often these were large and heavy parasols.

Greece and Rome

In Greece, people did not start using parasols until around 500 BC, and even then, it was mainly only women that would carry them. Again, carrying an umbrella or parasol at this time in Greece was seen as a sign of status and wealth, and also used in religious rituals.


The importance of umbrellas took a very different path in Europe, with people choosing to use cloaks to protect themselves from the unpredictable weather and rain. The first signs of umbrella use in Europe was from paintings in the 17th century, however, it wasn’t until the 18th century that the popularity of umbrellas increased. The waterproof umbrella was particularly popular within France and England.

In the early days of the umbrella people thought you were poor if you had to carry your own umbrella, it wasn’t until an Englishman named Jonas Hanway who publicly used his own umbrella that the wealth status surrounding them was abolished.

Radley Umbrellas for Women

Radley Stripe

As much as a full-size umbrella looks sophisticated, it’s far handier to have a smaller brolly that will slip into your handbag almost unnoticed. Our Radley Stripe design won’t weigh your handbag down and doesn’t feel like it will blow away in a gust of wind like some pocket umbrellas do. This style champions the Radley brand through and through with our iconic Scottie dog and graphic Radley London wording, suiting the modern minimalist and pairing with any outfit colour. Made from water-resistant polyester, Scottie dog and Radley London branding, Matching slipcover, Wristlet strap, Radley London graphic print- Brushed gold handle.

Cut Out Radley

Stay dry from sudden showers with this stylish, vibrant umbrella. Designed to embrace all types of weather, this Radley umbrella will face the strongest of winds. The handy size will easily slip into your bag without weighing it down and keep you sheltered wherever your day takes you. It comes with a handy wristlet strap and matching slipcover for convenience.


Inspired by everyone’s favourite print, this leopard print umbrella is the perfect combination of style and function. The handy size will easily slip into your bag without weighing it down and keep you sheltered wherever your day takes you. It comes with a handy wristlet strap and matching slipcover for convenience.

Different Types of Umbrellas

Automatic Umbrella

These umbrellas have a feature that allows you to automatically open and close the umbrella. This is usually done by a button which is on the bottom of the umbrella’s handle. These are beneficial as it saves you having to control the mechanism to open and close the umbrella, which is great for people who have reduced mobility.

Beach Umbrella / Sun Umbrella or Beach Parasol / Sun Parasol

A beach umbrella is large and heavy and can be fixed into a base. They are designed to offer protection from the sun whilst at the beach.

Bubble Umbrella

These umbrellas are becoming more and more popular, due to their classic, yet trendy design. When up, they look like the top half of a clear plastic bubble. Unlike a traditional umbrella that needs to be slightly tilted when above your head, a bubble umbrella is clear and has an extended canopy, which means that it can be place directly over your head. This allows more of you to be protected from wind and rain. Some canopies on bubble umbrellas, extend all the way down to your chest and even waist.

Child Umbrella

Quite plainly, a child umbrella is designed to be used by children. It has all the same functions of a traditional umbrella, the only difference being, that it is a lot smaller. The often have bright and colourful designs and patterns on them.

Classic Umbrella or Classic Parasol / Brolly

The most common type of umbrella. They come in two types, which is manual and automatic, which means that the user can choose whether to open it with their hands or by pressing a button. They collapse to a small size being able to fit into a handbag, however, some will have a long straight poll and a curved handle so that they can be held easily.

Cocktail Umbrella

These are tiny little umbrellas that are made of paper and a cocktail stick. They have bright designs and colours on them but will not protect you from rain or sun. Instead, they are place in drinks and cocktails to add decoration and make them look exotic.

Foldable Umbrella

Quite simply, a foldable umbrella is one that can be folded up small so that they close easily and can be stored in a quick and efficient manor, such as inside a handbag. These are the most used and most popular design of umbrella, as they are suitable for most people.

Golf Umbrella / Golf Brolly

Named after its purpose, a golf umbrella is traditionally used on a golf course. They are much bigger than a standard umbrella, and are used to protect golfers, their carts and equipment. They are designed to be able to resist strong winds and rain.

Paper Umbrella

These are ancient Chinese-made umbrellas, which originated over 2000 years ago. They are used for protection against the sun and strong winds. They have a religious significance in some Asian nations and are also used as a religious symbol.

Straight Umbrella

This is also known as a non-collapsible umbrella. The canopy will collapse, however, the pole will not. This style of umbrella is seen a lot in classic films. When not up, it is carried in the same way that a walking stick is.

Wind Resistant Umbrella or Windproof Umbrella

The windproof umbrella is reinforced using extra strong materials and a double cover. The reason that this is done is to stop them from breaking or blowing inside out during strong winds and rain. They are usually larger than a typical umbrella, having the ability to cover more than one person.

A summary of the most popular different Umbrella, parasol, brolly names


Garden Umbrella

Golf Umbrella

Beach Umbrella

Fishing Umbrella

Parasol Umbrella

Sun Umbrella

Windproof Umbrella

Patio Umbrella


Garden Parasol

Banana Parasol

Beach Parasol

Large Parasol

Sun Parasol


Fishing Brolly

Golf Brolly

Garden Brolly

How to choose the right Umbrella for you

Choosing an umbrella may seem like an easy decision to many and many will hold the design of their umbrella as the most important factor. However, the essence of an umbrella or parasol is to protect you from the elements whether that be sun or rain, therefore there are other factors that need to be considered alongside your umbrella style.

The first factor to take into consideration is whether you are wanting an Umbrella to protect you from the sun or the rain. If you are looking to protect yourself from the rain, then the canopy of the umbrella must be water resistant, and the umbrella itself must be easily portable, so that it can be carried with you. As a result, a waterproof umbrella would be the right option. However, if you are looking to protect yourself from the sun, then it doesn’t matter too much about the material, as long as it is opaque. You would also need to take into consideration whether you would be carrying the parasol around with you or whether you would want a larger one that can be fixed into a base and protect more people. Therefore, a beach umbrella or sun parasol would be the right designs to look for.

There are two main types of umbrellas and they are collapsible Umbrellas and non-collapsible umbrellas. Deciding between these two depends on how you would rather carry it when it is not in use. A collapsible umbrella will fold down compact and fit into your handbag, whereas, a non-collapsible umbrella will only have the canopy collapse and not the handle, meaning that you will have to carry it along side you. Many people see this as a fashion accessory, which is why this design is still popular. Therefore, if you are commuting or needing to have your umbrella with you throughout the day a collapsible compact umbrella would be the right option.

If you are in an area with both strong winds and rain, then it would be best to go with either a golfing umbrella or a wind resistant umbrella. This way you can be sure that you will be highly protected from the wind and rain, and you don’t have to worry about the wind blowing your umbrella inside out. Another good style of umbrella for this type of weather is a bubble umbrella. This is because it will give you much more cover and protection compare to a classic umbrella.

How to carry an Umbrella

Once the umbrella is fully extended, hold onto the handle with your hand. The handle is usually a crook, however, in more modern umbrellas, the handle is often round. Then hold the umbrella above your head, with the handle around shoulder height. This is so that it is not too high that it doesn’t protect you from wind and rain, but not too low so that it covers your eyes and hits people around you in the head. Tilt the canopy of the umbrella back slightly behind your head so that you can see properly, but still be protected from wind and rain. If you have a bubble umbrella, you won’t need to tilt the umbrella, as it is designed to cover as much as possible and still allow you to see with its clear canopy.

When it is not raining, collapse the canopy of your umbrella. If you have a collapsible handle, then fold that down and you can either carry the umbrella in your hand or store it in your bag. If you have a non-collapsible umbrella, then collapse the canopy, point the tip of the umbrella towards the ground, and walk along with it as if you are carrying a walking stick. If the umbrella has a crook handle, then it can easily be hung up on a hook or door handle. However, many places will now have an umbrella stand at the entrance for you to leave it.

Fun Facts about Umbrellas

The word umbrella comes from the Latin word "umbros" which means shade or shadow.

The first man who publicly carried umbrella was Englishman Jonas Hanway. His influence finally introduced umbrella to male population of England, and soon after entire world.

Many religions adopted umbrellas and parasols as a part of their ceremonies and processions.

First working "folding umbrella" was introduced in 1969 by Bradford Philips.

During its first thousand years of life, parasols were viewed as a symbol of wealth and power.

When is National Umbrella Day?

National Umbrella Day is celebrated every year on February 10th. National Umbrella Day was created to honour one of the world’s most useful inventions – the umbrella.