Follow the Thread

a textile & costume history blog from the Design Center at Thomas Jefferson University

Student Analysis and Object Re-Design: Carriage Parasol, by Rachel Bender


This post is part of our series featuring final student projects from our History of Costume and Textiles course.

Student Bio: My name is Rachel Bender. I am a sophomore in the Fashion Design program. Throughout my short time here at Jefferson, I’ve had the opportunity to learn valuable skills through my studio and art history classes. This is where I picked up skills such as sewing, drawing, and studying the ins and outs of the history of textiles and costumes. I have always had a passion to turn old to new whether it be clothing, jewelry, or woodworking. I love looking at the background and the beauty that art and design has to offer and hope to continue that through my journey here at Jefferson.

Chosen Object: The Carriage Parasol, T&CC 1989.35.40

About the Carriage Parasol:

I chose to study a carriage parasol from the Textile and Costume Collection. There were a few objects that I could pick from in the collection, but I decided to choose this specific parasol because of the simplicity of the fabrics and the wood detailing. I also picked it because of what I didn’t know about the piece, such as what makes it a “carriage” parasol. After first thinking that parasols were just fancy umbrellas, my research helped me to understand valuable information about what a parasol really is.

While an umbrella is used for the rain, parasols are used for blocking the sun. The construction of an umbrella allows it to be stronger to withstand the rain and wind. Parasols are much more delicate and include more fabrics and decorative details. The parasol is an item utilized for both functional and flattering uses. This particular carriage parasol is from the late Victorian Era and has a beautiful machine lace fabric covering the top, with a pinked edge of black silk fabric as a lining underneath.


The parasol has eight ribs on the inside covered by the black silk lining. These eight ribs hold the different parts such as the stretcher and stretcher tip, the runner which slides up and down the stick, and the git at the end of each stretcher. What makes it a carriage parasol is the hinge in the middle of the stick that allows the parasol to fold in half. This allows the carrier of the parasol to hold it all together easier and in a more compact way.

Object Re-Design

For my re-design, I decided to construct my own interpretation of a parasol based off of my research. The materials I started with were wooden dowels for the stick of the parasol, an old umbrella, and red silk fabric.

I gathered my supplies which included white patterned ribbon, pinking shears, and lastly, zip ties to hold the fabric to the ribs. I cut off the canopy of the old umbrella and replaced it with red silk fabric. This was done by draping and measuring to ensure correct measurements of the new silk canopy. The trim was then sewn onto the red fabric which hangs off the ends of the long ribs. To mimic the carriage parasol from the collection, the metal umbrella stick was then replaced with a wooden dowel. It was then painted to match the color of the refurbished wooden decorative handle.

Fashion of the Victorian Era showcased a lot of change when it came to the garments being worn and the corresponding parasols being carried by women. In some cases during the Victorian era, women would have the trim of their dresses match the trim of the canopy of their parasol. Imagining what a woman might wear with my re-designed parasol brings even more life to the look.  It’s interesting to see how parasols have evolved and how they might still be relevant today. 


Farrell, Jeremy. Umbrellas & Parasols. London: B.T. Batsford, 1985. Print.

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