How To Shop For The Perfect Umbrella

It may seem like one of the most mundane items in your hall closet, but an umbrella is an indispensable accessory when the sky turns dark and the rain, as they say, comes down in buckets. Recently, I was going to the grocery store, and as I parked my car the skies opened. I am not talking about an inconvenient little shower. I’m talking about a deluge – the kind of downpour that soaks you to the skin before you can get ten yards.

How To Shop For an Umbrella

Fashion Umbrella

It was my lucky day. I remembered that I had tossed a small, folding umbrella into the trunk of my car the night before. I dashed out of the driver’s seat and threw open the trunk, grabbed my umbrella, and within seconds I was dry again.

The best part came as I walked toward the store, comfortable and dry, and jumping over fast-growing puddles. The awning in front of the store sheltered a knot of shoppers, all looking exceedingly miserable. None of them had an umbrella. They were standing there, in an uncomfortable huddle, with shopping carts in front of them. All of them wanted to get back to their cars and home. But none of them wanted to step into the parking lot and get absolutely drenched before they reached their cars. So there they stood, wasting time and feeling sheepish, I imagine. I must confess, I felt just a little bit superior as I edged my way through, making a show of closing my umbrella as I did so, and declaring “excuse me” in a jolly tone, as I worked my way through the small crowd.

By now you may be ready to rush out and buy an extra umbrella to keep in your car. But before you go, here are some tips on how to shop for an umbrella.

First, you have to ask yourself, what is the purpose of the umbrella? Do you want an umbrella for walking to work? To keep in your purse? To keep in your car for emergencies? To take to your kid’s soccer games? Once you have defined your purpose, you will be better able to choose the right umbrella (or umbrellas – you may want to keep several on hand, for different situations).

Here are the typical features of an umbrella, to keep in mind as you shop.

Type.

There are two basic types of umbrella: the stick umbrella and the folding umbrella. The stick umbrella cannot be folded down to a compact size – it looks sort of like a walking stick, and it stays that way. Mary Poppins’ umbrella is a great example of a classic stick umbrella. The folding type is perfect for smaller umbrellas, while the stick is more appropriate for a giant “golf” umbrella.

Opening Mechanism.

Both the stick and the folding umbrella can have an automatic opening system or a manual opening system. The auto opener is where you just press a button to open it, the manual type is where you slide or push the umbrella open with your hand.

Style.

This is an area where you have lots of choices. There are three typical styles, but within those three categories you’ll find lots of variety. The standard style is the “one-person” cover – the slightly curved, standard style (Mary Poppins again!). Second, you might prefer the “dome” or “bubble” style, where the sides of the umbrella are deep and vertical, and cover the owner’s head, and part of the torso also. For this reason, they are usually transparent. It’s a style frequently seen in kid’s umbrellas. Third, you can opt for the giant “golf” umbrella, which can provide shelter for 2 or even 3 people, depending how cozy you want to be.

Size.

Within all the styles, you will have a range of sizes. The classic umbrella size is about 40 inches in diameter when fully opened. Smaller, kid’s size umbrellas, can go down to about 30 inches. And the larger golf umbrellas can be anywhere from about 48 inches, up to the giant 60 inch umbrella.

The Look.

After you’ve narrowed it down so you know how you want to use your umbrella, and you know what type and style you want, you can choose the look. This feature is entirely up to your fashion sense! There is just about every color and fabric under the sun to choose from. You can be demure, or you can make a big statement. Either way, you’ll be comfortable and dry, the next time a big downpour comes along!

Courtesy of Jennifer Wenger, who has written frequently on fashion, travel, and design.

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