Parasols have a long history all over the world. Paper parasols originate from the East in the countries of China and Japan. They are traditionally made from natural products such as leaves and used to keep the complexion pale. These parasols are often decorated with paintings of flowers and birds. Even now paper parasols are associated with Asia and the Geisha girls of Japan.
During the 18th and 19th centuries Parasols moved west and became popular in Britain. At this time, Britain had a huge empire and imported items like tea from China. We also imported fashions and values from the east too leading to a love for Parasols. English parasols tended to be made from fabric such as lace but they were still used for the same purpose. A lady from the upper classes wouldn't leave her household without a parasol on a hot day. Throughout the 20th century parasols deteriorated and fewer people used them as a tan became more popular than pale skin.
I still think a parasol is very useful in keeping the heat of the day off you and providing shade at the same time as looking elegant and completing an outfit. Maybe over the next few years we will see a rise in the use of parasols again!