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Parasols, Hold The Cocktail

July 15, 2007|Rose Apodaca | Times Staff Writer

THIS being the summer of the dress -- the girlier, the better -- inevitably an accessory more charming than a bucket hat would start popping up: the flirty parasol.

The model most likely to be seen is the Chinese kind, with its slim bamboo shank and decorative canopy, though there have been sightings of Victorian lace confections, and even an Indian standout patched of colorful cotton elephants, swatches and stars. But it's the Chinese parasol that appears to be enjoying most favored status, turning up on hiking trails in the Santa Monicas, the sidewalks of O.C., the lawn of the Hollywood Bowl -- anywhere exposed shoulders need protection from the fierce July rays.

"Sunscreen is not always as practical as people act it is. Under the heat, it runs in my hair, on my clothes," says Deanna Kizis, a Silver Lake novelist. "But a parasol is a fabulous accessory with a sundress. It's perfect for the Rose Bowl or the farmers market."

Maybe it's the pretty exoticism of the painterly flowers or lettering mass-printed on that laminated paper shell. Or it's that the sight of them evokes hazy good times enjoyed over fruity cocktails festooned with the miniature versions. Well, that and the reasonable price tag.

Downtown L.A.'s Chinatown has them by the bucket loads, of course. But they can also be snapped up at Cost Plus World Market for about $15, and if you're feeling flush, Zanzabelle in Silver Lake has a whimsical forest motif on fabric for $87.

And if you dare not leave home without one in hand, the SoHo super mart of all things Chinese has them online at pearlriver.com. Among the wide selection Pearl River sells are completely decorative-free nylon or paper options, at $6.50 and $4.50, in a slew of bright hues that can either be used as-is or personalized if you're handy with a paint brush, Sharpie or spray can.

Madalyn Rofer can often be spotted strolling her Angelino Heights neighborhood, clutching the leashes of her Dalmatian, pug and pit bull in one hand and a parasol in the other. "You see these older Chinese ladies walking around with them all the time. It's smart."

For her afternoon wedding in late May, Rofer provided guests with canisters filled with nylon parasols she picked up in downtown Chinatown for about $3 a pop.

Like Rofer, Kizis bought up three dozen of the paper umbrellas for her outdoor nuptials. She even got a 10% discount on the $6 accessories for buying them in bulk.

"The wedding planner worried there would be a bunch of guests holding parasols in the pictures," Kizis says. "I loved the whole mood it creates. And it's more romantic than handing out tubes of SPF 50."

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rose.apodaca@latimes.com

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