Besides being an important woman's fashion accessories, hand fans help to regulated air temperature, concealed flirtatious blushes, and protected a woman from insects and nature’s harsh elements.
They were also a most important courtship tool. A common fan language, known to both women and men, developed from what seemed to be innocent fan fluttering. Fan movements became a way to convey messages about emotions and love based on well-known etiquette rules.
- A rested fan on the right check meant “yes” and on the left “no.”
- Placing the handle of a fan to a woman’s lips or pressing a half-opened fan to the lips indicated a kiss was allowed.
- A twirled fan in the right hand meant “I love another” but twirled in the left indicated “we are being watched.”
- Shutting a fan fully and opening it slowly was a promise of marriage.
- A shut fan held to a woman’s heart meant the man had won her heart.
- Fanning quickly meant a woman was engaged or in love.
- Fanning slowly meant a woman was married
I am guessing that this woman and her fans had no problem communicating her intentions.
to those that were almost works of art - hand painted, mother of pearl, gold, precious jewels.
The 18th Century: The Language of the Fans
Download for free a 311 page book "History of the Fan" by George Woolliscroft Rhead.
Article by Louisa Parr - "The Fan"
Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Volume 79, June to November 1889, pp 399-409
"The Fan Book" by Martin Percival
The History of the Fan
The Hand Fan Museum located in Healdsburg, Sonoma County, California
All photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.