The holidays are coming fast, and while assembling your party duds and accessories, you may want to add something new this year—the fan!
It is no coincidence that ladies have been using fans as part of their fashion arsenal for centuries. It gives a woman an air of sophistication and mystery.
Not only that, but they are useful as well for fanning away cigarette smoke at a party, keeping cool, of course; and, if you get nervous, it gives you something graceful to do with your hands.
I myself am never without a fan. I keep one of those tin-handled folding fans in my purse, and save my prettier ones, like my black Battenburg lace one, for special occasions. You can easily carry your fan in your purse, hanging on a chain, or dangling from a loop on the wrist.
Once you start looking for fans, you will find them made from many delightful materials such as ivory, lace, silk, feathers, satin, bamboo, and so on.
Note: fans on auction can be found at auction sites under the decorative fans category.
Types Of The Fan
The following information on the types of a fans and the language of the fan comes from noted hand fan expert, Cynthia Fendel:
BRISE’ FAN – a fan made entirely of sticks which broaden towards the top edge and are held together with ribbon or string.
COCKADE FAN – a fan that opens out into a complete circle with guards forming a double handle. This fan can be both folding or brise’.
FIXED FAN- a type of fan that has a flat surface attached to a single handle. This fan is also called a Hand Screen.
FONTANGE FAN - a shape of a folding or brise’ fan that is shell shaped, with the center longer than the guards.
FOLDING FAN - a fan with a flexible pleated leaf mounted on sticks.
GUARD STICKS - the front and back outer sticks that show when the fan is closed and are usually more embellished than the sticks.
JENNY LIND FAN - a brise’ fan with fabric cut like feathers or petals and mounted on sticks. This style fan became fashionable during the popularity of the vocalist Jenny Lind.
LEAF - the main body of the folding fan is usually made of paper, fabric, lace, or skin. It can be either single or double sided and is either sewn or glued to the ribs. This is sometimes called the mount.
LOOP - a small half round of metal or other material that is attached to the rivet. Loops are common in 19th century fans.
Language Of The Fan
THE FAN PLACED NEAR THE HEART: "You have won my love."
A CLOSED FAN TOUCHING THE RIGHT EYE: "When may I be allowed to see you?"
THE NUMBER OF STICKS SHOWN ANSWERED THE QUESTION: "At what hour?"
THREATENING MOVEMENTS WITH A FAN CLOSED: "Do not be so imprudent"
HALF-OPENED FAN PRESSED TO THE LIPS: "You may kiss me."
HANDS CLASPED TOGETHER HOLDING AN OPEN FAN: "Forgive me."
COVERING THE LEFT EAR WITH AN OPEN FAN: "Do not betray our secret."
HIDING THE EYES BEHIND AN OPEN FAN: "I love you."
SHUTTING A FULLY OPENED FAN SLOWLY: "I promise to marry you."
DRAWING THE FAN ACCROSS THE EYES: "I am sorry."
TOUCHING THE FINGER TO THE TIP OF THE FAN: "I wish to speak with you."
LETTING THE FAN REST ON THE RIGHT CHEEK: "Yes."
LETTING THE FAN REST ON THE LEFT CHEEK: "No."
OPENING AND CLOSING THE FAN SEVERAL TIMES: "You are cruel"
DROPPING THE FAN: "We will be friends."
FANNING SLOWLY: "I am married."
FANNING QUICKLY: "I am engaged." "I am engaged."
PUTTING THE FAN HANDLE TO THE LIPS: "Kiss me."
OPENING A FAN WIDE: "Wait for me."
PLACING THE FAN BEHIND THE HEAD: "Do not forget me"
PLACING THE FAN BEHIND THE HEAD WITH FINGER EXTENDED: "Goodbye."
FAN IN RIGHT HAND IN FRONT OF FACE: "Follow me."
FAN IN LEFT HAND IN FRONT OF FACE: "I am desirous of your acquaintance."
FAN HELD OVER LEFT EAR: "I wish to get rid of you."
DRAWING THE FAN ACCROSS THE FOREHEAD: "You have changed."
TWIRLING THE FAN IN THE LEFT HAND: "We are being watched."
TWIRLING THE FAN IN THE RIGHT HAND: "I love another."
CARRYING THE OPEN FAN IN THE RIGHT HAND: "You are too willing."
CARRYING THE OPEN FAN IN THE LEFT HAND: "Come and talk to me."
DRAWING THE FAN THROUGH THE HAND: "I hate you!"
DRAWING THE FAN ADROSS THE CHEEK: "I love you!"
PRESENTING THE FAN SHUT: "Do you love me?"
Bet you didn’t know that there was so much to fans, did you? But do try one if you’ve never owned a fan before. Fans are fun, useful, and, as you now know, historical!
For additional information on fans try the following links:
PDF/Adobe Acrobat files with detailed information on Handheld Fans in 20th Century American Folk Art, Fashion, and Advertising.
Site with information about fans carried by the upper classes.
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- Revised Publication Date: 04/29/11