THE PRETTY COOLER
Imagine the world without air conditioning. Be it made of lace, ivory, painted silk or gem encrusted, the fan was an essential accessory in a stuffy, crowded ballroom. The years 1880-1890 were the Golden Age of the fashionable fan and ladies of the court and other royal pretenders counted on their elegant fan to communicate their heart’s desire. The fan has a long and storied history. There were fans for every occasion, painted or printed with picturesque landscapes, romantic images and most effectively as instruments of advertising. During the second half of the 19th century most fans were manufactured to promote the railroad, spas, restaurants, cabarets and magnificent perfume fans appear around 1910. Thousands of fashionable fans were also manufactured between 1900 and 1940 declining slowly after WWII to come a trickle today.
The fluttering fan charmed and entertained but much more elaborate was the etiquette of the fan, which was prescribed to describe a variety of emotional flutters: the angry flutter, the confused flutter, the angry flutter, the merry flutter and the amorous flutter to name a few. Young ladies were therefore instructed on the proper ways to handle their fan and if they failed to do so they were looked upon as being gauche and of the most bourgeois sort. In the 18th century ladies used the fan for more than keeping cool. Supposedly, there even existed a “language of the fan’ whereby ladies could send a message across the room without saying a word. It was essential therefore to be quite clear what message a lady wanted to convey.
A LADY’S BODY LANGUAGE
The fan became an essential part of a woman’s body language. It could reveal or conceal a host of female emotions. The fan had significance when placed in specific positions. Placed near the heart it meant: “You have won my love.” A closed fan touching the right eye: “When may I be allowed to see you?” The right hand in front of the face: “Follow me.” A half-opened fan pressed to the lips: “You may kiss me.” Hiding the eyes behind an open fan: “I love you.” Opening a fan wide: “Wait for me.” Twirling the fan in the left hand: “We are being watched.” Fanning slowing can deter a swain’s attentions. Fanning quickly indicated: “I am engaged. Fanning slowing meant: “I am married.” Woe is it to the woman who did not follow the rules of fan etiquette for the right position was essential to attract for disengage a suitor.
IF TRUTH BE TOLD WHEN THE FAN RULED OVER ROMANTIC ETIQUETTE THERE WAS HARDLLY ANY EMOTION IN THE MIND THAT DID NOT PRODUCE A SUITABLE AGITATION IN THE FAN.