Sunday, May 13, 2012

Flirting With Fans - A Victorian Tradition

By Karen V. Wasylowski

With so many restrictions regarding proper behavior between a lady and the gentleman of her choosing, during the Victorian Age, how was a girl ever to express her interest in a young man?  The Regency Era and it's overt sexual freedoms were a thing of the past (supposedly); nice young ladies no longer could dampen their gowns (tell me another one) to show off their lovely figures, nor could they rouge their nipples (perhaps).

Pity the poor Victorian lady.  Without the allurements allowed in the past, these pioneering women were reduced to using props.  Parasols, gloves - anything with which to flirt; these sisters of ours were desperate.  

And the most interesting, the most useful of all, was THE FAN.  Position, posture and pressure - the three keys.  Flirting with Fans was an artform.  It should be reinstated and pursued during our lifetime.  I wonder if Snookie ever considered one...?

Here are some of the popular fan signals and what they mean.  Perhaps one can practice at home on husbands?

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 across 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”
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 across 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 across the cheek: “I love you!”
Presenting the fan shut: “Do you love me?”

If there are too many here to remember I propose little cheat sheets...stuffed into white gloves...and the gloves should definitely hold onto a lovely pink parasol!

(special thanks to The Language of the Fan, by Micki Gaffney)

Karen V. Wasylowski is the author of "Darcy and Fitzwilliam: the Tale of a Gentleman and an Officer," Pride and Prejudice Continues!

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  1. Oh dear, I would have to do that :D Thank you for the interesting article and lovely pictures!

  2. What a lovely and useful article as I may need it at some future date! Thank you!

  3. Such a troublesome brew. It's like sign language, but wait! If the lady and gentleman knew the secrets, wouldn't everyone else? Being nosy, I would watch these antics with much excitement, to see how far they had gone in their little affair of the heart. Great post.

  4. Wow, I have the same question as Katherine Pym above. If they can all read the signs, and then the rumours would spread. Or was it perhaps allowed as harmless flirtation, and accepted within social boundaries of etiquette? The Victorians are a tough bunch to fathom.

  5. Thanks so much! I pulled up your little article here on search for a fun party idea for my 16 yr old and her friends when we found a bunch of fans at a discount store. It was a hit!!


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