Tuesday, April 5, 2016


Here at abcreads, we confess to a fascination with antiquated social customs, especially those from the Victorian era. Imagine employing the language of flowers in daily life - we can never disparage a gift of carnations now, knowing they might mean "My heart aches for you" (red) or "I'll never forget you" (pink). Or having to use calling cards again, and all the complicated etiquette that that involved. Steampunk has brought us back corsets, bustles, petticoats, and other Victorian finery. There was even a museum exhibit of mourning jewelry a couple of years ago. Personally, we'd like to see fans make a comeback.

There are a couple of books about fans in the library catalog, of particular interest to fashion history buffs. For instance, to quote from the library's holdings, we find that from 1700-1800, "Fans of majestic proportions (à grand vol) balanced skirts held out by paniers. They dwindled to 'imperceptibles' to match the deflated skirts of Revolutionary times. To carry a fan of grand luxe became unfashionable as well as politically unwise"; in the 19th century, there was a "European fashion for articles in the Chinese taste" [chinoiserie], so many fans featured art from the East; and "since 1914, the story of European fans has been essentially one of decline... In the 1920s extravagant feather fans were considered the perfect accessory for a slimline evening dress, but since then fans have enjoyed only fitful popularity..."

If we have piqued your interest in fans, check out:

Fans by Avril Hart and Emma Taylor

Fans in Fashion: Selections From the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco by Anna G. Bennett, with Ruth Berson

Fans From the East edited by Carol Dorrington-Ward 

We would also like to encourage the use of fans in ordinary life. It certainly gets hot enough in New Mexico to warrant carrying one around, and you can get the ones that fold up very cheaply! Plus, you can use them to communicate amongst an elite circle of fan aficionados, using the language of the hand fan (courtesy of the website elAbanico):
To hold the fan with the right hand in front of the face.
Follow me.

To hold it in the left ear.
I want you to leave me alone.

To let slide it on the forehead.
You have changed.

To move it with the left hand.
They are watching us.

To change it to the right hand.
You are imprudent.

To throw the fan.
I hate you.

To move it with the right hand.
I love another.

To let slide it on the cheek.
I want you.

To hold it closed.
Do you love me?

To let slide it on the eyes.
Go away, please.

To touch the edge of the hand fan with the fingers.
I want to talk to you.

To hold it on the right cheek.

To hold it on the left cheek.

To open and close it.
You are cruel.

To leave it hanging.
We will continue being friends.

To fan slowly.
I am married.

To fan quickly.
I am engaged.

To hold the fan in the lips.
Kiss me.

To open it slowly.
Wait for me.

To open the hand fan with the left hand.
Come and talk to me.

To strike it, closed, on the left hand.
Write me.

To semiclose it in the right and on the left.
I can't.

To hold it
opened, covering the mouth.
I am single. 


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