After doing some research about hand fans, I found out something I had not previously known about them. Although they were meant to keep a woman, in her many layers of clothing cool, it seems there was much more to them than that!
Beautiful hand fans were a fashion statement, made of a variety of exotic materials and fabrics, such as ivory, tortoise shell, sandalwood, silk and lace. Many were dyed in bright colours, pierced and carved with elaborate designs and hand painted with beautiful florals, dragons, and scenes depicting lovers in courtship. More than that though, they were a way that a young miss could flirt with prospective beaus and/or suitors. Yes, a fan was used as a convenient communication device. A way to transmit messages, particularly in matters of the heart, to others in the room. A language actually, one which everyone in society would have understood. In a time where young men and women were often kept from speaking privately, or spending time alone together, a fan could come in mighty handy indeed!
I found the following here, and thought it was pretty interesting!
The language of fan was widely used by women and men as a means of communication.
The fan placed near the heart: “You have won my love.”
Half-opened fan pressed to the lips: “You may kiss me.”
Hands clasped together holding an open fan: “Forgive me.”
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”
Fanning slowly: “I am married.”
Fanning quickly: “I am engaged.”
Opening a fan wide: “Wait for me.”
Twirling the fan in the left hand: “We are being watched.”
Twirling the fan in the right hand: “I love another.”
Presenting the fan shut: “Do you love me?”
Now, before we all rush out to buy a fan and try our luck…have a care, for on a very warm evening, in your vigourous quest to stay cool, you may just be sending accidental messages of love to all the wrong people, and end up finding yourself surrounded by many would be and unwanted admirers. What a pickle that would be! I can’t help but think this “fan language” could become very confusing indeed!