Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Etiquette of Fans

Looking obscenely gauche, these three are completely unaware that feather tipped fans are rather passé.

Facts About Fans
Some of the Most Fashionable and High Priced  

It was written of an English actress: 
“Assume her fashionable if you can, 
And catch the graces of her fan.” 

And what countless numbers of grateful breeze compellers are now waving over this summer-heated land of ours! “Gauze fans are all the rage this season.” said a salesman in one of Boston's largest retail stores to a reporter, “and heliotrope is the favorite shade. The tendency is toward still larger fans. Perhaps the most stylish, and at the same time the most showy fan, is one made of ostrich feathers, with a marabout aigrette in the centre. It is called the Langtry fan by some dealers and by others, the Mary Anderson, and comes in all colors. It doesn't close up, and the wavy tips of the feathers make it very graceful and pretty.” China is called the fatherland of fans, and their use has been traced almost as far back as history reaches. While they are now made of ivory, wood, leather, silk, paper, feathers, etc., the earliest fans were probably the leaves of trees or wings of birds. 

Fans were introduced into England about the beginning of the sixteenth century. In Shakespeare's day no lady thought of going abroad without a fan, and in speaking of a fop in “Love's Labor Lost,” he says : “ — Oh, a most dainty man! To see him walk before a lady and bear a fan.” When Elizabeth died, the royal wardrobe contained no less than twenty-seven fans. Fan exhibitions have been given in England, and an opera fan was once brought out in London giving the box numbers and the names of subscribers. The Italian fan of the last century was often finely painted after some mythological or sacred subject of one of the great masters. The Spanish fan, nicely colored, represented some incident of gallantry or love, the stick being of mother of pearl, gaily carved and gilt. The small Dutch ivory fan was beautifully painted by one of the masters of the low countries, and the German fan possessed a marked nationality, with its painted ivory stick, sometimes ingeniously carved a corbeille. 

In the hand of the Spanish beauty it is well known that the fan is made to express love, hope, disdain, anger and other emotions. The “dagger fan” of China is an instrument for the still more powerful expression of the feelings. It is an elegant imitation in lacquer of the common folding fan, but in reality is the sheath of a deadly blade. The u
ses of the fan in the Flowery Kingdom, however, are almost endless. Maps are printed on its face and important events are frequently published by its means. At the time of the missionary riots in 1873 at Pekin, popular ill-feeling was excited against the missionaries by inflammatory pictures on fans. 

All over the Empire the fan is as much used by men as by women. The folding fan generally obtains, and it is stuck in the high boot of the full dressed Chinaman or at the back of the neck in the collarless jacket of the coolie. The schoolmaster raps the knuckles of unruly boys with it, and the beggar holds it out for alms. In the higher Chinese circles, white silk stretched tightly over both sides of a narrow frame of a round, sexagonal, octagonal or polygonal form is considered the ne plus ultra of elegant refinement, especially so when some charming study in flowers or landscape painting appears on one side and a verse addressed to the friend for whom it is intended, and signed by the author, is written on the other. An ode to the fan by an Oriental poet begins thus : — “By thy aid, gentle gales perennial blow.” 

According to Chinese etiquette, a Chinaman on horseback or in a sedan chair, meeting an equal of his acquaintance on foot, must dismount, be it only to make a passing bow; or two friends meeting in chairs should both dismount to salute. But to avoid the inconvenience of frequently stopping to dismount at the appearance of every friend, it is allowable to hold the fan so as to screen the face from view, and the two may pass without ceremony, or as if they were strangers. Almost every large city, and certainly every division of the Chinese Empire, has its own characteristic fan. 

“Is this the busiest time in the fan trade?” asked the reporter of the salesman. “Of course we have a large demand for the most serviceable fans, but the trade in the better qualities comes both earlier and later in the year. In the month just closed there were a great many weddings, and we sold large numbers of white lace fans from $40 to $30 and upward. Then, the school exhibitions have taken place, and there were frequent calls for white fans for the ‘sweet girl graduates.’ Christmas is a favorable season lor the trade, as fans are very suitable for gifts. We sell many crepe de chine fans now, in cream, white and heliotrope, ornamented with bird designs, and also crepe de chine spangled. Quill fans are light and graceful, and those with broad folds very easy, breezy and Japanesey. Feather tipped fans are rather passé.” – Boston Herald, 1887

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 

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