not to mention secret codes of parasols and handkerchiefs
|One wouldn't need a secret fan decoder book to figure out what Marie Antoinette was tying to convey non-verbally.|
|She's not sending signals, but practicing an art form to entertain.|
|No secret code here. A clear statement;"Edward Ferrars is mine!"|
Sounds legitimate doesn’t it? Sadly these codes were fiction. To my astonishment, they were never used in polite society as a regular practice. I have referenced books on etiquette, manners and proper behavior of the time and found not one reference of a coded communication that accompanied these popular accessories for women. So how did this” fictional behavior” become accepted as fact? Simple... dime store novels and magazines, written to push the sale of the aforementioned items.
In order to sell a product successfully you have to create a gimmick to peak a person’s interest and since handkerchiefs and fans were commonly used amongst women on a regular basis, what better way to promote your novels and to sell more of these popular accessories then to create a trend? However it is imperative that everybody in your target audience is “in on it.” Otherwise a whole wave of misunderstanding could ensue. Victoria could be telling Edward that she is engaged (fanning fast) and he just thinks she’s having a hot flash.
|Created to sell fans, guides like this from Cassell’s Family Magazine in 1886, were hot sellers.|
|"No need to send signals. I'm Lady Mary and everyone knows it."|
Brief Mentions on Parasol Etiquette
"A woman should not mix up her wardrobe, and wear a
theatre bonnet to church, or carry a coaching parasol to a
funeral." Agnes H. Morton 1892
"One should never call out a name in public, unless it is absolutely unavoidable. A young girl who was separated from her friends in a baseball crowd had the presence of mind to put her hat on her parasol and lift it above the people surrounding her so that her friends might find her."
|"To repeat, therefore, the young woman who wants to look pretty should confine her exercise to dancing. She can also hold a parasol over her head and sit in a canoe" Emily Post|
"In seeing a lady to her carriage or motor, it is quite correct for a gentleman to put his hand under her elbow to assist her; and in helping her out he should alight first and offer her his hand. He should not hold a parasol over her head unless momentarily while she searches in her wrist-bag for something, or stops perhaps to put on or take off her glove, or do anything that occupies both hands. With an umbrella the case is different, especially in a sudden and driving rain, when she is often very busily occupied in trying to hold "good" clothes out of the wet and a hat on, as well. She may also, under these circumstances, take the gentleman's arm, if the 'going' is thereby made any easier."
"To repeat, therefore, the young woman who wants to look pretty should confine her exercise to dancing. She can also hold a parasol over her head and sit in a canoe--or she can be pretty how and where she will, so long as it is not on a horse in the park or hunting-field." Emily Post 1922
|Parasols can double as walking sticks. Just don't suck on them!|
"A lady when calling keeps her parasol in her hand, and is not required to remove her glove. It is a sign of low-breeding to fidget with the hat, cane or parasol during a call. They are introduced merely as signs that the caller is in walking dress, and are not intended, the hat to be whirled round the top of the cane, the cane to be employed in tracing out the pattern of the carpet, or the parasol to be tapped on the teeth, or worse still, sucked. No lady will be guilty of the vulgarity of sucking the head of her parasol in the street. To eat anything, even confectionery, in the street, is a sign of low breeding."
"After assisting a lady to her seat, be certain that her parasol, shawl, and fan are all conveniently placed for her use before you take your own seat. Allow her all the space you can, and be especially careful that the motion of your arms does not incommode her." Frost's Laws and By-Laws of American Society 1869