Monday, May 4, 2015

The Language of the Fans





When my husband and I first started doing living history events with our reenacting group, I mostly watched the other ladies as I hadn’t been in it long enough to immerse myself into the history of the period. One of the first things I learned was the Language of the Fans. 

Imagine those southern belles dressed in their finest with those elaborate ‘hand held fans’ fluttering past their faces. They weren’t only a means to keep cool. To the observant man, they were a way to communicate when the freedom of speech for women was restricted. The gestures and motions in which you move the fan can convey your intentions from across the room and I imagine many clandestine meetings were arranged with the flicker of a small fan. 

I had the opportunity to meet with readers this past weekend for a luncheon and in the goodie bags I brought, I placed a silk hand fan. We had a blast playing the part of southern belle and practicing our secret language so I thought I'd share that with you all today. Take a look below at the Secret Langue of the Fan. 






  • 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 it slide 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 - Yes. 
  • To  hold it on the left cheek - No. 
  • 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 against 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 semi-close it in the right and on the left - I cant. 
  • To hold it opened, covering the mouth - I am single.



About Lily Graison

USA TODAY  bestselling author Lily Graison writes historical western romances and dabbles in contemporary and paranormal romance. First published in 2005, Lily has written over a dozen romance novels that range from sweet to spicy.

She lives in Hickory, North Carolina with her husband, three high-strung Yorkies and more cats than she can count and is mother of two and grandmother of three. On occasion, she can be found at her sewing machine creating 1800’s period clothing or participating in civil war reenactments and area living history events. When not portraying a southern belle, you can find her at a nearby store feeding her obsession for all things resembling office supplies.

To see the dresses Lily has created, visit her Pinterest page.

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6 comments:

  1. I can see how these fan signals could easily be mixed up, thereby confusing the man! The women would probably know these signs more readily--but a man? I bet many would think, "say what?" Haha. That would make a funny scene in a book.
    Lily, I especially like a post in which the author uses something personal. I know that can't be done much, but when it can, it is very enjoyable.
    Thanks.

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  2. I agree with Celia--how could a poor man keep all this straight. For that matter, how could a woman? Very interesting, Lily.

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  3. Great subject for a post, Lily! It is interesting how women found ways to get around the men's view of women as being subservient.

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  4. I love this post, Lily. I had no idea a fan could help a lady show so many emotions. I thought it was just for ladies who had hot flashes. ;)

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  5. Dang, what if you just wanted to get cool and someone misunderstood, thinking you were sending a message? LOL There's always a dunderhead around. Who knew there were s many ways to communicate: fans, flowers, and arrangement of clothes on the clothesline to name a few. Silence could be golden or get you into trouble.
    I remember the old cardboard fans on what looked like a popsicle stick with a picture of Jesus on it at church during the summer. Oh boy, the days before central air took over.
    Loved the blog, Lily.

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  6. This is such an awesome post, Lily. my sis and I just went to a high tea and got a souvenir fan.

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