Living in Spain and bringing up a Spanglish family during the current 'crisis' and trying various ways to make some 'dinero'. Enjoying life in the sun, crafting and blogging as much as possible.

27 Jul 2017

So Many Uses for the Hand Fan

Hot summer temperature conditions make us overheat and produce abundant sweat. It is normal, natural and we cannot cool without it. When the heat is high and our body is producing excessive sweat, working hard to cool, the classic hand fan could be a close friend. A real hand held fan, waved back and forth creates a wind chill effect, making it easier for the air to evaporate the sweat droplets from the skin. Working directly on the body, the breeze created by the fan not only speeds the evaporation of perspiration, but also makes the body's natural cooling system more efficient.

Hand held fans have also proved beneficial to women during labour. By getting their partners to fan them, the women feel cooler and their partners feel useful! Many women would not be without a fan during the menopause. Whatever you may call them - hot sweats, hot flashes, hot flushes, internal fires or even "tropical moments" - these symptoms can be quite debilitating. We have also heard of patients undergoing chemotherapy benefiting from a hand held fan and, of course, they are ideal to use as a cooling agent when youngsters are ill with high temperatures.

So, convenient to carry around and a truly hand-friendly exercise, fans are a good answer in lots of situations! 

Language of the Hand Fan

A hand held fan is a fashion accessory that can be used to signal romantic intentions, without speaking a word. It can also be used to ignore or dismiss a pesky suitor, and it even enables one to spy on others behind one's back.

Back in Victorian times, a lady would not be seen at a social event without her fan. Not only was it stylish and  provided a practical breeze when needed, but it had another very important purpose - it was used to send signals to the opposite sex! This was a time when strict rules dominated communication between single men and women and flirting was frowned upon, especially in public. Since both sexes were expected to conduct themselves in a chaste and respectable manner at all times, a special code was devised using the hand fan as a messenger. There were 23 distinctive gestures in what was called "The Secret Language of the Fan".

If a young lady was at a ball and a young man caught her fancy from across the room, she could have a secret conversation with him by sending coded signals with her hand fan, thus thwarting the attentions of others. If she held it in front of her face with the left hand, it meant "I am desirous of your acquaintance". If she touched her finger to the fan tip, it meant "I wish to speak". If a woman was married and, therefore, unavailable, she would fan herself slowly. If engaged, she fanned herself quickly.

In response to cues from a suitor, a "yes" was indicated by resting the fan on her right cheek, while a "no" was conveyed by resting the fan on her left cheek. Touching a closed fan to the right eye meant that the woman would allow the man to "see" her. If a woman suddenly twirled her fan in her left hand, it indicated that someone was observing their secret conversation.

This special language wasn't just used in public, but also during courtship, which was almost always chaperoned. If a woman pressed the fan handle to her lips, it indicated she wanted a kiss. Holding out a closed fan asked the question "Do you love me?", whilst placing the fan near the heart signalled "You have won my love".

Similarly, in Spain in the 19th and 20th Centuries, ladies would attend balls in the company of their mothers or female chaperones, who were entrusted with watching over their conduct. The chaperones carried out their duties with such zest that the girls had to find a way of communicating with their suitors without attracting attention. Once again, the fan became the "message carrier"!

Opening and closing and then waving the fan past the cheek denoted "I like or love you"; fanning the breast gently meant "I am unmarried and have not got a fiance"; fanning the breast with short, rapid movements stated "I am engaged, or have a suitor - please go away!"; placing the fan on the temple and looking upwards implied "I think about you night and day"; walking impatiently from one side of the room to the other, striking the fan against the palm of the hand warned the suitor that the chaperone was watching; opening and closing and then pointing the fan towards the garden signified "Wait for me there, I will be out shortly!", opening the fan in the left hand meant "Please talk to me" and, finally, looking at the suitor suggestively and covering the mouth with the fan suggested that the man is the chosen one and is being sent a kiss!

History of the Hand Fan

History of the Hand Fan

The origin of fans can be traced back to the Pharaohs in Egypt. Paintings show fans made of ostrich feathers. Fans were important in the culture of China and Japan in the Aztec civilisation. The Japanese were the first to make the fans foldable, apparently inspired by a bat's wing.

The use of fans appears to have been brought into Europe in the 16th Century, when the Portuguese opened up trade routes to the Far East. In those days, it was only upper class ladies who used them as they were expensive objects. However, the technology of the fans was not complicated and soon the European industry arose. Fans were then used by everyone and it was the shape, size, colour and material which determined the ladies' status and class. In the 18th Century, a Frenchman settled in Spain and made quality fans to match those in the rest of Europe. At the same time, the world's only fan association - The Fanmakers' Guild of Craftmanship - was formed in Madrid and, in 1802, the Royal Factory of Fans was established in Valencia. In the 19th Century, the use of hand fans expanded among the most refined upper class and it was used by both men and women. It was from this time that Valencia became the largest city of hand fan craftsman production. Spain, today, is one of the few European countries that still manufacture fans, and a school of fan making exists in Cadiz.  

Using a hand fan is still very popular today. Gone are the days when they were used only by the upper class. Nowadays, hand fans are about any shape, design and colour one can imagine. They can be personalised with words, pictures, slogans or images of your choice. There still seems an air of mystery about them - we imagine shy ladies using one to hide their face! We are more curious about what is hidden! The use of the hand fan can also be a form of eccentricity, as used by the designer Karl Lagerfeld who is never photographed without a fan.

There is no doubt about it, temperatures are on the rise and, if you want to stay cool, the answer is here - the Spanish Abanico, or hand fan!

IRMAC Photography

My hand fans used as photography props