Forgotten Souvenirs: Flirty Fans

We’re following on from ankle bracelets and Cuban beach bars with some hand held fans that I re-discovered yesterday in a box. I’d forgotten all about them for years – perhaps because there’s rarely a need for them during the fleeting UK summers. These are fans I’ve picked up as souvenirs during past travels. Some people display them as pieces of art on a wall – not sure if I’ll be doing that.

Forgotten box of hand held fans

Back in Time

From the little I’ve read, fans seem to have some of their origins in Egypt, going back thousands of years with all kinds of elaborate designs, those made from ostrich feathers for the Pharaoh were a status symbol, not just a practical accessory.

Historically, across the world, fans have often served to signify the social status of the owner, by their decorations and markings.

These fluttery accessories were also used to communicate messages to others by where you placed them, how you carried them and subtle mannerisms using the fan. Both pleasant and hostile vibes could be shared with the use of a fan.

Apparently, fans entered Europe via Asia around the 15th century. By the 17th century, Europe was using fan ‘sign language’ to communicate letters of the alphabet to speak silently to a recipient.

During the Victorian era, women would use fans to flirt – as they were very restricted in how they were able to openly communicate to others at that time.

In the far east, evidence suggests fans were used as early as the eighth century.

In more oriental regions, hand held fans have always exuded an air of mystery and elegance to the women hiding behind them.

Hand painted on linen, the bamboo looks hand carved, purchased in Mauritius

Modern Day Fans

These days hand made/hand held fans serve more as gifts and souvenirs than an everyday essential, you barely see anyone using them. Even the hand held battery operated fans are rarely seen in public, people just sweat it out these days.

Looks like a digital print on synthetic fabric – purchased in Tunisia.

For Fan Connoisseurs

There is a Fan Museum. Yes, an entire museum dedicated to fans, in London (UK) – who would have thought! Head over to Greenwich if you want to check it out. You might want to indulge in a fan lecture, or even a fan making workshop while you’re there.

Seems like there’s a lot of history behind today’s humble hand held fan.

Hand painted on wood and purchased in Malta

Any More For Any More?

I’d like to say no since I certainly don’t need anymore.

The next time I’m scouring a souvenir shop maybe I’ll buy them to give as gifts if I’m stuck for an alternative, they are very pretty after all.

Unfortunately I can’t remember where I brought this one from πŸ€”

35 thoughts on “Forgotten Souvenirs: Flirty Fans

  1. Mari Nichlson

    Like you, I’ve got a collection of fans and I do use them. I always pack a couple when I’m going on holiday because one can never be sure that a nice fan will be available. My ‘go to’ fans come from Spain where they still make superb fans but my favourites are two fans I brought back from Japan but because they are really beautiful and were rather expensive I don’t take them on holiday in case I lose them!

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  4. Ellie

    This is an interesting read about these fans, Cheryl. My sister-in-law is a traveler and gives them as gifts. Here’s two she gave me. One I know comes from the beautiful land of Africa, where she and my brother frequent. Best…! πŸ™‚

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