Fabulous Fashion Item: A Brief History of the Hand-held Fan

Palmette fan from 1680. The elements of the leaf are made of silk fixed on cardboards and are painted with gold and silver.

Palmette fan from 1680. The elements of the leaf are made of silk fixed on cardboards and are painted with gold and silver.

This post celebrates a fabulous fashion item: the hand-held fan.
From a ceremonial tool used in churches it developed into a must-have accessory of the high-society. Designs and materials varied with politics, social changes and fashion. Still, the fan always was an object of breathtaking beauty.
Enjoy the photos and the brief overview of the history of the fan in England. You can click on the photos to enlarge them.

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A Brief History of the Napoleonic Wars told … in 10 Hand-held Fans

Napoleon conquering the sea, French fan leaf, ca. 1800.

Napoleon conquering the sea, French fan leaf, ca. 1800.

A fan was a popular accessory in the Romantic Age. No lady would be seen without a fan at a ball or assembly. The design of the fans was as varied as was the fashion. Often political events were celebrated or commemorated with special designs for fans. The victories of the British Army during the Peninsular Wars and the Battle of Waterloo were such occasions. It is even possible to tell a brief history of the Napoleonic Wars in 10 beautiful fans made between 1800 – 1816.

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Fashion Meets Scientific Progress: The “Spy Fan”

Fans are so much more than fashionable accessories: They are useful for flirting, can cool heated cheeks or hide an unladylike emotion. In the wake of the Napoleonic War, their usefulness was boosted beyond the known limit when fans were made for spying, i.e. discretely observing the surrounding or other persons. I found some examples of these extraordinary devices when I visited the exhibition “Waterloo: Life & Times” of the Fan Museum in Greenwich, UK.

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