The Art of Silent Flirting
Ladies in Regency times from 1811 to 1820 were supposed to be chaste, quiet and excellent at listening to others. A lady did not bring attention to herself or promote the use of what was termed the 'wrong' kind of behavior in front of men or other ladies in their social circle. For a lady to flirt openly would have been considered improper, and would obviously have caused her lady friends to see her in a totally different light.
So, those who wished to flirt indirectly had to have a fan that would stand out from the others' with whom she was competing with in the room. The look of the fan was of the utmost importance, as it had to be beautiful and an effective tool. Starting from the very bottom the fan was constructed to be hand held from a head which held a pivot and a rivet together. Above that were the sticks, guard, ribs and leaf. The part from head to leaf was known as the Monture. From the middle of the fan to above, the lady who held it could tantalize the object of her affections with some of the most attractive and delicate art imaginable. They could have depictions of dancing ladies in a Greek style setting with lace around the leaf and guard, or black embroidery to give the lady a braver look.
Not only could they be used for flirting, fans could be used to convey other messages to men, or hiding blushing and tears if a lady was recovering from a disastrous relationship.
Below are a few of the ways in which ladies could signal to men to get them to understand them:
Drawing the fan across the cheek:
I love you.
Closing the fan extremely slowly:
I promise to marry you.
Holding the fan in the left hand in front of face:
I want to get to know you.
Holding in right hand in front of face:
Follow my lead.
Twirling in right hand:
I love someone else.
Held near left ear:
I wish to get rid of you.
Gazing at closed fan:
You misunderstand me, why?
Carrying in right hand:
You are far too willing.