Feathers, Fans, and Flirting by Collette Cameron


Collette Cameron here, chatting about hand fans and flirting.

The well-dressed Regency lady wouldn’t dream of attending a formal evening affair without her fan in hand. The vintage equivalent of text-messaging, men and women were well-versed in the language of fans. Whether a lady wanted to encourage a gentleman’s attention or snub him, she could easily do so with a simple flick of her wrist.


Hand fans originated in the Far East, some say Egypt, though the folding fans we are familiar with today are thought 800px-Folding_Fan_LACMA_29.32.5_(1_of_2)to be specific to Japan and were introduced to Europe in the 1500s.

I chuckled aloud at the lessons some ladies underwent in order to learn the proper way to unfurl or discharge their fans.


It makes me think of sails on ships and firing guns.

Quality fans weren’t inexpensive by any means.

All fan images are courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


These popular accessories were made of a variety of materials. Bone, ivory, mother-of-pearl, tortoise shell, and wood were typically used to make the sticks, while the skin was constructed of paper, lace, silk, or—brace yourselves—chicken skin. Fans could also be made from feathers and were often exquisitely painted.


Regency era fans tended to be less ornate than previous generations, reflecting the simpler styles of gowns. There were different styles and sizes of fans too. The most common and popular fan was the folding fan, typically pleated and painted.
The brisé fan, which consisted of decorative sticks (often intricately carved) without pleated leaf, was the next most popular type of fan.  It, too, originated in the Orient.


The cockade fan, made of paper and having two sticks, opened into a full circle. Only the folding and brisé fan were used for evening events.


Smaller fans, called opera fans, were petite enough to fit inside a reticule, though they often hung from a lady’s wrist. This type of fan was preferred during the Regency Era when the pockets of previous generations that easily accommodated larger fans no longer were in style.



I have a couple of gorgeous fans I picked up in Spain several years ago. I can’t imagine using those lovely treasures to send covert messages to my sweetheart across the room. I might put my eye out in the process.


And if the language of fans weren’t enough to learn, handkerchiefs and parasols also had their own subtle languages. I suppose, that might be today’s equivalent of different social media forums.












Here’s a snippet from HER SCANDALOUS WISH, part of my boxed set EMBRACED BY A ROGUE which released today!

Embraced by a RogueBox

Bradford edged nearer. Something niggled in the back of his mind. They’d met before. He’d bet on it. Probably before Father had hied him and Olivia off to the sweltering, disease-riddled ends of the earth.

Three years wasted on a doddering old fool’s pursuit.

Ah, well. Naught could be done to alter the past. He much preferred the present and the intriguing sprite hovering in the arbor. He typically avoided blondes, but this woman with her light hair drew him. “No apology necessary. I confess, I was so disconcerted by your wish mirroring mine, I didn’t think to alert you to my presence.”

“You did give me a tremendous start.” Releasing a musical laugh, she flipped her fan open and waved it before her, not coyly but fervently, as if overheated. “I confess. I’m mortified you overheard my wish. You must think me a ninny, talking to myself.”

He was forgiven. Just like that. No pouting or fussing. Definitely an angelic being.

“Not a bit of it.” After all, his wish had been as silly. “I dare say, we are at our most honest when we speak to ourselves, are we not?”

“Hmm, I suppose.”

In the nebulous lighting, he couldn’t read her expression.

She wore an unusual gown. Not the typical capped sleeve with a wide expanse of bosom exposed. Her sleeves fastened tightly around her wrists, and the neckline covered her collarbone.

Perhaps she was bent on creating a new fashion or didn’t give a whit about current trends. Or, unlike a number of ladies present at the ball, wearing dampened gowns and bodices that all but exposed their nipples, she claimed exceptionally modesty.

In any event, the gown overlaid with some sort of golden overskirt shimmered in the filtered light and clung to her form, reaffirming what he’d discovered when he’d held her in his arms. She possessed a goddess’s supple figure; just the sort of woman he favored in his bed.

Digging into his memory’s bowels, he couldn’t produce a whit of recollection regarding where he’d met this treasure or what her name might be. Having spent the last years abroad, tending a declining sugar plantation—a loathsome task since he abhorred slavery—while Olivia nursed their sickly father, Bradford, a self-confessed, dismally poor correspondent, had lost contact with his school chums and those previously in the Kingsleys’ social circle.

“I know it’s devilishly boorish of me, and utterly improper, but please allow me to introduce myself, though I feel certain we’ve met before.”

“I know who you are, Viscount.” Snapping her fan closed, she peered out the entrance again, the lanterns’ light bathing her face. She gave him a sideways look. Not coyness exactly, more guarded uncertainty, and she definitely expected someone. “All of London is abuzz about the return of the Kingsleys and your good fortune in acquiring a title and wealth.”

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USA Today Bestselling Author, COLLETTE CAMERON pens Scottish and Regency historicals featuring rogues, rapscallions, rakes, and the intelligent, intrepid damsels who reform them. Blessed with three spectacular children, fantastic fans, and a compulsive, over-active, and witty Muse who won’t stop whispering new romantic romps in her ear, she still lives in Oregon with her husband and five mini-dachshunds, though she dreams of living in Scotland part-time. Admitting to a quirky sense of humor, Collette enjoys inspiring quotes, adores castles and anything cobalt blue, and is a self-confessed Cadbury chocoholic. You'll always find dogs, birds, occasionally naughty humor, and a dash of inspiration in her sweet-to-spicy timeless romances.

12 Responses

  1. Mary Preston

    My mother always takes a fan to church in the summer time. I doubt it is to flirt though.

    The fans are gorgeous.

  2. dholcomb1

    I remember fans in the church I attended as a little girl–no air conditioning.

    and, i think as a little girl, it wasn’t uncommon to have a toy fan in a goody bag at a birthday party

  3. Violetta Rand

    Always reminds me of southern belles, Collette. Loved the post. 🙂

  4. kimberlywestrope

    As a woman of a certain age, I find it necessary to carry a fan with me at all times. I have a pretty, lacy one, and an everyday one I picked up in Hawaii. Great post Collette. I really enjoyed it.

  5. jessicajefferson

    I love fans! Granted, not the same nowadays, but it’s fun to practice my flirting within the confines of my own private residence.