Victorian Flirtation Style

The Victorian Age is famous for romanticized images and customs, and subtle communication during courtship. The women used their accessories to communicate with the opposite sex. Items such as frilly handkerchiefs, ornamental fans, parasols, hats, and gloves were used as gestures of flirtation.

The flirtations of the fan had a language of its own. If a woman carried it in the right hand in front of the face she invited a gentleman to follow her. Placing it on the right ear implied you have changed. Drawing it across her forehead warned, we are being watched. Twirling it in the right hand, I love another. Drawing it across the eye implied an apology, (talk about never having to say, “I’m sorry.”) Fanning slowly, I am married, fanning quickly, I am engaged. Closing it, I wish to speak to you; opening the fan wide, wait for me. Drawing it across the cheek, I love you. With handle to lips bore an invitation to kiss, a bold gesture especially in Victorian times.

A handkerchief drawn across the lips implied the bold sentiment, desirous of an acquaintance. Drawing it by the center, you are too willing, (a good cure for the annoyingly persistent suitor.) Dropping it implied, we will be friends; hopefully it would be picked up! Twirling in both hands depicted indifference. Twirling it in the left hand, the unkind message, I wish to be rid of you. Twirling it in the right hand, the disappointing, I love another. Folding it, I wish to speak to you. Drawing it across the cheek, I hate you. Drawing it across the hand, unmistakably, I love you, in the language of love, no different than saying it with words, the preferred method for the shy or easily tongue-tied female.

Parasol flirtations; carrying it elevated in the left hand signaled, desiring acquaintance. Carrying it closed in the left hand, a subtle invitation to meet on the first crossing, imagine the picturesque horse and buggies as a backdrop. Carrying it in the right hand close to your side, follow me. Swinging it to and fro by the handle of the right hand, I am married. Twirling it around warned to be careful we are being watched. Tapping it on the chin gently, I am in love with another. Placing the end of tips to lips, do you love me? Dropping it professed, I love you. The clumsiness of dropping it by accident would no doubt bear uncomfortable insinuations and a blushing ingénue.

Hat flirtations had their own mystique; putting it under the left arm, I will be at the gate at 8 PM. Touching the rim of the hat to the lips asked, does he accompany you? Putting it in front of you, I am single, and no doubt available. Carrying it in the left hand, the cutting remark, I hate you. Carrying it in the right hand meant, desirous of an acquaintance. Striking it on the hand, I am very much displeased. To incline the hat toward the nose, beware we are being watched. Putting it behind you, I am married. Putting the hat on the head straight signaled, all for the present. Running the finger around the crown professed a declaration of love.

Glove flirtations, the brazen right hand with the naked thumb exposed, kiss me. Biting the tips of the gloves, I wish to be rid of you very soon. Putting them away, I’m vexed. Tapping the chin, I love another. Turning them inside out, I hate you. Smoothing the gloves out gently, I wish I was with you. Dropping both gloves, I love you.

These simple gestures have been lost to time and the coquetry of a former era where romance reigned on another level. Nowadays is a harsher time where urban innuendos in songs make the connection of the sexes seen in a crass light. People should step back and learn from the subtleties of this lost language of flirtation. What the world needs is more romance, respect and a reflection of the gentler times of our ancestors.

The Victorian Era was a glittering age with a fascinating language all its own. The accessories of a woman’s wardrobe were used in distinct ways to signify subtle as well as overt messages to the opposite sex. The dropping of a handkerchief is just one of the many gestures and messages exchanged between the sexes. Read this article to learn more and glean inspiration from a simpler time; after all, sweet nothings, wine and roses never go out of style.

Written by: Jody R. LaGreca

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