Dressing Up, Dressing Down

Back to Dressing up, Dressing down

1880-1900 evening fan (1947.3863)
1880-1900 evening fan detail (1947.3863)

Very little can better symbolise the glamour and formality of an evening occasion than a fan. Society women have carried fans in England since the sixteenth century, if not even earlier, using them at warm evening events to provide a cooling breeze. A fan can also shield the face when talking or when embarrassed, and even hide the face completely, at a masque or a ball, keeping a person mysterious and incognito.

This fan from the end of the nineteenth century is strikingly decorative in its contrasting colours of black and yellow. The leaf of black muslin is painted with yellow roses, and trimmed with a large bold applique poppy made of yellow silk petals. The 1880s saw the popularity of very large fans like this, sometimes with sticks as long as 40cm, whilst earlier in the century they had been much more discreet, delicate and compact.

Full item descriptions:

"fan" [1947.3863]

Related Themes:

19th Century Women's Fashion