[My Chamber of Textile Thoughts. No: XXXVI | By Viveka Hansen]

The Whitby Museum Costume Collection contains a rich selection of Victorian and Edwardian fans together with hats, parasols, umbrellas, shawls, gloves, shoes and various other accessories primarily once belonging to well-off and middle-class ladies. This “Textile Thought” aims to display some close-up images of two fans – one still in its original case – and a brief history of the usefulness and vogue for such luxury items.

Close-up image of the collection’s most elaborate fan depicting its three costly materials: mother-of-pearl, hand-painted silk and soft white feathers. (Whitby Museum, Costume Collection, GBX 33) Photo: The IK Foundation & Company.

Close-up image of the collection’s most elaborate fan depicting its three costly materials: mother-of-pearl, hand-painted silk and soft white feathers. (Whitby Museum, Costume Collection, GBX 33) Photo: The IK Foundation.

Just as exotic influences in the form of added feathers can be seen in many late 19th century hats, this tendency is even more marked in the beautifully made fans of the Victorian period. Among the many examples preserved in the collection ostrich feathers were especially popular, while other fans could be made of swan’s feathers painted with landscape motifs, or various kinds of painted paper, or models covered with fabric/lace, or material and structures constructed from thin sheets of metal or bone with fine carved patterns. Fans used to whisk away flies or as a dress accessory have a very long history, and became even more popular during the second half of the 19th century when they became an indispensable part of the Victorian lady’s social life. They were also essential to the young upper- or middle-class daughter’s entry into adult life. It was vital for her to be able to wield a virtually unique fan to assist her in either attracting or warding off male admirers. For the more elegant models an ivory or mother-of-pearl handhold was favoured as is the case with the two preserved fans with textile parts.

An extreme close-up of the same fan. (Whitby Museum, Costume Collection, GBX 33) Photo: The IK Foundation & Company.

An extreme close-up of the same fan. (Whitby Museum, Costume Collection, GBX 33) Photo: The IK Foundation.

The original case for the fan made of mother-of-pearl, hand-painted silk and soft white feathers. (Whitby Museum, Costume Collection, GBX 33) Photo: The IK Foundation & Company.

The original case for the fan made of mother-of-pearl, hand-painted silk and soft white feathers. (Whitby Museum, Costume Collection, GBX 33) Photo: The IK Foundation.

The images of the depicted fan above is undoubtedly representing the most exclusive fan in the whole collection with its mother-of-pearl handhold, additionally it has an exotic flower motif hand-painted on cream-coloured silk finished with a border of soft feathers of a similar colour. This beautiful fan still has its original case though its French-sounding manufacturer’s name – ‘Fabrique d’Eventails de Natalie’ – belies the fact that it was sold from ‘187a Sloane Street London’.

A so-called “lace-fan” from the collection, it has a broad red machine-worked lace fastened to an engraved ivory handhold. (Whitby Museum, Costume Collection, 2001/18). Photo: The IK Foundation & Company.

A so-called “lace-fan” from the collection, it has a broad red machine-worked lace fastened to an engraved ivory handhold. (Whitby Museum, Costume Collection, 2001/18). Photo: The IK Foundation.

A second close-up of the “lace-fan”. (Whitby Museum, Costume Collection, 2001/18). Photo: The IK Foundation & Company.

A second close-up of the “lace-fan”. (Whitby Museum, Costume Collection, 2001/18). Photo: The IK Foundation.

[Research material & Extracts (Chapter 5) from the forthcoming book ‘The Textile History of Whitby 1700-1914…’, see “NEWS(the book will include a complete list of notes)]. PUBLISHED JUNE 15TH, 2015.

PLEASE REFERENCE AS FOLLOWS:

  • Hansen, Viveka, ‘Study of two Exquisite Victorian Fans’, TEXTILIS (February 11, 2015); http://textilis.net/ (Accessed: Day/Month/Year)