Oh those secretive Victorians with their strict rules of etiquette! Unless a woman had been formally introduced to a man, it was considered poor etiquette to talk to him, dance with him or address him in any way. So what was a poor girl to do if she spotted a young man that made her heart flutter? Well, just like young people today when told they are forbidden to do something, they will find a way! And so did young Victorian women…. by way of their fashion accessories… with their pretty fans and handkerchiefs.
The Victorians loved mystery and intrigue and this special language allowed women to indulge in “secret” flirtatious behaviour without (they hoped) chancing being caught. The gossipy matrons in the community loved nothing better than a good scandal!
Eventually this “flirtatious behaviour” by females became a socially acceptable way of communicating with members of the opposite sex. Many a young Victorian woman was taught “this language” in finishing schools or by their chaperon.
Here then are just some of the fashion accessory “meanings” used by Victorian women…
* Drawing her handkerchief across her lips – “Let’s flirt with each other”
* Dropping it on the floor: “Let’s meet”
* Holding her handkerchief in opposite corners in both hands: or opening her fan wide “Wait for me.”
(The above excerpts has been taken from http://www.victorianfashionsociety.com/the-language-of-handkerchiefs–fans-by-sharon-house.html ).