The Heady History of the Hand Fan
By Paige McKirahan
When considering all of the accessories that are used for both utilitarian and decorative purposes, one of the first to come to mind is that of the hand fan. Though this ornamental piece was widely popular in Victorian Eras as a foreign symbol of wealth and class, their origin lies centuries prior in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. After two elaborate fans were discovered in King Tut’s tomb, their gilded appearance solidified the fan’s prominent presence in the accessory world.
(photo credits to pinterest.com)
The fan, which was originally thought be a sacred instrument, was used in religious ceremonies and by royalty in noble settings. They were also used in China in association with ancient mythical and historical characters. At their conception, they were fixed and remained as so until Chinese culture birthed the folding fan and spread it westward towards Europe. Both Chinese and Japanese legends credit their respective countries with creating the piece; the Japanese feel that the folding style is modeled after the wings of bat, and the Chinese legend claims the idea stemmed from a woman fanning her face at a festival.
(photo credits to clickpicx.com)
The 17th century then saw an increase in the use of folding fan, eventually causing fixed fans to become obsolete. This style was brought to Western cultures by merchant traders and religious missionaries, and prompted the development of the printed fan, which was made available to all classes. They generally featured prints of all kinds, either painted or transferred on, and shifted from biblical tradition to contemporary pastimes. The Impressionist, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco movements highly impacted the design and construction of fans from the 19th to the 20th century . The 19th century boast some of the most lavish fan designs in history and they were usually hand painted, furnishing those in royal positions. In the 20th century, feathered fans became popularized by those in high society and ostrich plums could be see floating through the air at every Moulin Rouge show!
Even though fans are not presently part of the everyday fashionista’s accessory arsenal, they still can be seen at royal events and in haute couture shows. We here at TalkingFashion think that something so grand should never go out of style, so to get your own fashionable fan, check out our fantastic collection here!
History of Fans. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.thefanmuseum.org.uk/fan-history
A Brief History of the Hand Fan. (2008). Retrieved from https://web.ics.purdue.edu/~salvo/@SEA/exhibit/history.asp
Floral Patterns Bloom in Fashion
By Paige McKirahan
From Dia de los Muertos style to spring classics, florals have always been one of fashion's most beloved patterns. In jewelry and clothing alike, this natural motif can be traced back hundreds of years; of course, they were present in many ancient cultures dating back to the 12th century, but we saw the true culmination of this aesthetic in the 19th century. At this time, textile production saw a huge increase on account of the Industrial Revolution. This paired with the newfound “floral language” boosted botanic influence tenfold and echoed romantic themes from the past. This "language" essentially used specific flowers and arrangements to send messages that could not be spoken aloud in Victorian times. Victorian age society saw its peoples begin to carry floral dictionaries and exchanged “talking bouquets” that could be worn as fashion accessories.
Later in this century, we saw Impressionists and Art Nouveau enthusiasts alike take interest in East Asian art styles that featured exotic floral patterns. They can be credited with starting a trend surrounding Orientalism that spanned until World War II. This 20th century interest was transformative; floral motifs became popular in the accessory world and we saw a burst in the use of florals as a whole. Tropical aesthetics seen in the ‘50s and ‘80s along with hippie style in the ‘60s and ‘70s were huge trends and true indicators of their time.
Presently, flower patterns have established themselves as part of “eternal fashion”: their longstanding popularity has never faltered and there are a wide variety of patterns appealing to all styles. Read on to see five of the most prominent floral patterns in fashion to review for this upcoming spring!
These florals tend to be lively scenes that use shapes, lines, and colors to create abstract patterns.
This floral style was birthed from the Art Nouveau movement that was characterized by its feminine and liberated aesthetic.
Retro florals tend to be in muted tones with a more geometric style. They feature strong bursts of color, and are reminiscent of the fashion in the 1960s.
This style of botanical pattern uses different shapes and colors to create bright designs that hint at floral motifs.
Ditsy motifs include small flowers in an all-over design, creating a simple but fun pattern.
For all of these styles and more, check out our floral collection and let your style bloom!
Creeping Into the World of Jewelry: The History of Insect Motifs
By Paige McKirahan
Over time, we have observed designers and innovators create pieces of art and fashion that reflect the interests of society. Given our long standing fascination with nature, it was only natural that insect motifs would crawl their way into the wild world of accessories. From using real insects to creating them out of diamonds and pearls, this aesthetic choice has been popular for centuries and it seems that it is here to stay.
As many common themes in jewelry do, the practice of incorporating insects in accessories has roots in ancient Egypt. Scarabs in amulets were widely popularized and most of the time, real scarabs would be used in the creation of these pieces. Butterflies, which are the most popular insects depicted in fashion, were incorporated into Egyptian bracelets as early as 2600 B.C. It has been said that wearing insect motifs has long been associated with the symbolism surrounding each of these arthropods. The cicada along with some variations of beetles and butterflies have positive attributes relating to immortality, rebirth, rejuvenation, longevity, and courage.
Why do we form these types of associations you ask? It could be attributed to the fact that we have been able to naturally or historically observe the lives of insects. Many go undergo the process of metamorphosis, where they grow and completely alter their appearance in different growth stages. Though ancient wearers of these designs may not have known about the science behind these transformations, they would have still noticed these obvious changes, influencing them to form the positive associations we are familiar with today.
As time soldered on, insects were incorporated into designs sporadically until they burst in popularity in the Victorian, Edwardian, Art Nouveau eras. Throughout these periods, natural themes were popular in all forms of art, from fashion to architecture. The emerging industrial era and romantic associations surrounding nature prompted the widespread use of insect motifs. Many featured depictions of moths, butterflies, and dragonflies, and were created from a variety of gems, pearls, and colored glasses.
Insects in fashion are still prominent themes in collections from Jeffrey Campbell to Betsey Johnson. Whether it be in ancient Egypt or the New York runways, we love the wild look of arthropods in jewelry here at TalkingFashion! Head over to our collection and search for your favorite bug-inspired pieces to accessorize any season!
Throughout the 19th century and into the 20th, a tidal wave hit the art world that changed the composition of style across every creative medium. Art forms ranging from architecture, graphics, interior design, jewelry, and textiles became embraced and revitalized by the newest trend: Art Nouveau. The term, which means “new art” in French, represents the break away from traditional ideals of the time and signifies the birth of a new, cutting edge aesthetic that would change the art world forever.
The Victorian era, which spans from the 1830s to around 1890, is marked by Queen Victoria’s reign and preceded the Art Nouveau period. It signified a move away from the romantic styles of dress and instead, tight fitting bodices, corsets, and pleats became the “it” trends of the time. Hourglass silhouettes were highly desired and to achieve this sometimes deadly look, layers of petticoats and corsets were combined to cinch waists and create a symbol of status. Accessory wise, bonnets tended to be the headpiece of choice along with headpieces made of ornate artificial flowers. Subdued, lighter shades were typically used in all mediums and this choice aligned with the public’s perception of women to be soft and meek creatures.
The 1850s signified a move away from dome shaped skirts and petticoats and instead progressed toward tapered and flared skirts that helped exaggerate waistlines even more than before. Crinoline, which is a stiff fabric made of woven horsehair, was used to add volume to skirts; it was expensive and difficult to clean, making it hard for middle class women to fully adopt the trend. Then, hoop skirts were introduced. These skirts used cages and crinoline to create a more economical and light weight option that allowed women of all classes to sport huge, voluminous skirts. Prior to this creation, women had limited movement in their clothing as layers of petticoats made it difficult to walk and sit. This trend became so popular that two New York factories produced over 3,000 cages a day, making the cage skirt a staple of Victorian era fashion.
Crinoline Cage Skirt
(image credits to bellatory.com)
The industrial revolution brought a multitude of new technologies that transformed the world of fashion and jewelry as the sewing machine and synthetic dyes allowed clothing to be produced quickly and cheaply. Charles Worth, a Parisian clothing designer, took advantage of this and began creating costumes for European royalty in 1860. His work was so influential he is considered to the Father of Haute Couture! Later in the decade, he introduced the over skirt. This gave women another way to add fullness in the rear and it combined with the revitalization of the bustle birthed a new look entirely. Fullness was seen in the back of the of skirts rather than all the way around and narrow shoulders, tiny waists, and wide hips were on trend in a big way in the 1880s.
Victorian Dress with bustle and overskirt
(image credits to bellatory.com)
Many people did not welcome these changes though, and those who followed the Aesthetic Movement longed for simpler looks. Instead of adopting the stiff and ornate styles of dress popularized in this era, these folk wore garments that were without structure and created by hand. Synthetic dyes and sewing machines were not used and instead, pieces were hand dyed and embroidered featuring nature oriented motifs.
The jewelry of the era started off subtle and evolved with industrial and societal changes. At the beginning of the Queen’s reign, jewelry was romantic as it was when she was first engaged then married to Prince Albert. Her engagement ring was an emerald-eyed snake eating its own tail; this design, symbolizing eternal love, prompted the popularity of snake motifs in pieces of this time. Florals, gold, and glistening bright gemstones were commonly used and conveyed love, good fortune, and economic growth. Dark mourning jewelry then became widely popularized by Queen Victoria’s decades of grief over the death of her husband (for more info on mourning jewelry, head to https://talkingfashion.net/blogs/news/mourning-jewelry-momento-mori-s-through-time !!) The revival of older styles also was found in this period as travel and the exploration of ancient sites prompted imitations of Renaissance, Egyptian, and Etruscan designs to recirculate. Towards the end of the era, equestrian jewelry and the choker (which we have seen become popular time and time again), also became popularized by Victoria’s children as her taste was eclipsed by younger generations.
The Art Nouveau style truly came into its own between 1890 and 1914. In this era, clothing became a sort of decorative art rather than a boisterous and controlled representation of wealth and style; corsets and bustles were out and liberation was in. It challenged the idea of classical dress by welcoming flamboyance and breaking away from the strictness of the previous period. This was the first time gender norms were truly challenged and women were presented in everything from suits to seductive lingerie.
Champenois Imprimeur-Éditeur by Alponse Mucha, 1897. This was a piece became a sort of icon for the movement
(image credits to theluxecafe.com)
The look that this era brought was cutting edge and many wore it in moderation, leaving the more ornate and couture pieces for those of high status. Long, organic lines and moderate, darker colors such as mustard yellow, dark red, olive brown, violet, and blue were widely used to create asymmetrical styles. Many designs were inspired by nature (similar those in the Aesthetic Movement) and used softer fabrics such as charmeuse, chiffon, and batiste. Paul Poiret was an iconic designer of the time and he along with a multitude of other French couturiers fully immersed themselves in this art form, spreading the style thought international fashion journals such as Les Modes down to fashion magazines like The Ladies Field. The involvement of artists Vincent Van Gogh and Alphonse Mucha, glass and jewelry maker Louis Comfort Tiffany, and illustrator Aubrey Beardsley also influenced the looks of the time immensely as their iconic styles encompassed the aesthetic shift of the era.
Art Nouveau jewelry was woman centric and loved to explore nature and sexuality, which had never previously been done. Many pieces were large and splendorous, and the focus was less on material and more on design. They were widely made of enamel and used the translucent plique-à-jour enamel, which gave pieces a sort of “stained glass” look. Horn and ivory was heated, carved, and bent to create pieces and diamonds were seldom used for anything other as an accent stone. Leading designers of this period included Louis Comfort Tiffany and Rene Lalique, who was a huge fan of the nature motif. As much of this jewelry was made of enamel, it means pieces in good condition are rare and highly sought after. Those that are in good condition can be worth a pretty penny; a Lalique pendent from this era sold for $212,500, more than double its highest estimate, in 2015.
Art Nouveau pieces
(image credits to farlang.com)
As many prominent trends are, Art Nouveau was and has been revived many times throughout history. Anna Sui is a lover of Art Nouveau and her bohemian prints are reminiscent of the movement’s colors and design. Prada dabbled in with the style in the 1960s and experiments with flowing, Nouveau inspired silhouettes. Alberta Ferretti has also been influenced by the movement on multiple occasions, most specifically in his Spring/ Summer 2013 collection and his at Pre-Fall 2016 presentation.
Anna Sui design compared to Art Nouveau print
(images credit to theluxecafe.com)
If you want to recreate the iconic styles of these eras, we encourage you to head over to our collection and be sure to search “Art Nouveau” or “Victorian” to see how you can begin a revival all on your own!