Victorian Rituals

To Victorian Rituals at Lana's Victorian Parlor


Popular Rituals Of The Victorian Era

Victorian girls were trained early on in life to prepare herself for a life dedicated to home and family if she married, and charity if she didn't. And young ladies, though advised on the importance of catching a man, were warned not to be too liberal in display of their charms. Meekness and modesty were considered beautiful virtues.

Fans were not only a fashion accessory, but a means of flirtatious communication. Wherever young men and women intermingled, the click of a fan sent a message.

The Young Ladies Journal of 1872 reported on the significance of each charming gesture:

  • Fan fast - I am independent
  • Fan slow - I am engaged
  • Fan with right hand in front of face - come on
  • Fan with left hand in front of face - leave me
  • Fan open and shut - kiss me
  • Fan open wide - love
  • Fan half open - friendship
  • Fan shut - hate
  • Fan swinging - can I see you home?

Calling cards first appeared in the 1850's and both men and women used the cards at all manner of social occasions.

Featured in most victorian homes in the entry way - which usually included a mirror, a bench or pair of chairs, and perhaps a hall tree for walking sticks, umbrellas, coats and hats - was always a table where parcels could be left and more importantly, where a silver tray or porcelian receptacle sat for receiving calling cards.

Men kept their cards usually in their vest pockets, while women carried theirs in elegant cases sometimes made of silk or leather, ivory, tortoise shell or silver.

Etiquette dictated that a married woman would leave her card for the lady of the house along with her husband's card, even if he wasn't with her. She also left a card for each of her adult daughters.

Like the fan, the calling cards carried meaningful messages. If a young man should present a young lady with his card asking if he might escort her home, she could either rest her fan on her right cheek, meaning "yes" or she could return the card with the appropriate corner turned up indicating yes or no. Or she could hand her card to the chap she most wanted to accompany her.

  • A vistor folded down the upper right hand corner if she came in person.
  • A folded upper left corner indicated she stopped to leave her congratulations.
  • A folded lower right corner said goodbye.
  • A folded lower left corner offered condolences.

The card was carried to the lady of the house on the tray so she would not only know who the caller was, but the purpose of the call.

It was a highly ritualized social grace of the time, with rules set forth in etiquette books.

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Laurie's ~Victoriana~