Parasol’s are a handy tool to have around. They can protect your delicate completion from harsh sun rays, or sudden thunderstorms, or come in handy for a duel. During the Victorian era, you could even use your parasol flirtations to attract an eligible young man.
Parasols were first written about in the Westminster Magazine 1777. “[It is] a silk umbrella, or what the French call a Parisol [sic]. It is fastened on the middle of a long japanned walking cane with an ivory crook head. It opens by a spring and is pushed up toward the head of the cane when expanded for use.” At the great exhibition of 1851 Parasols were still a novel invention. William Sangster states “umbrellas and parasols were worthily represented [because of the public’s interest in them].”
Victorian etiquette was very strict. It did not permit open communication between gentlemen and ladies. A young lady who discoursed indiscreetly with a gentleman was labeled a coquette. Discrete codes were needed to convey interest in a gentleman. Thus, parasol flirtations were developed. Many books were published with standardized signals for a lady’s intentions toward a man.
Victorian Parasol Flirtations:
- Meet on the first crossing – Carry your parasol closed in the left hand
- Follow me – Carry your parasol closed in the right hand by the side
- Desiring acquaintance – Carrying your parasol elevated in left hand
- You are too willing – Carrying your parasol elevated in right hand
- No more at present – Carrying your parasol front of you
- You can speak to me- Carrying your parasol over the right shoulder
- You are too cruel – Carrying it over the left shoulder
- Speak with you, love- Closing it up
- I love you- Dropping it
- Do you love me? – End of tips to the lips
- Get rid of your company – Folding it up
- No – Letting it rest on the left cheek
- Yes – Letting it rest on the right cheek
- No more at present – Putting it away
- I am much displeased- Striking it on the hand
- engaged I am – Swinging it to and fro. by the handle on left side
- I am married- Swinging it to and fro. by the handle on the right side
- In love with another – Tapping the chin gently
- Be careful! We are watched – Twirling it around
- Introduce me to your company – Using it as a fan
- Kiss me – With handle to the lips
Steampunk Parasol dueling
I became interested in Victorian parasol flirtations after writing about parasol dueling (link) with Madam Saffron Hemlocks dueling league, for steampunk ladies (link). This delightful steampunk invention is a clever version of rock, paper, Scissors with a parasol. And, it uses some of the traditional parasol flirtations as their moves.
Steampunk Parasol flirtations
I’ve asked Kevin Jepson for the rules of parasol flirtations for duelers, and here is what Kevin shared with me. During a parasol duel you may include parasol flirtations as a Judged event for ladies over the age of 16. Pairs or groups of parasol duelers will strike only one pose and elaborate on it. They must end at the hold with a completed figure. Almost like a Victorian tableau. At the Worlds parasol duel competition, the contestants do all three figures. Each contestant will demonstrate the flirtation for each of the 3 dueling poses. At smaller competitions either the judge or the contestants will choose a single figure to pick a flirtatious pose.
The “doctor” will count off to 5. When the “doctor” calls hold at the end of his count the competitors will take their final flirtation position. The flirtations must be complete at the start of the word Hold. The duelists are elaborating on the figure during the count. It is a “performance” of that figure, and it just must be completed by the count of 5 by the doctor. In other words, holding still in the final position by the start of the word hold.
A panel of judges will score the duelers on a scale of 1 to 10 like in figure skating. When time permits the judges may ask for audience input by applause to determine which contestant was “better”.
Jane Porter, Queen of the Apes
I chose Jane Porter from Tarzan for my parasol princess. This lovely lady carried her parasol into the wild forest of Africa. She is the perfect princess to explore the intricacies of parasol flirtations in the end of the 19th century.
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