Out & About: Fashion Council Royal Tea

In today’s tech-centric world, it is nearly impossible to imagine a life before instant communication was available. When we want to speak with a friend, we can pick up the phone – or if that is too archaic, we can send a text, a tweet, a Facebook message, an email…the possibilities are endless! Last Friday, members of the FIDM Museum Fashion Council took a step back in time and learned how women of the 19th century communicated before the era of Snapchat through the Silent Language of Fans.

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After an elegant (and delicious!) catered tea in Grand Hope Park, guests were treated to a lecture by fashion historian Maxwell Barr on how women used fans to communicate specific meanings. A model wearing reproduction 1880s attire demonstrated the graceful and subtle movements; armed with fans, the audience was able to attempt the silent language for themselves. For example, to flutter the open fan towards oneself indicates “dance with me,” and to direct the open fan towards the floor says “I despise you!” The next time you’re feeling amorous, place your hand over your heart while holding the fan open in front of your eyes – this gesture tells your partner “I love you.” So much more romantic than emojis!

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Speaker Maxwell Barr with his 19th-century model Megan.

Equipped with this fan knowledge, the group was then given a private tour of A Graceful Gift: Fans from the Mona Lee Nesseth Collection, as well as the Art of Motion Picture Costume Design exhibition. A Graceful Gift contains twenty fans and six dressed ensembles spanning from 1800 to 1910. The FIDM Museum is extremely grateful for Mona Nesseth’s dedication to finding rare and important fans for our Collection; with her help, the FIDM Museum now boasts an exceptional array of period fans, including examples from famed artists Alexandre, Tiffany, and Duvelleroy.


Félix Alexandre, Artist
Dumoret, Jeweler
France, c. 1875-85
Mother-of-pearl, point de gaze lace, gilded silver & diamonds
Gift of Mona Lee Nesseth

Proceeds from this event go toward the upcoming FIDM Museum exhibition Outdoor Girls: Sporting Fashion, 1880 to 1950s. Fashion Council members Lori Santamaura and Cyndee Ely generously adopted objects for this exhibition, which will examine the development of women’s sportswear over 150 years.  Many thanks to Event Chairs Linda Knoth and Jeannine Abraham, Fashion Council Chair Mima Ransom, and Graphic Designer Dale Ransom for making this lovely afternoon a smashing success! Make sure to see A Graceful Gift: Fans from the Mona Lee Nesseth Collection, open until July 2, 2016.

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Fashion Council member Mona Lee Nesseth, sponsor of the Graceful Gift exhibition, FIDM Museum Curator Kevin Jones, and Fashion Council Chair Mima Ransom.

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Fashion Council members Linda Plochocki, Linda Knoth, and Mela Hoyt-Heydon with Kevin Jones enjoying the beautiful table setting.

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Tasty treats by our fantastic caterer Ellie Snyder of Sweet Heaven!


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