Bath has its Fashion Museum and Amsterdam has its Museum of Handbags and Purses but Greenwich has a Fan Museum. How does a Fan Museum get to be in Greenwich? I don’t really know except that it was founded by two private individuals, a married couple, and has some major commercial sponsors. We had a free morning before the funeral so decided to have a look around the Fan Museum. Like the other museums above the exhibition allows us to gaze into a past when certain items of clothing or accessories met different needs to now to the extent that they are, in the case of fans, no longer considered necessary or essential items for a genteel person or a person of fashion.
The items that I have selected from the Fashion Museum are some gloves. All of the gloves are on loan to the Fashion Museum from The Glove Collection Trust, a special body set up by The Worshipful Company of Glovers’ of London(link is external) to care for what is possibly the finest collection of historic gloves in the world. Nowadays the emphasis is on functionality but here we can see the glove as a complex fashion item.
Handbags and purses are still very much with us but not many of us would carry around some of the samples from modern times that are on show in the museum in Amsterdam. These are like bags as physical metaphors. Objects as far from a bag are press-ganged into service by the designers’ imaginations with no little wit and humour.
What must have seemed a completely essential piece of equipment for a woman of fashion is no longer seen. All of the social skills that accompanied it are now lost and seen only in period-piece dramas but perhaps of all of the three types of accessory seen here the fan is the one that serves the purest artistic function to the extent that a fan picture may never even have been folded, as they say. Fans survived as late as the Art Noveau period and in each period the fans are an accurate reflection of the pictorial styles of the period. I invite you to browse through the accompanying gallery and identify the periods from which these examples come.