Vintage Silk Handkerchiefs

Vintage Silk Handkerchiefs

Get up to hanky panky with silk handkerchiefs, an essential accessory in retro vintage style

For those who grew up before Kleenex tissue came on the scene, handkerchiefs were an indispensable part of every woman’s wardrobe and toilette. Learn how to wear a sexy silk hanky in a modern style, a number of uses for your silk hanky, and how to speak privately with lovers through a subtle hanky code…

Silk hankies, forgotten glamour

Silk hankies are sweet, sexy and very romantic. They are found in bride’s purses, tucked into the bra straps of both good girls and bad ones, and peep seductively from the corners of knicker drawers….

Georgia Bonham has always loved the mystique of the handkerchief and has sought to bring its old-world glamour through a modern looking-glass with her online silk hanky boutique. What girl of today wouldn’t prefer a silk hanky to a coarse, unsexy kleenex tissue? Our tears are precious, and so are our dreams.

The Mookychick editors were intrigued as they had been reading about the old language of handkerchiefs recently, so they put a  ‘Social Butterfly’ hanky (made of habotoi silk – oooooooh, so soft, flutter flutter!) through its paces one weekend… they’ve never looked back.

How a modern miss should wear her silk hanky

Wear a silk hanky gently tied round your neck… (like Audery Hepburn, or a foreign exchange student)

Or round your wrist… (quite indie, and feels delicious on the skin. Also means you can take it off and twirl it whenever you like)

Or puffed out of a back jean pocket… (it’s nice to mix soft silk with hardwearing denim. Try combining with a simple vest top to make the handkerchief the key feature.)

Or tucked into a bra strap… (with no more than an inch and a half showing – how women of recent yesteryear would do it. Maybe no-one can see the silk hanky – but you’ll know)

Or tucked into boots worn with a short skirt… (Something 80s about this… like ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’)

Or peeping smartly out of a tailored forties suit… (Forties vintage style)

Or, lastly, in your handbag… Because every item in your handbag should be precious…

14 Modern uses for a retro silk handkerchief

1. Silk is gentle to the touch, it’s soft beyond belief. Caress your loved one about the face, neck and sensitive areas (we’re thinking wrists up to the inner elbow, or back) with a clean silk handkerchief. Then follow with a peacock feather if you have one. Then demand the favour returned. Sheer heaven…

2. If you are partaking of, ahem, ‘snuff’, then having snuff-crumbs up your nostrils is inelegant. Wipe ‘snuff’ from your beak in public, in style, with your beautiful silk handkerchief, and all will adore your womanly ways. Actually, we’re putting snuff in quotes because we’re referring to illegal substances, but you might actually be taking snuff, which is both available and legal.

3. Amuse your friends and loved ones by folding your silk handkerchief into a mouse.

4. If you’re feeling tremendously decadent, clean your monitor with your silk hanky. Silk has a high thread count and is far superior to and softer than paper tissues, and it’s also kinder to your hands than alcohol-saturated wipes.

5. Wait until you are a few metres in front of someone you like then ‘drop’ your hankerchief, letting it fall softly to the ground like orange blossom. Stand looking perplexed until they pick it up for you. Its delicate silkiness will make them associate delicate silkiness with YOU.

6. Astound your friends – become a magician’s assistant and pull your silk hankies out of bizarre places. Ta-dah!

7. Scent your handkerchief. It will make your bag / clothes / knicker drawer smell heavenly.

8. Offer your scented handkerchief as a love-token. In fact, handkerchiefs used to be exchanged as gifts as a regular basis because they were sweet souvenirs, and they could also be given to people as ‘secret’ messages. You can get several ‘message’ silk hankies – ‘forget-me-not’, ‘best of luck’ and ‘baby b mine’ are just a few. Spread the love…

9. Toy with your hankerchief as women in the court of Henry II once did to emphasise the beauty of your hands. Fluttering one’s hands is fun, and having all eyes on you as you absent-mindedly twirl a handkerchief (subtle) instead of your hair (less subtle) can be fun.

10. Start up a new affectation of waving at your friends with a beautiful silk handkerchief to greet them. In approximately 300 AD it was customary to wave handkerchiefs to greet the appearance of high ranking persons in the theatre or in place of applause. Isn’t waving your hanky at someone a nice way to greet them?

11. If a loved one leaves you, cry into your handkerchief, then keep it somewhere special and never use it again. Tears and lovers are precious: store the memory of both your loves and your tears.

12. Get artsy, and customise your silk hanky in an echo of the geisha girls of the past: Yes, geisha girls would sometimes carry a hanky with a silk butterfly sewn onto it over a lace hole, so that when they waved the hanky as they gestured, the breeze would pass through the hole and the silk butterfly’s wings would flutter. How utterly beautiful.

13. When storing hankies, spread them flat over a mirror, as Jackie Kennedy used to do. If hankies are stored in a folded position, wear will occur over time along the fold line.

14. Lastly, an old superstition: Fold a handkerchief into six layers, blow your breath through the cloth thrice, then rub your open hand down over your face nine times to cure a toothache.

Hanky panky – the language of the handkerchief

In the 19th century a custom evolved that made it easy for young people – even though carefully chaperoned – to work out a system of signals that enabled them to carry on a conversation across the room. For instance, if a young lady drew the hankie across her lips, while looking at a young man, it meant that she was ready to make his acquaintance. If she already knew the young man, signals could get personal, such as:

* Drawing a hankie across her cheek meant ‘I love you.’

* A hankie held to the right cheek meant ‘yes.’

* If held on the left cheek it meant ‘no.’

* A hankie drawn across the forehead signaled ‘we are being watched.’

* Finally, if thrown over the shoulder, the message was ‘follow me.’

Hankies give you a sense of your own history the way a kleenex never can; they gather in them not only our bodily fluids, our tears and our blood, but also they exist as cultural items which are resonant with meaning for most women born before the invention of paper tissues.

The hanky will never go completely out of style as long as women need to adore beautiful things, and as long as brides and their families need to dry their eyes and have a keepsake from the wedding day.

Handy hankies, hanky links