Ball games: Learn to flirt, Victorian style

Brooklyn Daily
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Looking to pick up an eligible viscount or marchionesses at the Jalopy Theatre’s waltz ball on June 27? Walking straight up to the object of your affection and asking for their number would have seen you shunned from polite society in the 19th century. So organizer Sarah Alden clued us in to the subtleties of Victorian-era ball etiquette, and how ladies can let gentlemen know they’re interested — or not — without actually telling them.


Nineteenth-century hanky panky was all about the hanky, according to Alden. A woman could indicate she was flirting by touching her handkerchief to her lips. Or show she had a special someone on her mind by twisting the handkerchief in her right hand while looking right at them. And ladies could take the lead and show a man they wanted him to follow them — literally — by waving the handkerchief over their right shoulder.


But one flick of the wrist could change desire to disgust. A woman could show a person she was talking to that she wanted them to go away by twisting the handkerchief in her left hand, or by biting the tips of her gloves. Or let an admiring gent know she is already married by wrapping her handkerchief around her left ring finger. And the hardest hit to the heart — ladies could indicate they hated someone by turning their gloves inside-out while talking to them.

Reach reporter Vanessa Ogle at or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow her
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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