Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hankie Panky

A bit off topic, but do people still carry handkerchiefs? I was thinking about this matter the other day while organizing my drawers where my handkerchiefs are stored.

It used to be said that a lady always carries a handkerchief in her handbag. If that's true, then some days I'm a lady, and some days I'm not. My mother always carries one in her bag, and I believe that my sister does as well. Me? I try to always have one with me, but sometimes I forget.

I own around six or seven handkerchiefs, most of which are Porthault. (You can see them at the top of the post.) Trust me, when you're pricing a set of Porthault sheets or table linen, the handkerchiefs seem to be downright bargains. That's why I always seem to buy one every time I visit their store. And even if they don't always get a lot of use, handkerchiefs are very handy to have. You never know when a speck of dirt might get in your eye or a crying jag might ensue.

These Porthault linens in the late Sybil Connolly's closet look more like cocktail napkins or boudoir shams, but imagine if they were Porthault handkerchiefs. That would really be something.

I just knew that I could find photos of handkerchiefs in the Duke and Duchess of Windsor auction catalogue. It's no surprise that both of them owned many handkerchiefs, although most people owned many handkerchiefs back in that era. (Speaking of the Duchess of Windsor, there will be a lecture about her given by Rene Silvin this Thursday at ADAC. It looks very interesting; click here for more information.)

Grooms should always carry handkerchiefs on their wedding days, while many brides tuck handkerchiefs away somewhere in their dresses.

A small Gothic cabinet makes a good place in which to store handkerchiefs.

A handkerchief that commemorated the coronation of King George VI was framed and used as a tea tray.

Photo at top by Jennifer Boles for The Peak of Chic. Connolly photo from In an Irish House; Wedding photo from Tiffany Wedding; Gothic cabinet and tea tray photo from Elegant Linens by Chippy Irvine.


  1. I don't carry one anymore but I love them. Growing up they were a necessity...lunch money was tied into the corner so I wouldn't lose the change on the way to school. I hadn't thought about that in years!

  2. Like the Duchess collection best! Never forget the tiny suitcase of my grandmother's collection I was given and took to first day Sunday nursery school! Confiscated! Put up on a shelf I couldn't reach! I couldn't understand why? I know they went home with me. But where are they now? I keep asking?

  3. As a gentleman in the south, in the summer I seem to have 2,one for the pocket of my jacket, and one to wipe the drops of sweat off my face.

  4. A handkerchief is indeed a handy thing to have around during a sultry Southern summer.

  5. Oh I remember the beautiful handkerchiefs my Grandmother always carried and they were filled with the aroma of her Arpege perfume! A lost item, along with gloves and hats! The main floors of department stores had shelves filled with linen handkerchiefs...Remember???

  6. Grandmother always had a handkerchief in her handbag, as well as at least one other as an accessory to her outfit. After she passed away, and I was cleaning out her home, I came across numerous large padded and quilted silk "envelopes" filled with a multitude of carefully folded handkerchiefs in a riot of styles and colors, from plain silk to minutely embroidered gauze tissue affairs, trimmed in elaborate lace. Seems ladies of a certain era (Grandmother was born before the 20th century)sewed these things as young girls to hold their dainty handkerchiefs. I passed them on to all the grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but clearly, an era had passed forever....

  7. Have many monogrammed handkerchiefs from my grandmother(southern) + treasure them. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

  8. I just gave my maternal Grandmother a new handkerchief for Mother's Day, and my paternal Grandfather uses them constantly here in the South, too. I plan on getting a special one embroidered for my Mother for my wedding day in October.

  9. I fondly remember my dad slipping me his hankie on many occasions. I was a "crier" and he sympathized. When he passed away i was able to get one of his very ordinary white ones which i embroidered with a special reminder. I will treasure it always. I am teaching my three boys to carry one with them...such a Southern Gentleman thing i think...so they receive at least one every Christmas. It is a favorite shopping list item but so difficult to find. I like to think i am "doing my part" to revive the custom for both men and women as I , too, must carry my own now. Enjoyed the post.

  10. Pamela11:56 AM

    I still use a handkerchief. They are kind to the nose. My father had a lovely 1950's pink handkerchief with thin black piping along all the edges. He never used it. My mother showed it to me one morning when I was quite small.

  11. I have a collection of my grandmother's handkerchiefs along with her gloves. A lady always wore gloves (and a hat) to complete her outfit when visiting the city (NY). One always dressed to go to the theater also. Not any more. I haven't carried a hankie since I was young, but it may be time to bring back that elegant tradition. I am casting my vote for elegant traditions.

  12. You'd be surprised how many times I wish I had a handkerchief on me! I do have a collection, but I never think to use them. I think society is so program with the ease (and disposal factor) of Kleenex. Regardless, I think we should bring back the tradition! I hope you can stop by my blog and enter my giveaway for a pair of pearl earrings, Wednesday is the final entry day. Enjoy your week!

    Twirling Clare

  13. Anonymous8:33 PM

    My Southern father always had a white linen handkerchief at hand. When my sister and I were little, he would entertain us at church during boring sermons by twisting his handkerchief into a bunny rabbit that hopped around. Remember how gallant it was when former President George H.W. Bush offered his white handkerchief to the happily crying U.S. fencing medalist at the Beijing Olympics? It would have been a lesser gesture had he provided a Kleenex. So I have a special affection for my collection of linen and cotton handkerchiefs from Ireland, London and Bruges but my favorites are the hand-embroidered beauties from Madeira, Portugal. I always have a handkerchief in my make up bag and use them often. What a wonderful post and I enjoyed the comments.

  14. Love the Eiffel tower hankies!

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