Just Frances

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Hanky panky

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 13th, 2010 by Frances Ryan.
Tags: random, pretty things, ocd

A friend from high school mentioned that she’d like to hear more about my collection of vintage handbags and handkerchiefs, so this post is for her! (And it’s about hankies, not handbags.)

I couldn’t tell you exactly when I started using handkerchiefs. If I had to guess, it was in my early-20s when my vintage handbag passion was really kicking into gear. I was finding that I really loved vintage accessories and I slowly started adding hankies to my collection of ‘stuff’. But I’m a firm believer in using things, not just letting them collect in a box hidden from sight.

Over the years, I’ve never seen handkerchiefs used by women in my age group. No, it seems that they are just not the ‘in’ thing to use. (Or maybe it’s that most women in my age group are totting small children with snotty noses around and have decided disposable tissues are just easier!)

In fact, it dawned on me a few weeks ago when I saw a man I know using a handkerchief, that other than me, that friend, and little old ladies, I’ve only seen old redneck men use handkerchiefs in recent times. And whilst my hankies remain neatly folded, the handkerchiefs of this friend and the old rednecks always seem to be crumpled in a pocket. The hankies of little old ladies tend to be stuffed in their sleeves or through the band of their watch. (In fairness, the friend I saw using one recently is neither old nor is he a redneck.)

Anyhow, it makes me wonder a few things:

  • Are there other women under the age of 60 who use handkerchiefs?
  • Are the only men who use them old rednecks or men in suits?
  • Am I the only person who doesn’t crumple their handkerchiefs?
  • If I dropped my hankie in an ever-so-dainty way, would a gallant hero come whisk me away to a land of joyful bliss and happiness like they do in the fairy tales?
  • Would a man still hand a woman his handkerchief if she was crying? And if he did and she blew her nose into it, would he want it back?

[Side note: I don’t blow my nose in my hankies. If I have a cold I carry disposable tissues for that purpose. I know, TMI, but it’s my blog and I can share what I want!]

So, I don’t know if this post really answers the request for information about my handkerchiefs, but it’s maybe a start. And if you want a bit more entertainment, you can always click on the thumbnail images below to see close-ups of some of my (clean, I promise) handkerchiefs.

And, Sharon, I promise that I’ll share more fun stories and pictures about any new vintage accessory purchases!! Yay!

Hanky panky - Gallery


Martin uses handkerchiefs. There’s always one in his pocket - usually crumpled. And yes, he has handed me his hankie on several occasions. And yes I have blown my nose in it. And yes - he wanted it back :P No, he is not a redneck ;) Old? ...Perhaps.

His mother used to buy him handkerchiefs, vintage ones I think. When we first got together I remember a small collection of assorted hankies, some white with white stripes, some with colored stripes, and some with blue embroidered M’s on them. I think he carries them because it’s the gentlemanly thing to do.

My grandpa also carries handkerchiefs. He is also not a redneck - although he is a republican. And old :P

As for women carrying handkerchiefs - I don’t know any one other than you. Yours are beautiful btw - so full of character.

I have seen vintage hankies used for curtains and quilt tops to lovely effect.

Looking forward to seeing more of your vintage collections!

by Sarah R at 2:03am (GMT) on October 13th, 2010

BTW, I don’t recall Martin using his hankies very much - not for blowing his nose anyway. Now that he wears glasses, he can often be seen cleaning the lenses with one. Very English ;)

by Sarah R at 2:06am (GMT) on October 13th, 2010

Yay! Thanks. Now I get a sense of your style. I look forward to more of these posts.

Being in redneck country, I see hankies all the time. But you’re right, I don’t see people around my age with them… male or female. My ex’s grandpa carried one around all the time. I think he offered it to me a time or two. I would wonder more if it was used before it was offered.

I love to watch the older southern couples interact with each other. The man is usually right beside her with his hand gently on her back, opening doors for her or helping her balance as she steps off a curb. It’s sweet. On the flip side though, a woman seems to be expected to take care of the man’s needs. For example, his grandpa once got upset with me because I was not outside visiting with my husband as he worked on a vehicle. Apparently this was something his wife always did. The thing is, they actually had conversations. I actually had put in a lot of hours with him as he worked on something and he never once said a word to me. His grandpa would also say “how about fixing us a malt?” She would immediately get up and waddle slowly to the kitchen making us all a malt. This was a frequent thing. So… I guess we do some things they would think as rude and vise versa. In his defense though, he was legally blind. So I don’t know whether this was a cultural thing or just because he couldn’t do it himself (or felt he couldn’t). His daughter is legally blind as well and she has always done all the cooking for her family. He also gave the impression that it was ok for his daughter to be blind because she would be taken care of by a husband but it was worse for he and his son (also legally blind) because they were male (because they were the bread winners). Despite these things, they really lived during an amazing time. I’m in awe with all of the things the women kept in their kitchens to serve dinner. Such fragile, amazing glass and decorative dishes that those our age really don’t seem to have. Dinner is like Thanksgiving every day. Truly amazing.

Well, I’m digressing here as usual. I really enjoyed seeing them. Thanks for the post.

by Sharon B at 3:55am (GMT) on October 13th, 2010

If I had a handkerchief, I would fold it.

by joannamv at 9:10am (GMT) on October 13th, 2010

My hubby who is neither a redneck or an elderly man uses a hanky, folded neatly in his jeans pocket. He only uses when he has a cold and not everyday though.

by Helen at 11:50am (GMT) on October 13th, 2010

This makes me want to use them. But I am afraid it would turn to disaster when one of my kids had a runny nose and since I am the most unorganized mom of 6 around, I most certainly would not have tissues handy and then I would have to hand off one of those beautiful hankies. Or, I would just do what my husband does and use the bottom of their shirt to wipe their nose. Gross, I know.

I think I have lost my inner vintage now that I am so immersed in the lives of children. I used to have a bunch of awesome vintage bags, and over the years the abuse they took from being stepped on, diapers halled in, children “borrowing” them, pulling the beads off, I finally stopped looking for or buying them. Because I too, believe in using things, not just placing them behind glass. We use my greatgrandmother’s dishes without needing a Holiday. We use the good glasses to drink out of whenever the occasion calls for it.

But I sincerely think that vintage handbags and hankies are out of reach for me for a few more snotty nose years.

Ah well, I can live vicariously through you and your lovely, so-Frances, collection.

by amy allen at 2:50pm (GMT) on October 13th, 2010

I know this is an old post but I’ve looked everywhere and can’t find an answer to my question: How do ladies carry handkerchiefs? I really don’t think it’s very lady-like to fold it up and stick it into my pocket like a man. Should I tuck it into the sleeve? Or my purse? If I don’t have long sleeves or a purse then what? Also, should I carry two? One for blowing and the other for show/cleaning one’s glasses.


by Mahogany at 9:48am (GMT) on July 31st, 2012

I don’t really know what the etiquette is, but I can tell you how I carry my hankies, and maybe it will help:

I generally carry 1-2 at a time and keep them in my handbag. I swap them out so that they’re clean and I’ll generally use one for nose wiping and another for cleaning my glasses. In the winter, I also carry one in the pocket of my coat so that it’s always handy.

When I’m going to weddings or funerals or anything like that, I will also carry a couple of spares to give to others if needed. These would always be freshly laundered and I don’t expect them back. (Simple white linen ones are normally what I pass out.)

From time-to-time, I will tuck a hankie in my sleeve. Generally, this would be if I had a bit of the sniffles and was at a function that wouldn’t be convenient for reaching into my handbag all the time. (Business meetings, lunches/dinners, that sort of thing.)

As I said, I don’t know what the rules are, I just know that this is what I do.

Happy hanky using!

by Just Frances at 7:15pm (GMT) on July 31st, 2012

In a handbag,in a brassiere,in a sleeve all work.Carry several.

by gerry at 2:06am (GMT) on August 1st, 2012

I just inherited my mother’s hankies after she passed. I don’t remember seeing her with a hanky, so I suspect they were mostly her mothers hankies.  They are beautiful, dainty, and precious to me. I would love to start using a few to honor both amazing ladies, and this blog has helped me a lot. Thank you!

by Vickie Christensen at 6:53pm (GMT) on October 5th, 2016

Hi, Vickie. Thank you so much for your comment. I am sorry to hear about your mother’s passing, but I hope you are comforted by her memories. And maybe in using the hankies she passed on to you, you’ll be able to smile a bit each time you pull one out of your sleeve or pocket (or wherever you keep it!).

I have always enjoyed using my hankies - even though I know I risk losing or ruining them. Even the ones that were once my grandmother’s risk my snotty nose, and I know she would be happy knowing that I am using them.

If you don’t want to wipe tears or runny noses with them, you can always use them as bows for ponytails or you can fold one nicely and pin it to your lapel with a brooch or a funky old earring! They really are versatile accessories!

All my best to you!

by Just Frances at 8:24pm (GMT) on October 10th, 2016

I really enjoyed your article. Since the article is so old so I hope you get my message. I am an old southern woman (51) and I always carry hankies in my purse or pocket.  I’m glad to see women are still practicing the ha it of carrying hankies. When my grandmother died I was seven. I always loved the fact that she and my other grandmother carried hankies. As a 6 year old I thought it was so fancy instead of tissues. Both my grandmothers left their hankies to me. I feel like I am near them when I use their hankies. I too keep solid white hankies to pass out at weddings and funerals. I’m rambling now, I just wanted to tell you I enjoyed your piece!  Thank you!

by Melody at 5:35pm (GMT) on November 12th, 2017

Hi, Melody.

Thanks for the comment. I am not normally so slow at replies but have been a bit busy with my PhD work lately.

I am pleased to say that since writing this post I have acquired a great deal more hankies - and I have managed to recruit a few hankie converts! I am convinced that we will bring them back into high fashion!

I was also pleased to hear that you, too, pass them out to others. People really seem to like them and I love making others happy by handing them out.

I hope that you are able to use your hankies to wipe more tears of joy than of sorrow!

All my best,

by Just Frances at 5:51pm (GMT) on November 17th, 2017

i am an old southern redneck man and i always let my grandaughters use my hankies when they stay the night with me.

by hankieuser101 at 1:45am (GMT) on February 8th, 2018

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