French, c. 1925
The Victoria & Albert Museum
By the late 1920s to early 1930s, to see a woman smoking in public was considered socially acceptable. The twenty years following the First World War (1914-1918) saw a social revolution wherein the accepted roles of women were changing. During the Great War, women had been drafted into the workforce to cover for the many men who were away at the front. Once the war was over, women did not return to the more passive roles in which they had been cast previously and enjoyed increased political and social freedoms—smoking included. But, a proper lady would not smoke in the same way that a man did. It wasn’t ladylike to hold the stub of a cigarette between her fingers—especially since doing so would spoil her gloves. The cigarette holder soon became an important accessory for a progressive woman.
Here, we see an aluminum cigarette holder which was made about 1925 in France. This creation of the Jazz Age features a bright cut decoration which carved at an angle so that it catches the light and sparkles like the many diamonds a lady would be wearing at this time. The holder telescoped to an elegant length—allowing the cigarette smoke to waft away from a woman’s coiffure and face. When she was finished, the holder could retract to be stashed into a reticule or handbag.