A Symbolic View of Cigarette Holders

F. David Mulcahy, Melissa Sherman


The cigarette holder became a fashion accessory for women in the early 1920s and remained popular until the 1960s. The New York Times was used as a data base to evaluate its symbolism and function during this period. It is argued that the artifact became a symbol of assertiveness for many women both in real life and fiction including the ballet mistress Bronislava Nijinska, the mythical and fictionally portrayed Dragon Lady—who was a glamorous but larcenous female war-lord, the fictional Satin Doll, an astute potential lover who would not let herself be manipulated by men, young flappers in restaurants, great, gruff ladies who were ballet aficionadas, Sappho, an overbearing Russian governess, and Nathalie de Ville, a fictional female social predator.  The article points out in detail how the cigarette holder was isomorphic, with and reflected in, the new 1920s women’s fashion silhouette which quickly replaced the somewhat “squat” Gilded Era women’s costume. It had no pinched waist, an almost nonexistent bodice and hips, and gave an overall tall, slim and graceful impression.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/iss.v3i2.8392


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