Lipstick and Lighters: Women Smoking Cigarettes in the Fabulous Fifties

The 1950s saw significant changes in the way women were portrayed in the media. The image of the perfect housewife – impeccably dressed, with a perfectly coiffed hairstyle and red lipstick – became the standard. Women were expected to be graceful, nurturing, and devoted to their families, all while maintaining a glamorous appearance.

Despite these traditional expectations, the 1950s also saw a growing number of women entering the workforce and enjoying greater independence. And with this newfound freedom came a continuation of the trend of women smoking cigarettes.

Tobacco companies were well aware of the potential market in female consumers and continued to create ads that targeted women. These ads often portrayed smoking as a glamorous and sophisticated habit, with images of elegant, well-dressed women enjoying a cigarette. Some ads even suggested that smoking could help women maintain a slim figure, as cigarettes were thought to suppress appetite.

During this time, the design of cigarettes and smoking accessories also catered to women’s tastes. Filtered cigarettes, which were considered a “cleaner” and more “ladylike” option, became increasingly popular among women. Brands like Virginia Slims and Eve introduced slim and stylish cigarettes designed specifically for women. Even cigarette cases and lighters became fashionable accessories, with designs featuring delicate patterns, pastel colors, and glamorous finishes.

The 1950s also saw the rise of television, and women smoking cigarettes were a common sight on both the small and big screens. Iconic actresses like Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, and Elizabeth Taylor were often seen smoking on-screen, further perpetuating the glamorous image of female smokers. Cigarette smoking was still seen as glamorous and sophisticated, but the seeds of doubt about its safety were beginning to take root.

#1 A teenage girl smoking a marijuana “reefer” in New York. June 1953.

#3 Hildegard Knef at her London hotel. 18th November 1952. She is modeling the outfit she plans to wear to the premiere of her latest film, The Snows of Kilimanjaro.

#4 A woman modeling a dress and smoking a cigarette. 23rd February 1953.

#5 A woman smoking a long cigarette which she has constructed using a rolling machine. April 1953.

#6 A theatre chorus girl smoking a cigarette in an elegant holder, 1954.

#7 Smoking four cigarettes at once. From a series of images parodying women’s lifestyle and beauty magazines, 1955.

#8 Naturally, it is important that a baby learn the right habits. This woman demonstrates that smoking is wrong for babies, 1955. From a series of images parodying women’s lifestyle and beauty magazines.

#10 Aspiring actress Jean turns to drink to drown her sorrows after another unsuccessful day looking for work in New York, circa 1955.

#11 Model Bonnie Sharie uses a long cigarette holder with an unusual wine glass attachment, circa 1955.

#12 A member of a teenage girl gang lying in bed smoking a cigarette, circa 1955.

#13 An office worker leaves her typewriter for a moment for a smoke, and anxiously crushes out another cigarette into an already full ashtray, 1955.

#14 Queen Elizabeth II holding a camera at the Olympic Horse Trials at Badminton, whilst Princess Margaret sits behind her, smoking a cigarette and watching the action. Also in the group is Group Captain Peter Townsend (left). 13th October 1955.

#15 Spanish fashion model, Teresita Montes, sister of the film star Maria Montes, sitting under a Parisian beauty salon’s hairdryer smoking a cigarette. October 1955.

#16 Two women chatting at a coffee bar in London. 4th November 1955.

#17 Drinking and smoking in the Mannequin Club, 1956.

#18 Austrian actress Julia Arnall, leaning against a shop window and smoking a cigarette. 27th February 1956.

#19 A young woman lighting a cigarette as she sits on a New York park bench at night, circa 1957.

#20 Richard Burton and Claire Bloom attend a reception at the Dorchester Hotel, London, to launch their latest film, Look Back in Anger. August 1958.

#21 Barbara French lights her cigarette with the smallest ever gas lighter at the International Watch and Jewellery Trade Fair, Albert Hall, London, 1959.

#22 English actor and comedian Tony Hancock shares a joke with actress Hattie Jacques during a break from the “Hancock’s Half Hour” rehearsals. 21st October 1959.

#23 Italian actress Silvana Pampanini smoking a cigarette during the International Film Festival of Punta del Este, 1950s.

#24 Italian tailor Roberto Capucci sitting on a sofa with a model, both smoking cigarettes, Rome, 1950s.

#25 On a terrace, Italian baroness Francesca Ricasoli lighting a cigarette to Italian artist, princess Giuliana Corsini, 1950s.

#26 Three aspiring actors Shirley Buchanan, Mara Lynn, and Donna Williams light their cigarettes from a candelabra at a bar, Loreto, Mexico, 1950s.

#27 American screen star Lauren Bacall smoking, sits thoughtfully at the piano for the film ‘Young Man With A Horn,’ 1950.

#28 Bette Davis smoking in a scene from ‘Payment on Demand,’ 1950.

#29 Jane Wyman and Marlene Dietrich share a cigarette in ‘Stage Fright,’ directed by Alfred Hitchcock, 1950.

#30 American actress Gloria Swanson smoking a cigarette, circa 1950.

#31 American actor Jane Wyman smoking a cigarette at a formal event, dressed in black, 1950.

#32 American actor Sammy Davis Jnr at a candlelit dinner for two, without visible cigarettes, circa 1950.

#33 Lauren Bacall smoking as she plays piano in ‘Young Man with a Horn,’ California, 1950.

#34 A woman smokes a cigarette in a local restaurant in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, circa 1950.

#35 Danish writer Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) smoking a cigarette, undated, assumed 1950s.

#36 Frederick Laws and American photographer Lee Miller smoking at a one-night performance in London, March 1950.

#37 French actress Anouk Aimée smoking during the XVI Venice International Film Festival, Venice, 1955.

#38 Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh relax on the set of ‘A Streetcar Named Desire,’ without visible cigarettes, circa 1951.

#39 Edwige Feuillère smoking a cigarette in the film “The Cape of Hope,” France, 1951.

#41 French actress Corinne Calvet smoking a cigarette with Czechoslovakian actress Florence Marly at the World Film Favourite Festival, California, 1951.

#42 American theatrical leading lady Tallulah Bankhead smoking a cigarette in London at the Ritz, 1951.

#44 Actress Claire Trevor smoking a cigarette as Connie Williams in the film “Hoodlum Empire,” 1952.

#45 Greek actress Irene Papa smoking a cigarette, 1952.

#46 Actress Irene Dunne smoking a cigarette in character for “Port of Call” episode of “The Schlitz Playhouse of Stars,” California, 1952.

#47 German actress Hildegard Knef smoking a cigarette at her London hotel, 1952.

#48 Beverly Michaels smoking a cigarette at a bar in a scene from “Wicked Woman,” 1953.

#49 English singer and actress Joyce Blair smoking a cigarette, 1953.

#50 Actress June Whitfield in “Love from Judy” at the Saville Theatre, 1953.

#51 Loretta Young in “Hotel Irritant” episode of “The Loretta Young Show,” 1953.

#52 Marilyn Monroe smoking a cigarette on the set of “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” 1954.

#53 Actress Pauline Stroud smoking a cigarette in her dressing room in England, 1954.

#54 Australian actress Diane Cilento smoking a cigarette in England, 1954.

#55 Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida smoking a cigarette in Venice, 1954.

#56 Marilyn Monroe smoking a cigarette backstage at a Broadway Theater in New York, 1954.

#57 Gary Cooper with Hjordis Tersmeden at the wrap party for “The Seven Year Itch,” Los Angeles, 1954.

#58 Barbara Morris stars as Simone in a Picture Post reconstruction of her dream film roles, 1954.

#59 Italian actress Lorella De Luca smoking a cigarette at the Venice International Film Festival, 1958.

#60 Jeanne Moreau smoking a cigarette in “La Machine Infernale” by Jean Cocteau at the Bouffes Parisiens Theater, 1958.

#61 A model wearing a paisley-patterned jumpsuit at Mae McDowell’s modeling school in Manchester, 1954.

#62 Shooting of the film ‘Oasis’ by Yves Allegret in Morocco: Michèle Morgan smoking a cigarette in a jeep next to Cornell Borchers, 1955.

#63 American actress Ava Gardner at a press reception at the Savoy Hotel, London, 1955.

#64 Swedish-born actor Anita Ekberg smoking a cigarette on the set of William Wellman’s film ‘Blood Alley’, 1955.

#65 American actress Lauren Bacall smoking a cigarette during a rehearsal break in Hollywood, California, circa 1955.

#66 Ernest Hemingway with his wife Mary Welsh Hemingway and actress Ava Gardner in the mid to late 1950s.

#67 British actress Elizabeth Allan in England, 1955.

#68 A portrait of Lady Norah Docker in England, 1955.

#69 Close-up portrait of a fashion model smoking under a fur wrap, 1955.

#71 French actress Anouk Aimee smoking a cigarette with her husband Alexandre Astruc in Venice, 1955.

#73 Portrait of Italian singer Nilla Pizzi smoking a cigarette, circa 1955.

#74 Susan Hayward as Lillian Roth in the film “I’ll Cry Tomorrow,” 1955.

#75 Audrey Hepburn on the terrace of the Restaurant Hammetschwand in Switzerland, 1955.

#78 Italian singer Flo Sandon’s posing with a cigarette in April, 1960.

#79 Actress Anita Ekberg smoking a cigarette in Copenhagen, on the way to Malmo, Denmark, 1956.

#80 A Russian girl models British underwear in a sales campaign, 1956.

#81 Actress Elizabeth Taylor at the premiere of “Moby Dick” in Los Angeles, California, 1956.

#82 Actor Ronald Reagan and wife Nancy attend the premiere party for “Moby Dick” in Los Angeles, 1956.

#84 American singer LaVern Baker smoking and adjusting her dress in New York, New York, 1957.

#85 Theatrical actress Franca Valeri looks doubtful at herself in the mirror with a cigarette, Rome, 1958.

#86 Actress Anita Ekberg smokes a cigarette with Gaea Pallavicini at a dinner party in Rome, 1958.

#87 Film star Joan Collins in London at her parents’ flat in Regent’s Park, 1958.

#88 Italian actress Sophia Loren on the set of the film “It Started in Naples,” 1959.

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Written by Kimberly Adams

Kimberly Adams is passionate about classic movies, actors, and actresses. She offers a fresh perspective on timeless films and the stars who made them unforgettable. Her work is an ode to the glamour and artistry of a bygone era, and a tribute to the enduring appeal of classic cinema.

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