by Jill Holt, Curator of Textiles
Occasionally, we give behind the scene tours of our museum collection storage areas. The cigar ribbon smoking jacket is one of my favorite artifacts that I like to show visitors on these tours.
During the Victorian era, cigar smoking became a popular pastime for men. Many homes had a private drawing room where men would gather to smoke and visit. Men would don smoking jackets and smoking caps which absorbed the odor of the cigar smoke. During the late 1800s, cigar manufacturers bundled their products in batches of 25 or 50 cigars and tied the bundles with gold silk ribbons on which were printed the manufacturers’ names. Women who did fancy work and quilting found a purpose for these silk ribbons and created quilts, table runners, and smoking jackets from them.
The quilted smoking jacket in our collection is made from gold, yellow, and orange silk ribbons and features a shawl collar. We have several examples of the loose silk cigar ribbons in our collection as well. The vibrant colors of luxurious silk ribbons are transformed into an unusual and outstanding article of clothing, making it one of my personal favorites.