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The Choker: A Fascinating Retrospective & History

Tanzy Ward



Far from a newer trend, the choker has went by many names and purposes for centuries. Women in both the ancient Sumer-Mesopotamia & Egypt empires layered chokers with other necklaces for protection and power. During the French Revolution in 1798, ribbons were worn around the necks to honor those who were killed by the guillotine. Anne Boleyn, King Henry VII of England's second wife, was portrayed in a painting wearing a pearl strand choker-like necklace with the letter 'B' pendant around her neck.

The choker was not only a chic accessory for wealthy women belonging to a royal hierarchy. In the 1800's the choker was also worn by prostitutes, which were often ribbon styles . Many associate Edouard Manet's 1863 painting 'Olympia' with the depiction of a prostitute wearing a choker necklace. During the Victorian era, Queen Victoria posed for portraits wearing elegantly designed chokers for style expression. Alexandra, the Princess of Wales wore chokers to cover a scar on her neck. Of course, many citizens were inspired by the fashion trend and for several decades chokers became a perfect statement accessory to pair with outfits. The wealthier women often adorn their chokers with jewels, but the 'Mourning' style choker (similar style pictured above) also became popular among regular citizens as well during the Grand period of Queen Victoria's reign. If we look at antique Victorian era photos, women often posed in portraits wearing black chokers that befittingly complimented their dresses. 

Chokers remained a fashion trend into the 1900's, and were known as 'dog collars' in the beginning of the Mid Century jewelry era. Common choker styles were multi-stranded pearls, black ribbons, beaded detailing, and gemstone encrusted.  As time went on, chokers were created with more variety of materials. In the late 60's and 70's, the 'boho' look included chokers created from leather and metal with era-appropriate designs such as colorful floral patterns and simple statement peace signs. The look was not as extravagant or glamorous  compared to earlier choker styles. 

By the 1990's, many Generation X teens and young adults began to wear plastic 'tattoo' chokers that were stretchy and trendy. The choker style carried on into the 'Y2K' era, and now the modern choker comes in a variety of designs for everyone's personal style preference. Presently, the versatile choker remains a popular statement accessory with a prolific past and promising future. 

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