Posted on January 07, 2016 by Mary Hood | 0 Comments
Bold and gold: The most recent iteration of the choker has appeared on 2015 fashion runways. This contemporary piece captures modern glamour’s playful edginess.
As with many fashion trends, the choker has dipped in and out of our sartorial radar. Also, like several of the styles we keep coming back to, the choker has a rich a varied tradition that spans centuries and cultures.
Some Native American nations wore chokers made of bone, glass, beads, and/or shells. Chokers sometimes featured a shell or silver medallions dangling from the center and were often used for protection for warriors or elements of ceremonial dress.
The Massai of East Africa also incorporate chokers into their culture. Chokers are worn as ornamentation or for special occasions and ceremonies. Brides may wear bright, multi-colored chokers featuring different materials that represent different meanings.
Although chokers were originally adornments of the European upper class, by the French Revolution (1789–1799), commoners adopted the trend--but with a twist: To pay homage to countrymen who’d lost their lives at the guillotine, French women would wear a red ribbon around their necks, which they would tie either at the back of their necks or in a “X” over their upper backs.
In the 1860s, the choker was sometimes seen as a symbol of prostitution, as shown in the painting “Olympia,” by Manet (above). In other artistic contexts, however, the meaning of the choker is a bit more ambiguous. Take, for example, Degas’ ballerinas (below). While some believe that the black ribbons around their necks were mere adornments, others argue that Degas was making a statement about the ballet industry—dancers often came from humble backgrounds, worked long hours, and were often taken advantage of (physically and financially) on the path the securing their careers.
By the late 1800s, the choker took on a different, less charged meaning. Alexandria, Princess of Wales sparked a choker trend among her noble contemporaries by wearing a thick row of pearls around her neck. Alexandria was likely inspired by Indian style during her travels through Asia.
Although these strands were intended to cover scars on Alexandria’s neck, they nonetheless inspired other wealthy women of style to wear “dog collars,” or “colliers de chien.” The finest chokers were custom made to fit a women’s neck exactly and were often decorated with diamonds, pearls, lace, and velvet. Sometimes, the chokers included a cameo.
The 1940s witnessed yet another choker trend. This time, the dog collar served as a symbol of feminine power, which complemented the increased professional autonomy of women during the second world war. Around this era, choker production was standardized. Currently, most chokers are between 15 and 17 inches long.
1990s grunge style transformed the choker into an edgy (often cheap) accessory popular among teens and perfectly at home among body glitter, faded denim jackets, and crimped hair. Presently, chokers offer a nostalgic reprise of the ’90s for those 20-somethings and gen-Y-ers who couldn’t get enough of Clueless or Boy Meets World.
Do you have a favorite era of the choker?
Photos: The Vintage Vibes, Wikipedia, Britannica, Google Books, Nasty Gal