The Definitive History of the Choker - 5000 years and counting

Chokers, choker, chokers.... they're the fashion rage of 2017.........but the choker is not new to this world. Chokers can be traced back to ancient times, back to a time when most civilizations lived in constant fear of displeasing any number of imaginary gods. Jewelry was worn more for health, or superstitious/ritualistic purposes, rather than as the fashion accessory we use it as today.  Much like garlic is worn fictitiously to ward off Vampires, the predecessors to our beloved choker's were once worn for protection too.

 

Ancient Chokers 

This ancient Egyptian choker found in Giza, Egypt is believed to be from the IV Dynasty, dating back to  2625-2500 B.C. The choker is constructed of faience, bronze and gold. Lapis lazuli would typically be present as well, although it is noticeably absent on this specimen. Archaeologist's have found chokers in most places where advanced civilizations flourished, such as in Sumar, Mesopotamia, Greece, India, as well as parts of Africa.

                  

                  (Ancient Egyptian Choker. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) 

 

                  

                   (3rd-4th century Carthagian beads - National Archaeological Museum, Cagliari)

 

 

Anne Boleyn  (1501-1536)

Fast forward 1100 years to Tudor England and the reign of the blood thirsty Henry VIII (1491-1547).  All told, Henry would bury three wives: executing two, divorcing two, losing one in childbirth and finally dying on another. Anne Boleyn, the most famous of all the wives was adored by Henry to the heavens and beyond. Henry even overthrew the Catholic Church, in order to get a divorce from Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne. Henry also rebuilt the colossal Hampton Court Palace in her honour.

While still a young naive child, Anne left England for France to study at the court of King Louis XII. When she returned to England, Anne was found to excel in poetry, dance, music, art, culture, literature, elocution, languages and above all....the language of love. The men at court wanted to have her and the ladies wanted to be her.  Anne soon caught the eye of the older Henry, and the rest as they say, is her-story. Anne's downfall came swift and hard, stemming more than likely from seditious rumours, jealousy and lies......it is more probable that Henry grew tired and disillusioned of Anne, as she was unable to deliver a royal heir.

Anne was put to death in 1536 at 35 years old on Tower Hill (where the Tower of London still stands today), on the charges of treason and adultery. At this time in history, executions were frequently botched, as they were carried out by inexperienced axemen, with blunt axes, who were often drunk as well. Henry in his infinite kindness, sent for an expert French swordsmen, with precision aim,  to procure the final blow that would deliver Anne's head into the basket below.  Anne is shown below, wearing her famous 'B' for Boleyn choker.

          

                           

                                    Anne Boleyn by Hans Holbein circa 1535.

 

 

The Elizabethan Period

Following Henry, came his progeny, the boy king Edward, followed by Queen Mary (aka Bloody Mary) and finally Elizabeth I ( child of Anne and Henry) and namesake of the Elizabethan period. Below we see Queen Elizabeth I wearing one of her chokers and the gigantic 'ruff's that became popular during this time.

         

                                     Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603)

 

 

The modern Equivalent of a Ruff. Basically a fluffy choker/collar extended outward, downward and in any direction the designer sees fit.

                               

             Junya Watanabe Dress with neck ruff. (2000). Photo: firstview.com 

 

 

Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution

Poor, hapless Marie Antoinette (1755-1793), who at a young age married King Louis XVI of France. Marie, has gone down in history as one of the dominant provocateur's of The French Revolution. The famous 'Let Them Eat Cake' line came about during the Revolution, when Marie discovered that they had run out of bread, her response "Let Them Eat Cake'.  Marie was also in her mid thirties, and a choker wearer, when she went to her death on the guillotine (probably still wearing a choker).............There's something about chokers and thirty somethings.....

 

  Marie Antoinette with head and choker        

     Marie with head and choker                           Marie with choker, sans head     

                         

During the French Revolution, women took to wearing a thin red ribbon around their necks (above), in homage to those that lost their lives on the guillotine. If a lady were of sizeable means, she may have been seen wearing a choker of red rubies instead of ribbon. 

 

 

Ladies of ill repute - mid 1800's

Édouard Manet, was a controversial artist, whose many works were found to be quite distasteful to the masses because of his fond proclivity to include nudity. In 1863, true to form, Manet painted the now infamous 'Olympia'. In the painting he shows a prostitute reclining somewhat gracefully on her mattress, with her maid carrying a bouquet of flowers and a black cat at the foot of the bed. Victorian era viewers understood she was a prostitute, by the (lack of clothes) and the thin black ribbon she had tied about her neck.  

          

                                              Manet's Olympia (1863)

 

 

                              

                                        Javanese female (date unknown)



 

 

Native American Indians

The following images show two Native American men wearing traditional bone chokers.  The date is unknown, but it is likely that the men were from the Blackfoot, or Apache Tribes. These photos show a form of ceremonial dress, that has probably gone unchanged for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

                  

                                                                           Photo entitled 'Weasel Tail Piegan'

 

 

 

Degas' Ballerina 1878

The pastel below is by Edgar Degas and is entitled L'etoile (La danseuse sur la scene), translated: 'The Star, Dancer on Stage'. The image shows a ballerina wearing a thin black ribbon about her throat, in a time when only ballerina's and prostitutes wore such things.

 

                            

                                  L'etoile (La danseuse sur la scene)

 

 

                              

A young lady of probable Russian ancestry, wears a choker with a cross (date unknown).

 

 

 

Victorian and Edwardian Era's

 

During the Edwardian Era, Queen Alexander of Denmark, wife of King Edward VII (1901-1910), became quite fond of chokers. During her reigns, as both Queen and Princess of Wales,  just like Diana years later, she became an influential fashion icon and brought the choker back to the absolute height of popularity.

           

      Queen Alexander of Denmark                        Edwardian Actress Lily Elsie

 

Miss Elsie's choker is very reminiscent of today's Steampunk and Goth style chokers. 

Vintage Victoriana Deep Lace Jewelled Choker (Ballooo Collection 2017)

 

 

 

Cameo's

It was around this time that the Cameo became more popular. They had been around since at least the 3rd century in Greece. Cameo's were worn mostly as a brooch, or on a choker, or pendant. Typically, the cameo would have the profile of a lady's head and shoulders. However, over time, cameo's became veritable works of art, depicting as many scenes as the carver could imagine.

          

    18 ct  shell with diamond inlay.                       Intricately carved cameo 

 

                              For comparison, a modern Steampunk version.

                            

                                   2017 Steampunk choker with cameo.  

 

  

 Goiter chains

 

                           

Goiter Chains were wide chokers worn by women to conceal lumps (goiters) on the neck. Goiter was a common disease during the Victorian and Edwardian periods and is still prevalent today. Lumpy swellings appear on the neck when the thyroid gland enlarges, this occurs because of either not enough thyroid hormone - hypothyroidism, or hyperthyroidism - too much thyroid hormone. 

 

Next, we see an advertisement for an actual choker used as a goiter 'cure'. Anything was possible in the days of snake oil, brimstone and treacle.

                

 

Lyubov Roslavleva (1874-1904) was a Russian Ballet Star with the Bolshoi Ballet. Below she is photographed wearing a choker that is very reminiscent of the Native American Bone Choker.

                            

                                                     Lyubov Roslavleva

 

 

                  

1920's-30's

Nancy Carroll, was one of the first leading ladies of the 'Talkies'. A Talky, was a movie with sound. Prior to this, there was only silent film. Singing, dancing, speaking motion picture stars were now catapulted like never before, to the dizzying heights of stardom, just like today. Along with this notoriety, came power and influence. America, the world, wanted to be like their favourite star on the silver screen. Here we see Nancy with a long string of pearls wrapped about the neck, typical of the Roaring Twenties and the Flapper Era. Many images from this time period show women wearing pearls in a similar fashion.

         

                                

                                                            Nancy Carrol

 

 

            Actress Joan Crawford wearing a choker during the 20's, or 30's.

            

 

Chokers always found a way of turning up. Life Magazine1944, showed 5 ladies wearing 'Dog Collar's'. Notice how the caption says they are reviving a 40 year old fashion, as we have seen, the choker was never ever out of style. 

                   

 

Marilyn Monroe

Norma Jean Baker.....a Candle in the wind..

                           

                           Marilyn Monroe (date unknown)

 

 

The Peoples' Princess 

Diana was a style icon. She remained in the public eye from 1980, when it became apparent that Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, had serious intentions towards her, until her untimely death in a Paris tunnel in 1997. Diana's legend lives on today vicariously through the lives of her children, Prince William and Prince Harry and her daughter in law Kate Middleton. When William and Kate were engaged, the world media was set alight as William gave Kate, Diana's Engagement Ring. Princess Di's style influenced a generation and it crossed cultures as well.

Diana, really loved chokers. If she couldn't find, or buy one to suit her many outfits and public engagements, she would get creative and fashion one. A classic example, The Delhi Durbar Diamond and Emerald Necklace. Seen below, this choker was a gift from the Maharanis of India to Queen Mary..... 

And what did Diana do with it? 

 

                                 

The choker bottom left is actually a sapphire brooch given to Diana by the Queen Mum. Diana wore it for years as a brooch, until she attached it to a pearl choker seen below. On the right, Diana is wearing an eleven strand pearl choker, with diamond and ruby spacers, clearly styled after the Native American Bone Chokers. 

                  

       

 

Tribal

Recent photograph's of a woman and child from the Hamer tribe, in the Lower Omo Valley Ethiopia.  Similar to the Native American chokers, these styles have probably been used for a very long time. (Photo by Ronny Reportage/ Anthony Pappone). 

             

 

2017

Recently,  chokers have been making a comeback on the famous necks of celebrities such as: Rihanna, Cara Delevingne and Gigi Hadid. Men wear them too, or should we say - still.  In January, at Paris Fashion Week, chokers were extremely popular. Popular enough to be labelled viral? Definitely.

                       Christian Dior's Fall 2017 show, at Paris's Musee Rodin.

                      

                         Dior - Fall 2017 - Chokers as far as the eye could see. 

                              

                                              A Dior choker - Fall 2017.

 

 

                                    Paris Fashion Week - January 2017

           

           Elie Saab

                          

                    

         

                                    

                             Karlie Kloss for Balmain                  

         

 

             

             RiRi

       

             

             Elie Saab 

                    

        

                                

                                Elie Saab

 

Men

                              

      

       

      Tokyo

                           

                           Linvin 2017

       

 

 

 

Chokers are here to stay.

Don't forget to pop by and check out our 2017 Choker Collection at:  

 

 

(From time to time, this article will be updated, so please comment if we have left anything out, or if there are inaccuracies in the article.) 


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  • sunnykora on

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