The Long-Forgotten Choker

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By Isabella Corcoran

One 1990’s byproduct that’s back and better than ever? One hint- it’s not layered camis… it’s the gone but not forgotten choker! Ask any modern-day young woman and they’ll describe chokers as a “cool-girl” staple. Since its reemergence from the bottom of everyone’s jewelry boxes where they were buried in the early 2000’s (and 1900’s!), chokers are back for good! And by good I mean for a season of being on trend, then a few seasons of being out of style, only to subsequently come back into style… like shoulder pads! But I swear, Google any currently popular female celebrity and chances are she’s worn a choker in the past year.

According to Teen Vogue, celebrities like Rihanna, Gigi Hadid, and Kendall Jenner are all about the choker trend and wear them for any occasion. This unassuming piece of fabric or metal started popping up around this time last year, appearing on runway shows for Oscar de la Renta, Alexander Wang, Balmain, and other major designers. Big, small, studded, thick, thin- chokers instantly upgrade any basic going out outfit and make the wearer feel like they’re invincible. You can achieve a different look by choosing a silk choker versus a velvet one or a thick, flashy choker versus a thin, dainty, gold-gilded one.

No matter which one you choose, this bad-ass, statement necklace screams to the world “I can handle anything you throw at me and look damn good doing it!” But, along with all the positive reinforcement and fabulous outfit combinations that chokers have inspired, there’s also been huge amounts of backlash against this humble accessory. Within the millennial community, chokers have been equated to being worn by women who engage in lewd behavior. This association isn’t entirely ludicrous, because chokers actually do have an incredibly colorful history.

According to the BuzzFeed article titled “The Secret (And Not So Secret) History Of Choker Necklaces”, chokers have been used to symbolize a number of things, ranging from representing political matters to literally being a professional calling card. In the late eighteenth century/early nineteenth century, red chokers were worn by ladies in France who wanted to show solidarity for all of the victims of the dreaded guillotine. Historical irony aside, the more common association with chokers, and the one that helped shaped today’s modern view of the trendy neck accessory, is the one of prostitution. In the mid-1800’s, black chokers were worn by prostitutes and other seductive women, like the French Can-can dancers of the Moulin Rouge or the woman on the bed featured in Manet’s painting “Olympia”. Chokers once indicated that the wearer was extremely coquettish and was most likely a professional seductress, but in modern times it has become a symbol of vogue and high fashion with some subtly suggestive undertones. Although I think that when paired with a killer outfit, chokers still exude sexiness, I disagree with the archaic point of view that chokers are directly related to physical intentions. Visually, chokers shorten the neck rather than elongate it, which is completely counter intuitive, but in doing so, they create a striking contrast between the skin and the jewelry and draw the eye to the neck, collarbones, and décolletage- areas traditionally associated with femininity and sexuality.

When chosen strategically, the choker can instantly transform even the simplest of outfits into a runway worthy look. The sexiness of the choker, reminiscent of its past, still carries some ties to immediately enhancing sex appeal without being too extreme. It’s somewhat taboo nature is what makes the choker a better and more exciting choice to complete any outfit for a night out. Normal girls and runway models alike rejoice for a fashion risk worth taking.

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