New York Fashion Week – The Revival of the Choker
Over the past several months, the infamous choker has been quite a hot topic in the world of fashion. Celebrities like Rihanna, Kendall Jenner, Kate Hudson, Taylor Swift and many others have all hit the red carpet, showing off classed-up versions of the popular ’90s accessory. This week especially, the fashion icon is making a statement much louder than any other reemerging throwback grunge trend (think slip dresses, neon colors and denim jumpers to name a few).
From the streets to the runway, chokers are taking over this fall’s New York Fashion Week, and they’re proving to be as hot as Victoria Beckham’s new collection.
While many of us might envision Gwen Stefani, Brittney Spears, and Cher from Clueless as some of the accessory’s original trendsetters, the choker boasts a far more rich history. Turns out, women have been rocking the choker since the beginning of civilization! And in order to fully appreciate the glamorous comeback of this centuries-old piece of jewelry, we’ll need to take a walk well past the road of nostalgia – all the way back to Ancient Egypt, to be precise.
So, how did it all begin? Mesopotamians and Egyptians adorned their necks as a symbol of power and status. They especially loved to wear the lapis stone. It’s deep, celestial blue was believed to signify royalty and honor, gods and power, spirit and vision. Even today, lapis stone holds a high reputation, with many viewing it as a universal symbol of wisdom and truth. Chokers were also worn as protection. Egyptians associated gold with the sun, and thus believed jewelry made of this element offered the most protection. The throat, a vital and delicate part of the human body, was of utmost priority when it came to defense, making chokers a very wise accessory choice.
Africa, the Middle East, and India also have a strong connection with intricate neck jewelry. Traditional chokers for marriages and other ceremonies are a huge part of tradition, one that started years ago and remains strong to this day.
In East Africa, chokers play an important role in various rituals. They not only serve as ornamentation, but also signify special occasions and relationship status. A particular piece is worn during a marriage ceremony, while another is worn after a female has been wed.
Similarly, neck pieces were also a vital part of Native American culture (and still are today). Usually made from shells, glass beads, or bone, chokers compliment tribal clothing for special ceremonies. Much like the Egyptians, Native American warriors also wore chokers for protection.
Chokers in Europe can be traced back to the Renaissance era, circa the 1700s. Once again, their style was was reserved for higher class citizens. Yet, as time went on, their meaning evolved to represent other more scandalous things. Single black ribbons were worn by prostitutes, while red ribbons were worn by commoners as a way to mourn the passing of loved ones who were victim of the guillotine. Meanwhile, in other parts of Europe, like Germany and Austria, women wore chokers to hide goiters (lumps on the neck caused by iodine deficiencies).
Ultimately, it was Queen Alexandra of Denmark who really made the choker shine by the late 1800s. Her influence in the world of fashion had every lady wanting to get her hands on a beautiful neckpiece.
The choker first made its debut in American fashion during the 1920’s. For women, it was a sign of empowerment and femininity.
The jewelry we see and wear today are often designed with the influence of other cultures. From a tiny village in Africa, to the greatest runways in New York, fashion is a multicultural art. The more we understand it, the more we can appreciate it.
A beautiful part of tradition, a feminine symbol of empowerment, and a hot commodity in the world of high-fashion – the revival of the choker is much more than just a reemerging trend from the 90’s.