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The Secret (And Not So Secret) History Of Choker Necklaces

If these necks could talk...

The choker necklace has a long and storied history. You'll find examples of it centuries ago in Chinese, Native American, Indian, and Egyptian cultures. Let's take a look at some of the choker's historic highlights...

1798: Political dress during the French Revolution.

During the French Revolution, women took to wearing red ribbons around their necks to pay homage to those who met their death at the guillotine. The ribbon could be worn around the neck, or another fashion came in the form of an X around the shoulders and back. (via)

1860s: The uniform of prostitutes.

Manet's famous painting, "Olympia," (1863) depicted a prostitute wearing a black ribbon around her neck. During this era, a ribbon around the neck could mean a woman was a prostitute.

1874: But ballerinas and fashionable ladies wore them too.

Some of history's most famous chokers can be found in Degas' ballerina paintings, of which he did many in the 1870s and 1880s.


Late 1800s: Royal trend

Alexandra, Princess of Wales, reportedly wore thick rows of pearls and velvet to cover a scar on her neck which made her self-conscious. She was influential in expanding the trend. (via)

A young Indian woman wears a choker-style necklace in Bombay.

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Alexandra, Princess of Wales, was said to have been influenced by Indian dress and jewelry during her numerous tenures in India.

Late 1800s: Upscale chokers are markers of the elite.

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

The term dog collars or colliers de chien catches on, and these designs — incorporating luxe diamonds, pearls, lace, and velvet — can be seen as objects of the elite because the best kinds were custom-made to fit one's neck perfectly. No one likes a droopy choker! (via)


Mid-'90s: Gothic takeover.

Too many breeds of goths to list, but a pentagram choker was a favorite of Wiccans, while you'd find most NIN goths wearing a spiked dog collar or silver ball chain.


Britney really liked chokers in the late '90s.

Brenda Chase / Getty Images

So much so that she affected this jubilant expression every time she wore one. Ah, pure joy!

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