Pick up the fall issue of any fashion magazine and you’ll see photos and screaming headlines that the choker necklace is back. The stylish will don chokers, just like those worn for centuries by women from Egypt to Renaissance Italy to England and America.
It’s one of those fashions that comes and goes, perhaps because to look its best, it must be custom-fitted. Too tight and it’s unwearable. Too loose and it flops around the neck. Even those chokers that fit precisely are said to be somewhat uncomfortable.
The choker was the rage in England in the later quarter of the 19th century because Queen Victoria’s daughter-in-law, Alexandra of Denmark, popularized the fashion. Her chokers of real pearls, diamonds and other jewels were extremely elaborate and expensive, but women of lesser means wore chokers made of everything from simple velvet ribbons to silver and garnet.
Married to the Prince of Wales for 38 years during Queen Victoria’s lengthy reign, and later wife to King Edward VII from 1901 to 1910, Alexandra was an attractive woman, always fashionably dressed. Some historians say she wore the choker to hide a prominent scar on her neck. Others deny that, saying it was simply a style she preferred.
Queen Victoria herself wore chokers with dreary black dresses, from the time of her husband Prince Albert’s death in 1861 until her own death in 1901. Her mourning clothes were not the sort any woman chose to imitate. The style-setting role fell to the Princess of Wales who apparently enjoyed every minute of it.