Choosing, wearing and caring for your victorian/gothic choker
by Elaine Foster (Valerian)
There comes a point where you decide the best way to emulate luxurious Victorian and Burlesque styles is to fall in love with quality and detail. Discover the perfect satin or lace choker for you and learn how to wear it and care for it. Who knows? One day it might become your family heirloom...
What Is A Ribbon Choker?
A necklace made from fabric ribbon (lace, velvet, satin, organdy, etc.) which fits very snug against the throat.
QUICK TIP: Buy a plain choker. It can be worn alone, or you can pin whatever you like on it as your style and mood changes - a silk rose, a favorite brooch, it's up to you! However, satin and organdy/organza chokers will show holes where your pin has been, so once you pin something to it you will always need to cover that area to hide the holes.
What kind of choker would look best on me?
Choose a design that highlights your individuality - are you trendy, eclectic, or refined? If you're not sure or if it depends on your mood, try something basic to start with: a choker with a single stone for example. Consider a neutral colour (white, ivory, grey/silver or black) since it can be worn with many different coloured outfits and still look great. Cameos are very popular right now (actually they never really went out of style - women have been wearing them for centuries, and they were very popular during the Victorian era), and now come in a rainbow of colours. They look particularly romantic with wedding gowns.
"But I'm too old to wear a choker". Says who? We mentioned that cameo chokers have been worn for centuries. The thousands upon thousands of women of ALL ages wearing them in vintage photographs and paintings through the ages couldn't possibly be wrong!
Chokers for shorter, heavier necks
Narrower widths (under 1 1/4" or 3.2cm) tend to look more flattering on shorter, heavier necks than wider ribbons, because they allow more skin to show and make the neck appear longer and slimmer. Consider a deep or muted colour (grey, dark brown, navy blue, burgundy, black - or ivory, dusty blue, antique rose pink, moss green, etc.) over a bright, vivid colour (bright red, neon pink, lime green, electric blue, lemon yellow, white). Here's why: vivid colours draw the eye and often create the illusion that things are wider or larger than they really are - so a shorter, heavier neck may look exaggerated.
Chokers for longer, narrower necks
If you have a long, slender neck, a wider ribbon (over 3/4" or 19mm) is ideal. Very narrow ribbon chokers can sometimes look "lost", making a long neck appear even longer - especially with very muted colours (powder blue, ivory, pale pink, light grey, soft peach, etc.). Long necks seem to look their best with strong colours (emerald green, ruby red, jet black, rich bronze, bright purple, hot pink, etc.).
Fitting your choker correctly
QUICK TIP: Put the choker on backwards (to check if it's too tight/too loose). While facing a mirror, attach the clasp at the front so you can see what you are doing. As you rotate the clasp to the back, you will be able to tell if you are wearing it correctly: if you can move it very easily, it is too loose. It should take a little effort, unless you are wearing a choker designed to dangle a large pendant (which can usually be worn loosely if desired). If you cannot move it at all, it is too tight.
QUICK TIP: Mild metal allergies? People with mild nickel allergies often paint the metal crimps (and the back of the metal pendant, if one) with clear nail varnish to prevent irritation, and it apparently works brilliantly. For sensitive skin, we offer an upgrade to silver on the choker ends/clasp/chain.
You need to measure your neck since chokers fit snug against the skin. Use a dressmaker's measuring tape or a piece of string which you can mark off and then measure while flat. Just measure tightly enough so the tape or string doesn't slip. Look for a choker that can be adjusted to fit your size, for comfort. When you put the choker on, it should be quite tight but you should still be able to slip your finger between the ribbon and your neck without too much difficulty. A good test to see if you are wearing it right is to try to rotate it around your neck. If you can still move it, but it takes a fair bit of effort, you are wearing it correctly. The choker should not sag unless it is suspending a very large pendant (making a nice "V" shape close to the neck).
How do I take care of my choker?
If you are rough with your jewelry, even the most sturdy pieces can scratch, snag, or break - avoid casually tossing your choker in your purse or jewelry box. You can fold it neatly and store in a re-sealable plastic bag (Art of Adornment often ship chokers in these bags, keep them!), lay it flat in a covered tray (so they won't get dusty), or hang it by the clasp.
Wrinkled Satin and Velvet:
Press satin chokers with the lowest steam setting, from the back. Do not let the iron touch any metal or glued components. Velvet chokers can be steamed: (if you do not have a steamer, set your iron to the lowest steam setting) hover over the velvet, making several slow passes, avoiding any metal pieces or glued components. Gently tug on the choker for 10 seconds while it cools. If there are any "crushed" or folded areas, lightly brush the velvet back and forth with your finger.
Stretched-Out or Wrinkled Lace:
Most can be shrunk or tugged back into shape with a mist of warm water. Place the choker face down on a towel and cover any exposed metal areas. Mist with a spray bottle until lightly damp. Remove from the towel, and leave it somewhere warm to dry flat, face-up. Arrange any out-of-shape areas by tugging in those spots only. Don't pull on it horizontally though, or you will stretch out the length (leave it slack).
All of the ribbon and lace materials used at Art of Adornment are colour-fast and washable, but still require care. Generally, cleaning should be a last resort since you risk making water stains, puckering the ribbon, and creating "worn" marks - so don't do it until it is absolutely necessary. Never immerse in water - instead, dip a cloth in VERY diluted mild detergent (the same type you use for lingerie and delicates), dab gently, and allow the choker to dry flat in a warm place. Never scrub - be gentle!
* Lace: dab with a cloth, do not rub or "sweep" across it or you may pull it out of shape.
* Velvet: gently brush the cloth back and forth in a long sweeping motion across the length of the ribbon, even the clean areas of the velvet to ensure you don't make a "worn" spot.
* Satin: dampen ALL of the exposed satin equally or you could get watermarks when it dries; will likely require ironing afterwards.
How Can I Be Assured Of Quality?
Generally there is greater quality control with professionally hand-crafted items, since the artisan inspects each one for flaws. Since their reputation as a craftsperson is at stake, they are more likely to ensure it is very well constructed. Also, the materials play an important role: French and Swiss-made velvet are among the highest quality, and are usually softest against the skin. Double-faced satin is superior to single-faced, since it is a slightly denser weave and tends to be more durable. Lace varies a great deal. An open-weave lace such as Battenburg, venise/guipure or crocheted lace looks delicate but is usually quite strong. However any lace which does not have a fine visible "mesh" binding itself together could possibly stretch out with wear, and not stretch back. Organza/organdy ribbon (that pretty, transparent, shiny stuff) can easily snag - so be careful when storing these chokers.
A ribbon choker with metal* bars ("crimps") at the very ends of the ribbon is the most durable: the metal ends keep the ribbon rigid so it won't crumple at the back, keep the ribbon ends from fraying, and give the choker a professionally finished look. An S-hook type clasp may be easier to use than a lobster-claw shaped clasp (which has a springy catch) if you have to take the choker on and off by yourself frequently, or if you have large fingers. Art of Adornment uses lobster claw clasps on its chokers by default, but can switch to an S-hook upon request.
*Metal parts can sometimes contain nickel. Nickel allergies are common, although most people can wear it for a few hours without problems. Any nickel-plated components have been noted in our item descriptions, if used on that item. Nickel choker hardware (clasp, chain, ends) can be upgraded to sterling silver at Art of Adornment if required.