A choker is any kind of necklace which fits very snug against the throat (although it should not actually "choke" you!). Below we offer tips for care, cleaning and storage of ribbon chokers (velvet, satin, organza) and fabric chokers (lace and more exotic trims such as fringe) specifically.
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"Am I too old (or too young) to wear a choker?" Definitely not! Chokers have been worn for several centuries by ladies of all ages, shapes and sizes. The thousands upon thousands of women wearing them in vintage photographs and paintings throughout the ages couldn't possibly be wrong!
Fabric chokers are available in so many styles and materials that you may find it difficult to decide. 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. Although the kinds of embellishments can greatly affect style, generally lace chokers tend to have a more Gothic appeal and look more formal, while velvet chokers and satin chokers tend to seem more romantic, and are more versatile for day or evening. Fringe and braid trim chokers are ideal for adding a touch of drama to eveningwear and vintage theme outfits such as 1920's flapper and 1890's saloon girl costumes. Cameo chokers are very popular right now (actually they never really went out of style - women have been wearing them since at least the early 1600's and they were especially popular during the Victorian era), and nowadays come in a rainbow of colours. They add romantic charm to daytime denim and a beautifully traditional touch to formal wedding gowns.
Colour and Width
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. 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.).
To get the correct size, you must measure your neck accurately since most chokers are designed to fit snug against your 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 down. Look for a choker that can be adjusted to fit your size, for comfort. If you have a choice between size ranges (e.g. 12 -15" or 15"-18") and your neck is at the very edge of a range (e.g. exactly 15"), always go for the larger size range since the smaller size won't have any room for comfort adjustment. If you aren't offered a choice, ask the merchant if they can add an extra inch or two for you (we will!).
How To Wear
When you put a choker on, it should be quite tight but you should still be able to slip your finger between the fabric and your neck without too much difficulty. A good test to see if you are wearing it correctly is to try to rotate it around your neck. If you can still move it, but it takes a little effort, you are wearing it properly. If it will not move or really pinches as you try to turn it, it is much too tight. Wearing a choker that is too tight is not only unsafe, it puts unnecessary stress on the fabric and can cause it to stretch badly out of shape or even rip. Remember, a choker should not actually choke you! Alternatively, the fabric should not be loose enough to sag, unless it is dangling a pendant (wearing it slightly loose can make the fabric hang in a nice "V" shape above the pendant - see image above).
Generally there is greater quality control with professionally hand-crafted items or high-end designer items, since every single piece is checked for flaws. Since their reputation as an artisan is at stake, the designers are more likely to ensure it is very well constructed than something cheaply mass-produced that you might find at a bargain shop.
Chokers made from French and Swiss-made velvet are among the highest quality and softest against the skin. Double-faced satin chokers are superior to single-faced, since they are soft on the back as well as the front, and tend to be more durable due to having a slightly denser weave. Choker lace varies a great deal however. An open-weave non-elastic lace such as "Battenburg", "venise" ("guipure") or crocheted lace looks delicate but is usually quite strong. However those laces do not have a visible "mesh" binding the entire pattern together (unlike "raschel", "flat" or "net" lace), and over time can stretch out with wear. Organza/organdy ribbon chokers, although beautifully shiny and transparent, snag easily so be especially careful when storing them. Chokers made from fringe and braid are usually very durable due to their strong, heavy weave, but also usually higher in cost (since the trim is more costly to make) and as a result only a few designers (like us!) work with it.
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. Unlike raw ribbon ends, they won't come accidentally untied when you least expect it. Most makers of fabric chokers use spring-catch type clasps because they are the most secure, but if you have difficulty with these, consider investing in some small S-hook shaped clasps (from a craft shop or bead store) and replace them.
*Metal parts can sometimes contain nickel, which is widely used because it is a very durable and cheap metal. Nickel allergies are common, although many people can wear it for a few hours without problems. A consciencious merchant will state what metals are used in their products for the sake of those with sensitive skin, but if they don't it is worth asking before you buy. Most fabric chokers by Art of Adornment do not contain nickel (some gunmetal plated parts may contain nickel however), although you can upgrade to sterling silver choker clasp parts if you need them.
Always put your choker on after applying hairspray, and avoid contact with perfume and make-up. These substances build up and can cause dulling, staining, soiling, tarnish and discolouration, and trap dirt and dust in the fabric that can be difficult to clean, and even cause the fibres to deteriorate.
If you are rough with your jewelry, even the most sturdy fabric pieces can scratch, snag, or break. Avoid casually tossing your choker in your purse or jewelry box. Store each piece separately: you can fold it neatly and put in a plastic bag, but do not seal the bag shut. Although full exposure to open air will attract dust and cause tarnishing, trapping moist air and dust in the bag with the choker is even worse. If possible, store flat in a drawer.
Wrinkled/Folded Satin, Velvet & Organza
Press satin chokers and velvet chokers from the back with your household iron using the lowest steam setting. Do not iron over any metal parts (they'll get awfully hot!), plastic parts (they'll melt!) or glued components as this could weaken the bond. Press quickly, don't linger too long in any one spot or you could make a scorch mark through to the front.
Wrinkled/Folded Lace, Fringe & Other Trims
Place the lace choker or trim choker face down on a clean colourfast towel and dab the wrinkled spots from the back with a damp cloth. Shape the fabric gently if needed; arrange any warped areas by working in those spots only. If you pull on it horizontally, be careful: wetting the fabric near the ends weakens it where the metal clamps attach, and if you pull too hard you could rip the material there (so never pull on on it by the metal ends while fabric is damp!). When still slightly damp or completely dry, lace can be ironed from the back on the lowest steam setting if needed, but avoid ironing over any metal parts (they'll get awfully hot!), plastic parts (they'll melt!) or glued components as this could weaken the bond.
All of the fabrics we use here at Art of Adornment are colourfast and washable, but still require care. Generally, cleaning should be a last resort since you risk making water stains and worn spots, tarnishing metal and chipping/scratching glass parts - so do not clean until absolutely necessary, and NEVER DRYCLEAN! When you buy a choker from us, you will find a small fabric care sticker on the chain that says "spot clean only"; this means you should only clean the the dirty area ("spot"), NOT the entire choker. For all of the fabrics listed below, you will need a colourfast cloth dipped in diluted mild detergent (the same type you use for lingerie/delicates, e.g. Woolite), avoiding contact with any metal or glued parts, and allow the choker to dry flat on a clean colourfast towel. When ironing is permitted, iron from the back only and do not iron over metal, plastic or glued parts.
Spot Cleaning Lace, Organza Ribbon, Braid Trim & Fringe
Dab cloth gently in very short sweeps, do NOT rub across the fabric or scrub, or you may pull it out of shape. Lace chokers and organza chokers can be ironed on the lowest steam setting, either when dry or still slightly damp. Do not iron braid or fringe.
Spot Cleaning Velvet & Satin Ribbon
Gently wipe velvet chokers and satin chokers back and forth across the fabric (lengthwise, never up and down) in long sweeping motions, going a little beyond the dirty area to ensure you don't make a "worn" spot. When dry, iron from the back on the lowest steam setting if needed.
Tarnished Metal Components
Avoid contact with household cleaners as they will damage the finish. Polish with a chamois or specially made jeweller's cloth. DO NOT use "impregnated"-type polishing cloths unless specifically designed for costume jewelry. A commerically available liquid cleaner we recommend is Empire's Instant Tarnish Remover dip, usually available from craft stores, drug stores, jewellers and bead shops. Unfortunately we cannot sell it since is a toxic liquid and cannot be shipped by Canada Post (their policy). You can apply liquid cleaners to parts that cannot be dipped by using a soft nylon bristle paint brush.
Stubborn Odours & Heavy Soiling (All Fabrics)
Odours such as tobacco and perfume penetrate all of the fabric, so spot-cleaning is ineffective. Try a fabric refresher liquid (e.g. Febreze) that is safe for applying directly to fabrics. However do not use the spray nozzle. Remove the nozzle and soak part of a clean colourfast cloth with the liquid, and dab only on the back of the choker (avoiding any metal or glued components).
For very stubborn odours or heavy soiling due to cosmetics and perspiration only. This method should be used extremely rarely since it can cause the most damage to components. You will need a sink or bowl, a clean colourtfast bath towel, and 1/2 teaspoon (2-3ml) of mild detergent (the kind used for lingerie/delicates, e.g. Woolite). Add detergent to sink and fill with a few inches of cold water. Put the choker in, swish back and forth, and squeeze the fabric very gently to push the water through the fibres for about 1 minute (DO NOT twist or wring the fabric at any point!). Hold under a cold tap to rinse, then place flat, face-up on a section of the towel, and place another layer of the towel over top. Press down gently with your hands for a few seconds to remove excess water. Move the choker to a dry section of the towel and lay flat, face-up. Gently arrange it to dry in the correct shape, but do not pull; the fabric at the ends will have softened and could become loose or tear where the metal clamps attach. When dry, if it needs ironing simply follow the instructions for the fabric type above.