I’ve been looking for a reason to write a post about chokers. In the 90’s when they were all the rage I had a whole collection of them. I had a velvet one with a crystal clasp that was supposed to be a cat collar. I had a spangly multicoloured one that looked like part of a Bollywood outfit. I had a red raw silk one with tiny embroidered shapes and mirrored pieces woven into it. My two favourites which I wore the most were little leather flower chokers that I picked up from a street vendor in Barcelona when I was 24. The black one pictured above if I was wearing black (which was most of the time in those days) and a multicoloured one with anything that wasn’t black. I took these two beloved leather flower ones with me to the States on my recent trip there with the intention of doing a blog post on them. I didn’t take any photos though because I managed to get an annoying long-lasting eye infection. Then my son got bronchitis. Then I got bronchitis, so I never did the post. I assumed the trend would be over before I got a chance to write about it!
Out of the blue, my blog friend Sheela asked if I’d like to participate in a group post about chokers. I didn’t think I’d be over my bronchitis in time to participate, but on an unbearably hot and humid night in London, I asked my husband to take a few quick photos. We were on our way out to dinner on my first day out of bed after a week of a chest infection. So, apologies for looking so ragged! It was so hot I couldn’t face styling my hair, so up it went into a twist. I wore my loosest black dress for maximum ventilation. I added a very 1990’s nude brown lip and a bit of mascara, and I was out the door. With a fever, a heat wave, and feeling fragile, I wasn’t going to manage much else.
The dress is 4 or 5 years old from All Saints, and weighs a ton. For each matte sequin, there is a glass bead stitched underneath it, to hold it just slightly aloft. When I walk it makes a satisfying rustling noise, like a porcupine with its hollow quills knocking against each other. I like the effect! The dress is so loose and slouchy that it doesn’t photograph very well in a static picture, but it looks great in person with some movement.
Now to the choker… my beloved choker. This is one of my most treasured pieces of ‘jewellery’ because it is something I bought on one of the most magical days in my life. I had been a week by myself in Barcelona, meeting up occasionally with a few new friends, and doing what everyone does in Barcelona – Park Guell, Sagrada Familia, Las Ramblas, La Boqueria, the beaches, paella, etc. I can remember walking around the city, feeling a mixture of emotions. Grateful to be on holiday by myself after recently quitting a very stressful job, excited by the novelty of a new place, fretful about when I’d run out of money, exhausted from the heat, anxious about my future, and a little withdrawn, as is the case when you travel by yourself with no one to distract you with conversation. On this dusty hot afternoon, I wandered off the street and into a large shady courtyard for a rest. I sat down on some stone steps leading up to a church to watch the activity in this enclosed square and finish a bottle of water. After a minute or two, a man sitting on a chair against the far wall began playing his guitar, a traditional wistful Spanish piece. In an instant, I was swept away by it. The music seemed to reflect the entire complicated kaleidoscope of everything I was feeling that day. The excitement, the wistfulness, the anxiety, the joy, the fear and worry, it was ALL there in the meditative music swirling out of the instrument. I felt paralysed. I didn’t even want to breathe for fear of breaking the trance. I felt as if the guitar music and I were made of exactly the same stuff. I was aware that time was not moving, it was utterly still, and so was I. I was as timeless as the ancient stone in that courtyard. When I was finally able to move again, I saw a man in the square selling leather jewellery and belts from a small wooden cart. I went over to have a look and bought these two inexpensive chokers. Twenty years later, they still remind me of the magic of my Spanish guitar trance.
I have bought countless versions of Spanish and Flamenco guitar music over the years hoping to scream THAT’S IT! THAT’S IT! in recognition of that exact piece of music, but it hasn’t happened yet. I do find music that has traces of that bewitching piece, and I’m grateful to time-travel back to that moment in time. For just a second, I can feel the heat, I can smell the dry dust, and I can feel that overwhelming kaleidoscope of feelings all over again.
Here’s a guitar piece that reminds me a little of what I experienced. Have you ever experienced anything like this?
Here are some other ladies putting their style spin on the choker in Sheela’s round up: