This summer, Courtney Reed was on a “mission.” The Broadway princess was in search of the perfect chokers to compliment her stylish ensembles—but came home disappointed.
“I was defeated,” she admits. “I was like, ‘That is it! I am so annoyed, I’m going to make my own.’ I used to make jewelry years ago—not chokers—but [I thought], ‘Let me dust off my jewelry kit, honey, and get back into it.’ My boyfriend was off shooting a movie, and I was like, ‘I’m going to do my cute little crafting during the day and live my dream,’ so I decided to go out and buy some really cute trim and just make chokers.”
The chokers were all the rage backstage at Disney’s Aladdin, the musical in which Reed originated the role of Princess Jasmine, and she started handing them out to her company. “Here’s the gag, honey! Literally, everyone wanted them,” she says. “Everyone.”
And, so, Gagged Chokers was born. The title isn’t “racy,” Reed explains. It’s actually defined on the Gagged Chokers website as follows: “To see a choker so perfect for your outfit or personality, it literally leaves you speechless.”
Her friend, Hamilton’s Andrew Chappelle, directed Reed to Square Space to launch a website for the new business she accidentally created. Through the powers of social media, including Reed’s SnapChat and Instagram, Gagged Chokers developed a fan base, and the jewelry was in high demand. What started as a few designs has evolved into six choker collections (and counting). The most popular, she says, is the Broadway Collection. Reed gathered her girlfriends to model the collection, which features chokers inspired by her favorite Broadway musicals and leading ladies in New York City.
Reed models an Aladdin-inspired choker called “Palace Walls,” with Kara Lindsay sporting a Glinda-inspired choker titled “Popular,” Ali Ewoldt with an “Angel of Music” choker backstage at The Phantom of the Opera, and the leading ladies of Hamilton styled in chokers fit for the characters of Angelica, Eliza, Peggy, and Maria.
Reed makes all the chokers herself from material she finds at different trim stores all over Manhattan. “Between shows, if I’m having a moment with friends, I’m like, ‘Come over, let’s hang out. Let’s have dinner, and let’s catch up,’” she says, “Meanwhile, I’m making chokers.”
She’s enlisted Lisa Jane Wright, Teale Dvornik, and Abby DePhillips to help her develop the brand; they call themselves the Gagged Girls Gang, and they get together to chat about what styles should go into the next collections.
Reed releases the collections on Wednesdays at 5 PM, and once the designs are sold out they’re rarely restocked, so certain Gagged Chokers have become collectables. Next up is a holiday collection that will be released November 30 at 5 PM. The Gagged Girls will begin teasing the latest styles on Instagram.
“It’s just really cute because a lot of the girls that respond to us, like on Twitter and Instagram, talk about how confident they feel wearing them, and that’s basically the best thing we could have ever asked for,” says Reed. “These girls feel unique and confident when they wear them, and that is more important than literally anything else. It’s so inspiring to feel like we can make a difference by selling someone a choker—this is the best life.”
Michael Gioia is the Features Manager at Playbill.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.