A Bertha collar is a wide, round, flat collar designed to accent a woman's shoulders. It has a long history stretching back to Victorian fashion. It can be worn as an accessory to a dress or a top, and it is sometimes removable like a shawl.
The first incarnation of the Bertha collar was as part of Victorian evening wear. During the early Victorian era, women's fashions underwent a change, and it became acceptable for women to show off their bare shoulders. This style's main feature was a wide, flat, lacy frill that trimmed the neckline of these dresses. Some of these frills used so much lace that they could be 6-inches (15.24 cm) deep.
In the 1940s, the Bertha collar underwent a revival. During this time, the Bertha collar began to have a wider definition. The name came to mean almost any large collar rather than one strictly used as part of a dress that showed shoulders. Square collars and Peter Pan collars evolved from this trend.
In the 1940s, the Bertha collar also was in fashion as part of a wedding dress, whose styling had not changed much since the Victorian era. White dresses made of the newly-manufactured rayon, or "artificial silk", hung with lace and embroidered with seed pearls, were the norm for brides. For those who liked the look of an off-shoulder dress, but didn't want to show too much flesh, the garment's shoulders could be created of semi-opaque illusion netting.
The Bertha collar has also become a feature of modern fashion, particularly in "bohemian" tops and dresses. These flowing garments are often worn off-shoulder, with the collar accenting the chest. This collar is sometimes embroidered. Some "Mexican"-style dresses--unfitted, but made with brightly colored fabrics and embroidered with large flowers--also utilize a wide collar. Many of these dresses have their necklines gathered with elastic, so the wearer can choose how much neck and shoulder they wish to show.
Over the years, the Bertha collar, sometimes called a cape collar because of its size, has morphed into an actual cape. Often made of lace or with frilly accents, the cape collar can be easily removed to transition from day time to evening wear. It can also be worn as an accessory for many different outfits. Some high-end clothing, which has a boat neck rather than a full off-shoulder neckline, will also utilize a cape collar. These wide, round collars are often made of pleated fabric for a rich look.