Jewellery is a term that every woman – and man – will recognise. It is how we, as individuals, are able to supplement our bodies through personal adornment with these small and often decorative items. Personalising our bodies can visually communicate to other people about our lives and circumstances. For example, the tradition of wearing a wedding ring is identified with the fourth finger of the left hand. The wedding ring is a sentiment to love, but can also indicate wealth based upon the elaborateness of the materials and stones used. The wedding ring is therefore a clear indicator of one’s marital status. However, one piece of visible jewellery that can be recognised as bearing a more sentimental and personal relationship to its wearer is the memory locket.
My memory locket is the one piece of jewellery I wear daily. It had previously belonged to my biological grandmother, after being presented as a gift from her closest friend on her wedding day. Such a gift can be recognised as celebratory because it provides a tangible memory and link to the couple’s marriage. This aspect of the tangible memory reflects Elizabeth Wilson’s focus on the idea of acknowledging clothing as ‘congealed memories.’ Wilson’s idea can especially be applied to the function of the memory locket with regards to storing photographs. The opening of the locket reveals the place where two photographs were kept: one of my grandmother and the other of my grandfather. Although the image of my grandfather remains in tact, unfortunately the image of my grandmother has disintegrated over the years. A sense of intimacy is created between the wearer and the locket when realising that photographs of family members are stored inside. This intimacy is further heightened with where the locket is worn. Lockets are generally worn on chains around the neck and so are kept very close to the wearer’s body, and especially the heart, further expressing the intimacy and sentimental relationship between locket and wearer.
The original function of the locket was to remember and honour the couples wedding day. However, once the locket changed hands, the sentiment changed. I had not known my biological grandparents, for they had died shortly after their marriage in 1960. Furthermore, when the locket came into my possession, it served more of a funerary purpose. Therefore, these changing sentiments can be considered as integral to connecting with the narratives of the past wearers. As a result, the memory locket can be understood as encapsulating the overlap of layers of memories based upon its history and relationship to the wearer.
Elizabeth Wilson. Adorned in Dreams – Fashion and Modernity (London, 2003)