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Some garments demand a narrative of their own. Such was the case with a jumper that I darned for my partner in the winter of 2010. The jumper was old and moth-eaten; Mark was gravely ill with only a few months left to live. In the process of darning, each stitch was an act of love, each passage of the needle restoring something that had been eaten away.
This article explores the multiple levels of meaning that run through the narrative I have woven around darning Mark’s jumper – an irreplaceable garment – at once priceless but worthless, worn but unwearable, empty yet embodied. It explores the concept of the fetish and draws on Igor Kopytoff’s analysis of our relationship to commodities and things in the modern, capitalist economy, where discarding and replacing old clothes with new is the default option. The theoretical heart of this paper, however, lies with Elizabeth Wilson’s writings on the ‘quasi-magical properties and meanings’ of a garment and with the work of Peter Stallybrass, who has written brilliantly on how in moments of crisis, in the ruptures of our lives, in mourning, it is to these irrational attachments that we turn.
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