My 11 year-old snow bunny jumper
Purely in terms of cost per wear, this is my most profitable item of clothing. I have been wearing my beige snowflake jumper every winter for 11 years. My parents, as I had no disposable income at the time, bought it at Camaieu, the French ready-to-wear womenswear retailer, during the winter 2003 sale.
We’d gone to the local shopping mall, on a Saturday afternoon in January, for the express purpose of sale shopping, a bi-yearly family occasion scrupulously respected. It was the end of the day and, through the automatic glass sliding doors next to Camaieu, we could see that night had fallen. I hadn’t found anything I liked yet, which I’m sure would have annoyed me, when my mum picked up the jumper and told me that since I was small, I needed to wear something with interesting details. I’m pretty sure my sister hated it, if only because of the turtleneck, one of her fashion phobias. What I thought of it, I have forgotten. Taste, when it comes to this jumper, is secondary. This jumper is purely utilitarian. It has served me better than any of my other jumpers, of which there are many.
Normally, I estimate the worth of an item of clothing according to a very scientific formula: (price paid)/(number of compliments received). Des Petits Hauts and Diane von Furstenberg always win, as does a pale green Spring/Summer 2010 Burberry Prorsum skirt (bought at a sample sale) and all my Beatrix Ong shoes. This jumper never earns me any compliments (a sign in itself, my sister would say), but its original price, likely under 50 euros, divided by the number of wears, makes it different kind of wardrobe winner.
Although I have been wearing it for 11 winters, there aren’t many pictures of me in this jumper. It isn’t occasionwear, it is comfort wear - an item to throw on when I don’t want to get dressed or when it’s too cold but I can’t wear a blanket because that’s not deemed socially appropriate. This jumper is the promise of winter, of days leaving and coming back to the house when it is dark, of likely snow, of Eurostar return tickets and of Christmas approaching. It is a wardrobe holy grail, since it is bland enough to go with absolutely anything. To smarten it for work: skinny black jeans and heeled ankle boots at work; to be comfy at the weekend, old and faded jeans. During my first winters in London, I used to pair it with a Gryffindor-inspired scarf my grandmother had knitted for me, not because they went well together but because they were my two favourite items of knitwear.
The only photo of me wearing it is for my dad’s birthday, shortly after I had bought it. What can we learn from that picture? That on 7 March 2003, Nevers was freezing and I had gotten my first short bob haircut.
Six months later, the jumper followed me to London. I had bought it pre-relocation plans but its ease of care (machine washable knitwear!) combined with tales of grim British weather convinced me to add it to my suitcase. A Camaieu jumper was significantly less cool or expensive than what most of my Lycée français classmates wore but many of them came to identify me with it. In fact this winter, I have worn it to meet up with two people who knew me well at the time, and they both recognised it.
But despite accompanying me to London, to Lyon and then back to London, the snowflake jumper doesn’t evoke memories as much as it reminds me of my taste evolution. 2003 was the year I decided that browns would be the best colour palette on me. It seemed elegant and refined and so very grown up, because at 17, I really wanted to be grown up, which was synonymous with Having It Figured Out.
Most other brown items I bought that year are gone, since I’ve moved on, colour-wise, but the snowflake jumper remains, a steady presence in my winter wardrobe. It isn’t about being grown-up anymore, because I actually am a grown-up, it’s about reminding me of who I was when I bought it. When it’s cold outside, when I wonder why on earth I live so far from my family or why I am willingly putting myself through the madness of yet another Fashion Week, my Camaieu snow bunny jumper reminds me of the hopes, dreams and ambitions my 17-year-old harboured, and how I’m still the same person.