The Power of Fashion and the REPEAL Jumper

photo: Repeal Project

Words by Nicole Thomsen
May 26th, 2018

In late 2016, I, like many others, purchased a plain black sweatshirt emblazoned with the word “REPEAL”. Though quiet in nature with its simplistic black and white design, that sweatshirt, owned by so many, became a driving force that brought Ireland to the polls yesterday.

Over the course of the 18 months that have passed since this symbolic purchase, it has become the most worn item in my wardrobe — the MVP, if you will. The sweatshirt, which voices support for the pro-choice movement in Ireland and demands the removal of the Eighth Amendment from the constitution, was coined by Anna Cosgrave as, what she describes, a small contribution to a larger issue. Of course, describing the power of these jumpers as small is an understatement and a discredit to the woman who brought them to the masses.

While the anti-choice side has always used graphic depictions of abortions, it was not until Anna Cosgrave launched the Repeal Project that the pro-choice side was given visual representation of equal magnitude in Ireland. When you can’t articulate what you want to say, your clothing shouts it out, and shout this jumper does.

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For the women who had no choice, the jumper gave them a voice. It was a gateway to discuss a once taboo subject previously swept under the carpet. A fashion statement turned political. While the awe-inspiring work of those behind Together For Yes and Abortion Rights Campaign is not to be dismissed — without them, we would surely be lost —, Repeal Project has done wonders in destigmatising the matter over the past two years, while also raising money for these very causes.

During this time, I’ve had more strangers approach or acknowledge me with a simple nod or a casual smile while wearing my REPEAL jumper than I’ve had in my entire life. Strangers who otherwise would not have given me a second glance. That is the power of fashion. My stance on such a divisive and intricate matter was made clear without me needing to say a single word. The message was spread by me and everyone else who walked down the street, jumper on show.

With the support of incredible women and men such as Aisling Bea, Angela Scanlon, Vogue Williams, Sharon Horgan, Hozier and Brendan Courtney, who all used their platforms and wore the jumper with pride, the message was spread at home and abroad.

Though I will miss the sense of community, compassion and strength it has ignited, today, I’m proudly wearing my REPEAL jumper for what I hope will be the last time as I wait for the official results to flood in on what I hope will be a historic YES.