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The UCSD Guardian

The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

Horizon 2024
Thomas Murphy, Co-Webmaster & Photographer • Feb 20, 2024

The Mysterious Past Lives of Pre-Loved Clothing

Photo+by+Christelle+BOURGEOIS+on+Unsplash
Photo by Christelle BOURGEOIS on Unsplash

For the past few months, I’ve been searching for a place where I can treasure hunt for the items with a history of their own. They could be clothing, accessories, or a piece of jewelry — something that suits both my taste and energy. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Even though I love spending time going to authentic stores where pre-loved items are sold — at quite affordable prices, I might add — I don’t feel like I can wear pieces that were once worn by another person, especially when I don’t know what those items have borne witness to.

Growing up in a family where arts, literature, and history were taken quite seriously, I developed a special interest for antiques and vintage designer clothes: pieces that have once been used by strangers, whom I will probably never meet, and belong to a period when I wasn’t even born. Since moving to California, I have learned so much about sustainable fashion, partly through brands using organic or recycled garments and vegan alternatives to leather, but mostly through thrifting. 

With the help of the internet and social media, luxury designer brands have reached a wider audience than before and, at the same time, have become more expensive than ever. So, people remedy this by thrifting. Most of the time, thrifted items are only worn once or twice, but are they hygienic? What if the past owner of those items was messy, or what if the store skipped cleaning the items before putting them on the shelf? Even if there are no problems with the items’ physical cleanliness, what about energy cleansing? Is it possible for an item to carry metaphysical traces from its former owner? Perhaps the articles of clothing have been worn in heartbreaking moments like break-ups or deaths and are witnesses to grief or misery. On the other hand, they could have been worn during spontaneous road trips, nights out with best friends, or for special occasions like birthdays and weddings, where laughter rules the atmosphere. Is it possible for them to hold on to these energies and bring you good or bad luck?

I started to wonder, am I the only one writing those scenarios in my head, or are there other people who question the possibility of a pre-loved item bringing some kind of luck into their lives? When this interest of mine met the popularity of thrifting in California, I decided to ask people about their own experiences with pre-loved items. 

I was surprised by the stories they shared with me. While almost half of the people I asked hadn’t had any experiences with their pre-loved items worth telling me about, more than half had memorable anecdotes, including real-life scenes reminiscent of horror movies. Here are some anonymous experiences to help guide your next visit to a thrift store:

“Last summer, I went to study abroad in Europe and fell in love with the vintage designer stores over there. I never shopped from a thrift store before, but it was so much different than the ones in California. One week before my return, I bought a vintage blazer, and after I brought it with me to my room, I started to have sleep paralysis every night, which I never had before in my life. And I can swear I saw creepy dark shadows around my bed. I talked with my grandmother and explained to her what recently started to happen at night. She told me about the superstitious belief of unseen creatures who sometimes own old items and cause harm to the new human owners. Even though it was beautiful, I ended up returning the blazer.” 

“I just don’t like thrifting, I feel like the items are never clean.” 

“Even though I kind of love thrifting, I can’t get my mom’s story out of my head. While she was studying [at a] university [on the] East Coast … her friends got together and bought her this beautiful antique pearl earrings for her birthday, which she wanted for a long time. When she wore them for the first time to a dinner party, she fell and broke her arm. She thinks it was bad luck that came through that earring.” 

“My lucky charm is from a thrift store in Northern California. I wear it whenever I’m taking an exam, and I don’t remember failing anything while I’m wearing it.” 

The last thing I’d like to share with you is a little trick I learned from an antique store owner in Eastern Europe. It’s a pseudoscientific technique: dowsing a pendulum. In these cases, it is believed to provide you with spiritual guidance in understanding if the item you are about to get suits your energy or not. Scientifically, it’s not more effective than a random chance, but you’ll be surprised how many people have tried it and believe it actually works. Hopefully, those stories opened a new perspective in your mind about pre-loved items.

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