Barbara Hulanicki, founder of Biba, doesn’t wear vintage. She says she believes it can be haunted by previous owners. This blows my mind because when I think of Biba, I think of amazing vintage pieces from bygone fashion eras, but Barbara herself doesn’t wear her old Biba because it could have bad juju.
I work in a fashion library for a certain American designer-I won’t name names but he’s been designing for 50 years now. Half a lifetime’s worth of designs is kept in my archive, as well as 200 year old vintage. Most of the pieces have been worn by those no longer with us.
We have parameter security so that we are notified if anyone tries walking out with items that haven’t been checked out. A funny thing is, there are reports at night of clothes making it past security. And the pieces that seem to “haunt” the library halls the most are contributed by the same person-a late relative of the designer.
Can clothes be “haunted?”
One of my coworkers, a Filipina, says her grandmother’s generation holds the belief that vintage can indeed be spooked and to stay away from a dead man’s clothes. I’ve heard that the Jewish tradition refers to it as “mashugana.” Bad vibes. One girlfriend can’t bring herself to wear her grandmother’s engagement ring for fear that she might inherit the marital problems of her grandparents.
Similarly, I have friends who swear they feel an energy in their clothes, whether the previous owner is alive or dead, happy or unhappy. One friend says it’s why she’s so drawn to “party girl” attire-she loves clothes for clubbing-think Katharine Hamnett crop tops and DKNY denim-anything that would’ve given the wearer a good time. She’s also a divorcee and is recently eschewing what she calls her “mourning attire,” or what she wore when she was married. Black, Japanese avant garde pieces you may cloister yourself in. I think she is sensing her own former-self vibes?? One vest she had to get rid of-her ex-husband’s favorite piece on her-because she had too many bad times in it. She sold it in to a second-hand store, only to rediscover it months later among the very same racks.
I don’t know if ghosts exist, or there’s such thing as a “haunting.” But I do believe in “juju.” Energy. Vibratory echos of long-lost matter. And so many things can be a vessel for these psychic remnants-a house, library, a well in a COS store in Soho…so why not something that was close to the wearer, like a piece of clothing? Clothes may contain pieces of our selves, our experiences, and maybe even those of our dearly departed. And while that point might be spooky, it’s mostly something we should just be aware of. Ultimately, your sixth sense will tell you how to feel. And if it feels good, wear it.