Dancing in your Levi’s: the art of shared, borrowed or stolen clothing

When it comes to clothing we love and cherish, why is it always something that doesn't belong to us?

There is something about wearing worn or used clothing that provides a feeling of comfort. Like when you throw on someone’s oversized sweater or slip into a pair of vintage Levi jeans, where the fabric just hugs all the right places, almost like it was meant to be yours. 

Why is it that when it comes to the clothing we love, it’s always something that doesn’t belong to us? I find when I talk to friends and family about their favourite pieces of clothing, often being something that provides comfort in one way or another, they tell me about a shirt, a sweater, or a jacket that is something given, something borrowed, or something stolen. 

One of my own favourite piece of clothing was one that was never originally meant for me. It’s just a plain oversized GAP sweater that I wear at least once a week, and when I put it on, it feels like mine. The GAP sweater came into my possession about five years ago when my aunt came to surprise me over the Christmas break.

While she was here, I guess we did a little too much shopping, and the GAP sweater couldn’t fit back into her suitcase, so she left it. We used it as an excuse for her to return soon to retrieve it. The GAP sweater sat in my guest room closet for a significant amount of time, collecting dust, until I discovered it in the depths of quarantine during the pandemic. I pulled the cream sweater onto my body and looked into the mirror. The sweater completely swallowed me whole; it was a cream crewneck, with navy writing. It was the most comfortable sweater I had ever put on. I wore it throughout the rest of the quarantine and even took it to university with me as one of my prized possessions. 

One of my roommates was telling me about her favourite garment which initially inspired me to write this story. She had a navy blue t-shirt with varsity lettering that spelt out Acadia University. She didn’t go there, but many of her friends did. The shirt wasn’t hers but she had stolen it from her long-distance boyfriend and it reminded her of the feeling of home with every wear.

Unfortunately for her, the shirt went missing while she was living in residence. She went around to everyone asking if they had taken it and of course, no one had a clue what she was talking about. Months later, she returns home to find the lonely t-shirt in the drawer of her step-sister’s closet. Very drunk, she starts to absolutely lose it. Like, I mean full-on scream-cry while spouting out the worst swear words you could imagine as she rips off the party clothes she was wearing. First, she took off her going-out top to replace it with the once-missing t-shirt. Then, the socks flew across the room as she’s telling her sister to never touch this shirt again. She was just trying to go to bed but needed to unleash how she felt about one of the most important pieces of clothing that she had. It represented her boyfriend. Her friends. Her home. And yet, it was just a basic t-shirt that was given to her boyfriend at a tour of a university he never ended up going to.

The glory of it all was when she woke up the next morning and looked into the mirror to see her dried-up mascara on her face, she laughed because that was the stupidest fight she had ever had over a t-shirt that wasn’t even hers but felt like it was. 

There is something about slipping into someone else’s clothes and it just moulding to your own body. The original owner of your special piece of clothing has broken it in for you, and it’s been lived in. There is a character to the fabric, the way it sits on the body. The tears and stains are still present as you now live in the garment.  

Even when it comes to borrowing or maybe stealing your friend’s or significant other’s clothes that you may or may not give back to them, there is an underlying level of contempt or comfortability when you wear them. It’s a chance to start a new look or identity to give yourself a confidence boost, or when you miss the people you love; you can put on their clothing. 

My roommates and I often share our clothes with one another, and when you live with four other girls, there is a chance you will never get your clothing back. It makes dressing easier. When I can’t find something to wear in my own closet, I walk into one of my roommate’s closets to see if they have anything that will suffice.

Within this method, sometimes we discover a clothing item that was originally mine, looks or fits better on one of my roommates and vice versa, and they, therefore, inherit that item. A sweater I brought with me from home is currently making its way around the roommates. One of my roommates was looking for a new sweater to wear at the beginning of the school year, so I gave her one of mine. She continued to wear the sweater all of the first semester. Eventually, it made its way back to me, and then my other roommate started to wear it. The sweater is truly having its sisterhood of the travelling pants moment. Who knows if it will make its way back to me, but if it doesn’t, I will know it will be cherished with the memories of us all living together in it. 

Our most beloved pieces of clothing are about the feelings that arise when you wear them. It’s about the memories you have attached to your favourite clothing item. The most cherished pieces of clothing become our favourite for a reason. They make us feel happy when we put them on. The presence of someone else leaves this imprint inside the clothing, as well as the memory of the person who wore it before you.