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What Does Preloved Actually Mean in Fashion?

What Does Preloved Actually Mean in Fashion?

We'll hold our hands up, we love to use "preloved" to shout about lots of the clothes we rescue from landfill at Green Heart Collective.

But what does preloved actually mean?

Preloved Fashion: What Does it Really Mean?

Putting the Love Back Into Second-Hand

Preloved fashion includes clothes in a variety of conditions, from used clothing that has been well-loved by someone else, to items that have been rescued from a warehouse. In between are gifts that have been bought and never opened. 

In short, these are clothes that may have been worn before. So why not just call them second hand clothes?

If you run a quick search on Twitter for second hand clothes, you still find some examples of where people use second hand as an insult. There still is a stigma which puts brand new trending fashion above similar clothes bought at a charity shop or second hand store. Crazy right?

So using preloved is a way to bring new life to second hand clothing. Most people will quickly associate it with second hand clothing, but there is so much more to preloved in what it can mean.

New Clothes Can Still be Preloved

Even fashion that has never had a home can still be classed as preloved. This is the case for items used as product samples, or for photography. The clothing is barely used and has just been taken out of its packaging. 

Other items like returns have been loved fleetingly by their owner who eagerly clicked 'order', only to realise the item didn't fit. Or maybe it was the wrong colour, style or they just didn't like it.

Some businesses have the capacity to deal with these returns in house, others out source and some fast fashion brands will send their clothing straight to landfill. Yikes. 

Still, there are lots of popular brands that are taking to Depop or developing their own platform to resell their items. Oftentimes you can find a great deal - even if the items are missing their original packaging or have a barely noticeable flaw. 

In this case, it almost doesn't do these items justice to call them second hand, as they're still pretty much brand new. So that's where preloved comes in as a handy buzz word.

Speaking of buzz words, preloved isn't the only word you might come across.

16 Other Words to Describe Preloved Fashion

It turns out there a whole shed load of phrases for second hand clothing. Lots of them are really quite similar. Others definitely have a different kind of meaning.


Preowned is another synonym for preloved or second hand which means the item has had at least one previous owner. 


Hand-me-downs have more of a familial connotation. These are clothes that have been passed down either from parent to child or between siblings. 


Resold is less common, looser in meaning but points to fashion items that may have already been sold once before.


Reused fashion is about squeezing as much live as possible from a garment. It might mean re-wearing or even re-working a garment. And at the end of your clothes' life, you can reuse garments as cleaning cloths rather than binning them.

Recycled Style

Recycled could indicate the use of recycled materials - e.g a recycled polyester fleece. Or it could be more about upcycling and reusing scraps of old garments. There is also that sense of recycled style in bringing back old styles and trends and giving them new life. 


Remade suggests that some work has been done to bring an old garment new life. It could be something as small as changing up the buttons on a jacket, or as drastic as completely cutting up a garment and turning it into something else  à la Great British Sewing Bee's Transformation Challenge


Refashion also gives that idea of remaking something - adding or taking something away from a piece of clothing. 

Previously Worn

Previously worn is fairly self-explanatory. It's clothing that has been loved by someone else or a few past owners.


The idea of reclaimed fashion is to make use of waste materials or old garments that might otherwise be heading to landfill. 


Reultilised fashion is just a posh way of saying reused.


The key here is in the purpose! Repurposed fashion could be something as mundane as assigning your old pair of shoes to become gardening clogs! 


A bit vague, this one. Rejuvenated fashion could be clothing that has been freshened and brightened up at a dry cleaner's or similar. Or it could be about mixing up your wardrobe and injecting it with some new preloved colours or styles. 


Restyled fashion is similar again to refashioned - it's all about embracing preloved fashion to pair together items from different eras and brands. Or it could be hand painting onto a pair of hi-tops!


Restored fashion is about returning older garments to their former glory. It could be preserving vintage clothing, or modern clothing, by way of repair or cleaning. 


There it is! Probably one of the most sought after preloved fashion terms is vintage clothing. Vintage fashion is meant to be at least 20 years old but it is now a style that brand new fast fashion brands are trying to emulate in their latest collections. More on this below...


Reconditioned fashion is again all about freshening up old clothes and bringing them close to their original condition. It's often a term you'll find when searching for shoes. Footwear can be reconditioned by replacing worn out heels, soles, laces etc.

Meet Fast Fashion's New Rival: Vintage Fashion

You must have encountered vintage fashion somewhere. Maybe it turned up on a Facebook ad, or you've seen a flyer for a new vintage shop on your local high street. 

Vintage stands out among that long list of RE words above. It definitely does a lot of heavy lifting in the second hand fashion world. 

At the end of the day, all vintage fashion should be second hand, right? Unless you come across something that is still unworn, it's original packaging from decades ago. 

Read More: Unpacking Our Fascination with all things Vintage

Nevertheless, vintage fashion is all the rage. It's becoming a force to be reckoned with, as the cool way to wear second hand clothes. It's an excuse to break out of current trends and embrace the old ones. Which in turn seems to create these newish oldish trends.

The key distinction, or at least this is how it should be, is that vintage fashion is old. It is technically meant to be at least 20 years old, and as old as 100 years.

From that point, 100 years plus clothing would be considered antique. 

It All Comes Back to Preloved

You can go through that list that we made above - they all fit under that umbrella preloved term. 

Whether it's about passing an item on to someone else, repairing, remaking or refurbishing, it all comes back to that idea of giving life to an item that may otherwise be heading to landfill. 

Ultimately, buying preloved is better for your wallet and the planet

Enjoy your resale therapy!



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