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The fashion psychologist investigating how what we wear makes us feel – Positive News

Dion Terrelonge researches the impact of fast fashion on the environment and on self-expression

Preloved fashion is booming amid a cost of living squeeze and a rise in eco thinking. Once niche, the secondhand market is now on course to take 10% of global sales, while eBay has just axed fees for sellers of preloved garms.

In our Second Nature series, we unzip this growing trend and meet the preloved pioneers who are helping to send it mainstream. A million miles from its moth-eaten, austere reputation of yesteryear, they see preloved as stylish, expressive and fun.  

Known as ‘the fashion psychologist’ Dion Terrelonge is a psychologist, stylist, researcher, lecturer and media commentator. Fascinated by sustainability and the impact of fast fashion on the environment as well as on self-expression, she is currently working with the London College of Fashion to investigate the link between mood, clothing practices and wellbeing.

Dion Terrelonge

Spilling out of an overstuffed basket, a silk scarf printed with French châteaus called to Dion Terrelonge at a vintage fair. “Most of the time if I like something I can’t tell you exactly why, it’s more like I’m drawn to it,” she says.

There is a deeply emotional slant to Terrelonge’s style. The emerald hue of her vintage logo T-shirt (pictured) is her favourite colour and birthstone, her chunky secondhand loafers are a nostalgic reminder of school in the late 90s, and she and her pleather skirt (not pre-loved but well-loved) have a long history. “I’ve had it for at least 15 years. I’ve had the zip fixed, I’ve replaced the hook and eye … It’s really been through it with me, it’s hung in there,” she laughs.

Right alongside emotion is a pursuit of quality. “As a child I shopped secondhand, but it wasn’t by choice – I didn’t grow up with very much money. I would go with my mum, and we would look for good quality pieces,” she explains. “I grew up not just buying stuff but examining and looking at clothing with a critical eye. Now I don’t like the feeling of putting ill-considered garments on my body.”

Her subtly checked vintage Nautica menswear blazer passes muster, made from 100% wool and complete with four inside pockets. “With women’s clothing you’re lucky to get one,” she notes.

As a fashion psychologist, Terrelonge understands more than most how clothing impacts how we feel. “It’s important, psychologically, to feel an alignment between your inner world and your outer world to feel at ease, and clothing is such a big part of your outer world,” she says.

But we need time with our clothing for it to truly represent us. “If you’re buying stuff for the sake of stuff, then you’re not giving yourself time to form an attachment, to ascribe meaning. The nature of secondhand encourages us to shop more slowly. You have to physically slow down and consider each piece,” Terrelonge says, and in doing so, you can boost your wellbeing.

“It comes back to two types of wellbeing: feelgood and do-good. Slow, secondhand fashion gives you a hit of both. Not only do you buy something that makes you feel good, but you also get that slight ‘smug’ feeling that you’ve done something good,” says Terrelonge. “You can add it to your wellbeing self-care kit.”

Sartorial sums

dion terrelonge


“Nearly a quarter of us say the thrill lasts longer when we buy secondhand” – Dr Carolyn Mair, a cognitive psychologist working in the fashion industry


dion terrelonge


Terrelonge has a ‘sustainable fashion equation’: awareness + knowledge x emotional response + empathy = sustainable buying behaviour.


dion terrelongeFormer Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman hosted a charity ‘jumble sale’ in north London in January. Labels on sale included YSL, Chanel, Jil Sander, Prada, Gucci and Manolo Blahnik and prices ranged from £10 to £200.

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