Fashion psychologist investigates how what we wear affects our feelings

Apr 23, 2024 | News

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

Preloved fashion has exploded in recent years, largely due to the cost of living and the rise of eco-consciousness. Secondhand sales are now expected to reach 10% of global sales. eBay has also just eliminated fees for sellers of preloved clothing.

In our Second Nature Series, we explore this growing trend. We also meet the pioneers of preloved who are helping it become mainstream. Preloved is no longer the moth-eaten, austere item of yesteryear. It’s now stylish, expressive, and fun.

Dion Terrelonge, also known as “the fashion psychologist”, is a psychologist and stylist who is also a researcher, lecturer, media commentator, and teaches. She is fascinated by sustainability and fast fashion’s impact on the environment, as well as its impact on self-expression. She is currently working at the London College of Fashion, investigating the link between mood, clothes and wellbeing.

Dion Terrelonge

Dion Terrelonge was drawn to a silk scarves printed with French chateaus that spilled out of a basket at a vintage fair. “Most times, I can’t explain why I like something. I’m more drawn to it,” says Terrelonge.

Terrelonge’s fashion has a strong emotional component. Her vintage logo Tshirt is her favorite colour and birthstone. Her chunky secondhand shoes are a nostalgic memory of school in late 1990s. And she and her pleather (not pre-loved, but well-loved!) skirt have a long-standing history. “I’ve owned it for at least fifteen years.” “I’ve had it for at least 15 years. I’ve fixed the zip, I’ve changed the hook and eye… It’s really hung in there with me,” she laughs.

Along with emotion, quality is also important. “I shopped secondhand as a child, but not by choice. I didn’t have much money growing up. “I would go with mum and we would look at good quality pieces,” she says. “I grew-up not only buying things but examining and evaluating clothing with a critical mind. I no longer like the idea of wearing ill-considered clothing.

The vintage Nautica menswear jacket is made of 100% wool, and has four pockets on the inside. “With women’s clothes, you’re lucky if you get one,” she says.

Terrelonge, a fashion psychology expert, understands better than most how clothing affects our feelings. She says that it’s important to feel a connection between your inner and outer worlds to feel comfortable. Clothing is a huge part of this outer world.

But we need to give our clothes time to represent us. “If you buy things just because you want them, you don’t give yourself the time to develop an attachment or to assign meaning. Secondhand shopping encourages us to take our time. Terrelonge says that you should physically slow down to consider each item.

“It all comes down to two types: do-good and feelgood. Secondhand clothing is a great way to get both. Terrelonge says that buying something that makes you happy also gives you a’smug feeling’ that you have done something good. “You can add this to your self-care kit for wellbeing.”

Sartorial sums


“Nearly one quarter of us said the thrill lasted longer when we bought secondhand” – Dr Carolyn Mair a cognitive psychologist who works in the fashion industry


Terrelonge’s’sustainable fashion formula’ is: awareness + knowledge + emotional response + empathy = sustainable purchasing behaviour.

Alexandra Shulman, former Vogue editor, hosted a charity “jumble sale” in north London during January. The labels on sale included YSL and Chanel, Jil Sander and Prada. Gucci, Manolo Blahnik, and Manolo Blahnik were also available. Prices ranged from PS10-PS200.

Main image: Will Sanders

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