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We often think of our clothes as things, as possessions separate from ourselves when in reality, they act as a second skin. Your personal style can help you befriend your body and manage your moods, meaning that your choice of outfit can have a profound effect on how you feel. So, to celebrate the power of clothing to help you lean into who you truly are the FiP team have started a new series called #mysecondskin where we’ll be speaking to people from all walks of life about the role that their wardrobe plays in their everyday life. For our sixth instalment, we’re speaking to Fashion Psychologist Dr Dion Terrelonge.

Dion Terrelonge

Dion (thefashionpsychologist_) is a Practitioner Psychologist, interested in the link between personal style, self-expression, and wellbeing. She advocates person-centred styling, drawing on positive psychology, transactional psychology, coaching and Enclothed Cognition. ⁠

Here’s what Dion had to say when we asked her about her relationship with her own clothing: 

1. How do your clothes make you feel?

Clothing makes me feel like myself. Most days I wake up and have a sense of what will best reflect my vibe that day. I’m forever running a couple of minutes late because I’ve not been able to leave the house until I felt comfortable and “right” in what I was wearing; what that outfit may be differs day to day and isn’t as simple for me as wanting to wear bright colours if I’m in a lively mood.

2. What is your most treasured item, that brings you joy? 

Two items come to mind. The first is the bridesmaids dress I wore for my sister’s wedding. At the time I wasn’t the biggest fan because it was pink and a bit froofy, but on that day I felt very close to her and was able to be the type of big sister I had been wanting to be as we weren’t as close as I would have liked. I remember being in that dress and holding up the train of her wedding dress while she did the Candy dance (if you know, you know). She passed away a few years back and that pink froofy dress reminds me of that day; when things were good.

The second item is an ex’s jumper; it’s dark blue and super soft. I went to do some voluntary work in Bali in 2019 and took it with me in lieu of a comfort blanket. If I feel down or anxious, wearing that jumper brings me comfort because I know it belonged to and was given to me by a friend who was and is massively supportive. It makes me feel safe.

3. Do you believe your clothes are political/ define you in any way?

I don’t know about political but I do use clothes to be a little socially defiant at times. As an academic, as a doctor, as a psychologist people presume and expect you to look, speak and dress a certain way and I do not meet many of those preconceived notions. While I was studying I dressed more conservatively and in line with course mates in an effort to blend in and hide my blackness, which might be viewed as an indicator of not being right for the profession or good enough.

So, I used clothes to tone down my blackness and working class roots in a hope that it wouldn’t be all people saw of me and therefore would leave more space for my voice to be heard and my capability to be seen. But when I graduated and I got that certificate that said Doctorate, I cornrowed my hair and went into work wearing my own version of what I deemed as professional looking.

I stopped caring about the opinions of others because I had a certificate that said I was competent, and I was good enough. It’s a shame that it took a piece of paper to do that, but we black women in particular struggle massively from imposter syndrome and society does not help.

4. Has Covid-19 changed your relationship with your clothes?

Well somehow magically, the pandemic has made all of my clothes shrink. No idea what happened there. It hasn’t changed my general relationship with the clothes I already own but it has changed my relationship with buying. Prior to the pandemic I was trying to be more sustainable in my approach, but the lockdowns really gave me time to be still and really take in how many clothes I already have.

During the pandemic I bought very little clothes wise; I just didn’t see the need. I think the pandemic gave many of us time and space for social issues to really percolate and become actively embedded in our consciousnesses. Now I try to only buy what I need, not just want and ensure that the item can be worn with other things to increase the life wear of other items in my wardrobe also.

5. What are you planning on buying next?

Like I said my shopping behaviours have waned greatly. What I am on the look out for is a medium sized cross body bag that can be worn out to nicer places but also just to the farmers market. I find it hard to leave home without feeling prepared for every possible eventuality, so I tend to carry a tote bag stuffed to the brim. I would love a crocodile skin pattern bag that’s big enough to carry my most important leave-home item, a book – oh and my keys. I don’t understand the trend for these super tiny bags; I’d feel prepared for nothing with that 

Shakaila Forbes-Bell

Author Shakaila Forbes-Bell

Shakaila Forbes-Bell is a Fashion Psychologist and writer who has been featured in Marie Claire UK, i-D, Who What Wear, All Walks Beyond the Catwalk, Fashion Bomb Daily, The Voice Newspaper, Gal-Dem, Black Matters US and more.

More posts by Shakaila Forbes-Bell

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