How to Create a Sustainable Capsule Wardrobe
Updated: Aug 17
Clothing is an extension of our identity, serving many purposes from expression to function. Have you ever exclaimed “I have too many clothes” and “I can’t find anything to wear” in reference to your own or your children's wardrobes? If you've grappled with choices and find you're spending a lot of time (and angst) getting yourself and your kids ready every morning - then a capsule wardrobe will streamline this process.
It will help make your lives easier by simplifying your choices, saving time, making coordination a breeze (especially if your children dress themselves) and lessening the amount of laundry you’ll need to do (!).
Are you sitting there nodding and thinking this is exactly what you need?
Perhaps you’ve also been wanting to incorporate wardrobe choices into a more sustainable and minimalist living ethos. If you don't know where start or are concerned it is not an affordable option, then please read on for some helpful tips and pointers.
What is a Capsule Wardrobe?
The term Capsule Wardrobe was originally coined in the 1970s. It is simply a small collection of carefully selected pieces of clothing that change with the seasons. In essence, instead of having your whole inventory of clothes out on display in your closet (with perhaps a seasonal rotation) you select a few pieces of each and create a “capsule” for each season. These should be clothes that you truly love, can be worn in versatile ways and be coordinated together, ie: 1 dress, 10 looks.
You may have already encountered this concept several times. It's become prevalent in the eco-conscious movement for its emphasis on minimalism, simplicity, mindfulness and resourcefulness. It’s no wonder that it’s an important component for creating a more sustainable lifestyle.
Let’s delve into the why.
Because, Slow Fashion
Slow fashion is the movement of designing, creating, and buying garments for quality and longevity. It encourages slower production schedules, fair wages, lower carbon footprints, and (ideally) zero waste.
If you’ve ever wondered or cared about who made your clothes, what kind of conditions they worked in, how they were treated and compensated, what environmental impact the material and dyes may have, then on an ethical level - a sustainable capsule wardrobe is for you.
As part of the slow fashion movement that has gained momentum over the last couple of years, a sustainable capsule wardrobe emphasizes mindfully choosing clothing for quality, simplicity and environmental impact. I will be providing plenty of reviews and recommendations for ethical/sustainable labels on this blog.
Because sadly, the hard truth is this: if we continue to purchase cheap, mass-produced clothing then we are supporting poverty and exploitation. But we can choose instead to support smaller businesses and clothing makers and as the demand for sustainable/ethical clothing grows, pressure will be put on fast fashion companies to pay their workers a living wage and use more sustainable production processes.
Quality over quantity
For clothing to truly be sustainable, it needs to be made from natural textiles. Not "sustainably made with plant fibres" (that also contain a substantial percentage of polyester) a "natural/synthetic blend" or "made from recycled polyester" It's a place to start, but that's basically green washing for clothing (See: Let's talk Sustainability: Are we wearing Plastic?)
Sustainable/ethically made clothing will be higher quality: they will feel better, last longer and be better for your health and the environment.
The price tag is also higher. Why buy that 100% linen dress for $100 when you can pick one up for $25 at Wish, Shein or your local department store? Because you are paying for quality garments that will not fall apart, and supporting ethical production practices instead of enabling poverty and exploitation. If you're now thinking you can't afford this, please consider the following:
Less is more
With a capsule wardrobe you don't need 30 dresses, you could have 5 or 10. The whole idea is to minimize. So invest the amount you would have spent, but do so on a smaller quantity of quality garments that you will be able to wear forever instead of a ton of fast-fashion pieces.
Sustainable clothing doesn't need to be expensive
It can be thrifted, swapped, gifted or found for a great discounted price. My advice for getting the best price is to wait for the label's end of season sale, inquire for sample sales or "seconds" (these are items that have small, often imperceptible flaws or imperfections).
Choice and Simplicity
One of the best parts of having a capsule wardrobe is how much easier dressing yourself and your family will be. Choice can be overwhelming and stress-inducing, especially for children. So take the guesswork out and pare down their wardrobe choices. Keep or acquire pieces that you truly love. There is no set rule as to how many pieces to have in your capsule, but keep it simple and seasonally appropriate. The whole idea is to minimize and simplify the dressing process. Example: 6 dresses, 6 tops, 4 bottoms, 3 pairs of shoes.
Because you're simplifying and paring down your choices, be sure to choose pieces that can be worn and coordinated in different ways. You would be amazed how many outfit combinations you can actually create with a few quality pieces, ie: a linen dress can be dressed up or down and with layers for cooler weather.
Work with Colour Palettes
This is a chance to get creative. We like to go with seasonal colour palettes: rich earthy colours in the Fall, cool tones in the winter, pastels in the Spring, etc. I have found using a colour palette particularly helpful when coordinating and choosing clothes for children. Because who am I kidding - my kids dress themselves! So my tip is this, instead of garish colours and bright patterns - choose earthy, subtle, neutral colours or just colours that go well together. Avoiding bold, loud, clashing designs and colours will ensure they look effortlessly coordinated no matter what.
As a society, we need to re-condition our consumerist and fast fashion mindset and as individuals we can do both by investing in a sustainable capsule wardrobe. These are the clothes we are wearing everyday and the choices we are making are so important. So let's be mindful and consider who are we supporting? what are we expressing? what stand are we taking?
It can be argued that Sustainability is a privilege, but we can level the playing field by advocating and expanding education and accessibility.
Remember, I am not here to ever judge or critique your choices, but I DO want to empower you with knowledge and ideas so you can choose what aligns with your values, and ultimately live a life in harmony with those beliefs.