A year ago, I had no idea what a capsule wardrobe is but I kept seeing it pop up everywhere. Every fashion-related website seemed to talk about it: how to build a capsule wardrobe for a year, summer, winter or even for a lifetime.
Without knowing it, I actually always had a capsule wardrobe, but just didn’t know it had a name and thought that’s just what everybody does. A some sort of common sense, because, after all, who are those people who buy clothes that they only wear once?
I’m going to point fingers towards fast-fashion. Fast-fashion, the mass production of affordable clothing, has changed the way we buy. We see something we like, we buy it and don’t think twice. And it’s easy to need something you don’t really need, because trends and collection change faster than ever before. New collections are not seasonal anymore, but, depending on the brand, change monthly or even every two weeks.
What is a capsule wardrobe and why have one?
Ok, so what is really a capsule wardrobe and how does it work? To put it simply, a capsule wardrobe is a limited set of clothing items and accessories that you can combine and wear for a certain period of time. And yes, that includes every occasion as well: going to the gym, to work or have a night out. That’s why planning is very important.
Who invented capsule wardrobes? Everyone says it was Susie Faux, the owner of a London boutique called "Wardrobe" in the 1970s who came up with the whole thing. I think not! Maybe she came up with the name, but the concept has been there for years, dare I say centuries. Think about the time when everyone was making their own clothes or had them made: they were building a capsule wardrobe before they even knew it was a thing. Those clothes would sometimes be passed down from siblings to future generations.
Are capsule wardrobes sustainable?
Capsule wardrobes are somehow sustainable, and I’m saying this because no matter how much we wish things were 100% sustainable, it’s not the case with fashion. This article goes more in-depth about what sustainable fashion is and why it's impossible to be 100% sustainable when it comes to fashion.
The reason capsule wardrobe are partially sustainable is that they support slow-fashion in detriment of fast-fashion. Which means you get quality clothes that will last you longer and are more versatile.
The biggest benefits of having a capsule wardrobe are that it saves you money, time and energy, so it’s more of an investment in yourself. Having a good and carefully selected range of clothing to wear for a certain period of time will save you the precious time you’ll save shopping or choosing what to wear every day. There is, of course, the downside of feeling like you don’t have the right outfit if you’re getting ready for an event. That being said, it might be worth taking some time to really prepare and think about what your capsule wardrobe should contain if you want to go on that road.
How to build a capsule wardrobe
To build a capsule wardrobe you need some clarity first and think deeply about your style and your lifestyle. There is no right amount of items you can have to start a capsule wardrobe, it just really depends how busy your life is, what you can let go and what you can compromise on.
Maybe having some steps to follow can help, or you can download my super helpful checklist below!
How to prepare
Wardrobe clear out
This is the first, most important step, Have a look at your current wardrobe and make two piles:
Pile 1 - things you wear a lot
Pile 2 - things you wear sometimes/not at all.
From the second pile, choose only 1 item of each category. For example: 1 pair of trousers, 1 pair of shorts, 1 shirt, 1 dress., etc.
Now, you’re hopefully left with some things you didn’t get to wear or you’re probably not gona wear anymore. With this new pile, it’s time for the game of Love, Maybe, Not!
Love - the clothes you love, wear on special occasions or mean something special, even though you don't wear them all the time
Maybe -these are the clothes you keep because you got them as a gift, you're on a diet or remind you of a past event. Maybe you will wear them at some point, but in the end, they will get to the Not! pile.
Not! - You haven't wore them for ages, they don't fit, they're not trendy, you completely forgot you had them even, they might be an unfinished upcycling project.
There’s a lot you can do with the ones in the Not! categrory: donate to your favourite charity, to someone in need, give them to your friends, upcycle or take them to be recycled. If you have any branded clothes or accessories, you have a good chance of selling them on Etsy, eBay or Facebook Marketplace.
Think of what you need
Deciding what you need is probably the most difficult step because you will have to think about your needs and your comfort. A capsule wardrobe will only work well if this step is done properly.
So take your time, maybe have a look at your diary and see what you can do.This list might serve you as a starting point and it contains the basics of a capsule wardrobe.
Choose a colour palette
Choosing a colour palette can give you some clarity on what you need to do next. So start by looking at your current wardrobe and notice what colours you see the most. Taking a photo might help. For me, it was surprising to realise that my favourite colours where blues, greys, yellows and blacks, because I always thought I am open to any colour. However, I seemed to be choosing these specific 4, every time I shopped.
How many items should you have?
There is no magic number for a capsule wardrobe. It can be 10 items for a minimalistic one, 33 as per the 333 project or maybe 50. Just don’t think about a number too much. You’re on the right path anyway!
Here’s a fun way to look at it: you are actually building your own fashion collection now! This collection will define your style even more and it will also teach you a few things about yourself. By the time you’re done planning, you’ll know exactly what you like and what you don’t, what’s your style and your favourite colour pallete.
Capsule wardrobe ideas
Everyone is different, there’s no one size fits all, no standard colour, but that’s just the beauty of fashion. Without creativity, life would be very much boring!
These are examples of a seasonal capsule wardrobe, on a brown and green colour palettes. The following images and selections are meant to be a guide and inspire you into making your own.
seasonal capsule wardrobe basics
seasonal capsule wardrobe basics
Shopping for a sustainable capsule wardrobe
Either you choose to shop online or offline, try researching and budget first. Although an investment, building a capsule wardrobe doesn’t come cheap, so you might not be able to buy everything in one go. Take any discounts you get your hands on. Some shops give you 10% off for subscribing to their newsletters, some have loyalty cards or other incentives.
If you’re shopping online, use Honey, a free Chrome extension that comes up with discount codes when you check out. Or look for discount codes on Google for each brand, you never know!
I chose to showcase the brands above because they have a good collection of everything you might need and they refer to different styles too. More importantly, their products are ethical, eco-friendly and fair-trade.
Thinking about starting a sustainable wardrobe capsule in the near future? Let us know how it went in the comments!
About the author
Adela loves researching and writing about sustainability! Her passion for ethical living started early in her childhood, being born and raised in a beautiful remote village in Romania, where life was much simpler. Life took her to the great city of London where she discovered that sustainability in a big city is not only needed but also possible. When she’s not at her desk , she loves discovering hidden gems of London and travel to unique places.