sustainable ethical fashion

The Capsule Wardrobe: your guide to ethical and sustainable fashion

If you’re anything like me, you have a habit of finding something stylish and affordable and you end up buying it on the spot. For me, this led to an overcrowded wardrobe filled with clothes I’ve never worn, hand-me-downs I […]

If you’re anything like me, you have a habit of finding something stylish and affordable and you end up buying it on the spot. For me, this led to an overcrowded wardrobe filled with clothes I’ve never worn, hand-me-downs I never asked for, and tacky shirts from 2008 that really don’t fit anymore. Digging through the depths of my wardrobe each morning to find a good outfit just became a pain. I knew I needed to make a change. I ‘Marie-Kondo’d’ my wardrobe and donated all those things I didn’t love anymore. Still, I was left with a heap of clothes that I thought I liked but I couldn’t wear because nothing matched. That’s when I came across the Capsule Wardrobe – a wardrobe which is built on around 32 to 50 basic and classic items of clothing which create countless great outfits.


The Capsule Wardrobe dates back as early as the 1970’s. It became popularised in 1985 by Donna Karan when she created a capsule collection – seven interchangeable clothing items to create stylish outfits for work. The idea is that a wardrobe is built around timeless items which are all interchangeable and never go out of fashion, and adding your own personal flair. Typically, they’re based around a certain colour scheme and feature skirts, coats, and pants that can be worn throughout or rotated every season.


Capsule Wardrobe Clueless film


One of the ideas behind the Capsule Wardrobe is that it is a more sustainable way to buy clothes. You only buy what you need instead of purchasing whatever, and you invest a bit more money into the quality of clothes rather than feeding into fast fashion.


Fast fashion is the term given to cheaply made clothes or accessories that are based off current fashion trends. Fast fashion items tend to be based on high-end designer clothes but are made in high volumes and are sold at a lower price than the original items. These duplicate items are made of cheap textiles and are dyed using untreated dyes which are toxic to the environment. The workers who produce these items have horrible working conditions and are paid very poorly.


Source: YouTube (Uploader: Kristen Leo)


While fast fashion retailers manage to sell stylish clothes to consumers at a more affordable price, that means that the quality of clothes is poorer. A lot of these clothing items end up as landfill – the toxic dyes leaking into local water systems creating a more toxic environment.


According to the United Nations Environment Programme, “The fashion industry produces 20 per cent of global wastewater and 10 per cent of global carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping. Textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of water globally and it takes around 2,000 gallons of water to make a typical pair of jeans.”


“Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned. If nothing changes, by 2050 the fashion industry will use up a quarter of the world’s carbon budget. Washing clothes also releases half a million tonnes of microfibres into the ocean every year.”


Needless to say, we need to cut down on the amount of fast fashion we consume. This includes avoiding retailers like H&M,, Romwe, and Fashion Nova.


thrift shopping


Another idea about Capsule Wardrobes is that you invest more money into good quality clothing that will last a long time. When the clothes eventually wear down, rather than throwing them out, you get them repaired. Alternatively, a lot of quality retailers offer a life-time guarantee on their products, ensuring that you get your money’s worth. That might not be budget-friendly for everyone, so check out your local op-shops or Facebook marketplace too!


So, how do you start?


Work out what style you’re going for! Do you prefer black, whites, and greys? Or would you rather wear loads of pastels? Think about your life and your schedule – if you work full time, then majority of your wardrobe will need to be filled with business-wear. If you’re a full-time student, then you’re probably looking to have a mix between casual clothes and business-wear so that you’re prepared for every situation. This is something important to consider – you don’t want to fill your wardrobe with graphic tee’s and blue jeans when realistically you’re working in an office five days a week.


Then you need to work out your essentials. Have a quick Google search or look on Pinterest and Tumblr – you’ll see a whole collection of Capsule Wardrobe essentials that might work for you. Write down what you like and what you think will make for a stylish you wardrobe. Make sure all the items you’re picking will work together easily.


Fast Fashion


The downside of Capsule Wardrobes is it can be expensive when you’re getting started. Instead of jumping right into the high-end things, start by shopping in your own wardrobe! Though you may want to stop supporting fast fashion brands, if you’ve already purchased the item then there’s no point throwing it out just yet. If you dig through your wardrobe (or even your mum’s), then you’ll definitely find something of value. Chances are, you have some really great basics already!


If you’re still looking for some essentials, head to a local op-shop. Though they may not be brand-new, the clothes in op-shops can be awesome. Again, the items have already been produced and sold, and without happy op-shoppers, a lot of these clothes will end up in landfill too. It’s better to support your local second-hand stores than to buy brand new! Remember, only buy what you need. Keep that list of essentials handy and you’ll be fine!


Still don’t have it all? This is when you start looking at ethical and sustainable brands. Boody, People-Tree, and Everlane are good places to start, but always research what brands are best for you. Remember, don’t settle for second best. If you’re investing money into something, you need to love it. If you don’t love it before you buy it, you’re probably not going to wear it.


reversable fashion Capsule Wardrobe


There’s the start of your Capsule Wardrobe. Now that you’re fitted with basics, you can swap some out each season. Throw that denim skirt into storage until Spring and pull out those nice blue jeans.


Next time you’re buying clothes, keep the Capsule Wardrobe in mind. It might just save you a few dollars, and save the environment on the way.


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