Today there’s a lot of talk about the capsule wardrobe. This concept appeared for the first time in the early 40s when some American magazines began to define a small collection of harmonized in color and line garments as a “capsule”. However, the concept owes its fame to Susie Faux, the owner of the London-based boutique Wardrobe, who bravely promoted it in the 70s.
In a nutshell, a capsule wardrobe is a limited number of essentials and basics you can wear and mix for multiple seasons. The basic idea is to have a streamlined wardrobe made up of possibly high-quality clothing – in a range of 33-37 pieces – in coordinating colors and styles that could be worn interchangeably.
However, we believe that the perfect capsule wardrobe is made up of go-to pieces that are consciously designed and produced.
Is a capsule wardrobe a sustainable wardrobe? No, a capsule wardrobe isn’t necessarily sustainable too. A capsule wardrobe is certainly a great and more sustainable way to dress and approach our clothes, but this doesn’t straight away qualify any wardrobe as sustainable. Indeed, buying and having few pieces – even expensive and of high quality – doesn’t necessarily mean having garments that care about the environment, workers, and animals.
However, this somewhat controversial question may require some further investigation. Let’s try to shed some light together.
What are the perks of a capsule wardrobe?
Less is more. How many times have you heard this quote? And it’s so realistic and true to the point that even famous and rich (aka billionaire) people – among others, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg – are also known for their unvarying looks. They have declared that simple and minimalistic outfits allow paring down daily decisions, which indeed is one of the perks of a capsule wardrobe.
And if that wasn’t enough, a properly organized capsule wardrobe also allows you to:
make everyday dressing decisions easier (and save time!) – no matter how and what you dress. If your wardrobe is made up of only your favorite go-to basics, any combination of them will create an outfit you love;
save money – maybe not at the very beginning, when you may need to buy some high-quality key items that will last, but surely you’ll save a lot in the long run;
have a wardrobe that truly mirrors your style – a capsule wardrobe usually contains versatile, timeless, seasonless, and neutral colored essentials. But none of that means you can’t add some colorful and bold clothes that you’d really love to wear on repeat. This may add complexity, but it’s always up to you and the perfect wardrobe for you;
create a more conscious wardrobe – we have reached the last but not least point. Having to focus on just a few items, you’ll likely prefer higher quality clothes and this could result in avoiding fast-fashion brands.
Why isn’t a capsule wardrobe always a sustainable wardrobe?
Generally speaking, any wardrobe containing a limited number of clothes that can be easily matched and paired between each other can be defined as a “capsule”. And therefore, a capsule wardrobe can even consist of fast fashion pieces only. I’d never say that a capsule wardrobe containing such clothes is a sustainable wardrobe, but I must admit it’s much more sustainable than a regular fast fashion wardrobe. Indeed, it’s a great starting point and if you are on this path, I tip my hat to you.
While not all capsule wardrobes are automatically sustainable, every single capsule is undoubtedly a great way to promote a more sustainable fashion industry. Even though not all the pieces in it have been sustainably crafted, the mere fact that this philosophy requires you to buy less and better is a big step forward.
Dressing up so you don’t harm the planet, workers, and animals can be difficult and even expensive most of the time… and it’s okay not to always be perfect. Anyway, when it comes to making clothing choices, the best thing we can do is be mindful and consume consciously.
Capsule wardrobe: paving the way for a more sustainable fashion industry
The fashion industry leaves behind a trail of human and environmental exploitation. Our wardrobes don’t have to be the finish line; they can be a starting point for loved clothes and new ideas
– Orsola de Castro
In all this mess, the capsule wardrobe can help pave the way for a more sustainable fashion industry: it’s a mindset that teaches us how to make thoughtful decisions about what we really need to buy; it teaches us to love what we own; it teaches us how to value our style and body. If you’re wondering how to be more conscious, you can consider starting with transforming your wardrobe and creating your own capsule.
Tips to make your capsule wardrobe more and more sustainable
Whatever the sustainability level of your capsule wardrobe, you can always do something more to improve it. Here are some tips you might find useful:
don’t throw out all the clothes you already own, it’s wasteful and unnecessary – instead, sell and/or donate what you no longer want;
wash less and learn how to mend;
define a colors palette you love. Have you ever heard of Seasonal Color Analysis? It could really help you buy only the pieces that fit you well!
if you need something new, buy secondhand and/or prefer conscious brands that create timeless pieces. Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered! Here’s a short list of brands we love. Before moving on, do never forget to ask yourself: Do I need it? Do I feel good in it? Can I match it with my other clothes?
3 sustainable fashion brands you can’t miss out for your capsule wardrobe
Based in: USA Materials: organic cotton, Tencel, linen, recycled polyester, EcoVero, modal Men’s: no Prices starting at $49
Vetta creates mini capsule wardrobes consisting of 5 versatile, intentionally curated, and sustainably made pieces that can be mixed and matched to create a month’s worth of outfits. With 5 basics you can create up to 30 outfits. You can buy the entire capsule or shop individual pieces and even take a quiz to find out your own capsule style.
Based in: UK Materials: organic cotton Men’s: no Prices starting at $83
Aestethic London creates timeless clothing capsule collections that care about aesthetics, ethics, and all living beings. Each piece is available in white and cream shades only and is designed with high longevity, non-toxicity, resource efficiency, biodegradability, and ethics in mind. They’re part of the slow fashion movement and produce locally in small batches with a zero-waste policy.
Based in: Australia Materials: organic cotton, linen Men’s: no Prices starting at $40
The M|N|ML is an ethical clothing brand that creates small collections of timeless basics for contemporary women. All their pieces are made with GOTS-certified fibers and come in a range of natural colors. They’re on a mission to create luxury basics as comfortable as a second skin without giving up a unique style.
How many items should be in one’s capsule wardrobe? There are various opinions, but the range usually varies from 33 to 37 pieces. Overall, we firmly believe that what really matters about a capsule wardrobe is the mindset rather than the number of items. We suggest you create your own wardrobe according to your style and preferences and pick the number that best works for you.
How to create outfits that aren’t always the same? You can embellish the outfits from your capsule wardrobe and go bold with your jewelry, makeup… just give free rein to your creativity!
Are luxury brands always a good choice for a capsule wardrobe that doesn’t cost the planet? No, just like fast fashion brands, even many luxury brands don’t respect fair labor practices, the environment, and animals. By the way, we have created an article about Gucci you might find interesting.
Alberta Bernardi is a Ph.D. in Management, Innovation, and Sustainable Development. She likes to call herself a “sustainability warrior” because she aims to spread knowledge on the environment, ethics, and plastic pollution day after day. Her love of nature and battle against plastic around the world are on Instagram @together_no_plastic