There’s a lot of talk around fast fashion happening as of late, and I’m so happy for it. It’s a conversation that needs to be had.
I’ve really come to learn what environmental and social impacts the fast fashion industry has on the world. People and the planet are being exploited for this industry. Animals are subjected to inhumane treatment. Employees work in unsafe factories, and are paid poorly for their labor. Mindfulness is not given to the resources used in production. Instead of selling, recycling, or donating, thousands and thousands of tonnes of clothes get burned every year, contributing to the mass waste already created. The list goes on.
I’ve never been the type to have a large, overflowing closet, instead choosing to wear those tried and true pieces again and again. But as I become more and more intentional about the life I lead and the impact I have, I find myself saying no to fast-fashion brands, instead purchasing quality pieces from ethical and sustainable brands, and slow makers that are transparent about their process, standards, and values.
Buying from conscious brands, wearing only natural/organic materials, or supporting small can be more expensive than the chain stores that offer you cheap clothing and free shipping, but think about it — how can a shirt ethically sell for less than a cup of coffee? How is the person who made it paid a living wage? What conditions do they work in? Consider the environmental ramifications. And do you really think that shirt is meant to last? No. It’s designed for one or two wears before falling apart, so that you turn around and buy the next trendy item. That’s part of fast-fashion culture. It’s a vicious cycle.
As an alternative, I love the idea of a minimalist capsule wardrobe. Aside from the sustainability aspect, there are so many benefits! Short on closet space? Want to curb your spending? Do you no longer want to participate in the fast-moving trends, and instead want to reduce your possessions, curating your closet with classic, timeless pieces that don’t go out of style? Are you simply too busy and want to put an end to decision-fatigue?
Over the last year, I’ve slowly been building my capsule, and thought I’d share are a few tips I’ve learned along the way. These guidelines are based on my own experience and values, and each of us might do things a little differently. Finding what works for you is a learning processes, and there will be trial and error.
Before starting your capsule wardrobe, make a list of the things you need, removing the excess and clutter. The goal here is to narrow it down to about 30 pieces or less, including clothing and outerwear, shoes, and accessories. Undergarments, workout gear, and loungewear are excluded (unless you tend to wear loungewear often, like while running errands or on the weekends, in which case it becomes part of your capsule).
Decide on one capsule closet (year-round), or two smaller/seasonal capsules (Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter, storing away the season not in use). If you choose the latter, you’ll likely find that many pieces overlap. While you might see it elsewhere, I personally do not support the idea of a new capsule wardrobe every 3 months, and find it wasteful and unnecessary.
Take everything out of your closet/drawers and separate your existing clothes into three piles: love, like, and donate. The donate pile we pay forward right away. The like pile we hold onto, and whatever we don’t reach for within one month we donate. The love pile we use to make up our capsule wardrobe.
Choose comfortable basics in neutral colors that easily mix and match, so they go with everything. If you want to add in color or patterns that suit your personality, do so only after you have these staples covered.
Forego the synthetics, instead opting for natural materials like organic cotton, linen, hemp, etc.
Live with your capsule for a bit before deciding where the gaps are.
If there are pieces you need and are missing, instead of shopping at fast fashion retailers, support ethical/sustainable makers or artisans — there are so many incredible small businesses out there, with exceptional quality. You can also shop secondhand or participate in a clothing swap. For special events, rent or borrow attire instead of splurging on a dress/tux you’ll only wear once.
Invest in quality over quantity. I’ve always been of the mindset of “fewer, better” or “buy less, choose well”, if it’s within your means.
Before making a purchase, sit with it. Do you really need this item? Do you love this style, and plan to wear it over and over again? Does it work with what you already have in your closet? Or do you just have the itch to purchase something new? Will it end up in the “like” or “donate” pile in a matter of months?
Remember that it’s not about buying. Don’t use a capsule wardrobe as an excuse to go on a shopping spree every season. Build it slowly and with intention, and make it last for years.
Take care of what you own. Don’t toss at the first signs of use — repair when you can.
Do you have a capsule wardrobe? What are your favorite tips for starting one?