In a nutshell, capsule wardrobes challenge you to choose just thirty to forty items that will make up your wardrobe for at least three months. With careful planning, you’ll easily be able to mix and match pieces from your small but cohesive selection to create a wide variety of full outfits. The capsule wardrobe was invented in the 1970s by British boutique owner Susie Faux, who aimed to emphasise the importance of quality over quantity in clothes, but the concept has been revived recently as more people want to take action against the environmental impact of the fashion industry.
In many ways, capsule wardrobes are an antidote to the unsustainable world of fast fashion. Buying fewer clothes saves resources and prevents textile waste from ending up in landfills. It also makes it easier to choose well-made pieces that will last, rather than playing into the mass production of cheap and unethical products. Capsule wardrobes also encourage you to move away from following the latest trends, letting you focus on your personal style so you can get the most out of your limited selection.
So, capsule wardrobes are great for individuals and the environment in theory, but how do you create one for yourself? There are a few variations on how a capsule wardrobe should work, but here’s some of the basics to get you started.
Capsule wardrobes are all about being more thoughtful about the clothes you have, so some early planning is important.
You’ll want to create a list of the different basic items you’ll need to have a complete wardrobe for the incoming season: tops and bottoms, accessories, appropriate outerwear, and shoes. In order to maximise the number of outfits you can create with your selection, plan to have a few clothes from each category in neutral colours – whites, greys, beige, and navy or black.
Once you’ve planned your essential neutrals, choose a few accent colours or patterns to be the theme of your capsule. Any additional clothing that you add to your basic collection should use your chosen accent so that you know they’ll work cohesively with the whole wardrobe. Plan to select an even mix of tops and bottoms, and voila, you have a list of what clothes you’ll need in your capsule.
Before rushing out to the shops, it’s time to put the clothes you already own to good use. Start by putting away everything that doesn’t belong to the season you’re creating your wardrobe for – you can pull them out again when it comes time to refresh your capsule. For everything you have left, sort it into at least two piles: the things you love and wear the most, and the things you don’t.
The process of identifying what clothes you love serves two important purposes. Firstly, you can check off anything from your list that you already own, saving you from buying it again. Secondly, laying out what you wear the most will remind you of what styles and colours you actually like, giving you a clearer idea of what to include to make the most of your capsule.
If there are any clothes you still really love that you don’t have space for this time, put them with your out-of-season clothes to see whether a few months’ distance lessens your attachment to them, or whether you can bring them in for your refresh. Any clothes that don’t work for you anymore can be disposed of sustainably, whether that’s through recycling, donating, or swapping with a friend.
If you’ve still got a few items left on your list after raiding your current wardrobe, now is the time to shop for something new. But you shouldn’t just buy any new piece that takes your fancy: remember, capsule wardrobes are all about choosing your clothes carefully. Stick to buying things that can be mixed in with your current capsule to create lots of different outfits.
Also think about whether each item will be something that will last you into future capsule wardrobes so that you continue to buy less. Your new clothes should be physically durable, rather than wearing out after a few months, as well as things you can see yourself wearing for years to come. Will that coat be out of style next winter, or will you be excited to get it out again when the time comes?
Similarly, try to pick pieces that you can see working across multiple seasons. Would that wintery button-up look nice with the sleeves rolled up in summer? Could those jeans work in a range of different temperatures? When you’re only allowed to hold onto a few things, it’s all about getting the most wear out of every garment.
These less frequent shopping trips are also great opportunities to shop consciously. Try buying second hand or spending a little more on something that’s been made sustainably and ethically.
Capsule wardrobes are a very cool way to approach sustainable fashion, proving that the industry’s environmental impact can be shaped not just by the production of clothes, but by how we think about dressing ourselves, too!
Even if the idea of having just thirty or forty things in your wardrobe seems a little too impossible, you can still apply the principles of capsule wardrobes. By buying clothes that you know you’ll be able to wear in many different combinations, you can minimise how often you need to buy new things altogether! Whether you’re putting a few fast fashion items back on the shelf or doing a full wardrobe clear-out, it’s a great start to keeping a more sustainable wardrobe.
If you care about making your wardrobe more sustainable, you’re sure to enjoy our Sustainability Spotlight series on the Australian and New Zealand brands changing the fashion industry for the better.
A break from skincare might be just what you need. Skinimalism combines skincare and minimalism to create a really refreshing experience.
Casper Magazine delivers current global design, art, culture, tech, and fashion content, all curated for the perceptive reader.