Fast fashion is taking over. With the fashion industry being the second most polluting industry after big oil, it’s quite clear the systems in place to make garments are more unsustainable than ever before. What’s worse is that tons of these clothes are never even worn. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, about 500 billion dollars are lost every year from clothes not being worn (and hardly recycled). That’s a lot of money that could go to paying sweatshop workers livable wages, providing them safer working conditions, and implementing more environmentally friendly techniques. 

Social media is partly to blame for this. Instagram (and TikTok for the cool kids) has normalized posting brand new outfits every day. The idea of repeating an outfit is a “faux-pas” online when every post on these over-saturated platforms is supposed to be just as exciting and eye-catching as the one before it. 

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A capsule wardrobe is a selection of clothes and accessories that can be used to create a large selection of outfits. From day to night, formal to casual, and winter to summer, the ideal capsule wardrobe has got you covered. Capsule wardrobes also encourage dressers to rethink how much their clothes are really worth- regardless of whether a piece costs five dollars or five hundred dollars. If you find clothes you value for sentimental, practical, or aesthetic reasons, your wardrobe will become significantly more personally valuable

1. Look at your lifestyle 

Source: Eco-Stylist/YouTube

Have a look at your day-to-day life. How do you normally dress? Consider your job, any relevant dress codes you need to adhere to, and how comfortable you like to feel in your clothing. What do your weekends look like? Do you usually gravitate towards jeans or a sundress when running errands? What about when grabbing drinks with friends? Are you running around all day or sitting at a desk? 

Sometimes the “fanciest” pieces in our wardrobes are the ones that hardly ever get worn! Most people don’t have a lot of opportunities to wear a cocktail dress and stilettos – so why have 10 of each? Dressing up is fun, but if that’s not something you do very often, don’t worry about having loads of formal wear. A capsule wardrobe does not have “just in case” items that you might need once every three years. 

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2. Decide how you want to dress

Source: And I Get Dressed/YouTube

Making your capsule wardrobe is an exciting time! This is an opportunity to carefully assess your style and decide how happy you really are with the way you dress. Maybe you’ve been wearing pieces that you don’t actually feel good in because you never feel like sifting through your drawers to find things you like more. Or maybe you can never be bothered to get the iron out, resulting in you hardly ever wearing your favorite shirt. 

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Have high standards and donate anything that doesn’t truly bring you joy (shoutout to Marie Kondo!) You should strive to always feel comfortable. If the item doesn’t feel good in any way, get rid of it – but please don’t throw anything away. There is a second home for everything! There are even bins to recycle old underwear and socks!

3. Don’t be too concerned about starting with some fast fashion pieces 

Although a capsule wardrobe focuses on quality over quantity, you don’t need to go and replace every fast-fashion piece with an expensive eco-friendly alternative. That would just create more waste! Focus on wearing what you have first, instead of trying to switch every piece out before you’ve even begun wearing your new curated closet. Over time, as you get to understand what your capsule wardrobe needs, you can tweak it so it becomes as functional as possible. 

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What’s great about a capsule wardrobe is how personal it is, and if that fast fashion t-shirt that you’ve had for 7 years makes you happy, keep it and wear it to death! 

4. Sort out pieces that are not versatile  

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Some pieces can be worn all year round if you know how to style them. The key is layering when it gets cold and simplifying when the sun comes out. 

Consider a linen shirt for example. It is a classic summer textile but can also be worn with a turtleneck underneath it for warmth in autumn. Some fashion critics might gasp at the idea of bringing the summery prints and fabrics into the colder months, but if you get too concerned with following the “rules” you’re not going to get very far. This isn’t to say that you have to wear your paper-thin sundress in the middle of winter or try to make that faux fur-lined coat work in summer. Just challenge yourself to look at clothes a little differently, and to have fun with them! 

5. Color coordination 

Source: Alex Miotto/YouTube

If you Google “capsule wardrobe” you’ll notice a lot of neutrals. They are easy to match and not as seasonally specific. But if you’re someone who likes a bit of color, honor that! Capsule wardrobes don’t need to be all neutrals, things just need to match overall. The color palette should look curated and there should be a generally consistent theme.  Imagine if all your clothes were dumped onto your bed. Is there somewhat of a theme? If it’s neons and ruffles, great! As long as there is some consistency to how you’ve selected the pieces, you’ll be fine. 

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6. Change shopping habits 

If you haven’t spent time on eBay or Depop- get on it! Thrifted and vintage will almost always be of better quality.  A fast-fashion trench coat from a mainstream store will never beat the quality of a vintage Burberry one from eBay that only costs a pinch more. 

Beware of the sale seasons which often lead to impulsive purchases because it’s “such a good deal.” If you buy a discounted item and end up only wearing it a handful of times, you are supporting that fast-fashion company’s ideology that clothing is disposable and can be made and thrown away like trash. 

When you do decide to buy something, always try to donate something from your wardrobe. One in and one out is a good rule of thumb to follow.

7. Learn how to take better care of your clothes

Most clothes will last longer if you treat them with the respect they deserve, and all clothing deserves respect! Avoid garments that need to be dry cleaned, which is inconvenient and more importantly, bad for the environment, although there are new more eco-friendly methods of dry cleaning being developed. 

When washing clothes, sort the lights and darks, read washing label tags on garments, and adjust washing machine settings accordingly. It may be tempting to chuck everything into the same load but trust me, those few extra minutes of sorting will be worth it in the long run.

Learning how to mend your clothes is definitely recommended. Knowing how to sew up a hole or hem a pant leg will make keeping clothes looking fresh easy and convenient. No need to bring the shirt with the tiny hole to an expensive tailor for a job you could’ve done by yourself on the sofa while watching bad reality TV. 

Conclusion

You can start building your perfect capsule wardrobe this weekend with a glass of wine! Look for slow-fashion companies to support. Instagram is a great way to find small independent clothing companies that are passionate about sustainability and style, like Poésie by Julie, an eco-friendly made-to-order womenswear brand. 

As you start to look at clothes differently, challenge yourself to wear your garments as many times as possible in a year, and take pride in it! 

Changing the mainstream clothing narrative will be difficult. Moving away from trend-focused fashion takes time and courage — considering every other post on social media is trying to sell you a new look — but starting in your own closet is a solid first step. Good luck and have fun!

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