a sustainable wardrobe handing on a clothing rack

5 Steps to a Sustainable Capsule Wardrobe

Jane Marsh - August 5, 2022

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The fashion industry has a huge impact on the planet. “Fast fashion” items are created quickly and cheaply by underpaid workers in developing countries. These clothes are often made of plastic, which takes years to disintegrate. Microplastics from these garments eventually wash into the ocean and disrupt marine life. 

Fast fashion items are often poor quality and aren’t used for long. During production, toxic dyes are used to color the fabrics. These dyes pollute local water sources and impact ecosystems around the world. If you’re serious about caring for the planet, you should consider changing your shopping habits. Here are five steps to help you create a sustainable capsule wardrobe. 

  1. Think About Your Time

The first step is to think about the clothing you actually need on a day-to-day basis. Many people end up with too much clothing because they’re shopping for their dream lives. For example, you may shop subconsciously for the beach or your next vacation. While this can be a lot of fun, it’s not very practical. 

Write a quick list of the activities you do on a regular basis. Examples include going to work, lounging at home, hiking on the weekends, etc. Next, write down the type of clothing you need for these activities. Finally, write down any big changes you want to make in your style – just make sure to keep them realistic!

  1. Start With What You Have

Shopping is fun. However, a sustainable wardrobe starts with the pieces you already own. They’ve already been produced and purchased. The longer you wear them, the longer you keep them out of a landfill and reduce your impact on the environment. You can buy new clothes when you need them, but a sustainable wardrobe starts with what you already have. 

To get the most use out of your clothes, you have to wear them. If you’ve owned something for ten years but hate the way it looks on you, it’s not a sustainable item to keep. Weed out the things you don’t actually wear. You will take better care of clothing you love and get good wear out of these items.

  1. Make Outfits Easy 

Capsule wardrobes use a few items to create many different outfits. They save you time deciding what to wear each day and can help you dress well on a small budget. Capsule wardrobes are sustainable because they reduce the number of items you need to own. For example, you can create 12 outfits with just 3 tops, 3 bottoms and 1 jacket. 

Most capsule wardrobes have a coordinating color palette so everything matches. However, you don’t have to go neutral to create a sustainable wardrobe. Instead, start with a few colors you love that work well together. Choose classic pieces you can dress up or down and use accessories like shoes and jewelry for variety. 


  1. Hit the Thrift Store

If you need to purchase new clothes, start with the thrift store for your sustainable capsule wardrobe. Thrift shopping is ideal for a sustainable wardrobe – it reuses old items, is easy on your budget and gives you a fun shopping experience without the environmental cost. Many items in thrift stores are unique, so shopping there can feel like going on a treasure hunt. 

Thrift stores also allow you to experiment with your style and alter garments without undue stress. If something doesn’t work out, you can take it back or reuse it another way. Thrifted items have a low financial and environmental cost, freeing you up to enjoy fashion without worrying about your clothing’s impact on people or the environment. 

  1. Shop Sustainable Brands

Another option is to buy clothing from sustainable brands. Because these items reflect the cost of craftsmanship, you’ll likely have to save to afford them. However, quality clothing from sustainable brands will last a long time if you take good care of it. Choose items that are versatile and will work in your closet for years. 

Sustainable brands are transparent about how their clothing impacts the environment, from production to end of life. They use natural fibers and are thoughtful about their packaging. Their workers are paid fairly and they don’t use toxic dyes to create their clothing. You can read reviews and do your own research to ensure brands are truly sustainable. 

Dress Yourself Ethically 

Fast fashion has become the norm because companies want a profit and customers are willing to compromise for cheap clothing. Unfortunately, cheap materials and fast production have taken precedence over human and environmental health. If you care about the way your actions impact others, it’s time to reconsider your clothing and shopping choices. 

Use this guide to create a sustainable capsule wardrobe that can benefit you and the environment for years to come. Instead of thinking about all the items you don’t have, practice gratitude for the clothing already in your closet. With small, intentional changes, you can create a wardrobe you love and uphold the values that matter to you. 


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About the author

Jane Marsh

Starting from an early age, Jane Marsh loved all animals and became a budding environmentalist. Now, Jane works as the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co where she covers topics related to climate policy, renewable energy, the food industry, and more.