Five Tips for Crafting a Capsule Wardrobe that Will Help Your Wallet & the Planet

By Cora Hirashiki
By Cora Hirashiki

Many of us at some point have dreamed of having a massive walk-in closet: It would be like stepping into our favorite shop, with the promise of unlimited chic outfits. Shoes in every style, pants in every color. Who wouldn’t want to be able to wear something “new” every day of the month?

Yet, the concept of the “capsule wardrobe” questions this fantasy and asks us to reconsider what the ideal closet should really look like. In the 70s, London boutique owner Susie Faux coined the term and recommended curating a beloved wardrobe of a dozen well-made items that all complement one another. From there, you would add a couple of seasonal or trendy pieces only a few times a year. Faux believed this minimalistic approach would save money, time, and space.

Above all, it would be liberating. Indeed, the “limits” of the capsule wardrobe actually free you to forego popular fast fashion pieces and instead, invest in quality items that make you look fantastic and create your own personal style.

There is another reason to consider the merits of a capsule wardrobe – the landfill. As The Huffington Post reported, “Americans alone produced 15.1 million tons of textile waste and 85% of that ended up in landfills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. On average, each American throws away roughly 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles each year, equivalent in weight to more than 200 men’s T-shirts.”

At the Craftsmanship Initiative, we particularly love the idea of a capsule wardrobe because it guides us to choose beautifully crafted pieces that are unique, durable, and made ethically and sustainably. When you have a limited number of slots in your closet, you’re bound to be more conscientious about what goes in it, and also appreciate your clothing more.

Alden Wicker, sustainable fashion speaker and @ecocult blogger.

For tips on how to craft the perfect capsule wardrobe that will make getting dressed effortless, fun, and more environmentally sound, read on:

  1. Pick a number under 40.

For the amount of items in your wardrobe for each season (including clothes, outerwear, and shoes), choose a number — whether it’s 12, 20, or 30 — and stick to it. Fitness clothing, accessories, and pajamas can be counted “outside” of your capsule wardrobe, but it helps to put a limit on those too.

  1. Clear out your current wardrobe.

Think about packing for a month-long trip. What would you take? You’d pack clothes that are versatile, both in how they mix with other clothes and for what occasions you can wear them. Then think of the items you would leave behind and consider if you can let go of them. For anything that doesn’t make the cut, try to donate or sell — unless they’re literally falling apart. If an item is in good condition, you could also ship it to Union & Fifth, which will resell it and donate 75% of the proceeds to a charity of your choice.

  1. Buy less, but buy the best you can afford.

By buying less, you can afford to invest in better quality or designer pieces, especially if you shop on Yoox, The Outnet, or The Real Real. Always shop for quality and make sure they’re versatile pieces that you’ll wear often. Read the labels. Buy clothes made of sustainable and recyclable materials. Clothes that can be washed are better for the environment than those that need to be dry-cleaned. With the exception of special occasion outfits, think about the price per wear, not the total price. In the long run, an expensive item you wear frequently is less expensive than a fast fashion piece that’ll only last one season.

  1. Only buy things that you absolutely love and are perfect on you.

If something is on sale, but doesn’t “spark joy” or isn’t an excellent fit, pass on it. No need to worry about fashion trends – simply pay attention to what looks good on you.

  1. Get it tailored.

If an item checks all the boxes (it’s high quality, makes you feel good, and pairs well with the rest of your wardrobe), but could be just a bit tighter or a tad shorter, find a good tailor and have them work their magic before you even put it in your closet. This will ensure that it’s immediately part of your wardrobe rotation and doesn’t become a never-worn piece.

To see what types of clothing you should be filling your capsule wardrobe with, read Laura Fraser’s article “The Antidote To Fast Fashion? System Dressing” in Craftsmanship Quarterly.

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