26 Nov

Capsule Wardrobes: How to Build a Sustainable Closet for Life

Capsule wardrobes help to bust decision fatigue, reduce our footprint on the planet, save us money, and overall de-stress our relationship with clothes. Here are our top tips and favourite brands to create the perfect capsule for you.

Have you ever pulled open the doors of your wardrobe, only to find yourself groaning that you have nothing to wear? At this point, it can be tempting to rush out and buy something new, fun, and affordable. But if it’s this kind of quick-fix buying that leads to the “nothing to wear” dilemma in the first place, then we’re just running in circles. Cue the “capsule wardrobe”.

What is a capsule wardrobe?

The term “capsule wardrobe” was coined by British fashion icon Susie Faux in the 1970s. A traditional capsule comprises a collection of anywhere from 10-50 practical and versatile pieces of clothing put together to create an entire wardrobe for a season, but the definition isn’t so strict today.

The main thing is that the pieces are interchangeable, enabling you to build countless outfits from fewer items overall. Season, lifestyle, or event-specific capsules are also popular now. So while the concept isn’t new, it represents a modern shift in thinking about how we wear clothes in the age of fast fashion and is inspiring significant change in our consumption habits.

Why we love it, and why you’ll love it too

In our busy lives, many of us reach the point of decision fatigue early on in our day. By narrowing your wardrobe down to thoughtfully selected essentials, you’re saving yourself multiple decisions every day. You’re also far less likely to turn to impulse buying when getting dressed is so simple, so going capsule can help curb an unhealthy shopping habit, too.

Alongside the everyday stresses, the fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters in the world, so changing your clothing habits is not just a lifestyle fix but a planet fix, too. Thinking mindfully about how our fashion purchases might improve our daily lives fosters an emphasis on quality over quantity, reducing waste and saving us money in the long run.

And the benefits are proven. A recent study on capsule wardrobes by the International Journal of Market Research had promising results, showing “a positive impact of a 3-week capsule wardrobe on our participants who felt less stressed, detached from fashion trends, have found joy in their fashion style, and enhanced their awareness of conscious consumption.” How cool is that?

Capsule and minimalist creators to follow

Numerous fashionistas and bloggers swear by the capsule wardrobe or similar minimalist wardrobe systems. Here are some who inspire us:

Daria Andronescu with Wonder Wardrobe

For the last few years, capsule wardrobe queen Daria Andronescu has been taking newbie ethical fashionistas by the digital hand and helping them on their way to sustainable style. Her Wonder Wardrobe YouTube channel has almost 80k subscribers, who are treated with regular tips, news, and fashion finds.

Courtney Carver with Project 333

Courtney Carver’s diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis moved her to “create a life with time and space for what really matters”. After feeling the benefits of minimalist living, she started the popular movement Project 333, which encourages people to create a wardrobe of 33 items every three months.

Candice Tay

Since shifting her mindset to more conscious consumption in 2018, Candice has been running a slow fashion and sustainable living blog with minimalist, repeatable capsule outfits. Her maternity and postpartum capsules and her simple styling videos on Instagram stand out. She also reviews slow fashion brands to help you make better choices when buying new.

Verena Erin with My Green Closet

Verena is a dedicated minimalist, environmentalist, and capsule-ist. We love her YouTube channel because it’s instructive and gives excellent visual inspo, showing us how to create many gorgeous outfits with just 30-ish items of clothing. Check out her Capsule Wardrobe Essentials video.

Caroline Joy with Unfancy

Caroline capsule-fied her wardrobe back in 2014 and has been blogging about her ever-evolving journey since then. With timeless and easy-to-understand seasonal wardrobe guides and even travel packing guides, Unfancy is a fantastic minimalist resource as you dip your toe into a simpler closet.

Capsule step-by-step

Building a capsule wardrobe is about choosing a logical selection of clothing that you not only love to wear but that is practical and versatile.

Take stock

To begin the process, you will need to pull everything out of your closet and take stock. Some questions you can ask yourself about each item are:

  • Have I worn it in the last year?
  • Does it fit my day-to-day lifestyle?
  • Does it suit my body right now?
  • Does it go with my other clothing?
  • Do I love it?

These questions will help you make decisions about what can stay and what should go. Chances are most items will land in one of four categories: repair, give away/sell, recycle, or keep.

Make a list

Next, make a list of what your capsule should contain. The content of your capsule wardrobe will vary depending on the season and your individual style. But importantly, you want to have a balance of tops, bottoms, layers, accessories, and shoes. Neutral colours that pair well are key, though of course, bold prints and colours have a place in a particular capsule style, too. Generally, having core pieces in neutral tones and selecting a few accent colours per capsule helps to simplify the mix-and-match process.

Cropped shot of a black and an olive green ethical tee made by The Classic T-Shirt Company.

Find and fill the gaps

At this stage, it’s a good idea to cross-reference your list with what you already own so you can see where the gaps are and decide how best to fill them. Once you have exhausted everything you own, consider shopping second hand or swapping with friends. Chances are you’ll be left with only a few missing pieces after all that, and you can consider supporting some ethical brands to round out your closet.

To help you out, we’ve curated a list of “Good” or “Great” brands below that will act as perfect staples or gap fillers for the beginner’s capsule wardrobe to last this season and many to come.

Tops

Dressarte Paris

Rated: Good
close up of custom silk blouse and person looking through tops by Dressarte Paris

Custom Sustainable Capsule Wardrobes – Ships internationally from France

Dressarte Paris is a custom-made clothing label that curates unique clothing for a worldwide clientele. It sources luxurious surplus and eco-friendly fabrics to create a wonderfully chic sustainable wardrobe. Its products are made to order where you can choose from existing sizes, or enter in your own measurements for a custom order that not only minimises textile waste but celebrates all sizes.

See the rating.

Shop Dressarte Paris.

Armedangels

Rated: Great
woman wearing white sustainable ECOVERO blouse by Armedangels for capsule wardrobe

CEYLAAN Blouse – Ships internationally from Germany

Affordable, ethical, and on-trend. Germany’s Armedangels gets a top score overall from us. The brand covers all the basics for women, men, and kids. Armedangels' quality and long-lasting pieces are made from eco-friendly and certified materials, like Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified cotton. The brand also adopted the Fair Wear Foundation Code of Conduct to protect its workers abroad. Its products are available in sizes XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop Armedangels.

Shop Armedangels @ Earthkind.

Shop Armedangels @ Veneka.

Dorsu

Rated: Great
woman wearing classic black tee by Dorsu for capsule wardrobe

Classic T-Shirt – Ships internationally from Cambodia

Based in Cambodia, Dorsu creates everyday basics and key signature favourites that form the core of any conscious wardrobe. You can find the full range in XS to XL.

See the rating.

Shop Dorsu.

Shop Dorsu @ Wearwell.

The Classic T-Shirt Company

Rated: Great
black man wearing short sleeve moss green t-shirt made by The Classic T-Shirt Company

Men’s Short Sleeve V Neck – Ships internationally from the US

The Classic T-Shirt Company is a US brand that creates premium tees and ethical t-shirts with luxury and integrity. All of its products are GOTS certified organic cotton and it does not use any animal products. The Classic T-Shirt Company’s range is available in US sizes XS-3XL.

See the rating.

Shop The Classic T-Shirt Company.

Malaika New York

Rated: Good
woman wearing black sustainable top made by Malaika New York

Triangle Sheer Black Top – Ships internationally from the US

Offers

Malaika New York – Site-wide

Zero-waste dresses, tops, pants, sweaters, and more for women that don't follow wasteful trends. Exclusive 20% off with code goodonyou2022. (Ends: 8 OCT)

Checkout code: goodonyou2022
Shop now

Malaika New York is a minimalistic sustainable clothing brand with a focus on zero waste clothing and accessories. The US-based brand aims to eliminate fashion’s harmful environmental effects by utilising minimal or zero waste patterns, while maximising wearability by producing luxe-quality, contemporary garments that make a statement now and into the future. Find most garments in S-XL with some items going up to 2XL.

See the rating.

Shop Mailaika New York.

CARPASUS

Rated: Great
black man wearing natural linen shirt by CARPASUS brand for capsule wardrobe

Linen Shirt Lisbon Nature – Ships internationally from Switzerland

CARPASUS is a Swiss menswear brand that makes fine shirts, ties, socks, and pocket squares. CARPASUS uses GOTS certified cotton and manufactures locally to reduce its carbon footprint. It also traces its supply chain and ensures workers are paid a living wage. Find most products in EU sizes 36-46.

See the rating.

Shop CARPASUS.

Jumpsuits + dresses

Whimsy + Row

Rated: Good
Person wearing cream flare leg jumpsuit ethically made by Whimsy + Row for a capsule wardobe.

Westly Jumpsuit in Cream – Ships internationally from the US

Whimsy + Row is an eco-conscious lifestyle brand born out of a love for quality goods and sustainable practices. Since 2014, its mission has been to provide ease and elegance for the modern, sustainable woman. Whimsy + Row utilises deadstock fabric, and by limiting each garment to short runs, the brand also reduces packaging waste and takes care of precious water resources. Find most products in XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop Whimsy + Row.

Shop Whimsy + Row @ Earthkind.

tonlé

Rated: Great
plus size woman of colour wearing navy blue flowy eco-friendly dress by tonle for capsule wardrobe

Sofia Dress – Ships internationally from the US

tonlé provides environmentally-friendly women's clothing with a zero-waste design process. To do so, the brand uses remnant fabrics from large manufacturers as well as recycled threads and reclaimed wood from local suppliers for its trim and accessories. Its range is inclusively sized from XS-3XL.

See the rating.

Shop tonlé @ Veneka.

Shop tonlé @ Wearwell.

Shop tonlé.

Beaumont Organic

Rated: Good
woman in field wearing black organic dress by beaumont organic for capsule wardrobe

Jaina Organic Dress – Ships internationally from the UK

Beaumont Organic is a UK-based slow fashion brand that blends simple style with ethical production practices. Founded by Hannah Beaumont-Laurencia, the brand also has its own charitable foundation which supports people in Fiji. Find the range in sizes XS-L.

See the rating.

Shop Beaumont Organic.

Bottoms

People Tree

Rated: Great
black sustainable pants by People Tree

Sasha Trousers – Ships internationally from the UK

Offers

Someone wearing a red organic shirt by People Tree.

People Tree EU – Organic Clothing

Celebrate Organic September with People Tree. Choose toxin-free clothing than protects biodiversity, saves water, and is safe for farmers and workers. 15% off organic clothing with code ORGANIC. (Available in Europe only) (Ends: 28 SEP)

Checkout code: ORGANIC
Shop now

A day at the office, a night out, or a relaxed lunch… There’s almost nothing you couldn’t tackle in these finely cut black pants. On top of this, People Tree is a world leader and innovator in the ethical fashion movement. Find most products in UK sizes 8 to 16.

See the rating.

Shop People Tree UK.

Shop People Tree EU.

Shop People Tree @ Wearwell.

Mila.Vert

Rated: Great
woman wearing white sateen culottes by Mila.Vert for capsule wardrobe

Sateen Culottes – Ships internationally from Slovenia

Offers

Someone wearing a white dress and beige trench coat ethically made by Mila.Vert.

Mila.Vert – Site-wide

Contemporary classics designed for those in search of a kinder lifestyle. Crafted in the EU and PETA approved. 10% off with code GOODONYOU. (Ends: 3 OCT)

Checkout code: GOODONYOU
Shop now

Mila.Vert offers timeless, minimal, and chic clothing, adding sophisticated details that give the garments a modern feel. The Slovenia-based brand wants to make desirable clothing, avoiding the ethical and environmental issues that the fashion industry represents. Find the garments in sizes XS-XL, or make a custom fit order free of charge.

See the rating.

Shop Mila.Vert.

Unrecorded

Rated: Good
Person wearing sustainable straight leg denim jeans designed ethically by Unrecorded.

Straight Jeans – Ships internationally from the Netherlands

Unrecorded is an independent clothing brand from the Netherlands that represents a new wave of unisex brands that are rebelling against the nature of fast fashion. Unrecorded is passionate about style, and produces apparel using eco-friendly materials. Its range includes items that are all year round essentials suitable for any wardrobe, available in sizes XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop Unrecorded.

A.BCH

Rated: Great
curvy WOC wearing sustainable black linen skirt by A.BCH

A.31 Long Linen Skirt – Ships internationally from Australia

A.BCH is a Melbourne-based, Australian-made fashion label for individuals who care about garment provenance. It utilises renewable, organic, and recycled materials. Find the range in sizes XS-XL, or customise to fit you.

See the rating.

Shop A.BCH.

Swedish Stockings

Rated: Great
sustainable dotted tights by Swedish Stockings for capsule wardrobe

Doris Dot Tights – Ships internationally from Sweden

Swedish Stockings creates the best quality eco-friendly black and patterned stockings, knee highs, tights, socks, and pantyhose. The brand also offers a recycling program to help clean up the hosiery industry—if you send in three or more pairs of synthetic pantyhose from any brand, you will receive a 10% discount code to use next time you purchase Swedish Stockings! Find the perfect pair in sizes XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop Swedish Stockings.

Shop Swedish Stockings @ LVR Sustainable.

Shop Swedish Stockings @ thegreenlabels.

Shop Swedish Stockings @ Urbankissed.

Outerwear

ASKET

Rated: Good
Person wearing a dark navy recycled wool coat made ethically by ASKET.

The Wool Coat – Ships internationally from Sweden

ASKET has been creating timeless wardrobe essentials since 2015 with revolutionary sizing and fair pricing. The brand disregards seasonal collections, cuts out all the middlemen, and only sells directly to you—putting its entire focus on building a single permanent collection. Find the range in sizes XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop ASKET.

L’ENVERS

Rated: Good
woman wearing beige knitted cardigan by l'envers for capsule wardrobe

Charlotte Wool Cardigan – Ships internationally from Spain

L'Envers' mission is to design fewer pieces made in a better way. Specialising in knitwear, this Spanish brand believes in mindful, careful, and slow consumption, offering timeless editions guided by conscious, sustainable materials. You can find the knitted collection in sizes XS to XL, or even customise your own piece.

See the rating.

Shop L'Envers.

Outland Denim

Rated: Great

Taylor Denim Jacket – Ships internationally from Australia

Outland Denim makes premium denim jeans and clothes, and offers ethical employment opportunities for women rescued from human trafficking in Cambodia. This Australian brand was founded as an avenue for the training and employment of women who have experienced sex trafficking. Find most of the brand's range in US sizes 22-34.

See the rating.

Shop Outland Denim.

Shoes

NAE

Rated: Good
black vegan heel boots by nae brand

Jeanne Block-Heel Ankle Vegan Boots – Ships internationally from Portugal

NAE is a Portuguese footwear, bags, and accessories brand using innovative materials to create goods with “No Animal Exploitation”. Its sustainable materials include recycled PET from bottles, OEKO-TEX® certified microfibres, recycled car tyres, natural cork, recycled thermoplastic, and even pineapple leaf fibre. Find most of the shoes in sizes 36-46.

See the rating.

Shop NAE.

Shop NAE @ Staiy.

Shop NAE @ Urbankissed.

Womsh

Rated: Good
white vegan Womsh sneakers by COMOVITA for capsule wardrobe

The Sneaker – Ships internationally from Spain

Fashion and sustainability can go together and Womsh is the brand that proves it. Its shoes are entirely designed and manufactured in Italy, and its clothing range is made from eco-friendly fabrics like organic cotton. Find most shoes in EU sizes 35-42, and clothes in XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop Womsh.

Will’s Vegan Store

Rated: Good
Close up of a tan vegan leather heeled sandal by Will's Vegan Store.

City Vegan Leather Sandals – Ships internationally from the UK

Will's Vegan Store produces animal and human friendly women's and men's footwear, clothing, and accessories at affordable prices. Find the women's shoes in US sizes 5-10, and men's in 7.5-14.

See the rating.

Shop Will’s Vegan Store.

Shop Will's Vegan Store @ Immaculate Vegan.

Accessories

BEEN London

Rated: Good
deep blue crossbody eco-friendly handbag by BEEN London

Columbia Crossbody – Ships internationally from the UK

BEEN London is a London-based brand turning waste into timeless accessories you’d want to use every day. All their products are made of materials that have been something else in a previous life, including recycled leather offcuts and plastic bottles.

See the rating.

Shop BEEN London.

Shop BEEN London @ Cerqular.

Raven + Lily

Rated: Good
Person carrying black Addias sustainable leather backpack by US-based brand Raven + Lily.

Addis Backpack – Ships internationally from the US

Raven + Lily supports local female artisans to create handmade jewellery, bags, and homewares. This US brand's products are eco-friendly and empower communities through fair wages, healthcare, and education.

See the rating.

Shop Raven + Lily.

Shop Raven + Lily @ Cerqular.

Capsule retailers we love

Veneka

Veneka creates personalised capsule wardrobes featuring sustainable, ethical, and cruelty-free styles. Hand-curated by expert stylists, Veneka will help you discover the power in getting dressed and learn how capsule wardrobes can give us time, mental energy, and resources, instead of taking them away. Some of our favourite “Good” and “Great” brands stocked by Veneka are: Tonle, Armedangels, SKFK, Threads 4 Thought, and Kowtow.

While going full capsule may not be everyone’s cup of tea, taking even a few steps towards adopting a more minimalist wardrobe will help foster a mindful approach to fashion. A slow fashion mindset is not only beneficial for our stress levels and bank accounts, it’s something that can help change the world.

Check out our winter and summer capsule wardrobe guides for more tips and inspo.

Editor's note

Feature image via Unsplash, body image via The Classic T-Shirt Company, all other images via brands and people mentioned. Good On You publishes the world's most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet, and animals. Use our directory to search thousands of rated brands. To support our work, we may earn a commission on sales made using our offer codes or affiliate links.

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