4 Steps to Creating a Sustainable Summer Capsule Wardrobe - Good On You
07 Jun

4 Steps to Creating a Sustainable Summer Capsule Wardrobe

The days are getting longer, the air is warmer, and the sun is shining brighter—yes, my friends, it’s summertime again, and I couldn’t be happier about it! I don’t know about you, but I’ve grown tired of wearing thermals, sweaters, beanies, and warm coats. Get me my shorts, t-shirts, and sandals—I want to feel the heat on my skin and the sand between my toes!

But I also want to get the most out of my day and not spend time choosing what I want to wear. Most of all, I want to feel good about what I’m wearing and be comfortable throughout the day. So what better time to learn how to create a sustainable summer capsule wardrobe and to share it with all of you?

The benefits of seasonal capsules

Capsule wardrobes are all the rage at the moment. They refer to a collection of 30-40 practical and versatile pieces of clothing put together to create an entire wardrobe, usually for a season. Building a capsule wardrobe allows you to narrow your wardrobe down to thoughtfully selected essentials and save yourself multiple decisions every day. If you want to learn more about capsule wardrobes and their many benefits, we recommend you check out our guide, then come right back!

Welcome back. Now that you know everything about capsule wardrobes, it’s time to get down to business!

While you could technically make a single year-round capsule wardrobe, in reality, it might be impractical, especially if you live in regions with four very distinct seasons. With summer fast approaching, there’s not much use in having your heavy winter coat taking up space in your wardrobe! So, put all your winter essentials to one side, and let’s start building your sustainable summer capsule wardrobe.

Step one: Take stock

This is where things might get messy. Take everything out of your wardrobe, put your winter clothes aside, take stock of what you have, and make some decisions. Chances are most items will land in one of four categories: repair, give away, recycle, or keep.

  • Increasing the longevity of what we already own is one of the most sustainable things we can do for our closet, and repairing is a great way to do that! If your favourite summer dress has a hole you’ve meant to fix, now’s the time.
  • If your dress is literally falling apart, pop it in a bag of beyond-repair clothes to take to a fabric recycling bin or drop off at an animal shelter. Swimwear is a little different and can be hard to recycle, but the good news is that it can be upcycled!
  • If you have an old t-shirt in a colour or style that you loved five years ago but can’t see yourself wearing again, consider swapping with a friend or even donating it to a local shelter.
  • Your ‘to keep’ pile should be made up of pieces that make you happy, fulfil a specific purpose, and are light for those warm summer days! There shouldn’t be any ‘just in case’ items in your pile, because let’s be honest, ‘just in case’ situations never happen.

Step two: Make a list

Now that you know exactly what you have, it’s time to make a list of every must-have for your summer capsule wardrobe. That way, you can see what boxes are already ticked and what you might need to source elsewhere!

What to include in your eco-friendly summer capsule wardrobe

This list will, of course, require tweaking depending on where you live, your work life, what you have planned for the summer, and your style, but this is generally a good place to start for most people.

  • t-shirts, tank tops, or camis
  • sweater or cardigan
  • jacket
  • light jeans and trousers
  • shorts
  • skirts
  • short and long dresses
  • sandals
  • swimwear
  • a hat and sunglasses to protect your lovely face and eyes from the sun
  • breathable PJs for those warm summer nights

Feel free to throw in a light scarf or warmer jacket if your climate requires it or any technical gear you might need if you love outdoor activities!

Step three: Check it twice

Now that you have your list, it’s time to compare it against what landed in your ‘to keep’ pile and start to fill the gaps, if there are any!

Wherever you land, a good general rule of thumb is that the most sustainable thing we can do is shop our closet. The second best is hunting down some appropriate pre-loved clothing, and finally investing in quality pieces from ethical brands. And, of course, thoughtfully and sustainably disposing of whatever doesn’t make the cut!

This year has been pretty simple for me—I invested in neutral basics last summer, which I love and will wear again this year. I’ve gained a little weight over the years, so I’ll be donating a pair of wide-leg trousers that I’ve owned for five years to my mom (who has been harassing me to have them). I also noticed some of my old t-shirts have sweat stains (it’s not gross, it’s natural), so I’m planning to try one of these tricks to remove yellow stains this weekend. In terms of new additions to my wardrobe, I wanted a long flowery dress, so I bought a pre-loved one from Vinted a few weeks ago. And since I’m planning a camping trip this summer, I’m on the hunt for some ethical and sustainable activewear and hiking gear!

While it may take a little more thought and time than simply chucking half your clothes in the bin then heading to the nearest chain store to stock up on the latest trends, it’s a rewarding process that benefits you, workers, animals, and the planet in the long run.

Step four: Get your goodies

So, you know exactly what you have and what you need. Time to get your goodies! As mentioned earlier, after you’ve exhausted the ‘shop your closet’ option and made any repairs, the next best thing is second hand. Why not meet up with a few friends and see if they want to swap their summer dresses for yours or take a couple of t-shirts off your hands? Next, head to your local second hand shop or jump online to one of the many second hand apps and websites for pre-loved or vintage gear. If, after all that, you still can’t quite find what you’re looking for, it’s time to invest in some quality, ethical fashion pieces for your sustainable summer capsule wardrobe that should last you many summers to come.

A few of my favourite hot-weather staples

These brands are rated ‘Good’ or ‘Great’ on the Directory, which means they prioritise people, the planet, and animals when producing their clothes and accessories!

ISTO

Rated: Good

Women’s Crew Tee – Ships internationally from Portugal

An excellent capsule wardrobe staple, this basic organic white t-shirt is a must-have! ISTO’s mandate is simple: create clothes to transcend the seasons and work as staple items in your wardrobe all year round. It has one single collection and pursues quality over quantity to try and make its items permanently available. It uses organic and natural materials, and is incredibly transparent in showing you the true cost of your clothes when you go to purchase a piece for your wardrobe. The range is available in XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop ISTO.

Afends

Rated: Good

Hemp Rib Singlet – Ships internationally from Australia

Afends is an Australia-based fashion brand leading the way in organic hemp fashion, using renewable energy in its supply chain to reduce its climate impact. Made of lightweight and breathable hemp and OCS certified organic cotton, this essential singlet puts sustainability, comfort, and ease at the forefront. You can find the full range in sizes XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop Afends.

Whimsy + Row

Rated: Good

Dylan Cami – Ships internationally from the US

The Dylan Cami makes a cute and casual look on its own, or an essential layering piece in case it gets chiller at night where you are. 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. By limiting each garment to short runs, Whimsy + Row utilises deadstock fabric, reduces packaging waste, and takes care of precious water resources. Find most products in XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop Whimsy + Row.

LANIUS

Rated: Good

Wrap Blouse – Ships internationally from Germany

Offers

black woman wearing moss green knitted top by ethical brand LANIUS

LANIUS – Knits

Wrap yourself in the softest knitwear, perfect for relaxing at home or staying snug outside. Summer Sale! Up to 20% off knits. (Available in the UK and Europe only) (Ends: 4 AUG)

Shop now
woman wearing white denim jacket ethically made by LANIUS

LANIUS – Coats and Jackets

LANIUS creates beautiful pieces that keep you warm while making you feel good, inside and out. Summer Sale! Up to 20% off jackets and coats. (Available in the UK and Europe only) (Ends: 4 AUG)

Shop now
salmon coloured sustainable shorts with stripes by LANIUS

LANIUS – Shorts and Pants

From classy to flirty, but always responsible: LANIUS trousers fit for every occasion. Summer Sale! Up to 20% off shorts and trousers. (Available in the UK and Europe only) (Ends: 4 AUG)

Shop now
woman wearing white sustainable wrap top by LANIUS

LANIUS – Tops

Delicate, minimalist, ethical tops and t-shirts that can be combined in many ways. Summer Sale! Up to 20% off tops. (Available in the UK and Europe only) (Ends: 4 AUG)

Shop now
black woman wearing long navy ethical dress by LANIUS

LANIUS – Dresses

Fair and organic fashion with a feminine touch. Noble looks that radiate liveliness. Summer Sale! Up to 20% off dresses. (Available in the UK and Europe only) (Ends: 4 AUG)

Shop now

This delicate, minimalist perforated lace blouse, made from certified organic cotton makes us long for summer. “Love Fashion, Think Organic, Be Responsible” are the maxims of LANIUS. The German brand uses eco-friendly materials, like GOTS certified cotton. All LANIUS facilities are SA8000 certified and it is a member of the Fair Wear Foundation. LANIUS’ clothes are available in EU sizes 34-44.

See the rating.

Shop LANIUS.

L’ENVERS

Rated: Good

Anna Cardigan – Ships internationally from Spain

We love this cropped cardigan, perfect for layering above Whimsy & Row’s Dylan Cami! L’ENVERS’ mission is to design fewer pieces made in a better way. Specialised in knitwear, this Spanish brand believes in mindful, careful, and slow consumption, offering timeless editions guided by conscious, sustainable materials. You can find their knitted collection in sizes XS to XL, or even customise your own piece.

See the rating.

Shop L’ENVERS.

Shop L’ENVERS @ Immaculate Vegan.

Shop L’ENVERS @ thegreenlabels.

nu-in

Rated: Good

Denim Trucker Jacket – Ships internationally from Sweden

This is just a great denim jacket, made from organic and recycled cotton. I want to get my hands on it right now! nu-in is a European brand that features activewear, loungewear, and underwear collections, as well as trend-led men’s and women’s ranges. It prioritises the planet by using a high proportion of eco-friendly materials, and reuses offcuts to minimise textile waste. The brand is inclusively sized, and features an extended sizing range up to 6XL!

See the rating.

Shop nu-in.

Levi’s (Pre-Owned)

Rated: It's A Start

Second Hand Levi’s Jeans – Ships internationally

Levi’s is committed to producing quality, hard-wearing products, and it continues to make strides with regards to environmentally sustainable production methods. This includes its Waste<Less range, made from 20 percent post-consumer waste.

See the rating.

Shop Levi’s Pre-Owned @ Vestiaire Collective.

Armedangels

Rated: Great

Linen and Lyocell Pants – Ships internationally from Germany

We’ve already talked about our love for wide leg pants before, and this orange pair from Armedangels is my new favourite for a sustainable summer capsule wardrobe! Affordable, ethical, and on-trend. Germany’s Armedangels gets a ‘Great’ rating 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 @ thegreenlabels.

MUD Jeans

Rated: Great

Abby Shorts – Ships internationally from the Netherlands

The Abby Short is the perfect short short, with its mid rise and frayed hem keeping with the casual feel. Dutch denim brand MUD Jeans is all about sustainability. Not only does it offer a repair service, but it also provides a rental service where you can lease a pair of jeans for up to a year! MUD Jeans uses a combination of GOTS certified organic cotton and post-consumer recycled cotton. MUD Jeans are available in a range of sizes, usually from W25 L30-W33 L32 for women and W28 L34-W36 L34 for men.

See the rating.

Shop MUD Jeans.

Shop MUD Jeans @ Labell-D.

Birdsong

Rated: Good

Linen Mini Skirt – Ships internationally from the UK

A great neutral skirt, made from Irish linen in London. The skirt costs £135, of which £38 goes towards Living Wages and local charities. Love! Birdsong is a boutique label producing gorgeous womenswear. Its clothes are handmade in London by knitters and seamstresses earning above the London living wage. The business is built on a philosophy of fairness and authenticity, promising customers “no sweatshop, no photoshop”. Birdsong’s products are inclusively sized from 2XS-3XL.

See the rating.

Shop Birdsong.

Spell

Rated: Good

Dylan Smock Dress – Ships internationally from Australia

Crafted from soft organic cotton with organic cotton lining for easy wear, the Dylan Smock Dress is an elegant style featuring eye-catching broderie anglaise. Spell is an Australian modern-bohemian fashion brand inspired by far-off places, vintage treasures and childhood memories. All garments are available in sizes XXS to 2XL, proudly designed and sampled in Byron Bay, and produced ethically in factories around the world.

See the rating.

Shop Spell.

Christy Dawn

Rated: Great

Dawn Dress – Ships internationally from the US

Christy Dawn’s namesake dress is described as a “goes-with-everything, first-thing-we-reach-for-in-our-closet, never-fails-to-make-us-feel-beautiful” piece, and we couldn’t agree more! Christy Dawn is a minimalist showroom for vintage-inspired women’s clothing and footwear, locally made with surplus fabric. The US brand rates ‘Great’, making it a fabulous boho option for your sustainable summer capsule wardrobe. Find the clothes in standard sizes XS-XL, or shop the Extended and Petite collections.

See the rating.

Shop Christy Dawn.

Nomadic State of Mind

Rated: Good

JC Sandals – Ships internationally from the US

Machine washable, dryable, vegan, colourfast. You will love this sandal throughout the warmer months. Nomadic State of Mind hand-crafts vegan sandals made of rope, up-cycled sailcloth, hemp, and recycled plastic bottles. The brand also provides jobs for workers from disadvantaged communities in Nicaragua.

See the rating.

Shop Nomadic State of Mind.

The Nude Label

Rated: Good

Crossback Swimsuit – Ships internationally from Spain

Made of regenerated nylon, this is the ideal swimsuit for summertime. And we love the cheeky fit! The Nude Label curates comfy vegan underwear, swimwear, and sandals that feel as good as they look. All the pieces are made in a family-run factory in Valencia, Spain. The closeness to the studio allows the Nude Label to have a bigger control over the process and ensure good working practices. Most products are available in XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop The Nude Label.

Unrecorded

Rated: Good

Organic Cotton Bucket Hat – Ships internationally from the Netherlands

Aaaand, we’re back to the 90s. Bucket hats are trending again, and for good reason—they’re just good, staple hats! 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.

MATE the Label

Rated: Great

Tencel Sleep Short and Tank – Ships internationally from the US

Tencel is breathable and versatile, making it a great material for sustainable sleepwear and ethical pyjamas. We won’t blame you if you decide to wear these shorts and tank tops during the day, too! MATE the Label creates clean essentials made with GOTS certified organic fabrics and low-impact dyes. Its goal is to offer women everywhere a clean product that is just as beautiful as it is sustainable. It is proudly female-founded and is predominately operated by women. This US brand also manufactures locally to reduce its carbon footprint. Find the range in inclusive sizes XS-3XL.

See the rating.

Shop MATE the Label.

studio JUX

Rated: Great

Cleo Sunglasses – Ships internationally from the Netherlands

And finally, what sustainable summer capsule wardrobe would be complete without a great pair of sunglasses? The good news is, glasses don’t have to be made from plastic. These big frame green sunglasses are made from cotton-based biodegradable acetate! Amsterdam based studio JUX designs fairtrade and sustainable clothes and jewellery with its own factory in Kathmandu, focusing on women empowerment projects. Find most products in sizes 34 to 42 for women and S to XL for men.

See the rating.

Shop studio JUX.

Editor's note

Feature image via Studio JUX, all other images via brands mentioned. Good On You publishes the world’s most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet and animals. We love to recommend some of the best sustainable brands, rated ‘Good’ or ‘Great’. We also encourage shopping pre-owned as another great way to reduce the impact of our fashion choices. Use our Directory to search more than 3,000 brands. We may earn a commission on sales made using our offer codes or affiliate links.

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