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Someone in responsibly-made cotton jumpsuit by Harpersage.
22 Sep
Someone in responsibly-made cotton jumpsuit by Harpersage.

4 Steps to Creating a More Sustainable Summer Capsule Wardrobe

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For the northern hemisphere, summer is just around the corner. And with more outdoor events than any other season, deciding what to wear can feel overwhelming. Instead of grabbing yet another cheap tank top from a fast fashion store, why not look into curating a more sustainable summer capsule wardrobe?

Conscious summer capsules for sunny days

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 more 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 a region 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 more 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 more eco-friendly summer capsule wardrobe

moodboard of clothes a summer capsule from more ethical brands.

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
  • a versatile and practical bag
  • 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 better brands. And, of course, thoughtfully 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. My size has changed 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 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, responsibly-made fashion pieces for your more 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.

LA Relaxed

Rated: Great
Someone wearing organic cotton knit tank top by LA Relaxed, and tops laid out in colours, black and green.

Organic High Neck Tank – Ships internationally from the US

This essential organic tank top is produced locally in Los Angeles from breathable cotton knit, putting responsible production, comfort, and ease at the forefront.

LA relaxed is a US-based fashion brand with a motto of “Simplicity, sustainability, style”. The brand specialises in organic and lower-impact clothing with a relaxed aesthetic, using materials like TENCEL Lyocell.

Find the tank top in sizes XS-XL at the time of writing.

See the rating.

Shop LA Relaxed.

Shop LA Relaxed @ Cerqular.

Whimsy + Row

Rated: Good
Someone leaning back on a lounge wearing a cami, and someone wearing a black cami and jeans by Whimsy + Row.

Dylan Cami – Ships internationally from the US

Offers

Female presenting person wearing black top and jeans shorts from Whimsy + Row brand

Whimsy + Row – Sales

Whimsy + Row carries a mixture of curated vintage and contemporary lines providing ease and elegance for the modern woman. Final Sale: Up to 70% off selected styles (Ends: 20 JUN)

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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 a US-based lifestyle brand born out of a love for quality goods and responsible practices. Since 2014, its mission has been to provide ease and elegance for the modern 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 the cami in sizes XS-XL at the time of writing.

See the rating.

Shop Whimsy + Row.

Shop Whimsy + Row @ Earthkind.

LANIUS

Rated: Good
Someone wearing Tencel blouse by LANIUS.

TENCEL blouse – Ships internationally from Germany

Offers

Woman wearing Lanius denim

LANIUS – Site-wide (EU)

LANIUS' slow fashion clothes are the go-to for those who love high quality, low impact materials. Exclusive 10% off with code GOODXLANIUS1024 (Available in the EU only). Minimum spend €50. Sale items excluded. (Ends: 9 JUN)

Checkout code: GOODXLANIUS1024
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This versatile blouse, made from TENCEL, takes you from work week to weekend.

“Love Fashion, Think Organic, Be Responsible” are the maxims of LANIUS. The German brand uses more responsible materials, like GOTS certified cotton. All LANIUS facilities are SA8000 certified and it is a member of the Fair Wear Foundation.

Find the blouse in sizes 34-44 at the time of writing.

See the rating.

Shop LANIUS.

FRANC

Rated: Good
Someone in cropped cardigan by Franc.

The Cropped Cardi – Ships internationally from Canada

We love this cropped cardigan, perfect for layering above Whimsy & Row’s Dylan Cami.

FRANC is a Canadian brand that makes basics so you can enjoy a complete wardrobe built on timeless essentials. The brand ranks “Good” on all fronts: it uses lower-impact materials, traces and visits its supply chain, and uses no animal products.

Find the cardigan in sizes 2XS-4XL at the time of writing.

See the rating.

Shop FRANC.

Levi’s (Pre-Owned)

Rated: It's A Start

Second Hand Levi’s Jeans – Ships internationally

A good pair of jeans never goes astray, season after season, and finding the perfect pair for you will see you through many capsules to come.

Levi’s is committed to producing quality, hard-wearing products, and it continues to make strides with regards to environmentally-sound production methods. However, it is still falling behind for workers and animals, so we recommend shopping the brand second hand, and Vestiaire Collective is a great place to start.

See the rating.

Shop Levi’s Pre-Owned @ Vestiaire Collective.

Armedangels

Rated: Great
Beige wide leg summer TENCEL pants responsibly-made by Armedangels.

SAAMERA Pants – Ships internationally from Germany

We’ve already talked about our love for wide leg pants before, and this beige pair from Armedangels is my new favourite for a more sustainable summer capsule wardrobe.

Innovative, responsible, and on-trend. Germany’s Armedangels gets a top score overall from us. The brand covers all the basics in womenswear, menswear, and kidswear. Armedangels’ quality and long-lasting pieces are made from lower-impact and certified materials, like Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified cotton. The brand also adopted the Fair Wear Foundation Code of Labour Practices to protect its workers abroad.

Find the pants in sizes XS-XL at the time of writing.

See the rating.

Shop Armedangels.

Shop Armedangels @ Earthkind.

MUD Jeans

Rated: Great
Someone in recycled cotton by MUD Jeans.

Marilyn Shorts – Ships internationally from the Netherlands

The Marilyn Short is the perfect pair of shorts, with its high waist and flexible roll up cuff.

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.

Find the shorts in sizes XS-XL at the time of writing.

See the rating.

Shop MUD Jeans.

TALI & TASI

Rated: Good
Someone in wrap skirt in moss by Tasi Travels.

Wilder Wrap Skirt – Ships internationally from France

Check out this Wilder Wrap Skirt which is made of TENCEL and features a flared cut, easily a summer staple.

Tasi Travels is a vegan brand based in Australia that creates gorgeous pieces using lower-impact materials. Handmade to order, you can feel good knowing you are leaving a light footprint behind.

Find the skirt in sizes S-L at the time of writing.

See the rating.

Shop Tasi Travels.

BASTET NOIR

Rated: Good
Someone spinning in linen dress by Bastet Noir.

Smocking Dress – Ships internationally from Macedonia

Crafted from soft linen for easy wear, the made-to-order Smocking Dress is an elegant style featuring a ruched bust and floaty sleeves, perfect for summer days and nights.

BASTET NOIR offers custom-made clothing manufactured by women in Macedonia, ensuring that every purchase contributes to the welfare and education of these women and their children.

Find the dress in sizes 36-40, or in custom sizing at time of writing.

See the rating.

Shop BASTET NOIR.

Christy Dawn

Rated: Great
Someone outside by the seaside wearing Dawn dress by Christy Dawn.

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 option for your more sustainable summer capsule wardrobe.

Find the clothes in standard sizes XS-XL, or shop the Extended and Petite collections. This dress goes up to a XL at the time of writing.

See the rating.

Shop Christy Dawn.

HarperSage

Rated: Good
A lavender cotton canvas short sleeved jumpsuit by Harper Sage.

Sage Utility Jumpsuit – Ships within the US

A short sleeve jumpsuit is a great grab-and-go piece for your summer capsule, and this cropped cotton canvas jumpsuit in dreamy lavender is a great option for a splash of colour this season.

HarperSage is a responsible lifestyle brand for womenswear, making dresses, tops, pants, and more. It’s on a mission to create clothes responsibly, empowering women by partnering with a woman-owned SEDEX certified factory in India and using lower-impact materials that are completely vegan.

Find the jumpsuit in sizes XS-XL at the time of writing.

See the rating.

Shop HarperSage.

MATE the Label

Rated: Good
People wearing tencel tank and shorts by Mate the label.

TENCEL Sleep Short and Tank – Ships internationally from the US

TENCEL is breathable and versatile, making it a great material for more sustainable sleepwear. 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 lower-impact dyes. Its goal is to offer women everywhere a better product that is just as beautiful as it is responsible, and is proudly female-founded. This US brand also manufactures locally to reduce its carbon footprint.

Find the set in sizes XS-3XL at the time of writing.

See the rating.

Shop MATE the Label.

Anekdot

Rated: Good
Someone wearing econyl recycled nylon bikini by Anekdot.

Lin + Core High Bikini Set – Ships internationally from Germany

This mix-and-match adjustable bikini set by Anekdot is the perfect swimwear for a summer capsule since you can change up the style each time you wear it.

Anekdot is a clothing brand that offers more sustainable designer underwear, swimwear, and loungewear handmade in Berlin. They create exquisite intimates upcycling materials from production leftovers, deadstock, and vintage trimmings giving them a new chance to be enjoyed in the process creating limited edition products.

Find the set in sizes XS-XL at the time of writing.

See the rating.

Shop Anekdot.

Nomadic State of Mind

Rated: Good
A pair of sandals by Nomadic State of Mind.

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 handcrafts vegan sandals made of rope, upcycled sailcloth, hemp, and recycled plastic bottles. The brand produces more responsibly, minimising textile waste from the process, creating sandals that are both comfortable and resistant to wear.

Get the pair in sizes 34-47 at the time of writing.

See the rating.

Shop Nomadic State of Mind.

Shop Nomadic State of Mind @ Good.

WAWWA

Rated: Good
A white organic cotton half moon cross body bag with a black strap made responsibly by WAWWA.

Organic Half Moon Cross Body Bag – Ships internationally from the UK

Offers

Three persons posing in WAWWA thsirts

WAWWA – t-shirts

Organic t-shirts, printed to order in Manchester. Buy three t-shirts or more and save £10 per t-shirt (Ends: 3 JUN)

Shop now

By now we’ve all seen (and coveted) that viral Uniqlo bag, but while Uniqlo is making a start on the ethics front, it still has a way to go and we recommend opting for alternative brands if you can. WAWWA’s Half Moon Cross Body Bag ticks all the same boxes and then some as a better brand, and it’s the perfect bag for a summer capsule wardrobe.

UK brand WAWWA aims to make clothing that puts the Earth and its inhabitants first by creating organic, fair trade, and vegan-friendly clothing with a positive social impact. It uses lower-impact materials including recycled materials, non-toxic dyes, and reuses its offcuts to minimise textile waste.

See the rating.

Shop WAWWA.

Kampos

Rated: Good
Someone wearing round sunglasses by Kampos.

Round Blue Sunglasses – Ships internationally from Italy

A sleek pair of sunglasses is perfect for a capsule wardrobe. Make it more sustainable with these lower-impact sunnies from Kampos, available in a square shape and super wearable neutral shades.

Kampos is a luxurious Italian brand that raises awareness of over-fishing and marine pollution. The brand offers consumers unique pieces that are made of recycled plastic bottles, fishing nets, and other lower-impact organic fabrics.

Find most products in sizes XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop Kampos.

Editor's note

Feature image via HarperSage, 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 more 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 thousands of rated brands.

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