How to Create a Sustainable Winter Capsule Wardrobe - Good On You
07 Jun

How to Create a Sustainable Winter Capsule Wardrobe

As winter creeps up on us, it’s time to drag all our cold-weather gear out from the back of the closet and air it out a bit before adding it to the rotation. I don’t know about you, but my accumulation of coats, beanies, scarves, and gloves has got a little out of hand over the years of moving between climates! What better time to learn how to create a sustainable winter capsule wardrobe and to share it with all of you?

The benefits of seasonal capsules

We’ve talked about building capsule wardrobes before, so consider that your starting point, then come right back!

Welcome back. Now you know that capsule wardrobes bust decision fatigue, reduce our footprint on the planet, save us money, and overall de-stress our relationship with clothes. Sounds like a win-win to me! While it is possible to make a single year-round capsule wardrobe, it’s impractical for many people—especially those who live in more extreme climates with four distinct seasons. There’s not much use having your heavy winter coat taking up space on those balmy beach days! So, consider neatly packing away everything you know won’t work for winter, and let’s get stuck in.

Step one: Take stock

First things first: 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 scarf has a hole you’ve meant to fix, now’s the time.
  • If you have an old beanie 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 so it can keep someone else warm.
  • If your knitted gloves are literally falling apart, pop them in a bag of beyond-repair clothes to take to a fabric recycling bin or drop off at an animal shelter.
  • The ‘to keep’ pile should be made up of pieces that make you happy, fulfil a specific purpose, and are comfortable for those cold winter days!

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 a winter 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 winter capsule wardrobe

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

  • long sleeve shirts
  • sweaters
  • a warm coat
  • comfy jeans
  • long socks
  • knitted accessories (beanie, scarf, gloves)
  • boots
  • cosy PJs/loungewear

Feel free to throw in a long dress or skirt if your climate allows it or any technical gear you might need if you plan on some winter sports!

Step three: Check it twice

List complete, it’s time to compare it against what landed in your ‘to keep’ pile and start to fill the gaps. There might be a few gaps, or there might not!

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 disposing of whatever doesn’t make the cut!

So far, for me, it has gone a little like this. Last season’s black ankle boots were worn to the bone, so I opted for some second hand non-leather ones on Depop and have been wearing them most days since. Sadly, I realised that my two sets of winter PJs (both with a cat print, don’t judge me) were stretched out beyond use, so I upcycled them into peg bags. Simply cut off half the leg, tuck a couple of inches inside and secure with an elastic band, then cut two holes in the top to hang and recycle any leftover scrap fabric. I then got my hands on a long set of Boody bamboo PJs to see me through the season, and they’re probably the comfiest PJs I’ve ever owned.

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 I mentioned, 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 winter coat for yours or take a couple of scarves off your hands? Next, head to your local op 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 winter capsule wardrobe that should last you many winters to come.

A few of my favourite cold-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!

A.BCH

Rated: Great

A.14 Long Sleeve Skivvy – 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. This black skivvy is made from 100% GOTS certified organic cotton and is perfect for layering! Find the range in sizes XS-XL, or customise to fit you!

See the rating.

Shop A.BCH.

Citizen Wolf

Rated: Great

The Long Crew – Ships internationally from Australia

Citizen Wolf uses revolutionary technology to give you high-quality custom fit t-shirts. It’s so confident in its t-shirts that it guarantees they’ll be the best you’ve ever worn! After capturing your customisations, the brand hand makes each tee in Sydney from certified sustainable fabrics like cotton, hemp, and Merino wool milled in Melbourne. A white long sleeve crew neck is a flattering addition to a sustainable winter capsule wardrobe and works under lighter-coloured outerwear for a softer look, or paired with black for contrast.

See the rating.

Shop Citizen Wolf.

L’ENVERS

Rated: Good

BRIGITTE Sweater – Ships internationally from Spain

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. For a chunky vegan knitted sweater, I love this undyed cotton one. You can find the knitted collection in sizes XS to XL or even customise your own piece.

See the rating.

Shop L’ENVERS.

Shop L’ENVERS @ thegreenlabels.

MATE the Label

Rated: Great

Organic Terry Raglan Sweatshirt – Ships internationally from the US

This vintage inspired classic raglan pullover is perfect for all-day wear. It comes in an array of gorgeous colours and features a relaxed fit made from 100% organic cotton French terry, perfect to mix-and-match with the sweatpants or the other pieces on this list. MATE is proudly female-founded and is predominantly operated by women. Sizes are available in XS-3XL.

See the rating.

Shop MATE the Label.

The R Collective

Rated: Great

Dalston Trench – Ships internationally from Hong Kong

The R-Collective’s womenswear collections are made by reusing rescued excess materials from leading luxury brands and reputable manufacturers. The brand uses a high proportion of eco-friendly materials, limiting the amount of chemicals, water, and wastewater used in production. It also ensures the payment of a living wage in its supply chain, which is why it’s rated ‘Great’! Speaking of great, a warm trench coat is a classic for the colder months. This one is made from upcycled wool and could pair with just about anything. Note The R-Collective garments are generally offered in two sizes: XS-S and M-L, with this particular piece coming in one size.

See the rating.

Shop The R Collective.

Shop The R Collective @ ourCommonplace.

Patagonia

Rated: Good

Women’s Silent Down Jacket – Ships internationally from the US

Patagonia is a brand which truly lives and breathes the great outdoors. It makes clothing for trail running, climbing, mountain biking, surfing, skiing, and snowboarding. It has strong labour rights and uses some recycled fabrics, like in this 100% recycled down puffer jacket. It has also committed to reducing its energy use and emissions, and stocks sizes XS-3XL.

See the rating.

Shop Patagonia @ LVR Sustainable.

Shop Patagonia @ Labell-D.

Shop Patagonia.

Shop Patagonia Pre-Owned @ Vestiaire Collective.

Shop Patagonia Kids Pre-Owned @ Retykle.

Outland Denim

Rated: Great

Lucy Jeans – 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. With a high waist to tuck in your tops and a slim enough cut around the ankles to tuck into your boots, the Lucy Jeans tick all the sustainable winter capsule wardrobe boxes! Find most of the brand’s range in US sizes 22-34.

See the rating.

Shop Outland Denim.

Organic Basics

Rated: Great

Re-Tights – Ships internationally from Denmark

Organic Basics offers high-quality sustainable tights in recycled materials, great for layering underneath your pants or skirts on those extra cold evenings. The Denmark-based brand puts sustainable thinking at the centre of everything—it only chooses fabrics that care for our environment, and only ever partners with factories that care about their impact. Organic Basics clothes are available in sizes XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop Organic Basics @ Rêve en Vert.

Shop Organic Basics @ thegreenlabels.

Shop Organic Basics.

Plant Faced Clothing

Rated: Good

Plant Faced Beanie – Ships internationally from the UK

Streetwear without sweatshops, that’s the motto of this British 100% plant-based, ethical, eco-friendly, and cruelty-free streetwear apparel brand. It’s essential to keep your head warm, and this Plant Faced beanie is up to the challenge! Buy Plant Faced Clothing in sizes XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop Plant Faced Clothing.

Mila.Vert

Rated: Great

Knitted Scarf – Ships internationally from Slovenia

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. This elegant yet casual ribbed knitted scarf has clean edges and is made from 100% organic cotton yarn. Find the garments in sizes XS-XL, or create a custom fit order free of charge!

See the rating.

Shop Mila.Vert.

Burberry (Pre-Owned)

Rated: It's A Start

Pre-Owned Burberry Scarves – Ships internationally

Burberry is a British luxury fashion house known for its timeless beige trench coats. The brand has good policies to monitor suppliers, but it still uses exotic animal products. Shopping Burberry second hand allows us to add items to our wardrobe without using additional resources in the manufacturing process, to keep clothes out of landfills, and to (re)discover Burberry’s unique and special pieces along the way, like the classic scarves!

See the rating.

Shop Burberry Pre-Owned @ Vestiaire Collective.

tentree

Rated: Good
woman wearing dark sustainable tentree gloves

Purcell Mittens – Ships internationally from Canada

tentree is a Canadian sustainable lifestyle brand that plants 10 trees for every item purchased. The certified B-Corp brand has already helped to remove tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere and reforested over 5,000 hectares of land (that’s equal to 12,000 football fields). But its commitment to sustainability extends way beyond trees. Using recycled, organic, and circular fabrics, tentree cuts down on huge amounts of waste and water usage with every piece. We love them for their super comfy fabrics and easy wardrobe staples that are available from XS to XL. The Purcell Mittens are made from 50% non-mulesed Merino wool, 50% REPREVE polyester.

See the rating.

Shop tentree.

NICO

Rated: Good

Recycled Cotton Long Socks 3-pack – Ships internationally from Australia

Established in 2012 by Lis Harvey, NICO celebrates minimalism and understated luxury. The brand brings high-quality basics and underwear to the Australian fashion landscape, featuring clean lines, luxe fabrics, and the styles and colours needed for everyday wear. NICO’s factories are signatories to The Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord and are compliant with BSCI and certified with WRAP. Speaking of wrap, wrap your feet in these cosy recycled cotton socks. Find the range in sizes XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop NICO.

Shop NICO @ SlowCo.

Alice + Whittles

Rated: Great

The Limited Edition Allegra Weekend Boot – Ships internationally from Canada

Alice + Whittles favours transparency, ethical manufacturing practices, and sustainable materials as a means of creating long-lasting, positive change. An undeniable sustainable winter capsule wardrobe addition is a good pair of boots, and I’m loving the brand’s Weekend Boot available in seven stylish colourways. Find the boots in EU sizes 36-42.

See the rating.

Shop Alice + Whittles.

A_C

Rated: Good
woman reclining holding black sustainable backpack by A_C

Darcy Daypack – Ships internationally from Australia

Born out of a love for design and a commitment to the Earth, A_C’s design principles are based on a circular economy, producing contemporary but timeless bags and accessories. The Australian brand uses an amazing eco-fabric, cactus leather AKA Desserto Pelle. Its entire product range is vegan, and its use of eco-friendly materials limits the amount of chemicals, water, and wastewater used in production. This Desserto (cactus leather) backpack is perfect for the colder months, with enough room to tuck away one or two layers as you transition between indoors and out—not to mention it’s gorgeous!

See the rating.

Shop A_C.

Boody

Rated: Good

Goodnight Sleep Long Sleeve Set – Ships internationally from Australia

Made from organically grown bamboo, Boody is an Australian clothing brand that supports the trend for all things green and ethical. These cute and comfy bamboo PJs are as good for the planet as they are for your skin. Find the range in sizes XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop Boody.

Editor's note

Feature image via Patagonia, 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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