one year ago, I launched my first capsule wardrobe challenge blog post which, literally, changed my life forever. I had set out to find a way to hone in on my personal style but ended up taking the first step on a lifelong path towards a more sustainable, zero-waste lifestyle. While I was working on this post, I felt a little nostalgic so I decided to look back on my first capsule and all I have to say is Y I K E S.
with every capsule, I feel that my wardrobe has grown to be more cohesive, more streamlined, and more functional. Along the way, I have learned a lot and I finally feel like I am in a place where I can, in good conscience, share my process for creating a capsule wardrobe.
where do I begin?!
the best place to start, quite literally, is with what you have. No matter if your wardrobe is big or small, I find that easiest way to start having your capsule come to form is to take a look in your closet and pull out around 10 items that you feel are the most reflective of what you like to wear. Ideally, these same 10 items are probably pieces that get the most wear on a weekly basis. These 10 are going to help you imagine the ideal wardrobe that you’re trying to build, consciously or subconsciously.
take these items out of your closet, lay them out, and try to identify some common themes such as color, fit, or style. for example, you could find that you love black and white contemporary pieces that incorporate pops of color for a statement. On the other hand, you could prefer a more utilitarian style of dress, focusing on boxier shapers and a neutral color palette. Be sure to take your time with this step and be kind with yourself. Your ideal wardrobe is there, it might just be hiding in plain sight.
If you’re not feeling inspired by what’s in your closet, or you’re having difficulty identifying a pattern, social media is a very helpful tool. Collect inspiration from bloggers whose style you admire and use those images to find similarities between their style and what’s in your closet. This might make it even easier to distill that ideal wardrobe.
Use what you have
Now that you’ve identified the ideal wardrobe, it’s time to use it as a foundation for the rest of your capsule. While it may be tempting to go out and purchase a ton of new clothes, the best thing to do first is source things from within your wardrobe. The most sustainable wardrobe is the one you have right now (break this quote out).
First, build out a ratio of pieces that works best for you. These numbers will be different for everyone and there’s definitely no perfect ratio. Here are numbers that I typically stick to when building out my capsule and have found to be most effective:
3-5 pairs of shoes
17-20 tops and/or outerwear
I like to stick to 30 pieces but a capsule can have more or less. Make sure it just works for you.
The best thing to add first are the basic essentials, things like white t-shirts and denim. These pieces go with everything and will allow your statement pieces in the capsule to really shine. After adding in the basics, take stock of the capsule wardrobe and identify what’s missing. If you’re unsure right now, don’t worry. It becomes easier to identify the gaps as you wear your capsule.
Make space for responsible experimentation
Once you have curated everything you could from your closet, you may want to add in a few new pieces from the inspiration you pulled that you want to try out. Even within the sustainability space, I strongly support experimentation, especially as you work to build your first capsule wardrobe. We all naturally want to find what works and what doesn’t.
The most environmentally responsible method to is to seek out pieces you want to try secondhand. Borrow them from a friend or take a day to scour your local secondhand stores. No matter how you do it, it’s okay to find ways to try things you may not like.
By drawing from these secondhand sources, you’re able to do so without impacting the environment. Then, you can upcycle it, give it back, re-donate it, or even sell it. There’s no reason why experimentation can’t be circular or responsible!
What about the rest of my stuff?
Chances are, at the end of this, you’ll also be left with a lot of pieces in your closet that don’t serve a purpose. Follow this hierarchy and you’ll be able to ensure that these pieces are dealt with responsibly:
Is there anything you could try in a different season? Hold on to it and see how you feel later.
Give to friends or family. You’ll find someone who will appreciate the garment.
Sell it – this is a great way to be a part of the circular economy as well as make some extra cash.
Upcycle it – need some new cleaning rags or towels for drying dishes? Old clothes do the job and you’ll extend their lifespan significantly
Donate it – Bring your clothes to a secondhand store so they can hopefully find a new home
Recycle them – If they’re in really bad condition, bring your clothes to your local textile recycling center. They may become a new garment one day!
Whatever you do, don’t throw out your clothes. It’s wasteful and chances are that they’ll be in the landfill forever. Try and bring them new life in any way you can.
The Final Product
After combing your closet and bringing in some pieces to test out, you should be left with a solid capsule wardrobe and it’s time to take it for a spin. I personally find that participating in a challenge on social media is a great way to hold myself accountable and find others in the community who are also doing their part to be more sustainable.
As you wear your capsule, be sure to take note of moments where you notice what’s missing or what could be better about your wardrobe. This process will help inform how your wardrobe can continue to improve.
I have included my fall capsule below with examples from each of the steps you read above. I hope having this visual reference is helpful for you to find a way to start your own sustainable journey.
My Fall Capsule
My core pieces: You can find these pieces in my most recent fall check-in blog post. I tend to stick with neutral pieces focused on a utilitarian style. I love boxy shapes and looser fitting pieces.
3 pairs of shoes
Experimentation: This fall, I am experimenting with some lighter colors. When I first started my capsule, everything was pretty dark because I was worried about stains and dirt. As I’ve gotten better, I am more confident in my spot treatment to get out the inevitable coffee stain. The weather seems like it’s going to be warmer than average so it’s time to see how this works out!