Sustainable capsule wardrobe basics: how to simplify your closet and make getting dressed easier
You’re standing in your closet feeling the usual cloud descend. You have tons of clothes but absolutely nothing to wear. Your closet is full of dresses that were “the perfect one!” or tops that “will be exactly what I need for the new job.” And yet all those perfect pieces aren’t doing what you need now.
Now imagine walking to your closet, and within two seconds, grabbing the exact outfit to fit the occasion — and your body — perfectly.
If you’ve ever been the woman with a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear, shifting to a capsule wardrobe might be your saving grace.
This guide will explain what a capsule wardrobe is and what pieces you need.
Keep reading for a detailed list of capsule wardrobe essentials plus tips on where to find them.
Table of contents:
- What is a sustainable capsule wardrobe?
- Capsule wardrobe basics to know
- Capsule wardrobe essentials: what every capsule needs
- Ethical, sustainable, fashionable: how to find the best capsule wardrobe pieces with Swahlee
What is a sustainable capsule wardrobe?
What is a capsule wardrobe?
At its most basic level, a capsule wardrobe is a small collection of classic garments that easily mix and match to create a wide array of outfits. These garments focus on being timeless, not trendy. They are still fashionable and can be easily paired with a trendier piece or two as desired.
If you value sustainability and want to make sure your clothes have a positive impact, a capsule wardrobe is a great place to start. Creating a capsule helps eliminate the need to constantly add new garments to your closet. This minimizes excess clothing consumption. However, a sustainable capsule wardrobe is even better because each garment is made with a minimal environmental impact.
A sustainable capsule wardrobe is crafted of eco-friendly garments. Whether purchased from environmentally conscious brands or picked up second-hand, finding garments that look great is the key to building the perfect sustainable capsule wardrobe.
Capsule wardrobe basics to know
As you begin your foray into the realm of capsule wardrobes, it is important to remember that not everyone needs the same garments. Think through your habits and daily needs.
Do you work in the corporate world with a business casual dress code? You’re going to need different pieces than a preschool teacher.
If you’re a college student who spends most of your days running between classes and coffee shop study sessions, your capsule will look different than that of an entrepreneur in the middle of a startup.
Additionally, you might need different things if you live in a warmer or cooler climate. If you live in Miami, you might prefer cotton and linen to woolen items.
When you make your purchases, think through your lifestyle and climate. You have different needs, so you should buy items that accommodate them.
Capsule wardrobe essentials: what every capsule needs
There are some key pieces that form the building blocks of a capsule wardrobe.
Tops and blouses
Every good wardrobe has a few great tops or blouses in it. These should be basic essentials; a good white shirt, a classic black turtleneck, and a neutral button-down. This is also a great place to have one or two patterned tops.
Our top pick
The Upcycled Sari Tie-Neck Halter Top is a perfect splash of color for your capsule wardrobe. It boasts an elegantly flattering fit but maintains simplicity and ease. Each one is made from upcycled saris sourced in Assam, India from local markets. Every piece is one-of-a-kind and is handcrafted with care. With colors ranging from bright and brilliant to neutrally excentric, these pieces are a can’t-miss.
Next, your capsule wardrobe should have a few good pairs of pants. Any full-leg pant that is not denim counts here. The style and quantity you need will vary based on your lifestyle and location.
We suggest opting for neutral options that fit you very well and pair with the colors you love having in your wardrobe.
Some suggestions for pants to add include:
- A well-fitting pair of black dress pants
- Linen or cotton trousers for summer wear (or all-season, depending on where you live)
- Something unique that fits your style such as vegan leather, colored skinny jeans, or printed pants
Our top pick
We may be biased, but our favorite pair of pants are Swahlee's Wide Leg Trousers. These pants feature a classic, complimentary shape with impeccable levels of comfort and are made from 100% natural linen.
These are a great option if you love the look of white pants but always get nervous about stains.
Tees and tanks
Every wardrobe needs a couple of good, high-quality tee shirts and a great tank top or two. These pieces make layering easy and there are many different ways to use a simple tee. We recommend sticking with either neutral colors or the ones you wear often.
You might want to have:
- A good scoop-neck tee in a darker color such as gray
- A square-neck tee
- A classic white tee
- A fitted tank for layering under other garments
- A loose-fitting sleeveless top in a classic color
Our top pick
If you’re looking for a classic yet far-from-basic tee, we recommend ElegantTees, a Nepal-based company that employs women who, without this job, might find themselves in dangerous situations, facing exploitation or re-exploitation.
These tees are made sustainably and feature all your favorite aspects of a classic tee without the fast fashion consequences.
If you’re looking for the perfect sleeveless top to add to your capsule, we recommend Swahlee's Sleeveless Reversible Top. With a boxy, classic fit, reversible necklines, and coconut buttons, this top is a crowd-pleaser.
There is nothing quite like the perfect pair of jeans. You know the ones. They hug all the right curves but never feel uncomfortable and you automatically feel your confidence rise the second you put them on.
A well-fitting pair or two of jeans is a capsule wardrobe must-have. Additionally, having a great pair of denim shorts is a summer essential.
Our top pick
We love Outland Denim because they create high-quality denim products utilizing sustainable practices in ethical ways. Each employee is paid fairly and treated well.
Their cuts are flattering and they have a laser focus on making denim sustainable for both the people who make it and the earth.
Especially in colder months, a good sweater is an absolute must for your capsule wardrobe. Sweaters add so much fun and texture to any outfit but are also great pieces for keeping you stylishly warm.
Some good sweaters to consider include:
- A chunky-knit pull-over style
- A neutral-toned cardigan
- A fun statement piece
Our top pick
We love Boden’s sweaters.
Boden is a London-based fashion house with warehouses located in the USA. They specialize in high-quality, unique garments. Every garment is made from good, sustainable materials. Each stitch is done by a well-paid seamstress who leaves work each day feeling dignified and well-treated.
Dresses and jumpsuits
At least one dress or jumpsuit is a key part of a good capsule wardrobe. Like the other items, this should be a timeless, high-quality piece that you can wear for multiple occasions and years to come. Think LBD or something similar. You want this one to fit you well and make you feel confident.
Some ideal pieces include:
- A classic Little Black Dress
- A jumpsuit with a flattering fit
- A long dress with an elegant silhouette
- A shorter dress with lovely details
Our top pick
Once again, we may be a little biased on this selection but we love our Wrap Dress for this purpose. It is both casual and elegant and comes in three stunning colors. It is made of all-natural fabrics and features beautifully classy details like flutter sleeves and a gentle v-neckline.
Coats and jackets
In addition to being a great way to fend off the chill of winter months, a stylish coat or jacket can transform an outfit. If you live in a cold climate, you’ll want to invest in a good-quality coat to keep you warm.
When you’re shopping for your perfect capsule jacket, make sure it is functional, will last, and fits you well.
Here are some suggestions of coats and jackets you might want to consider adding to your collection:
- A warm puffer coat for cold days
- A lighter jacket or trench coat for when it’s too chilly to go without but too warm for a parka
- A good blazer that can function as both an outerwear piece and a professional jacket
Our top pick
Able is one of the most well-known names in the sustainable fashion community and they have amazing outerwear options.
Not only are their pieces made to last, but they are also made sustainably by well-paid artisans all over the world who are treated with dignity and honor.
This brand does more than make great clothes. They are incredibly earth and people-conscious and ensure that everyone involved with their company is treated fairly. Each garment contributes to a better planet through their commitments to sustainability.
No capsule is complete without a good pair or two of shoes. Again, your lifestyle will play into the type you need. If you are a nurse, you’re going to want to invest in good shoes for running up and down the wards. If you work in a professional environment, you might need a couple of pairs of comfortable heels.
For most women, having these shoes in their capsule meets most needs:
- A good pair of sneakers
- A pair of versatile, comfortable heels
- A pair of sandals
- A pair of athletic shoes (if your lifestyle calls for them)
Our top pick
When it comes to finding good, high-quality shoes that are both sustainable and ethical, we love Nisolo.
Nisolo is ethical and sustainable. Every maker is paid a living wage. With a five-pronged approach to ensuring everything they do is good for people and the planet, this company does an excellent job of moving fashion forward.
When the warm summer months come around, a pair of shorts is a wardrobe essential. You want to try and find something that is versatile and comfortable. Ideas include:
- Classic denim
- A loose-fitting linen
Our top pick
Many brands sell great shorts but we like Made Trade’s shorts selection becuase they are a company that takes their commitment to sustainability and ethicality seriously. They verify each supplier to make sure their supply chain is ethical.
Ethical, sustainable, fashionable: how to find the best capsule wardrobe pieces with Swahlee
Building a capsule wardrobe means finding the best capsule wardrobe pieces, which can be difficult. If you want a sustainable capsule wardrobe, you must find sustainable pieces, which can be even harder.
At Swahlee, we know that not everyone can quickly switch their entire wardrobe. In fact, they shouldn’t! The most sustainable garment you can wear is one that you already have, regardless of its origins, becuase it is already going to cause an environmental impact no matter who owns it.
Start with your closet.
Go through your closet and pull out anything you haven’t worn in the last one year. This goes straight to the donate bin.
Then look through what is left and think through what you enjoy wearing. Toss anything that you don’t love into your donate pile.
Now, try on each piece that is left and make sure you love how it fits both your body and your lifestyle.
Once you’ve narrowed down what you own, take another look at what’s left. Is there anything that is a duplicate or similar? Do you need multiple of these items? If not, you know what to do.
Now that you know exactly what you have, you can figure out what you need. Are you missing any capsule wardrobe essentials? If so, try to purchase them from a sustainable, ethical company.
Remember, when you purchase garments from these companies, the price tag might be higher but that is becuase each garment is an investment. These pieces will last for years to come and still look fantastic. Yes, you will be spending more upfront than if you run to your favorite fast-fashion store, but, in the long run, you are saving yourself time and money while reducing your impact on the environment.
If your budget cannot accommodate a large purchase at the time but you need some key pieces, try finding them second-hand. You can build an ethical, sustainable wardrobe on a budget. Pre-loved garments in good condition can be found in many places:
Swahlee is pleased to offer a line of versatile, high-quality pieces that go with anything and fit the bill for timeless, classic fashion. Each Swahlee garment is made only from natural, luxurious fabric. Every stitch is made with care and double-checked.
When you purchase a Swahlee garment, you’re enabling a woman to work in a safe environment where she can grow and learn without fear of abuse or mistreatment. You are empowering young women in India and making it possible for them to build a better life.
Every Swahlee garment means freedom, dignity, sustainability, and living wages.