How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe that’s Sustainable AND Budget Friendly

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If you want to learn how to build a capsule wardrobe with sustainable fashion that you’ll love to wear season to season, here’s step by step instructions to get you started!

how to build a capsule wardrobe

How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe that’s Sustainable AND Budget Friendly

Who hasn’t fantasized about opening up their closet and finding a gorgeous ensemble that is not only perfect but also earth-friendly? A wardrobe that works, makes us look great, and is kind to the earth is what we’re all striving for. 

You’ve probably scrolled through plenty of exquisite examples of ‘sustainable wardrobe must-haves’ with their responsibly-sourced cashmere, eco-friendly linen, and vegan leather. But the price tags on those designer duds…Yikes. Fear not. 

Looking good while caring about the planet is more about mindset than moolah. With a little creativity and a shift in attitude, you can put together a fabulous collection of classics, including everything from sustainable and stylish sweaters to classic pearl rings, without emptying out your bank account or trashing the planet. 

Yes, you absolutely can build a sustainable capsule wardrobe on a budget! Read on to learn how.

What is a Capsule Wardrobe?

According to Wikipedia, a capsule wardrobe is consciously owning a limited number of clothing articles, a curated wardrobe with items in neutral colors that can all work together to create a suitable outfit for most occasions.

Not only can transitioning to a capsule wardrobe be good for your wallet; it can also be good for the environment as well. As we’ve shifted into a more minimalist mindset over the years, a capsule wardrobe is one thing I am working on achieving. It’s a work in progress and I’m not there yet. Here’s how to create a budget and eco-friendly capsule wardrobe of your own.

decluttering a closet

1. Assess Your Assets as You Build Your Wardrobe

Step one in knowing how to build a capsule wardrobe that’s sustainable AND budget friendly is to wear what you already own. Go through your belongings and see what you have is the first step to take when you start a capsule wardrobe.

Who knows, you may come across the most perfect little black dress or brilliant pair of birthstone earrings that go with everything. There’s more than a good chance that you already have a decent number of high quality staple items hanging in your closet.

folded clothes in a capsule wardrobe

Capsule Wardrobe Basic Must-Haves

Next, separate your clothes, shoes, and accessories into categories. Each person will have different requirements when it comes to essentials, but for most people, capsule wardrobe basics include these 15 items that you can . You want your curated wardrobe to feature neutral colors you can mix and match into many different outfits.

  1. White button-down shirt
  2.  Blazer
  3. Cardigan
  4. Dress trousers
  5. A-line skirt
  6. Little black dress or LBD
  7. Silk scarf
  8. Tees
  9. Jeans
  10. Flats
  11. Heels
  12. Boots
  13. Leather tote
  14. Dress watch
  15. Pearl or diamond stud earrings

Divvy up your belongings into broad categories like work, casual, and dress. Go through one group at a time and further categorize items into tops, bottoms, outwear, accessories, etc. This will make it very easy to see what you have, and what you don’t.

P.S.: Don’t forget the ‘Give Away’ pile! For items you haven’t worn in a year, unless there is a very good reason to hang onto them, they need to go. Consider you own personal style and re-home items that don’t fit. To stick with your eco-conscious plan and donate or recycle these thing instead of sending them to the landfill.

create a capsule wardrobe list

2. Keep a Running List as You Create a Capsule Wardrobe

If you’re lucky, the reorganizing and decluttering steps will be enough to create your basic capsule wardrobe without spending another penny on fast fashion. But if you’re like most people, you’ll discover some gaps. 

Maybe your cheap but cute heels have seen better days, or your white shirts are kind of dingy. 

Your next step is to make up a list of items you’ll need to create your capsule. When drawing up this checklist, remember that a key feature of wardrobe essentials is that they must be versatile. From a sustainability viewpoint, they should also be well-made and preferably organic or sustainably-produced. 

Think twice or even three times before buying anything. What you don’t buy is as important as what you do. The list will help you stay on track when you shop. We are all too familiar with the siren call of the sales rack. 

By having a list to refer back to, you can minimize buyer’s remorse, not to mention not wasting money on things you aren’t really going to wear and won’t last.

Pro-tip: Store your list on your phone so you can refer to it as needed.
make a budget

3. Break Out the Calculator and Make a Fashion Budget

Ignorance may be bliss, but knowing how much you’re spending is essential if you want to stick to a budget. Fast fashion is aptly named. They pump the stuff out, and it falls apart just as fast so you have to keep buying more. 

A cheap tee shirt isn’t so cheap if you only wear it once, and you really don’t want to contemplate the waste of petroleum and other precious resources that went into making it. Before buying one more thing, really think about how many times you’ll wear it. Divide the cost by the number of times you expect to use it. 

A $100 sustainable merino wool sweater may sound expensive at first glance, but if you wear it 50 times over 10 years, that brings the cost-per-wear down to just $2, which could easily wind up costing you less than 10 el-cheapo acrylic sweaters that pill and unravel the first time you put them on.

Shop Favorite Eco Brands Second Hand or Consignment

If you know for a fact that the piece of clothing will only be worn once or twice, such as a fancy gown, renting may make more financial sense. While it can be hard to forgo the luxurious experience of swanning about the specialty shops, all those glittering displays come at a cost which the store passes along to the customer, aka, you. 

If you’re strong enough to withstand the pressure, feel free to browse inside. If not, stick to window-shopping, then head to the consignment shop. I personally love second hand stores like Goodwill and Stuff – you can make money back by selling your clothing or take a tax deduction by donating.

Online consignment is a great resource too. Check out thredUP, The RealReal and Depop. You can often find top eco brands at a fraction of their original cost. 

Reducing consumption by reusing really cuts down on waste and landfill. Also, ask around among your friends and family. Borrowing saves money and trees!

Know When to Shop

The most important thing about changing your shopping habits is to know yourself. Just like when you’re buying food, you shouldn’t shop for clothes when you’re hungry, tired, or stressed. Rather than clicking ‘buy now,’ hit the pause button inside your head. 

Even if an item is from an eco-friendly sustainable brand, do you really need it? Most importantly, don’t think of cutting back as restricting yourself. Instead, treat bargain-hunting like a game. Fast fashion capitalizes on the desire to have something shiny and new right now. 

But just about every brand, even the most exclusive eco-designers, hold end-of-season sales. You can save a bundle and get better quality goods by shopping at those. Because you’re investing in classic items you intend to use long-term, you no longer need worry about hopping on the latest trends. 

Be on the lookout for coupons and promotions throughout the year too. And always remember, no matter how great the deal sounds, nothing is worth the price if you don’t actually wear it. 

Stick to your list and don’t let emotions override practicality. If you’re not sure, walk away. You can always come back later.

learn to sew

4. Learn to Sew

Don’t panic. Going eco doesn’t mean you’ll have to make your entire wardrobe from scratch. But mastering a few basic skills like sewing a button or hem can extend the life of your clothes considerably, keeping more money in your pocketbook and keeping more clothing out of the garbage bin. 

More eco-friendly ideas that will keep your clothes looking good for longer include following the care instructions. If the label says ‘hang to dry,’ don’t cook it in the dryer. Whenever possible, avoid buying dry clean-only apparel. 

Also, treat your clothes with respect. Hang them up when you take them off so they don’t turn into a mass of wrinkles, or worse, get trampled by careless feet.

In Conclusion

A sustainable capsule wardrobe doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Start by organizing what you already have, and always shop mindfully. You will automatically spend less when you know what you own and only buy things that you truly need and love. 

When you have pieces that are made from quality materials, fit well, and work together, you don’t need to constantly buy more, more, more. Consuming less is good for your peace of mind, the planet, and your wallet, making it an all-around winner!

Once you learn how to build a capsule wardrobe, you will never go back to over-stuffed closets full of clothes you never wear.

What’s holding you back from building a capsule wardrobe?

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