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How to Create a Sustainable Summer Wardrobe Capsule: A Step-by-Step Guide

Updated: May 13

These steps helped me create a more sustainable capsule wardrobe, save money, feel comfortable in myself as a rule rather than accidental exception and stop contributing to climate change with my poor shopping habits.


inside my wardrobe

Have you ever felt like you had nothing to wear, but had a wardrobe full of clothes? Or left the house in an outfit that didn't make you feel comfortable in yourself? And most importantly, perhaps you also realised that our fast, disposable fashion habits had become unsustainable. That was still me only some two years ago, and this is a little summary of the steps that helped me.

A quick overview of the sections:




But first, the ground rules...


The motivation and tips you will read here, are inspired by Courtney Carver's Project 333, Sophie's @malamalife and Signe's @useless_dk. I particularly recommend that you follow Sophie and Signe on Instagram and YouTube. I love them because they are true advocates of slow and sustainable fashion. I've been following them for years, many of their items have stayed the same, but they skilfully create new content and ideas with what they already have.


And so, alongside these wonderful creators I want to ask you not to rush into donating or getting rid of any items just yet. Please have patience and trust the process, re-doing it as many times as is right for you.


"It's all about the journey and not overnight perfection." - Unknown

Be prepared to outfit repeat and be proud of it. According to Oxfam and WRAP, extending the life of clothes by just 9 months of active use would reduce carbon, water and waste footprints by 20-30% per item.


This is about loving what you have already, and not about sustainable, second hand or vintage only wardrobes, and definitely not about buying new. You may realise you have solid and urgent gaps in your wardrobe, but I would again suggest that you don't rush into replenishing those gaps - after all, you've lasted this long without them already.



Step #1 - Know your style, not your fantasy self


For me, this was ground breaking! I sat down and honestly reflected (even wrote down):


  • what do I reach for in my wardrobe - trainers, oversized comfortable clothes and leggings for dog walks and outdoor adventures

  • what are my main activities - office type work, outdoors, active hobbies

  • but what do I gravitate to in shops - heels, blouses, pretty dresses....

The issue of course was clear. I was shopping for a fantasy self that did not exist and my overfilled, unrealistic wardrobe was actually holding me back.


Now, this can be a very deep and meaningful moment of self reflection.


For some, it could be more about > > >


"Dress for the life you want, not the life you have." - Unknown

And I completely buy into that, if you aren't satisfied with the life you have and you are working towards a new one. But that will not stop you from having a more sustainable capsule wardrobe :) Perhaps just know your style, what is the vibe and message you are trying to create and go from there.



Step #2 - Everything in the middle, sorting begins


I emptied my whole wardrobe into the middle. That's how most wardrobe de-clutters start. There's no escaping it, it needs to be done ahah!


Assessing every item one by one, clear piles began to form:


  1. I love this - it fits, I feel comfortable and I always reach for it

  2. I use this as a spare - when I run out of my favourite clothes, I reach for these next

  3. Hmm...difficult - I have some attachment to these items, mostly these are the items I loved but they really no longer fit or I shrunk them

  4. Absolutely, No! - what was I thinking


I put away piles 3 &4 - out of sight, out of mind. I don't know how long I will keep these, but when the season changes, I want to look through these clothes again, and maybe I will decide then. I can't tell you how many times in the past, I made the decision to donate too quickly and then regretted.



Step #3 - Piles 1 & 2 make up the 33


Using piles 1 & 2, I started to create the 33 pieces for the next 3 months.


I continued to carefully assess the items I have against my lifestyle and the types of clothes that make me most comfortable.


Your 33 could be:

  • Something you put on to get life (not exercise or cleaning) done;

  • Excluding sport, pyjamas, undies and socks

  • If you have multiples of the same item (same colour and cut) perhaps it's for practicality reasons, it might count as one item


A good example is leggings - if you wear leggings for sport only, don't count them as part of 33. But if you put leggings on to go out and about, you'd need to count them. Annnnddd, if like me, you get muddy paw prints on your leggings and need multiple pairs, count them as one.


Like the author of Project 333 says, no one will be there to judge you and count your items. If you think 35 or 40 will work better for you, then do that.


I, for one, did not count my shoes or bags in the 33. Mostly because for over the years, I worked on those capsules separately, not needed to buy new and haven't been struggling with which shoes or bags to pair with my outfits. So I thought, why start to fix something that isn't broken.


However, if you can push yourself to reduce your wardrobe to 33 items, you might see amazing benefits.


It's worth considering that as much as 80% of what is in our wardrobes is probably not worn most of the time (New York Times, based on Pareto principle) .



Step #4 - Call me crazy but make your own infographic


I kid you not, this post took me a bit of time to create, but as I was working on the infographic, I was blown away by how many combinations I haven't even worn yet and could so clearly see in this format. At some point, I thought to myself, that I can even be happy with less (if only the weather in England was better this July ahah). And just like that, I challenged myself to a no-buy year from July 2023 to July 2024.



creating a capsule of 33ish clothing items






I feel crazy that I even thought I needed new or replacement of anything!



Disclaimer

I hope this was an interesting post for those ex-shopaholics like me, who don't want to be defined by what they wear and instead are turning their focus to sustainability.


If clothing is your livelihood, your biggest hobby, I think this might even work for you :)


If I made it sound easy, and if it's not working, please be assured I did not see change straight away when I first tried it. I tried capsule wardrobe several times in the past in different shapes and forms.


Previously I had some mahoosive blockers, but I worked hard on resolving them, for example:


I was trying to be someone I was not. I tried too hard to fit in but also stand out (weirdly!)... to use clothes as a mechanism for self validation, to be noticed, trendy and valuable. Shopping was my dopamine and hobby, and that was making me poor and unhappy.


I never researched styles and aesthetics enough before shopping. I went blindly and bought anything that seemed to resemble something that I was looking for. Now, before I buy anything, I will spend at least a week checking ideas, shops, sustainability and how it fits into my life (and actually most of the time, I end up reminding myself that I don't need that item).


Slowing down, caring for others and connecting more to nature, helped me personally more than anything...realising that people don't fall in love with you because of what you wear but the kind of person you are.


Climate impact

Textile production contributes more to climate change than international aviation and shipping combined, consumes lake-sized volumes of fresh water and creates chemical and plastic pollution. Synthetic fibres are being found in the deep sea, in Arctic sea ice, in fish and shellfish (UK Parliament, Feb 2019).


If this idea doesn't work for you, I hope that you will find a process and a way that will. Despite a mass of activism, we continue to be bombarded by fast fashion companies like SHEIN, who exploit their workers and the environment. If change is so slow at organisational level, after my no buy year, I will chose to support only sustainable fashion labels or not buy at all.



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