3 Steps to Master a Minimal, Sustainable Capsule Wardrobe

Capsule wardrobes have become "a thing" – they seem to be all the rage right now as slow fashion and organic baby clothes are gaining momentum.

With so many kids clothing brands to choose from, it's a relief to see that conscious consumerism is taking off to tackle the huge environmental burden the fast fashion industry is causing people and the planet. It's good progress that people are awakening to the problem of pollution, waste and unfair trade, however, a capsule wardrobe does not necessarily mean a minimalist wardrobe, nor does it imply that it's sustainable.

We are going to debunk some of the sustainability myths around capsule wardrobes and provide three easy steps to not only set up minimalist child wardrobe, but do so while keeping the planet in mind.

In order to understand the impact your new wardrobe and new lifestyle will have on your family and the environment, we must understand the difference between a capsule and a minimalist wardrobe first:

A capsule wardrobe cleanses your closet from unwanted, outgrown or stand-alone pieces that you or your child don't wear any longer. A minimalist wardrobe takes your capsule wardrobe to the next level by significantly reducing the quantity of items you need. So basically, a capsule wardrobe doesn't have to be small, in theory, it can be as big as you want, but that wouldn't make it sustainable or easy to manage. Therefore, we will elaborate on how to set up and maintain a minimal, sustainable capsule wardrobe.

The idea is to simplify your life, not just for yourself, but also for your kids. Once you have defined your mindful capsule collection, it will be so much easier to dress your kids in the morning, saving you time and tears.

Step One: Simplify your current wardrobe by creating a capsule collection, then decide how minimalist you can go

The first move is always the hardest. It requires a shift in mindset but it doesn't have to be overwhelming. Start with a couple of piles, one for 'Must-keep', one for 'Donate', one for 'Maybe'. Must-keeps should be your or your kids favourite items BUT must also be neutral enough to be paired with every other item in your 'Must-keep' pile. You do not have to have a number of pairings or articles in mind that you want to keep, but you should be open to the idea to radically reduce the number of clothes over the next weeks or so. 

Adults won't need as many pieces as kids because the usually do not get as dirty as often (that is of course highly dependant on your lifestyle). I personally spill food or coffee over my clothes all the time! I don't however have toilet accidents or love to use my shirt as blank canvas at child care. Toddlers have different wardrobe needs and I would keep a couple of worn pieces around for the wilder days. They might also need more clothes to keep them warm during colder months. Depending on where you live, the volume and functionality of garments will vary. This is not an antidote to slow fashion, it's absolutely fine to keep what is needed.

Aim for an assortment of the following that are comfortable and can be easily layered: 

  • 2-3 essential one-pieces (playsuits, dresses, rompers)
  • 2-3 tops
  • 2-3 bottoms
  • 2-3 pieces of outerwear
  • Accessories (hats, socks, swim suit, towels, undies, etc.)

Opt for soft, organic, wherever possible certified fabrics made from natural materials and plant dyes that are practical and healthy.

Please do not dispose of your 'Donate' pile in landfill, try to share some of these pieces amongst your community, friends or with charity organisations. Get your damaged pieces mended before donating and ask your local thrift shop if they would accept them. Some retailers also have recycling programs in place and Facebook offers plenty of Buy/Sell/Swap groups for eco-minded parents to divert more waste from landfill.

Step Two: Create simple rules and only buy organic clothes

Once you have roughly defined your capsule collection, live with it for a while before purchasing new items. Get a feel for whether this works for you and if it's the style you feel comfortable in. You might realise that you are missing something, a jacket, or a pair of pants that goes with all your existing capsule items. Now, it's important to set yourself guidelines around what values to you most when adding to your capsule, ie. sustainably-sourced fibres, natural dyes, fair trade labour, all of the above. 

It might require you to do some research before you find a label that is truly sustainable or to find a trusted re-seller, like Indie & Isaac, that has done the research for you. Either way, to level up your capsule into a sustainable collection, do not go shopping without a clear vision of what you really need and what brands are on offer that meet your requirements.

Even if you do end up giving away some of the new clothes at some stage in your life, chances are high that someone else will fall in love with them just as you did the first day - and if you have opted in for natural fibres without the use of toxic pesticides or genetically modified seeds, chances are even higher that your clothes will look and feel just like when you first purchased them, while being gentle on the skin and on the environment.

In terms of seasonalities, it really depends on the country you live in. While winters in Australia may be mild, this season would look very different in Norway. The idea is to keep what you need of course, and be mindful of what it goes with as part of your overall capsule collection.

Step Three: Go minimalist and maintain your collection size

After you have mastered step one and two, review your collection. Aim to pass on or donate all your 'Maybe's that haven't left your closet yet. You might have come to realise that some are now invaluable to your collection, like an old sweater you never knew you could pair with so much, or a linen shirt that keeps you cool in summer and warm in winter. Keep the items you really love but try to be more strict with others you haven't worn at least 30 times.

A couple of helpful guidelines are to not engage in seasonal sales, stick to (gender) neutral colours, do not buy in advance, only buy as needed with plenty of research. Try to avoid impulse purchases, they are tricky because you might see something you really like but do not need. Instead of putting yourself in this awful situation, try to avoid shopping malls or districts if you can. Follow your favourite ethical brands on Insta but unfollow those that do not have sustainable practices in place. Shopping second-hand is also a great alternative that is even kinder on the planet.

Why a sustainable wardrobe doesn't have to cost the Earth

Becoming more conscious and intentional in the choices you make for your wardrobe, also means that you are voting on behalf of the planet.

The good news is, if you shop responsibly and turn to organic clothes which may cost you a little more than the cheaply made garments from the big fast fashion chains, your clothes will be of higher quality and more robust to stand the test of (a life-)time. In the long-run, being more conscious about the pieces you shop and in buying less over the course of a lifetime, it will probably save you money (and time spent choosing an outfit every day).

Your child will naturally grow out of his/her clothes eventually, but this doesn't mean the garment can't be passed on to younger siblings or children in need when the time is ripe. In buying responsibly from sustainable brands, you would have still made a big difference for the planet and artisans manufacturing your clothes because even if it is not you, someone somewhere will pay the price.

Another aspect of simplifying your kid's wardrobe is offering them fewer, better choices. More space in their wardrobe also means more space in their minds for imaginative play and the freedom to evolve without being forced into fads and trends.

A capsule wardrobe for kids should feature organic, functional and comfortable clothing so that children can focus on what they do best: play, thrive and learn.