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A $500 Ethical Capsule Wardrobe: My Picks

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My $500 Capsule Wardrobe

When Annie at Terumah riffed on The Good Trade’s recent post centered around a $500 Capsule Wardrobe, I felt inspired to do my own take for a couple of reasons.

First, the concept is fun and the premise is simple. Second, I was a little surprised by how little $500 goes when you’re prioritizing ethically-made items: in each case, the contributor’s “wardrobe” consisted of 4-5 pieces.

I’m not critiquing that exactly – after all, one pair of sustainable shoes can cost upwards of $200 – but it’s a good reminder that ethical fashion, in many cases, is truly an investment and not something you can just buy compulsively. (I say that having purchased a pair of Nisolo boots recently that I could only justify by selling off quite a few items from my closet.)

So, in the spirit of playing along, here’s what I would put in my $500 ethical capsule.

The Details

Everlane Crew Neck, $18

A true staple in my wardrobe, these t-shirts are well-made and just the right weight – lightweight without being sheer.

American Eagle Ne(x)t Level Curvy Straight Jean, $49.95

These have become my everyday jeans since I discovered them last month.

While I can’t verify the ethics of production, AE is one of only two American companies whose emissions reduction commitments will put them in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.

Everlane Texture Cotton Crop Cardigan, $98

I have this in black – and a similar thrifted version in cream – and it is one of those pieces that makes a statement while remaining incredibly minimal and versatile.

Nisolo Amalia All Weather Boots, $248

I just purchased these as the last piece of my winter shoe capsule – after committing to sell off several wardrobe items that simply don’t suit my lifestyle here in Connecticut – and I’m excited to wear them all fall and winter.

Vintage Sterling Silver Ring, $30

I love simple little rings, and they’re easy to find secondhand.

Vintage Gingham Dress, $37

A good length and weight for all seasons, this piece would look equally great with a pair of boots as it does with sandals.

Vintage Skirt, $39

I live for vintage skirts in fun prints. They’re easy to wear, easy to find at a low price point, and brighten up the solid-color and neutral tops in my wardrobe.

Total: $519.95

Of course, capsule “wardrobe” is a bit of a misnomer unless you plan on wearing the same shirt every day, but you could easily round out this wardrobe for a couple hundred dollars – just add a few t-shirts, thrift a winter coat and some sweaters, and buy a few other odds and ends.

If you’re looking for other ethical Capsule Wardrobe picks…

Back to Basics: An Ethical Capsule Wardrobe


Leah Wise is the founder of StyleWise Blog. She has been writing, speaking, and consulting on sustainable fashion, the fair trade and secondhand supply chain, and digital marketing for over ten years. An Episcopal priest, Leah holds a B.A. in Religion from Florida State University and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. When not working, you can find her looking for treasures at the thrift store.

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