Build an Ethical, Sustainable Capsule Wardrobe: Brand Guide

how to build a sustainable, ethical capsule wardrobe: over 50 brands

Is a Capsule Wardrobe Still Relevant in 2020?

When I first published this post in 2017, capsule wardrobes had gone viral. Whether you were a longtime mommy blogger or newly-minted Instagram influencer, it was all anyone could talk about.

Of course, it was unclear what exactly a capsule wardrobe was. For some, like arguably the most significant blogger in the capsule movement, Un-fancy, it was a way of “encapsulating” seasonal aesthetics into micro-wardrobes. For others, it was a way to get a handle on out-of-control purchasing, if not in actuality, at least in the way clothing was stored. For others who were more sustainability-minded, it represented a way forward, out of the realm of fast fashion and into the light of a pared-down closet.

Sustainable fashion costs more, so maybe a capsule is what is needed for the majority of consumers. We can’t buy as much, but we can, perhaps, buy better.

While I am skeptical of the ways “capsule wardrobes” have been used to marketing overconsumption, I can get behind the idea of careful analysis of lifestyle and personal style in order to make considered choices in our wardrobes. With that in mind, I have updated my Ethical Capsule Wardrobe list, below, for a new year of sustainable shopping.

An Ethical Capsule Wardrobe: 20 Essential Pieces


1. The Tee

Everlane | Cotton essentials in easy fits

Elegantees | Feminine tees in stretch cotton

American Giant | Classic, longer line v-necks, u-necks, and more

Miakoda | Easy lounge fits in soft sustainable fabrics

Fair Indigo | Soft, thick pima cotton tees and tanks

2. The LBD

Maven Women | Professional and classic fits for all body types

Reformation | Sleek, trend-forward and vintage-inspired pieces in deadstock fabrics

Everlane | Modern and minimalist cuts

Victoria Road | Feminine and embroidered pieces

3. The Jacket

ABLE | Americana, modern cuts

Eileen Fisher | Looser, longer cuts

Ode to Sunday | The perfect blend of tailored and drapey

4. The Jeans

Everlane | Made in a fair trade and sustainable factory in lots of classic cuts

ABLE | Made in a fair trade factory with more modern fits

Levi’s Waterless | Sustainable processes, American classics

More denim selections here.

5. The Statement Skirt

People Tree | Classic, custom prints, British

Ash & Rose | Flowy and feminine

Mata Traders | Vintage-inspired with hand done details

Mayamiko | Artisan fabrics and mod cuts

6. The Blazer

Everlane | Modern, menswear-inspired

People Tree | Classic cuts

Mm. Lafleur | Versatile, for the modern professional woman

Connecticut Country Clothing | A classic tailored fit

7. The Drapey Cardigan

Miakoda | Lounge-inspired in soft fabrics

Soul Flower | Hippie-inspired

EcoVibe Apparel | Flowy and easy

Synergy Organic Clothing | Stretchy, soft organic cotton

8. The Sandals

Nisolo | Classic and minimalist

Fortress of Inca | Sturdy and beautiful

Birkenstock | Comfortable and classic

Po-zu (vegan options) | European made with European flair

9. The Sneakers

All Birds | Super sustainable sneakers made with wool and bamboo

Saola (vegan) | Skater inspired

OESH (made in Charlottesville!) | Ethically made in China, suitable for athletic activity

Everlane Tread | Sustainably made fashion sneakers

Adidas Parley Collection | Made with ocean plastic, suitable for athletic activity

10. The Versatile Flats

Nisolo | Feminine and office appropriate

The Root Collective | Fun details, artisan made

Fortress of Inca | Menswear-inspired

Po-zu | Vegan options

how to build a sustainable and ethical capsule wardrobe - brand guide

11. Boots

LL Bean (made in Maine varieties) | Bean boots!

Po-zu | My favorite

Bhava (vegan) | Beautiful sustainable vegan leather alternatives

12. The Cotton Undies

PACT Apparel | Classic cuts in organic cotton

Organic Basics | A simple collection in organic cotton and Tencel

Everlane | Pima cotton, very soft

13. The Leggings

PACT Apparel | Classic cotton leggings

Maggie’s Organics | Thicker cut, sustainably made

Fair Indigo | Full coverage

Miakoda | Soft fabrics

14. The Party Dress

Accompany | Artisan made luxury

Victoria Road | Beautiful embroidered pieces

Passion Lilie | Block printed, lots of summer styles

EcoVibe Apparel | Flowy and “younger” pieces

Reformation | Sleek and sexy styles made with deadstock fabric

15. The Black Pants

Brass Clothing | Ponte pants

Mm. Lafleur | Versatile

Everlane | Lots of nice essentials

16. The Socks

PACT Apparel | A variety of cuts and patterns

Maggie’s Organics | Classic socks, including wool hiking socks

19. The Button Down

The Fable | It’s their specialty

Kowtow | Tailored pieces with modern fits

Eileen Fisher | Flowy and artistic

Tradlands ($25 off with this link) | Menswear-inspired classics

20. The Cold Weather Coat

Patagonia | Technical fabrics made sustainably

United By Blue | Sustainable and organic

Everlane | Made with recycled plastic

21. Classic Jewelry

Hannah Naomi | Super minimalist

Thicket | Nature-inspired

Fair Anita | Artisan made

See more Shopping Guides here.

Suggestions or questions?

Let me know in the comments.

A note on selection: I judged items by ethical labor standards, transparency, and eco-friendly advances while prioritizing fit, quality, price, and versatility. Many of these items are things I own myself.

Looking for more? Shop 100+ sustainable and ethical brands with my Sustainable Brand Directory.
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1 Comment

  1. December 7, 2020 / 10:37 pm

    Absolutely love this post! You’ve easily given great sustainable and ethical brands for all my needs. Thank you so much!

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