With the staggering environmental cost of clothing and the myriad options available in the fashion world, making your wardrobe more environmentally friendly can seem like a daunting task. If you want to be sustainable and stylish but are overwhelmed by your options, a capsule wardrobe — with only a few key, versatile pieces that are meant to stand the test of time — might be the way to go.
“A capsule wardrobe is made up of core clothing pieces that are versatile and can be worn season after season,” said Hannah Martin, founder and creative director of the Fashion Cookbook in Portland. “I so often see that people buy clothing they wear only once and it’s not only a waste of money, but is wasteful to the environment. Instead of trends that have no true staying power, I always urge clients to buy classic pieces that can [be] worn multiple ways.”
In a capsule wardrobe, all the pieces can be mixed and matched to work together.
“For example, one pair of pants, one pair of shorts, three shirts and two layering pieces, all in colors that work together can be mixed and matched to create several different looks,” said Chelsea Ray, a wardrobe consultant and blogger based in Portland. “It essentially cuts down on the number of pieces in your wardrobe to maximize the number of combinations.”
There are no hard and fast rules for capsule wardrobes, but Anya McGuckin, owner of Dress With Anya, personal stylist and wardrobe consulting company in Portland, said that there are some recommendations.
“Professionals say that you can have 33 items in your capsule wardrobe and that’s what you need for the season,” she said. “I think we live in this climate here that the weather changes so much during the year so those 33 items are just for one season.”
Minimizing your wardrobe in that way can be intimidating but can easily be done with a few simple steps. Here’s what stylists recommend.
Step 1: Choose your 33 items
Whether you’re coming from away to summer in Maine or just looking to keep things active and simple if you live here year round, making a capsule wardrobe for the summer in Maine is a great way to start with this sustainable styling.
When you are figuring out what a capsule wardrobe will entail, you have to consider what a Maine summer is like.
“The days are warm, but the mornings and evenings stay cool,” Ray said. “Breathable shorts and a shirt will keep you dry all day. A warm layering piece for cool evenings on the coast is essential.”
You also have to consider the activities that you do on a daily basis.
“People are so different,” McGuckin said. “They have different jobs and focus on different things during the day and that’s why we can’t have the same wardrobes all the time. I ask my clients to make a list of activities they do — work, sports, going for walks, going to the beach.”
Martin said that for a summer capsule wardrobe in Maine, she would choose a denim jacket, white jeans, utility shorts, slip dress, maxi skirt, white t-shirt and strappy sandals. Ray said that she recommends at least a pair of trousers, a pair of jeans, a white button down shirt, a few T-shirts, a blazer and an additional layering piece, like a denim or leather jacket.
Step 2: See what you already have
Once you decide what your capsule wardrobe will need, it’s time to “shop your closet” and figure out what you already have that will work in your capsule wardrobe. McGuckin said to take an inventory of your wardrobe and see what pieces you already have to see if you have everything you need for all of your summer activities.
“I usually see from the start that [my clients] already have 80 percent of their wardrobe and only need to buy things for some activities,” McGuckin said.
You should also consider if you have items that can serve multiple purposes in your capsule wardrobe.
“[Things you can wear] going for walks, for example, that you can wear for going to the beach,” McGuckin said. “If not, it’s probably one of the items that you need to purchase.”
Step 3: Purchase what you still need
The next step is to fill out what you need. Stylists agree that it is best to buy quality pieces for a capsule wardrobe. Also, make sure whatever you buy matches the other pieces you have chosen for your capsule wardrobe.
“For example, I ask them to think about easy formulas, like jeans plus sweater plus sneakers,” McGuckin said. “If you have the same sweater and you can add a skirt that will work with the same sneakers, that’s great, you already have two outfits. Same skirt [with a] T-shirt and sneakers, that’s another. All these things should work together. Whatever you grab from your closet should be easy to match.”
You can look online at resale platforms like thredUp and Poshmark for quality pieces at a cheaper price and in a more sustainable way.
“Before I buy any new sneakers [I] go to Poshmark and see if they have the same sneakers for cheaper,” McGuckin said. “I think that’s really rewarding. Yes, you will spend some time online but you can buy things cheaper, you can help other people to declutter their closets [and] you can repurpose so that’s sustainable shopping.”
If you can’t find what you want on a resale platform, McGuckin said to do some research about where to shop before you buy.
“I always recommend local brands and sustainable brands,” McGuckin said. “If you think you want to invest in a good purse or a blazer or a nice scarf that you will be wearing for years and years, it probably makes sense to spend a little bit more.”
Also, when you are going out shopping, make sure you have a list of goals to keep yourself on track.
“You need to have a list [or] a goal for your shopping in advance,” McGuckin said. “Don’t just go to wander and buy whatever looks good on you — go there for a reason. That will help you make smarter decisions while shopping.”
Once you have a capsule wardrobe ready, you can spend more time enjoying your summer in Maine in style.
“Summer is what we live for here in Maine,” Ray said. “A capsule wardrobe takes the guess-work out of getting dressed. If all your pieces work together, getting dressed in the morning is a breeze.”