Did you know that most clothes purchased get under five wears each? Let’s just think about that for a second … T-shirts made from synthetic petroleum-based fibres spewing micro-plastics into the air in their trillion particles, cotton T-shirts that take several thousand litres of water to produce and jeans that someone in Bangladesh was paid 20 cents a day to painstakingly work on, only for them not to even be able to feed their families. We’re not even giving the clothing the courtesy of wearing it to death to somehow redeem ourselves and at least make it last a while before hitting PayPal on our next online purchase.
It’s very clear the system is broken. It’s also clear we don’t have the tools to fix it. When I first started working on this, I knew that if I was going to ditch feelings of wardrobe overwhelm, reduce what I bought and improve my sense of satisfaction with my clothes to avoid feeling the need to buy more, the solution was going to have to be very, very simple.
Enter the capsule wardrobe concept.
My forgiving, practical, fashion-idiot-proof capsule concept is called the “occasion-based capsule”. It was born from worrying about what to wear to speaking gigs after I started being invited to speak more regularly, timed with my awareness of the abuse happening to resources and people in the fashion industry. I started to wear a “speaker dress” to save getting-ready overwhelm; save money without the need to buy countless outfits for appearances; and save resources by owning less. It was a triple win and from there I started to treat common occasions in my life with the same philosophy.
If you segment your wardrobe into occasion-based clothes, you eliminate the stress about “not having something to wear”. Your occasion-based capsule has you covered. You’ll not only be filling your time-bank with many more minutes spared from stressing and frantically trying things on and removing them to try something else, but you’ll also save money and the planet precious resources and micro plastic dust.
Here’s what I have in my wardrobe. The benefits of this type of wardrobe thinking are so good — for you, us and the planet!
The speaker dress
I wear the one dress, time after time, for every speaking gig until it dies. I had a wonderful polka-dot dress that got 56 wears, then the next, which wasn’t as durable a fabric, getting 27. The current one is on 32 wears with no signs of wear and tear yet, so perhaps it will beat the first one!
The casual outfit/working-from-home/around and about clothes
Two pairs of jeans: 1 light, 1 dark
1 pair of cotton pants, easy-wear, mega-comfy
4 T-shirts and 4 long-sleeve shirts
2 pairs of socks
2 pairs of slip-on sneakers in different colours/styles
The workout option
2 pairs of bottoms
2 pairs of gym socks
1 pair of trainers
The posh door smart meeting
1 short-sleeve knee-length dress with a matching cardie
1 long-sleeve silk dress
Any other occasion that’s a one-off and more glam that I can cater to, I rent a dress from GlamCorner. Why buy when you can rent!?
The casual summer situation
1 maxi dress
2 short dresses
2 light cardies
1 denim jacket
1 pair of sandals
The beach get-up
2 pairs of bathers
1 throw-over-bathers cotton beach dress
1 pair of rubber flip-flops
The winter outfit
1 black coat (I’ve had mine since 2006!)
3 wool-based jumpers
2 light cotton jumper/sweatshirts
1 pair of tracksuit pants
1 pair of ankle boots
1 pair of knee-length boots
1 pair of Ugg/indoor boots
1 PJ pants
1 PJ top
I use the tracksuit pants from winter to double up here on super-cold nights as well as a long-sleeve top from casual clothes if needed, rather than buy extra bed clothes.
2 necklaces (one white gold/one wood decorative)
2 winter scarves: 1 neutral, 1 bright
1 summer scarf, neutral
While it’s a few more items than “15 ways you can wear 10 pieces”, as a busy woman and business owner who needs a blueprint for what I wear when and a well-thought-out boundary about what I really need and use, more than 30 wears is the absolute minimum we should all aspire to. It just works. I also feel a super-clear visibility on what needs replacing when it’s done and can’t be patched up or upcycled. It has freed me up in time, funds and the comfort of not over-buying clothes any more. A wonderful side-effect will be that you put a lot more care into what you replace things with.
Everyone’s going to be different and by no means must you copy this precise number of clothes and types of occasions to succeed —you might have a “fire-breathing performance” occasion you need to dress for, after all. With your own occasion-based list you can feel happy and ready for whatever occasion you need to dress for, save time because you head straight to what you need and dramatically reduce your clothes spend and footprint.
The triple win.