Ethical Fashion Musings

I Don’t Want Your Capsule Wardrobe

I Don't Want Your Capsule Wardrobe
Megan O'Malley
Written by Megan O'Malley

Minimalism is trending big time, especially when it comes to fashion. Many people are no longer fantasising about a walk in wardrobe the size of a small house and instead are looking to scale down the amount of clothing they own. The capsule wardrobe concept, a curated selection of 10-30 items that are worn on constant rotation, has been adopted by ethical fashionistas everywhere and is a great example of how minimalism can be applied to fashion. I think it’s a fantastic idea, it’s just not for me.

I don’t want to wear a uniform. Some people paint, others dance, fashion is my creative outlet. I like buying something hideous and making it work. I love to try unexpected combinations and see people tilt their heads questioningly, unsure of what planet I’m from. Fashion can be fun and joyous and can add beauty to this sometimes dreary world. It can make a statement and give people a small glimpse into who you are. I don’t like to define myself by one style either. There are many days where I roll out of bed and feel like a t-shirt and jeans is the only way to go. On the flip side, there are equally as many days where I wake up and feel like a mad fashion scientist, experimenting and pairing a bright red off the shoulder dress with a skivvy and tassel earrings. In order to have this freedom to dress the way I feel, I need options. More options than a basic capsule wardrobe can provide.

Why I Don't Want Your Capsule Wardrobe


But there’s a conflict here. If I am truly invested in the ethical fashion movement, how can I not advocate less is best? Our wardrobes are overflowing like never before and we’re throwing out clothing at an alarming rate. Most of you would have seen the War on Waste episode featuring Craig Reucassel atop a six tonne mountain of clothing, the amount Australians throw out every 10 minutes. It’s terrifying!

So the big question is, can I still live my values if I’m not minimising my wardrobe? Can I have my cake and eat it too?

I think so yes, you just need to think outside of the box. There are people and companies out there finding new and innovative ways for us to interact with the clothes we choose to wear, beyond simply consuming and then disposing. Here are just a few of them:

Renting and Borrowing

Rent the Runway has been around for nearly a decade now and has made high fashion accessible to the masses. If you have an event coming up, or maybe just want to inject a little change into your wardrobe you can choose to rent one of thousands of items on the site. Recent rental newbie, GlamCorner has made this concept available to the Australian market. While neither platform has a focus on sustainable brands as of yet, both save you from the ethical issue of buying something you’re only going to wear a few times before you get rid of it.

Clothing libraries are another great option and have been popping up in cities all over the world. Usually members pay a monthly fee and can borrow a certain number of items. It keeps your wardrobe fresh, it saves you money and you don’t need to own anything new. Have a google and see what’s available where you live.

Wardrobe Sharing

Share the love people. If you have a friend that’s a similar size to you, raid their wardrobe and borrow their clothes. It’s a simple way to introduce new options into rotation for a few weeks and you can return them once you’re done. Alternatively, if you both have very similar style, you can invest in dress sharing. Man Repeller recently tested out this idea, and while it wasn’t without its problems, they managed to pull it off quite successfully.

Don’t have a friend that shares your sense of style? Tumnus is a brand new online fashion sharing platform based in Melbourne created to solve just that very problem. You can join for free and members are matched with others based on size, location and favourite brands. Peruse the wardrobes of strangers and if you see something you like, get in touch. It’s that easy!

If you don't want to opt for capsule wardrobes, but don't want fashion waste, try clothes swapping with friends


Brands Adopting Circular Fashion Practices

Some brands are starting to take the idea of circular fashion seriously. MUD Jeans is an innovative example. The brand has developed the “Lease a Jeans” concept. Customers choose a pair of jeans and pay a monthly fee for 12 months. Once the year is up you can choose to keep them, switch them out or stop leasing completely. The brand aims to retain ownership of the cotton so that when a pair of jeans is unwanted or worn out, they can be sent back and resold or recycled. The brand has essentially designed waste out of their business model, even printing a patch on the back of the jeans instead of using leather, to make the recycling process simpler.

Not sure what circular fashion is? This post will help you understand the topic a little better.

Ye Ole Op Shop

You can’t go past an op/charity/thrift store for a pre-used bargain. Try to be selective about the items you choose. Consider whether or not you’ll get 30 or more wears out of a piece of clothing before investing. 

Keep your eyes peeled for new and disruptive ways to engage with fashion. I believe options are only going to grow as more people catch on to the need for a different type of consumption. If I’ve missed anything please share in the comments below.

Title image credit

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About the author

Megan O'Malley

Megan O'Malley

Megan O’Malley is one half of the dynamic dorky duo, Walk Sew Good. Along with her friend Gab, she is walking 3500km across Southeast Asia in search of positive fashion stories to share with the world. Previously Head of Research for Project JUST, Megan is a passionate advocate for sustainable fashion.


    • Thanks Chavaun! I think options are so important. Solutions to the fast fashion problems need to be diverse, innovative and bring joy otherwise nobody is going to get on board. I’m excited to see how our options grow over the next few years. ?

  • Awesome article Megan! Thanks for mentioning us!
    A good capsule wardrobe is a good foundation that you can build on, but not be limited to. Having options is a key to be able to express yourself creatively through your outfits everyday while leaving behind a minimal footprint.

    I open up my wardrobe for sharing with other style-minded girls on, we love our clothes and we want to look good while saving planet one dress at a time 😉

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Thank you for posting about this!! This is definitely something that I’ve thought about a lot and even felt guilty about. You mentioned some methods I use myself and some new ones I’m excited to try!

    • Thanks Emily! Yes, I think too often sustainability has become synonymous with minimalism. While I think a lot of people connect with this idea of a minimalist wardrobe there are a lot of people who don’t. It’s all about getting creative, right?

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