When I was studying abroad, I promised myself that I would never bring nor buy anything I didn’t need. I gave away most of my clothes and some other belongings I did not plan on bringing with me.
I left the country, luggage in tow containing only four pants, four shirts, two shorts, four dresses, four jackets, four pairs of underwear, four socks and four pairs of shoes. I never got a haircut either. Just two suitcases with my entire life in them, passport, laptop, and camera.
It was then that it hit me, upon arriving back home to the quaint suburbs of Quezon City, I didn’t need a lot to exist.
Also, Delta lost my luggage along with all my clothes.
So I decided to build my capsule wardrobe from scratch. Which is for me essentially a mini collection of versatile pieces I would see myself wearing for at least five years.
So what were my criteria?
I always read the label. If it says polyester or acrylic (which is basically fiber made out of little strands of plastic) then it’s out. Once you wash fabric with plastic in it, the plastic bits get rinsed out along with the water, which is how our water sources (and bottled water!) end up having traces of plastic in them, a world-wide problem that most of us do not see. I often go for linen (which is from flax) and cotton. More expensive, wrinkles easily, but breathable.
As a woman who gains and loses weight in a snap, I often find myself going for loose clothing. Not only is it a more comfortable fit for me, it also works even if I lose or gain weight.
As for shoes, always, always fit them on before buying as not all shoe manufacturers have the same sizing. I stay away from online shoe stores unless it’s a global brand that I have already tried. I would really rather try it on before buying.
Go for neutral colors. Not only do synthetic dyes cheapen the quality of the clothes, they can also stain other clothes and taint your water source!
Try to see if your clothes are ethically sourced. Stay away from fast fashion, they are usually produced in sweatshops which either underpay their employees or use child labor. As much as possible, buy local, or buy used! Thrift shops are full of gems waiting to be revived. Avoid shopping online for clothes, not only will you be unsure of the fit, but also the texture and quality of the materials used can be assessed better in person.
Go for clothes with heavier fabrics and good stitching. These will hold up for much longer than thinner fabrics, specially if you use a washing machine and dryer. Another indicator for a piece’s quality are the buttons. Make sure they are stitched on well, and aren’t going to come loose. I personally stay away from clothes with buttons and if I do, I always stitch them on again to secure. Basic sewing skills are very useful, specially if you’re trying to switch to an alternative lifestyle. Not only can you prolong the life of your clothing pieces, you can also create them from scratch.
Is this something you can only wear on a specific day? Is this something that is only comfortable when it’s cold? Then think twice before buying it. To me, something versatile is something that I can wear on more than two occasions, for example a minimalist black dress that I can wear on a formal event, work, business meeting, and a casual party. Pieces that can transform into other useful pieces should also be a staple, like how a scarf can be used as both a neck warmer and a headwrap, and how a malong can be a bag, a skirt, and a blanket all in the same day.
You do you.
We all go through phases. What can be fashionable now may be funny next year! Would you be caught wearing bell-bottom pants, extra low-waist jeans, statement shirts, or liquid leggings? Choose clothes that match your style well for the next couple of years, whether it be minimal, goth or bohemian, stay away from fads — timeless pieces are always better.
Do you have favorite sustainable fashion sources? Let us know below.