The Ultimate How to Guide for Thrifting a Capsule Wardrobe
Why a Capsule Wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is a smaller wardrobe made up of versatile, high quality pieces that can easily be styled together multiple ways. Most of us only wear about 20% of our clothing, while the other 80% takes up a lot of space in our closet and makes it harder to choose an outfit in the morning. You know those pieces that are well made, fit perfectly, and you’re excited to wear? A capsule wardrobe should be made up entirely of those items.
There are so many benefits to utilizing a capsule wardrobe, both for you and the planet. You’ll save time planning outfits, save space in your closet, save money in the long-run and reduce your carbon footprint as buying only what you'll actually wear is a much more sustainable shopping practice. Currently, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned every second - that's roughly 86,400 trucks of waste per day! By building a wardrobe with long-lasting versatile pieces and doing more with less, you can feel good knowing you’re lessening your environmental impact.
Wondering where to shop for capsule wardrobe pieces? Shopping for a secondhand wardrobe can be a great way to build a sustainable capsule wardrobe as it’s good for your wallet and the planet. The key to building a good capsule wardrobe is being highly selective about the clothing you own, so we put together some tips to help guide you on how to thrift shop for clothes, whether you're looking to do some sustainable clothing shopping online or in person.
How to build a capsule wardrobe 101: types of pieces
Basics are a staple in any capsule wardrobe. You want to be very selective when choosing basics because you will wear them a ton and you want to feel great in them. Just because they’re basic doesn’t mean they're boring, trust us, when you find the perfect white t-shirt you’ll be excited to wear it and style it across all seasons.
We’re big fans of versatile pieces at Encircled (as you may have noticed). Multiway items make for perfect capsule wardrobe pieces when building a wardrobe that's both stylish and sustainable. For example, our Evolve Top can be worn 8 different ways, allowing you to replace multiple styles in your wardrobe with just one top. A piece doesn’t have to be multiway to be versatile though, clothing that can be easily dressed up or down for multiple occasions are a great choice as well.
Pieces you love
If you've ever wondered "how many clothes do I need in my capsule wardrobe", you're in luck! There are no strict rules when it comes to building a wardrobe, so if you find a statement piece that you feel amazing in and will wear a lot, go with it. Your capsule wardrobe should bring you joy and work with your lifestyle, so everyone’s wardrobe will look different. A key tip on how to build a wardrobe that will last for years to come is incorporating high quality timeless pieces that you love, this way you'll never feel out of style.
Tips to thrift your capsule wardrobe
Before starting to build a capsule wardrobe, you’ll want to do a closet audit. A closet audit is a process where you go through every piece of clothing you own, and decide which pieces you’ll keep, donate or sell. This is a great first step when building a wardrobe where every item counts and holds value. Your keep pile should only include the clothing you truly enjoy wearing and want in your ideal wardrobe. These items can be versatile staples or special garments that bring you joy. As you can imagine, this will probably take you a while so we recommend setting a day or two aside for this step.
Once you’ve taken stock of what you’re keeping, you’ll be able to see where the gaps exist and make a list of what you’re looking to thrift to begin your capsule wardrobe!
Shopping in person
Making a list of what you’re looking for is so important when thrifting. While a sustainable shopping method, thrift stores aren’t typically the most organized places to shop so having a clear idea of what you’re looking for will help keep you on track and determine how many clothes you need.
We recommend wearing some of your most worn pieces when shopping secondhand so you can start planning outfits and see how a garment fits with your style. If an item doesn’t pair well with your everyday style, it’s not the best capsule wardrobe pick.
Sustainable online shopping
Similar to going to a thrift store, the volume of clothing in online second hand shops can be overwhelming. However, in addition to working from your list, secondhand websites are great for those looking to build a wardrobe with specific pieces as they typically allow you to filter what you’re looking for. For example, on Poshmark - a secondhand website, you can search by brand, type of item, specify your size, desired colour, price range and more.
One of the most important tips for shopping online through secondhand websites is to know your measurements. This is the best way to figure out whether an item will fit, as sizing standards vary a lot between brands. Once you know your measurements, you can always ask sellers for specific measurements if they’re not already listed online.
General tips for secondhand wardrobes
Remember, you can alter a piece if everything about it is perfect except for the fit. When building a wardrobe, every capsule item should fit you like a glove, which may be hard to find when shopping second hand websites or thrifting in person. So, having a basic understanding of what types of alterations can easily be done at your local tailor will help you decide whether to purchase a piece that needs altering.
Another important note when building a wardrobe that will last you for years to come is to always check the tags on a garment, both when shopping online and in person. Certain fabrics will wear better and last longer than others contributing to a more sustainable wardrobe, so knowing what to look for fabric wise is essential. For example, Modal and Bamboo are both plant based fabrics that will drape beautifully and stand the test of time, lending to clothes with prolonged lives that avoid being landfilled for as long as possible. Whereas polyester or acrylic won’t feel great against your skin, or last long (especially if they’re already second hand). You’ll want to look for care instructions as well, most of us don’t want to be going to the dry cleaners every other week so be sure to check these before you buy. Garments that can be air dried contribute to a more sustainable wardrobe, minimize your environmental impact and are an important factor to consider when shopping for more sustainable items. Remember, if you’re shopping for secondhand wardrobes online, you can always message the seller for this information, don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Online thrifting options
Wondering where to shop for a capsule wardrobe and which second hand websites you can trust in Canada for a seamless sustainable online shopping experience? We have you covered!
Poshmark is our staff pick for sustainable online shopping. The Poshmark app and website are very user friendly whether you’re buying or selling, and with around 50 million users there’s lots of selection to help you build a wardrobe.
We wanted to make it easier for you to buy and sell gently used Encircled pieces so we launched a Facebook group, The Encircled Community! Using the Poshmark app or website, you’ll be able to post your listing to our Facebook group, and if you’re looking for gently used Encircled pieces this is the place to be for a sustainable shopping experience!
We’ll also be sharing styling tips, behind the scenes content, outfit inspiration, styling and sustainable shopping tips. We invite you to share your style, outfits, opinions, and questions to help build a wardrobe that is right for you! This is a positive space where everyone is welcomed, accepted and embraced for who they are.
Another second hand website, Depop is very similar to Poshmark, however the platform is more popular for sustainably shopping trendy, statement pieces. If you're looking for a great online shopping experience where trendier pieces can be bought and sold throughout the seasons, this site is perfect for you!
thredUP is the largest online consignment store, allowing people to send in their new or gently worn clothing to be sold on their platform. Meaning your purchase will be through thredUP, rather than an individual seller, ensuring quality within your secondhand wardrobe.
These are just a few of the more common secondhand websites used in Canada for a more sustainable shopping experience. If you have any recommendations for online second hand stores or tips on how to thrift shop for clothes, feel free to leave them in the comments section below!
A note on thrifting and privilege
We want to acknowledge that there is a difference between choosing to build a wardrobe through sustainable online shopping websites and having to buy second hand. If you’re shopping second hand for any reason other than it being your only option, you should be aware of your privilege and keep it in mind when shopping for pre-owned items. As thrifting has risen in popularity over the years due to its sustainable shopping connotations, some second hand stores have increased their prices to match the increased demand created by the people who can afford to pay a little more. This price increase can make thrifting too costly for the people who rely on shopping secondhand and exclude those who need to build a secondhand wardrobe.
We’re not saying you shouldn’t thrift if you don’t have to, buying second hand is a great way to build a wardrobe through sustainable shopping means as it reduces the amount of clothing going into landfills. However, what you can do is ensure you’re only buying what you need. This should be easy if you know how to build a capsule wardrobe and know exactly what you're looking for thanks to your trusted capsule wardrobe shopping list. And if you can afford to, support sustainable/ethical fashion brands working to change the industry through fair wages, local sourcing and small batch production while also pushing fast fashion brands to do better by creating safer working conditions for their garment workers and supplying them with living wages.
Looking for some Capsule Wardrobe inspo? Checkout the posts below!
What's the best thing you've every found at a thrift store? Let us know in the comments!