If you follow any other fashion blogs you will probably have seen this phrase thrown around somewhere. The capsule wardrobe. Just the words to me sound minimalistic and chic.

The capsule wardrobe was (according to Wikepedia) a term coined in the 1970’s by a lady called Susie Faux and used to describe the essential pieces of your wardrobe. These integral pieces of your wardrobe can survive the constantly changing trends and create different interchangeable outfits.

How do you find your capsule wardrobe?

One way to find out  to do is try the 10 x 10 challenge. This challenge, invented and popularized by Style Bee is as follows:

  1. PICK ANY 10 ITEMS FROM YOUR CURRENT CLOSET
  2. STYLE THOSE ITEMS INTO 10 DIFFERENT LOOKS
  3. USE 10 DAYS TO DO IT
  4. HAVE FUN AND DON’T TAKE IT TOO SERIOUSLY!

It is worth noting that accessories do not count and you can be flexible. This is a fun way to try and make the most and work out what your true die-hard wardrobe pieces are.

Why do you want a capsule wardrobe? Because if you are anything like me, you’re tiny wardrobe space is bursting at the seams and it makes it pretty hard to find anything or stay on top of what you have got. I live in a teeny one-bedroom apartment in Amsterdam. My kitchen looks temporary and like it is not sure if it wants to stay or travel around festivals for the rest of the year (the hob we have can be picked up and most microwaves are bigger than my oven) . So, a capsule wardrobe is right up my street. Having less additional items you don’t need is weirdly therapeutic. And trust me, I never thought I would say that.

Another way to reach your sartorial bare necessities, is to have a serious clear-out of anything you have not worn in the last two years and a look at your go-to pieces. Narrow these down; a couple of pairs of trousers, some tops and a couple of pairs of shoes. This is your capsule wardrobe. How inventive can you be to reduce and create new outfits from these pieces? I like to wear white long sleeve t-shirts under dresses, and I opt for items that can be worn in multiple seasons with the addition of a pair of tights. If you are bored of your clothes, see if one of your friends will do a swap. Rent your fancy clothes from rental shops.

What is your best method of reaching a minimalist wardrobe?

 

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It is that time of year again.

The temperature is getting colder, the Christmas lights are going up and the oliebollen (balls of delicious doughnut covered in icing sugar) and being baked. I love this time of year. It means roast dinners every Sunday, winter walks and layering up so much that only your eyes are visible through your layers of scarf, hat and coat. Here are my favourite sustainable finds of October.

Too Good To Go

This is an app that taps into your location settings and finds the restaurants and supermarkets in your area that have excess food, and sells this excess food to you for a very good price around closing time. You can’t choose your food, you just get given a big mystery bag full of stuff. I have so far ordered four mystery bags, the best one was from Marqt on a Tuesday in a central location ( where I am guessing not a lot of people except tourists do their groceries) the worst was from Ekoplaza and admittedly only 2.99, and was vegan sushi, alfalfa sprouts and tabbouleh. Still pretty good for the price, just none of the stuff I would have bought normally. However, I got a banging bag from Le Pain Quotidien with fresh croissants, a chocolate tort and beautiful fresh bread. The app also means companies are dissuaded to throw out leftovers and it shows you how many carbon emissions you have saved!

De Ruilhoek / The Exchange Corner,

Maasstraat 146, 1079 BK Amsterdam. I went in here to sell some old clothes I had after a friend recommended it to me and wow, what a shop. It holds beautiful pre-loved pieces of clothing, that range from high-street to premium. They have everything from Acne Studios to Stella McCartney, at pretty fair prices. The fact is, THE CLOTHES ARE ACTUALLY NICE and organised and you don’t need to fish through 30 tea-stained items before finding something good, it is all pretty cracking stuff. If you are in Amsterdam check it out!

My Wardrobe Mistakes

The conscious wardrobe seems to be getting a lot of spotlight at the moment, and consequently there have been an array of secondhand online shops that are trying to dissuade people from purchasing new items and consider buying pre-loved items. At the higher-end there is the Vestiaire Collective and Depop, and The Resolutiopn Store where you can get a good price for designer items, but for those whose purse strings don’t quite stretch to those kind of prices (mine certainly does not) there is nothing wrong with a good old ebay browse not forgetting charity and secondhand shops in your area.

Everlane 

This online retailer is making waves in the fashion industry by being completely transparent about their fashion supply chain. Within each garment, which are usually strong stable basics for you to adapt to your wardrobe, you can find out the true cost of every piece from the material to the payment of factory workers. The factories they use are under constant scrutiny with compliance to things like working conditions and fair wages. I have not yet bought anything from here myself, but the idea is that Everlane creates good quality pieces that are built to last with transparent pricing

Good on You App

This is an ethical shopping app that gives a round up evaluation of the companies who are doing their part to make their clothes more sustainable and eco-friendly or their workers conditions better. The people at Good On You rate the companies based on its impact on the planet, people and animals to make its evaluation. You can search almost any brand and get a quick summary, which will give you some insight before shopping.

The Letdown, Netflix. This one is a little bonus that has nothing to do with sustainability but is a good watch. I am not a mother myself, but weirdly I feel complete empathy for the new-mum protagonist in this programme. Firstly, this series is hilarious, it comes in short manageable episodes and the characters are completely relatable. For me, shows that  portray an unpolished, unfiltered lifestyle and important, particularly when illustrating the reality of motherhood, give it a go!

 

 

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You may remember a whole year ago when I first moved to Amsterdam. Life was not as rosy as I  assumed it would be.  My first few months were stressful. I was living in a teeny tiny room on Airbnb;  the “double” bed barely fitted us in and there was nowhere to sit to eat dinner except on our bedroom floor. I was working horrendous shifts at an unfriendly “restaurant” on the Leidseplein (eugh!) and would come home in the wee hours of the morning, being very much underpaid (below legal minimum) and overworked. At one point, the  manager was so rude and unkind that I burst into tears on the restaurant floor.

It was cute.

One whole year on, and I can start to look at everything in a much more positive light. Perhaps I should not have jumped into a job so early, but we had no money. One of us was studying, with no student loan, and our food bills were adding up.

Which brings me to the positives, or rather looking back and seeing the silver lining. Returning home at 2am each night on a very low monthly wage meant I had to get a bike to reduce costs and travel time.  Which meant that I could practice cycling (something I hadn’t done in about 5 years) in the dark when no one was really around on my way home.

Having no money meant that we learnt creative ways to bulk out our food, beans and pulses became our culinary best friend and this is something we still do now. It made me a better cook, as I would try to recreate my favourite culinary dishes at home. For those who enjoy Chinese, I cannot recommend Omnivore’s Cookbook blog enough. I can now make sweet & sour tofu, Pad Thai and Kung Po tofu off the top of my head for a fraction of a restauranteurs’ price. It also meant that when I did have some cash to go out for dinner, I really appreciated it. I would get dressed up to go out and spend hours reading reviews to make sure to spend my hard-earned pennies well.

I discovered the best time for a sale at the supermarket and the best markets to get cheap fruit and veg. I asked for recommendations for  the all the vintage shops and flea markets that were worth going, IJ-Hallen being the biggest (and cheapest). I made my own facepacks, body-scrub and cleaning products.

Moving to a country with no friends has meant that I push myself socially, I learnt to say yes and be the instigator of social events, instead of retreating to my well-known social circle of friends with similar views and opinions.

I was honestly prepared to give up, to cut my losses and  move everything back home to the familiar and easier and better socially connected life. Sometimes though, it is great to be out of your comfort zone. Before taking the job I currently have, I was warned several times that my manager “could be a bit difficult to work with” . Compared to the management in the restaurant he is a pussycat, and experience with more difficult senior members of staff  has made me a lot more resilient and thicker skinned. In the words of Nietzsche or Kelly Clarkson (whichever floats your boat) what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Sometimes you need to hit rock bottom to put things into perspective.

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In a world full of “influencers” showcasing everything you could would and should be buying, it is getting more and more difficult to shop for what you “need” and what we will use rather than the pretty twinkling’s that pop-up all over our internet browsing. It used to be that we would need to buy a magazine, walk past a bill-board or proactively walk into a high-street shop to be presented with the retail latest collections.  Now, we needn’t even part from our beds to shop, we don’t need to leave our desks to browse and our shopping history invasively follows us around the internet and haunts us until we finally give in and in a few clicks have completed our purchase. Parting with our money has never been so easy. Do not be fooled that this ease is anything other than a fantastically well calculated scheme to spend and consume more. So how the hell do we slow down. How do we spend well? How do we stop ourselves re-purchasing things we bought and donated to charity years ago? How can we purchase less, but buy something that will last throughout the seasons and not fade with the trends?

The first thing I do is ask, do I need it. This is a pretty subjective term, because let’s be honest if we only had what we needed our wardrobes would shrink to a tenth of the size. Think through your wardrobe, do you have something similar? It might even be worth having a root through

Can you buy it second-hand? When I have something I really want in my head, the first thing I do is check with my mum to see if she has one. Let’s be honest, fashion has a habit of repeating itself, and you can probably find a very similar trend has previously surfaced and is now lying around in charity shops or on Ebay.

Justify the price. Personally, I think it’s totally acceptable to more a pricier item if it means you will wear it more. I always try to measure the amount of times I will wear it with the price, for instance buying a more expensive pair of work trousers that I will probably wear at least twice a week is justifiable. I have found that sacrificing the item you love for a cheaper version that is not as nice will work out less sustainable because you’ll probably fall out of love with it much earlier. If your budget is very small, try to get the very best quality item you can for your money.

What does the care label say? Is it high maintenance? If it needs dry-cleaning  chances are you won’t wear it as much. Look for something that is manageable with your lifestyle.

How long will it last? This is hard to tell, but usually if you buy cheap you buy twice. That being said, I have a few H&M and Primark items that are still going strong after a few years. Get yourself educated, get to know what the fabric is made of. Look for cotton, ideally organic cotton and avoid plastic and artificial materials. These are more likely to irritate your skin, are terrible for breaking down and will usually be components of a cheaply made material.

Put all these things into practice, and you’ll hopefully find yourself with a smaller wardrobe with more pieces that you will love and wear and will last you for longer.

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IMG_7050.jpgThe age-old debate surrounding the ethics of fur in fashion. It’s an ongoing contentious subject that is as old as the migration of fur into the fashion industry.
Today, some indigenous communities living in harsh weather conditions still wear fur as a necessary bi-product from the meat they hunt and a means of warmth for survival, but it is a long time since the Western world has needed this warm material for anything other than materialistic greed. Fur coats traditionally have been synonymous with affluence and elegance. They were expensive items and seen as a way to impress ones wealth. For a long time furhas been sought after for its luxurious aesthetics. However the use of it purely for aesthetic reasons has understandably long been deemed as cruel. Killing an animal for its fur or even as a bi-product is seen at best a little immoral and at worst as murderous and inhumane. Much like the iconic protagonist Cruella De Vil, fur is the ultimate animal rights villain.
Fashion houses (or the ones who have any sense) have moved to faux fur. In the past, I have always been weary of faux fur. I have always thought when done cheaply it can be pretty easy to look a bit tatty and incapsulate the Kat Slater look on the market stall with a matted leopard print jacket. Today  however Faux Fur is of such a high quality that it can come in all different colours and styles and so close to the real thing it can sometimes be hard to tell the difference- it’s win win right?
Except that it isn’t. Faux fur is made entirely of synthetics, the materials are very close to plastic something we all know by now doesn’t biodegrade easily and the material can usually can be quite energy-inefficient to produce. Also dyeing the faux-fur can be very toxic and wasteful. Personally I do not agree with wearing the fur of an animal at all, but sometimes in the past this method has been used to cull an overpopulated species. Also purely due to the quality of the coat, most animals will have had at least a healthy existence beforehand to ensure a glossy and full coat.
My mum (who was a vegetarian for 20 years) much like imitation meat, has always wondered why people would want to wear fake fur if they consider fur to be cruel- why wear an imitation of something’s skin. I think this is an interesting point but I don’t agree with it  (I also love vegetarian sausages). For me personally, I do not think I could justify wearing animal skin (which is probably hypocritical as I do have a few leather shoes) and I do not like the feeling of animal fur anyway but perhaps one of the most environmentally friendly things to do if you really would like a fur, is to buy an old fur coat – that way you know it is more likely to be biodegradable and at least you are making use of it, however perhaps be prepared to face a few raised eyebrows.
I would love to know how you feel about wearing fur these days? Do you think it is now justifiable to wear a real fur if it is vintage and would otherwise end up in landfill? Or do you think it is just something that should be illegal everywhere? Certainly food for thought….
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