Saying NO to fast fashion with a capsule wardrobe

I’ve been doing The Project 333 for nearly four years now.

The Project 333 is a Capsule Wardrobe system. It asks us to dress with 33 items, or fewer. The rules are fairly simple:

  • 33 items or fewer in your wardrobe. This includes jewelry, shoes, outerwear and other accessories. Vision glasses, wedding rings and religious items are exempt.
  • Sleepwear, workout wear, underwear, in-home only wear is not included. In my case, I’ve created a “10 items or fewer” Workout Wardrobe, that I use for workouts only. I also have items like nighties, ugg boots and a robe that I only wear at home (of course!).
  • You can box up seasonal wear to keep safe for the next year. This doesn’t count in your 33 items. For me, as it’s winter in New Zealand at the moment, I’ve boxed up my light denim jacket and a couple of dresses, which I won’t wear until summer again.

Stepping off the fast fashion train with a capsule wardrobe

Having a capsule wardrobe enables me to step away from the crazy, unsustainable world of fast fashion.

For a long time I’d had issues with the way fashion was going. Clothing was becoming poorer and poorer quality, while the stories of child labour and sweatshops were hard to ignore. I’m not a full-blown activist, but I wanted what I wore to reflect who I am. And who I am is NOT someone who supports cruelty and abuse.

Fast fashion is designed for profit, not for those who wear it or those who make it. It is cheap to buy, per item, but expensive in the long term. It is not designed to last or look good. Much like a drug hit, it give a quick “buzz” then the thrill is gone, forcing the user to move on to the next hit, then the next.

My capsule wardrobe from a few years ago. Some items have changed, but I still dress with less.

What I wear, what I buy…

These days, about half of my wardrobe is made locally. I buy locally made merino tops that I layer, and I stick closely with a color code of blue and black, with some brights in accessories for interest.

I’m also a fan of secondhand, recycled jewelry. I often pop down to the local Hospice shop, where I pick up cheap jewelry for a couple of dollars apiece. I wear it, then when I’m bored of it I donate it back and buy a replacement from the Hospice shop again. In this way, I’m sharing what I have, and I have an endless supply of great, recycled jewelry I don’t have to store or maintain! It’s a winning strategy!

Inside my drawer. A color code of blue, green and black helps me keep organised.

How a Capsule Wardrobe will change your life

Take a step away from fast fashion. Fast fashion is trashing our planet and hurting people and economies. Taking a step away from the madness is a positive move for everyone.

Buy fewer clothes. Less money wasted, less time spent shopping. More cash left for the things that really count.

A co-ordinated, planned wardrobe. Fewer items are easier to co-ordinate. I also have a color code – blue and black form the basis of everything I wear, with pops of warm colors in accessories (yellow, coral, red).

More money for better quality clothes. Having fewer items means I now have the budget for better items. I can buy three t-shirts at $80 each in merino, instead of 10 t-shirts at $20 each, and I know my better quality items will fit better, look better, feel better and last longer than the cheap ones ever could.

Where did YOUR clothing come from? The problems of globalism…

When I was a kid, clothing was made in my own country.

Clothing was expensive, people didn’t generally own much of it, and it was worthwhile for parents to sew and knit, because that was the cheaper, better option.

You could pretty much guarantee that, while they weren’t great jobs, they people who made our clothes were paid decently, and worked in decent conditions. The people who made our clothes weren’t children. And they went home to houses they might even own themselves.

That has all changed.

I was in town the other day, when I actually thought about what I was wearing:

A Levis Jacket. Levis used to be an all-American brand, made in America for Americans. Now Levis are mostly made in Asia, although you’d probably struggle as a common person like me to find out exactly where.


A Sportscraft shirt. Sportscraft were an iconic Australian brand for many years. Now not a stitch of their clothing is made in Australia.

A Jeans West leather belt. Jeans West is another Australian chain that sources all of its clothing from overseas. Is anything even made in Australia or New Zealand any more? Jeans West is now owned by Hong Kong company Glorious Sun – there ain’t anything “west” about Jeans West any more.

Jeans from The Warehouse. The Warehouse is a discount store in New Zealand. Still owned by a New Zealander, but practically everything it sells is cheap Asian imports. Including the jeans I was wearing.

Nine West Boots. Nine West is an American chain. Once again, my boots, although expensive, were probably made in a sweatshop in some third world country. I have no idea where, and the boots have no label indicating their country of origin.

I think it would be fair to say that not a stitch of my clothing was made locally. Furthermore, I don’t believe I could even track down where my clothing was made even if I wanted to.

This clothing wasn’t cheap (my shirt cost $150) but most of the profits aren’t going to the people who made the shirt. I doubt they’d have seen more than a few cents of the cost price.

What we’re seeing here is very poor people being exploited by a very small number of very wealthy, who own the companies. People in the middle, like me, don’t have a choice about buying sweatshop clothing, because there is no way to find out where our clothes come from, and no alternative to buy locally anyway.

Yes, some clothes are still made in New Zealand, but even they are made from imported fabrics and threads, and imported inks and dyes are used.

The truth is, we’ve been caught neatly in the trap of globalism. The only way out that I can see is to start up manufacturing locally again, made by companies that are willing to accept smaller profits for their shareholders than they would get from globalised, offshore companies.

I also think we need to buy less clothing, but clothing that will last and not date, and buy recycled fashion. We need to say no to fast fashion.

Either that, or we accept the status quo.

I didn’t mean for this to be a depressing post. But I think clothing and fashion are big issues that we, as a society, need to deal with and talk about.

What do you think?