Your wardrobe is deeply personal. The items that fill your closet answer some of the big questions: How do I live my life? What matters to me? What are my goals?
As we evolve and expand our identities, our wardrobe evolves and expands, too. Maybe you took up yoga and added more workout leggings and sneakers. Or you got a promotion and chose to implement more blazers and silk shirts. The fun of fashion lies is the flexibility and creativity in choosing what to wear each day.
Then there are the items that stay in your closet day-in and day-out, through changes in lifestyles and seasons. We call that your Core Closet: the clothes that form a foundation for other pieces.
It’s important that these core pieces of clothing are high-quality and will last. As the core of your wardrobe, they will continue to be worn for (hopefully) years. Even better? Find core pieces that also have a story behind them. As you continue on your sustainability journey, consider how you can incorporate ethically made pieces into that Core Closet.
Below are five curated selections for always-relevant essentials that also achieve sustainability goals.
1. A crisp white shirt
A classic white shirt sets the tone for a chic yet effortless look. Plus, it can come in all different cuts and lengths: a button-down for professionals, a boxy cut for creatives, a flowing silhouette for the free spirits. With the right jewelry and layers, this shirt can be as appropriate for a Sunday brunch as it is a Monday meeting.
Versatility is key in our search for a white shirt. When looking for the right shirt, consider all the ways you can wear it. Mentally incorporate it into your existing wardrobe and plot out wearable combinations. The perfect shirt is an investment that serves you for years to come.
- Everlane Clean Relaxed Shirt ($98.00): a soft and easy button-down made with Everlane’s eco-conscious Clean Silk.
- Wild Roses Mia White Cotton Top ($145 AUD): from Australian sustainable brand Wild Roses, a bohemian embroidered top that can be worn two ways.
- Alternative Eco-Jersey T-Shirt ($34): a light and breezy tee with a casual pocket detail.
2. A bright sundress
Nothing says warm weather like a bold sundress. Whether printed or color-blocked, sundresses hold a hint of magic. They whisper of sparkling rosé on a rooftop or a slow stroll at dusk. Some of our favorite movie scenes are made memorable by one dress, floating cinematically in the wind.
Style your sundress with a straw hat, positioned slightly askew, or a belt cinching the waist. The right shoes can transform the same dress for many different occasions and moods, tipping the look towards edgy or sweet.
- Reformation Nikita Dress ($248): a romantic midi-length dress finished by shoulder ties and a ruffle detail.
- People Tree Riley Strappy Dress ($108): a devastatingly romantic red dress made from organic cotton.
- Pact sweatshirt dress ($45): a new and sporty take on a sundress in beautiful pastel hues.
3. A pair of perfect jeans
A well-fitting pair of jeans can feel like kismet, especially after a long and fruitless search. Once you find the right pair, you never want to take them off. We each have that dream pair of jeans, one we’d talk about at parties and compare with friends. And over the decades, this staple has become even more beloved. From trendy culottes to basic boyfriend jeans, there’s a fit and style that works for everyone.
Many in the fashion community have embraced the use of recycled denim and organic cotton to create jeans that are also sustainably made. We recommend washing jeans infrequently (every 2–3 wears) and air-drying them to preserve the fit and wash.
- Thought Organic Cotton Jeans (£59.90): in a versatile medium-blue wash, these everyday jeans offer just the tiny bit of stretch.
- Warp + Weft Wide Leg Flores Jeans ($98): an on-trend style with a cropped cut and a flare, and 10 color options (and diverse sizing).
- Mott & Bow Jane Skinny Jeans ($108): a classic pair of jeans that looks stunning with heels or white athletic sneakers.
4. A lightweight jacket
Even in fairer weather, we find ourselves reaching for another layer, especially in the evenings. Whether slung over shoulders or buttoned up over a dress, a light jacket can be the finishing touch to any look. We gravitate towards items with some visual interest, such as a unique cut or a subtle button detail. Trench coats are never a bad bet and denim offers a true-blue option.
When picking your outerwear, aim for a high-quality brand known for its construction methods. We find that our jackets get the most wear and it’s crucial for them to withstand the variable weather of springtime in New York. Even if you live in a balmier climate (lucky you!), traveling with a good jacket keeps you protected and feeling stylish in the elements.
- ABLE Merly Denim Jacket ($148): a light wash jacket with a mix of feminine slim-cut outerwear and rugged detailing.
- Eileen Fisher Hooded Trench Coat ($298): a jacket for the modern-day Audrey Hepburn, with a sophisticated boxy cut and an unexpected hood detail.
- Amour Vert Maggie Tencel Blazer ($148): an elegantly draped blazer that elevates your look.
5. Understated yet striking everyday shoes
A beautifully constructed, ethically made shoe can be one of the more difficult staples to find. The right shoes can complete an outfit, like punctuation finishing a sentence — sky-high heels as an exclamation point to an ensemble, ballet flats as a tidy period. As a Core Closet item, an everyday shoe should be comfortable enough to be worn throughout any activity, yet stylish enough to make a statement on its own.
With options such as vegan leather and recycled materials, our favorite shoes pass the sustainability test and our style test.
- Allbirds Tree Skippers ($95): a modern take on an athletic shoe with a lightweight feel.
- Nak Camilla Chelsea boots (£250): a sleek vegan leather bootie handcrafted in Italy.
- Nisolo Emma d’Orsay Oxford ($188): a European-style Oxford with just a hint of heel for lift.
After you’ve established your wardrobe essentials, supplement your closet with sustainable jewelry, handbags and shoes. Spend a leisurely afternoon browsing your local thrift or consignment store to see what treasures you can find. Set aside a seasonal budget, if you can, for one or two pieces to regularly refresh your Core Closet.
Our favorite approach to fashion is a simple one: Buy things you love that are the least harmful to the world. By supporting independent brands with ethical practices, you’ll take steps towards fashion sustainability and build a wardrobe you are passionate about.