Where to buy ethical and sustainable wardrobe essentials


A key element of a sustainable wardrobe is learning to live with less, and curating your wardrobe so that you can own fewer items that you wear more often. If you want to make a wardrobe work well with fewer items, you need to invest in a few key pieces that can be styled in multiple ways and paired with many of your other garments. Colours and patterns are wonderful- these are the feature items of your wardrobe. But the sustainable wardrobe essentials are all the key pieces that you pay less attention to. The black trousers, white tees, little black dresses and the grey sweaters. The essential garments that help you tie your wardrobe together.

I recommend that you invest well in these items. Buy two or three good quality organic cotton tees and they can last you for years, without needing to own many more. In general, I have found the best places to find ethical and sustainable versions of these wardrobe essentials are:

  1. People Tree* for Fair-trade organic cotton, trousers, tees and cardigans
  2. Zady* for ethically and sustainably made woolens, organic cotton, and leather shoes
  3. Everlane* for ethically made silk garments

Whether you love to wear bright colours or your preference is for the more subdued hues, your sustainable wardrobe essentials are best chosen in some kind of neutral tone. This doesn’t mean it has to be monochrome, if you love colour. But choose one or two neutrals that pair with the colour theme of your wardrobe. For me, this is black and grey. Others might prefer white. Navy is another great neutral if you want a neutral with some colour. Your might prefer brown and tan. Remember that these essentials are in your wardrobe to make the feature garments work- that bright pink dress will need a little black cardigan to go with it. That gorgeous teal blazer will need a little black dress. So don’t worry if the essentials seem dull on their own. They are building blocks which make the rest of your wardrobe work. Think of them of the white walls in an art gallery which highlight the artwork beautifully. Choose your essentials well and you only need own a few.

Here are my recommendations for your ethical and sustainable wardrobe essentials:

People Tree Essentials Long Sleeve Scoop Neck tee1.The T-shirt

Look to own at least a couple of short and long sleeve t-shirts in organic cotton or similar, such as the People Tree Basic Long Sleeve Scoop pictured above, or the Zady Linen Jersey Shirt.

Everlane Silk Shirt

2. The Button-up Shirt 

If you work in a corporate office, you might need to own 5 button up shirts to wear to work. But if your work environment is a little more relaxed you might find this unnecessary. Still, owning at least one or two button up shirts for more dressy occasions is worthwhile. I love the Everlane Silk Shirt (pictured above), or check out the soft voile organic cotton shirt from Zady, or Fair-trade, organic Zoe Classic Shirt from People Tree

ZADY Cardigan

3. The Cardigan

Cardigans are so versatile and comfortable. They can be worn buttoned up or open, and they are great for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers. I love the Zady Alpaca Cardigan (pictured above), or check out the People Tree organic cotton cardigan

ZADY Alpaca Sweater

4. The Sweater

A good quality woolen sweater is worth investing in. It will provide comfort and warmth in colder months. And if you choose well, can be worn with jeans, or dressed up with a collared shirt for the office. I love the Zady Alpaca Sweater (pictured above) and the People Tree hand-knitted (fair-trade) cropped jumper is also lovely. The People Tree organic cotton roll neck jumper is a great easy care option, thought it won’t match the warmth of wool.

Everlane Silk Long Sleeve Dress

5. The Little Black Dress

We have all heard that the LBD is a wardrobe staple. It would be hard pressed to find a wardrobe that doesn’t contain one. Choose a style that flatters your body, and no matter how you wear it you will look great. Dress it down with sneakers. Wear it with a purple belt. With high heels. Or a turban if it takes your fancy. I think the Everlane Silk Long Sleeve Dress (pictured above) has quite a 60s feel with it’s loose fit. But the People Tree Sleeveless Cowl Neck Dress might be more your style.

People Tree Pencil Skirt

6. The Pencil Skirt

The pencil skirt gives a lovely flattering shape to any frame. The People Tree organic cotton and elastane skirt (pictured above) is a great no fuss option, offering the flattering shape without the need for ironing.

People Tree Clara Chino Trousers

7. The Trousers

If you prefer skirts and dresses you may not have a need for a good pair of tailored trousers. Surprisingly, these aren’t the easiest to find in a sustainable version either. But People Tree have a few good organic cotton options, such as the Clara Chino Trousers (pictured above).

Kuyuchi Jeans

8. The Jeans

No wardrobe would be complete without the humble pair of jeans. But sustainable brands are few and far between, and this topic is deserving of a whole blog post of it’s own. If you are on the hunt for some sustainable jeans, Kuyichi (pictured above), Nudie Jeans and Mud Jeans are all good places to start.

Zady Wool Coat

9. The Winter Coat

If you somewhere with a decent winter, a good quality wool coat is a must. They can be expensive, but you’ll only need invest in one just two or three times in your lifetime. Good quality heavy woolen coats just last and last, and for this reason you may be able to find a vintage options fairly easily. But if you prefer to buy new, the Zady Wool Coat (pictured above) is a good option.


You may not need each category of wardrobe essential that I’ve listed, but I am sure you would wear quite a few of these. Invest in good quality sustainable wardrobe essentials to create a versatile wardrobe with fewer garments and reduce your need to shop from season to season. If you are looking for basics, such as underwear and leggings, you will also find my post on sustainable fashion basics helpful.

What is your wardrobe staple that you can’t do without?

*this post contains affiliate links. If you click on the link and choose to make a purchase I may receive a small commission (the price is the same for you). This helps to support the cost of running this blog. However I only recommend products that uphold the ethical and sustainability ethos of the tortoise & lady grey.

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