Kids’ Capsule Wardrobes

I’ve talked a little bit about capsule wardrobes in my posts about renewing and simplifying our home. There are all kinds of formulas out there for how to create the perfect capsule, but I think these are kind of silly, unless you specifically love the exact style of the person creating those formulas. There are many different versions and methods for the capsule wardrobe, but essentially they all come down to these ideas that have been big game changers for our whole family:

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  1. You wear your favorite clothes all the time! Yay! If you think about it, you probably already do this a lot. Or you only wear your sub-par clothes out of guilt. It’s so great to have a closet full of clothes you love, instead of a bunch of clothes you only kind of like or want to wear. I could give tips on cleaning out your closet, but there are lots of those around. Try here and here. Mostly, it’s important to give yourself permission to let go of clothes you really don’t like. And then you won’t feel compelled to wear them.
  2. You keep your clothes very minimal, around 35-40 pieces, not including things like underwear, socks, and jewelry, although these should be minimal, too.
  3. You dress for your body type and personality, and not based on the latest trends. I read this article on Audrey Hepburn, my personal style goddess. She had iconic style because she dressed for her taste and her body type and not for the constantly changing trends.
    You probably already know what looks best on you – it’s the clothes you reach for time and again. And, if you’re like me, you’ve felt compelled to try trends that just don’t quite work. Let them go and be content with what you do know makes you look and feel your best.
  4. You curate a wardrobe where everything works together, all pieces essentially interact with each other and if you do buy something new it is based on a hole in your wardrobe – something that would really fill it out and is not an impulse buy.
  5. You choose your weapon: meaning that, of course, we all want to have fun. I definitely don’t want to be stuck wearing all neutrals for the rest of my life. Nobody does. Except maybe French people. But even they throw some color in there every once in a while. Anyway, the idea is to go bold with just a few things. Have just a few statement pieces that are really impressive and then keep the rest more-or-less basic – at least in it’s ability to be versatile with the other things in your wardrobe.

I have really loved having a capsule wardrobe for about a year.I think my favorite thing about a capsule wardrobe has been really finding what makes me feel confident. I have discarded the clothes that don’t fit me, so when I do pick an outfit, I feel more like it’s me, and less like it’s something I’m wearing just because it’s currently trendy. It feels good to look at my closet with excitement instead of guilt every morning. And I love wearing my favorite pieces again and again.

I’m not super strict about it, but I follow the basic guidelines listed above. I’ve made some mistakes, but I’m learning. And having a capsule means that every day I am wearing something comfortable, that I feel great in and was easy to assemble because there aren’t infinite choices (although there are still plenty!). For my husband, he had a wardrobe full of clothes that didn’t really fit but that he felt obligated to wear. We donated probably half of his closet and now for work he has three pairs of pants and 7 shirts, all of which fit very nicely. It never seems like he isn’t well dressed because he is simply wearing things that fit him well. So I doubt anyone notices that its not hugely varied. In fact, he has received more compliments on how he is dressed lately. Choosing our clothes has become a lot more about fit, durability and long-term usage, as opposed to sales or trends. Realizing you have enough with a limited amount of clothes makes it easier to wait for the perfect shirt to come along, instead of buying several throughout time that don’t quite work.

Because I love the capsule wardrobe so much, I have made sure my kids have one, too. And it works really well for us. For one thing, packing for trips is insanely easy, because I just pack whatever is clean. And it all works together, so I don’t have to be worried about this shirt goes with this bottom and these shoes only go with this outfit. Ugh. No. I don’t have time in my life for that. Packing lightly is easy, too, because of the versatility. You don’t have to pack so many separates to create all these different outfits. In fact, on our four-day trip to Canada a few weekends ago, the kids each carried their own clothes in a backpack. We rode a ferry to Victoria and then had a several-hour block on each end of the trip where we would need to carry around all our things because we didn’t have access to the condo we rented through AirBnB. A capsule allowed us all to pack lightly, so that carrying a backpack of everything we needed for 4 days, was totally doable – even for the two-year-old.

Laundry is also way less daunting. I do it about as often as I did before, usually once a week, or with 3-4 loads spread over a few days. The number of loads is the same because I wash by fabrics: whites, lightweight fabrics, and heavy fabrics (jeans/the boys’ clothes mostly) and towels and linens for the house. The amount of laundry is, however, significantly less. Getting it folded and put away is a no brainer. And I wash the clothes when we are out of clean ones, not because all that remains is plaid shorts and striped tees or a closet full of odds and ends that don’t work together.

Feb-4229I’ve thought about how to share this information, and thought of photographing and formulating their wardrobes, but the thing is, our capsule wardrobe doesn’t matter. You don’t have to copy it at all. It’s just the idea that has been really freeing for us. But our capsules won’t look the same as yours, and they shouldn’t!

For our girls, their dresses are their statement pieces that offer the most variety. Dresses are great because I feel like we get a lot of use out of them – the girls wear them with undershorts in the summer, or with leggings and sweaters in the winter. (Dresses also last longer through sizes. As the girls get taller, their dresses get shorter, but with leggings we can still get 1.5-2 years of wearing them before they get passed down.) They have lots of fun prints and colors in their dresses. And then all the leggings, sweaters and undershorts stay in basic, neutral colors so that they mix and match with everything. Essentially, it means there is no wrong way to make an outfit, which is nice for our mornings. I don’t think anyone in our family is really a “morning person”, so removing one more stress-inducing decision from the lineup has helped us streamline without feeling rushed.

Henry’s capsule wardrobe follows a similar idea, but obviously involves jeans and tops. For simplicity’s sake, the pants or shorts are all without pattern – although I do pick fun colors for his summer shorts. They are just colors that coordinate with all the tops he has. And his jackets and vests are also in simple colors that coordinate with all his tees and shirts. I used to feel like dressing a boy was harder than dressing a girl because they seem to end up with more odds and ends somehow, but having chosen to stay away from patterned bottoms has made it a lot easier. So far, the way we’ve paired down is to have 4-5 weather appropriate bottoms (shorts for summer, pants for winter) and 7-10 weather appropriate shirts, plus a few pullover sweaters and jackets in the winter. Because let’s face it, he doesn’t care about variety. He’d wear his Captain America shirt every single day if it wasn’t in the wash.


If you want to build a capsule wardrobe for kids, here are my tips:

  1. Keep it simple. It’s okay to have patterns and colors, but do so in a thoughtful way. For instance, patterned leggings, while super cute, may not be practical. Opt for bottoms that are in solid, basic colors and stick to patterns and prints in your tops (or be creative and do it the other way around with patterned bottoms and solid tops- but picking just one makes it easy).
  2. Shop only on occasion, and with intent and purpose.
    One of the things I have loved so much about the capsule wardrobe, for myself and my kids, is that it requires less shopping. I spend some time picking out everything they’ll need when they need a new size or maybe around the beginning of the school year. If it’s carefully thought out, it’s essentially complete and I don’t have to worry about it until they need another size. Of course they might get something new for a special occasion, and leggings might need to be replaced, but for the most part, what they have works for the entire year. And having a complete wardrobe makes it easier to pass up all the impulse buys waiting for me in the Target kids’ section. I also have a more concrete idea of what I’m looking for when I do shop sales or consignment, which eliminates buyer’s remorse when I get home and realize I don’t really like what I just spent money on.
  3. Keep shoes to a minimum, too. With all the shoes I’ve tripped over in the last few years, this one speaks right to me. Think about what your child really needs. And then get only one of each kind of shoe: athletic, dress, waterproof, sandal. (Although I will say we usually break this rule with waterproof because we live in Portland and even I can’t subject my children to only wearing the same boots every single day for 9 months out of the year – they usually have two-three pairs of boots, one neutral, one statement and one in-between.) In the summer they have one pair of play shoes. These are the shoes that can get dirty and trashed to the maximum and I don’t care. These aren’t the same as their church shoes. With only one pair of shoes to trash, we end up with fewer ruined shoes – and therefore more pairs that can be passed down to the next sibling or consigned, or, at very least, I don’t feel bad having to toss multiple pairs of gross shoes.
  4. Rotate seasonally. I like to make sure the winter coats are put away and the sweaters and rain boots get a little breather in summer. This might not be important to everyone, but I do enjoy looking into a closet full of just the things that are appropriate to wear right then. Plus, when fall comes again, it’s exciting to pull those things out and feel all excited about something “new” without having to actually buy anything.
  5. Just say “no!” Say no to buying clothes mid-season just because they’re cute. If you receive a gift of handed down items from a friend, keep only what you want and need. Hand the rest down to someone else or donate. Don’t buy clothes on sale that you wouldn’t consider paying full price for. Unsubscribe from sales alert emails. It’s just temptation you don’t need in your life!
  6. Finally, take back the internet. This goes for kid and adult wardrobes. What I mean is, use your Pinterest boards and search engines to your advantage. If you’ve ever had a “Style” or “Fashion” or any other kind of board on Pinterest, for you or your kids, look through it again. Delete everything that no longer appeals to you. In all likelihood, you’ll be left with a certain overarching style. Think of the words that come to mind as you’re scrolling through. “Classic.” “Simple.” “Statement.” “Athletic.” “Colorful.” Whatever words jump out at you are indicators of a good place to start when creating a capsule wardrobe. These are the kinds of things you are consistently drawn to. So keep that in mind as you plan and maintain a capsule wardrobe. You’ll end up with far fewer, “This isn’t really me” purchases. (P.S. If you’ve unsubscribed from all your deal emails, and are ready to make a thoughtful purchase, you can always Google “_______ coupon” as in “Gymboree coupon” or “Target coupon”. There are several sights that keep coupon codes up to date, so you can still get a deal on your purchase, without being bombarded with hundreds of sales alerts. Win/Win.)

The important thing is to be thoughtful about what you bring in to your home. You don’t have to dress your kids any certain way, but simply the way you and they feel most comfortable. When we choose to be thoughtful in our consumption, and to help our children be thoughtful, too, it is teaching them to be conscientious about the world around them and the space they are maintaining. My hope is that by teaching them these things now, this practice of thoughtful consumption will carry on into their teenage years when they will certainly have a lot more to say about what they wear. (Oh the horror that awaits.)

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