Capsule Wardrobes for Kids

What My Kids Read: Capsule Wardrobe for Kids

As I mentioned in Tuesday’s post, I have been on a decluttering and organizing spree with our clothes. It all started when I read Lessons From Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott. You can read my review to see why I was so inspired by that book, but the idea of a simple, 10 item wardrobe was very compelling. Ever since reading that book, I have been trying to hone in on what a small, capsule wardrobe would look like for me. For those not familiar with the phrase “capsule wardrobe,” it is the idea of streamlining your wardrobe to only have items that go with everything else in your wardrobe. That means the colors should match and the silhouettes should work together so that you could grab any top and bottom and make a great outfit (with some accessories, of course!). There are tons of ideas in magazines and blogs for a working woman’s capsule wardrobe, and I’ve seen a few (very few) capsule wardrobe ideas for stay-at-home moms, but nothing was inspiring me. I loved the idea, but I could figure out how to simplify without ending up with a very boring, basic wardrobe. Jennifer L. Scott has several very helpful videos on her blog, showing her wardrobe as a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom lifestyle, but her clothing budget and lifestyle are still very different from mine. Still, it was encouraging to see that her wardrobe wasn’t boring (although I did cringe at the idea of 3 silk blouses when my life involves lots of toddler cuddling!).


I recently came across the phrase “The French 5 Item Wardrobe,” which is the idea of having a basic wardrobe and only adding 5 new pieces per season, and there are only two fashion seasons in this system. (Google it – there’s lots of bloggers talking about it right now.) I liked that idea a lot. It opened my mind more to what basics can be in a capsule wardrobe. Truth be told, once you count the items the way Jennifer L. Scott does, “The French Five Item Wardrobe” is very close in amount of clothes to the 10 item wardrobe. One of my new favorite blogs,  Light by Coco has a great article about capsule wardrobes that also really helped me. As I read through all the various ideas and ways people implemented this idea, I finally caught the vision of dressing for the lifestyle you have, not the lifestyle you wish you had. The extreme example would be a closet full of evening gowns when you are a college student at a small school that doesn’t have formal dances.

Slowly, as I have been working through this capsule wardrobe idea for me, it has been filtering into how I think about my kids’ clothes. The fact is, the more people in a family, the more clothes we are managing. The more clothes we have, the more there is to keep up with, and the more there is to clean. Our housemate Tiffany has been a huge lifesaver, stepping in to keep up with laundry, but it was still such a hassle to make sure that everyone was dressed appropriately and neatly every day. After a few days of David putting the girls in interesting outfits (the man is a saint to pitch in when needed, but he is also slightly color-blind), I knew I needed to simplify this process to make it easier for others to help as well as easier for me.

One more small difference in the way we dress our kids is that we all dress almost exclusively in thrift store finds. That’s a whole other favorite topic of mine to discuss someday, but suffice it to say, I have learned to be very creative in styling clothes because you don’t go to a thrift store to pick up a certain shade of leggings to go with an outfit. It’s always a surprise when you thrift, but that is what makes it fun. Creative styling makes it more of a challenge for others to help (and harder for little ones to learn to dress themselves), though, and that is why I was faced with the conviction that I really needed to streamline the wardrobes for our family.

What My Kids Read: Capsule Wardrobe for Kids

First step for me was to sit down with a pen and paper and write out exactly what each child needed for this coming season (Spring/Summer). For my boys, I decided that they could manage easily with 3 pairs of shorts and 6 tops, plus 1 light jacket and 1 “dressy” outfit for special occasions. I tend to pick up certain colors for the boys, based on their favorite colors and what looks good on them, so they already had a range of shirts that would still coordinate with their flannel shirts in the Fall/Winter. In the past, the boys have primarily worn short sleeve button-up shirts in summer because they are easy to pick up at thrift stores in good condition, and they are very lightweight and cool in the summer. Recently, the boys have both expressed a preference for t-shirts, so I have tried to find things that still look nice but accommodate their preferences. Liam now wears mostly v-neck t-shirts and Paul likes basic, graphic t-shirts. I try to find ones that fit them well so that the t-shirts don’t look sloppy. I chose to keep all of the boys’ shorts in khaki to keep it easy for matching with all of their shirts (they like cargo shorts, so the shorts are casual enough to work with t-shirts). At present, we do not meet formally at a church, so we didn’t need a whole wardrobe of dressy church clothes to rotate. I decided that one “dressy” outfit per boy would cover any wedding/funeral/formal event that might come up. Each child got 2 pair of PJs and 2 pairs of shoes.

For the girls, I decided on 6 sundresses, 1 cardigan and one “dressy” dress. I decided strategically to keep the girls in dresses. They prefer dresses anyway, but it also keeps it easy to get them dressed, and makes it almost foolproof to keep them looking nice. Again, I only pick up dresses in colors that they like (or look good in – I love how Stella’s eyes look when she wears blue!), so the only coordinating was making sure that their cardigans would work over their dresses. (You can see almost all the kids’ hanging clothes in the photo above – I think Brontë’s dressy dress is the only one not pictured, one of Stella’s too small dresses  is there, and there is one fall/winter outfit in the photo that needed to stay hanging.)

I didn’t specify this on my list, but each child has a raincoat and rain boots. I don’t consider them necessities here in the Midwest region, but they get used a few times in Spring, Summer, and Fall. I also didn’t include tennis shoes in the lists. Our kids pretty much live in sandals all summer, but I did keep their tennis shoes for the Fall/Winter wardrobes. We may end up needing them more this summer, since some of our close friends now live in the country and our visits definitely involve lots of exploring. I guess you could call those the “extras” of their wardrobes. 😉

What My Kids Read: Capsule Wardrobe for Kids

So, my second step was to implement the idea, going through all the clothes and only leaving what was on my plan. The boys were easy because most of their shorts were stained, I had already decided to get rid of any patterned shorts, and I emptied their hanging clothes (excepting a dressy outfit each). Liam had a few more t-shirts that he was attached to, so I chose the best and let him have 2 as his sleep shirts. Once I was in their drawers, I decided to keep one pair of nice shorts and a short sleeve button up for the dressy-casual occasions of summer. I also realized that I should also keep swimsuits. We don’t go swimming regularly, but we usually get a few opportunities each summer, so they needed to stay.

I basically emptied the girls’ drawers, and they already had right around 6 sundresses each, so it was just cutting out most of the shorts and tops for them. I kept a pair of white sandals for both girls to dress up their dresses a little, and kept a pair of dark sandals that can get dirty. I came across an extra pair of sandals for Stella that I decided to keep. They are navy blue, so they go with all of her outfits, and, as moms of toddlers know, it’s really nice to have an extra pair of shoes for a 2 year old that likes to take off her shoes at random places and times! I kept 1 or 2 extra outfits for the girls to stash in the car for those emergencies that little ones often face when out and about.

All in all, I can now pack all the kids’ spring/summer clothes into 2 suitcases, which is a very freeing feeling! I am still watching the laundry for the few things that weren’t in the closet or drawers when I sorted, but that has been minimal.

My next step was to bag up the clothes and get them out! I did sort some out to sell, since we already have an eBay business selling used clothing (makes sense, right?), but they are out of the kids’ room! Finally, the last step was to go over my list and make a shopping list of anything that was missing (like Brontë and Paul need bigger shoes, etc). I was able to catch a sale for the shoes, so I think there are only a couple small items to still pick up.

So that’s how I created capsule wardrobes for my kids. It was more about streamlining what they already had and only hanging on things that would work with everything else. As the season progresses, if something looks faded, gets stained, or is outgrown, I will weed it out and look for a similar replacement. The nice thing about the system is that I already know the style and how many items they need.

Winter will be a little more challenging. I plan keep a little more because of snow and needing layers, but I am already determined to keep an eye out for very specific items to streamline their wardrobes this Fall/Winter as well. In addition to clearing out any extra clothing in their closet and dressers, I am steadily working through the bins of clothes that I have saved for the next baby. I’ve finally come to realize what my mom realized so many years ago: you just can’t keep baby clothes. If this little one is a boy, everything I have saved is over 8 years old now. The elastic is dying and the mysterious yellow stains have already appeared. Even if this little one is a girl (or if I didn’t care about stains and could get them all out), I’ve never had a baby in summer, which means all of the clothes I have saved are the wrong season or wrong size. My newborn baby boy stuff is all for a winter baby, and my girls were born in the fall. It’s time for some ruthless decluttering!

As for my wardrobe, I just uncovered the bin full of maternity clothes. Most of it is the wrong size or season, but I’m using what I can and looking at it all with a critical eye. I’m not yet to a 10 item wardrobe, but I’m whittling it down to see what are basics for me for now, recognizing I’m in a unique season that won’t last much longer. I’m already trying to think through and plan for a post-baby, nursing mama capsule wardrobe. Hopefully, I can share those plans once I figure it out for me!

How about you? Have you been inspired to do some Spring cleaning and decluttering? Are you as intrigued by capsule wardrobes as I am? Anyone tried a capsule wardrobe? How does that work for you? I would really love to hear about it in the comments!



  1. Like this idea. I’m at my wit’s end currently with my wardrobe. Most doesn’t fit my post-baby body. If it does, it’s not nursing convenient. I have about 10 more lbs to lose; who knows what will fit then. A capsule wardrobe might be just the thing. Hmmmm…

    • Becki, I know exactly what you are talking about! I’m already looking at that post-baby nursing time, trying to figure out how to create a simple wardrobe that will work until I lose that post-baby weight. Please keep me posted if you decide to try it! I haven’t see many magazine articles or bloggers tackle that particular wardrobe challenge.

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