Simplifying by Creating Capsule Wardrobes for Kids

Happy autumn!  It is really feeling like fall here in Minnesota…leaves changing and falling to the ground, wind, the first frost.  I’ve pretty much transitioned my kids clothes from summer to fall…and this would be quite a task if I didn’t have capsule wardrobes for them!

A capsule wardrobe is a collection of clothing that is composed of interchangeable items in order to maximize the number of outfits that can be created. The aim is to have an outfit suitable for any occasion without owning excessive items of clothing. This is usually achieved by buying what are considered to be “key” or “staple” items in coordinating colors. (Wikipedia)

This definition works pretty well in general, but when planning a capsule wardrobe for kids, a few other things need to be kept in  mind:

  1. Kids spend lots of time playing and moving, inside and outside, and often in rough and tumble ways…therefore, the items  need to be chosen with this in mind: comfortable and washable!
  2. Kids often like the independence of picking there own clothes, and especially young children don’t know what matches and what doesn’t.  As parents putting their capsule wardrobe together, we need to make sure items are easy to “match”.
  3. Kids rarely need many “fancy” outfits… kids don’t need to dress as mini-adults.  Clean “play clothes” in good condition work for most occasions.

Here is how I approach capsule wardrobes for my kids:

First, I decide if I am going to think in terms of “outfits” or “separates”.  Generally, I choose think in “separates” and therefore choose neutral bottoms that will match with most any top.  However, my youngest prefers dresses (not skirts), so for here I tend to think in outfits.  For fall and winter I aim for eight to ten tops (a mix of short-sleeved and long-sleeved) with four or five neutral bottoms.  For my youngest I aim for six to eight “everyday” dresses with leggings and one or two pairs of neutral pants with three or four tops.  I also plan their “church clothes” separately, For the girls I like to have three of four dresses that will work for nicer occasions, including weddings/funerals/concerts/etc.  For my son I have one pair of pants for these occasions that three of four shirts.  He also has a sweater vest and several ties that work with these shirts.

Next, I think about outerwear.  My kids do not like to “layer” while inside.  So I have one or two zip hoodies for each child and one coat that is appropriate for the season.  I also try to keep one hat/scarf/mittens out for each child.  I do keep extra sets put away but easily accessible for when something gets lost!

Then, I think about shoes.  For the fall and winter my kids will have one pair of “everyday shoes”, like tennis shoes that are good for running and playing, one pair of “church shoes” and one pair of snow boots.

Finally, I think about the extras…likes socks, underwear, pajamas, leggings/tights.  For us it works well to have six to eight pairs of underwear and pairs of socks for each child, two or three sets of pajamas and four or five pairs of leggings/tights for under dresses.

I rarely buy my kids new clothes…pretty much all of their clothes, shoes and coats have been gifts and hand-me-downs or from garage sales and thrift stores. I am always keeping an eye out for clothes in the next size up (or two) when at thrift stores and garage sales.  I accept ALL hand-me-downs but I don’t look at ANY of them until you can do it WITHOUT the kids around.  I choose what  to keep then get rid of the rest BEFORE the kids see it!  I also always keep in mind what each kids needs for the next season…sometimes I even carry a list with me!  Any “extra” clothes we have or are given for the current season/next season is stored in a bin under their beds.  This way they are easy to get to if needed but “out of sight, out of mind”.  If I haven’t found something that we need by the time we need it, I am usually able to search one out at one of two local thrift stores or I watch sales and just buy new.  As the kids gets older it becomes harder and harder to find some things used…jeans and shoes for us!  However, I still have only gone to buy new a few times!

Would a capsule wardrobe work for your kids?  Would it make life easier and more JOYFUL?

8 thoughts on “Simplifying by Creating Capsule Wardrobes for Kids

  1. Linda Sand says:

    When our daughter was young JC Penney came out with a line of clothing they called something like garanimals. Every piece went well with every other piece. Years before capsule wardrobe became a common phrase. I wonder if they still sell those?


    • turn2thesimple says:

      I don’t know if JC Penny stills sells those. Wildly Co. is a fairly new company that sells capsule wardrobes for kids that are made ethically…it looks great but is out of my price range. Since ethical fashion is important to me I choose to buy gently used or make my own. I’m sure you could buy new capsule wardrobes for kids from places like Target and Old Navy by choosing a color scheme for each child so that all clothing coordinates. Since I buy most clothes second hand, I prefer to stick to neutral bottoms and then I don’t have to worry much about colors coordinating.


  2. EricaG says:

    Hi! This is great. I’m working on my kids’ capsules right now, and I’m excited to find help in your post. I have three boys and two girls. Boys seem easier to mix and match. And I love how girls’ dresses seem to grow with them over several seasons simply by adding cardigans and leggings. Thanks!


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