Childhood Home & Family

Less is More: Capsule Wardrobes for Kids

I climb the stairs with my warm bundle of clothing heaping in the basket. I inhale the soft clean scent and think to myself: this is the only time laundry is so delightful—warm and fresh. At the top of the stairs, my moment of downy-fresh bliss is interrupted by twins fighting over a toy, and my baby squawking for a fresh diaper. The clock strikes “lunch time,” and in an instant, I’m waiting for my fairy godmother to float down, wand waving, to sort it all out…complete with a pretty new dress for me.

Record scratch, reality check.

There is no fairy godmother, there is only me—Regular Mother and I am being called to duty. I toss the beautiful fresh laundry in a heap on the couch. I’ll get to that later. Only I never do. Instead, the three other loads I later bring up from the basement get piled up on top and a 3 foot mountain of clothing forms atop my sofa. There is no rescue, and no reprieve.

Confrontations over toys is not the only thing that causes the laundry to pile up. I cannot find a place to put all of the clothes once they are clean and folded. Storage is a premium when there is no hall closet, no linen cabinet, and no coat closet. My three children share the same small room (twin 4yr olds, and a 1 year old), with a tiny closet and one modest dresser. Teetering stacks of clothing on top of the dresser or small closet shelves stress me out because it looks dumpy, unorganized and overflowing. I yearn for the peacefulness that comes with tidiness.  

I’ve had to be intentional about our space considerations, dusting off my mama-ingenuity skills and figure out how to pare down anything my family does not absolutely need. More importantly, I have learned that chasing peacefulness within my home is imperative to me.  How can I make it easier on myself and find freedom from oversized laundry piles?

It hit me like a ton of Pinterest worthy bricks…capsule wardrobes for my kids.

A capsule wardrobe is a compact-yet-carefully-curated batch of essential clothing pieces, in coordinating colors that mix and match and don’t go out of fashion easily.  

It sounded like a pretty great way to reduce the amount of laundry I had been doing each week, and like it might solve my storage problems, simplifying my laundry-life in one fell swoop. I was excited to find a possible solution, but I had doubts as well.

How is this going to work?
What if I pare down too far and there is nothing for the kids to wear?
What if we get bored with the same clothes everyday?

I decided I might try making my own capsule wardrobe first, and started by getting rid of anything that didn’t fit me or I didn’t like. Some things were easy to part with because they were already stashed in the back of the closet, and were rarely worn. Others were more challenging, like the dress from my days before children that I really liked but was now too tight through the hips.  The sentiment of those days were wrapped up in a garment that I used to love but now felt self-conscious wearing. I decided it had to go. All of the items that didn’t hit the mark for my current needs, shape, and style had to go.

The fewer items there were, the lighter I felt.  Through that process of paring down, I have found peace.  I love knowing that everything I have in my closet is something I enjoy wearing and suits me. My clothes no longer overwhelm the modest closet space I share with my husband which makes me feel light and a little bit carefree, and my closet is now stocked with exactly what I need.  I have been surprised at how few clothing items I actually need.

When I honestly look at our practice of changing clothes, I realize that everyone in the family wears different clothing items multiple times per week. We go days on end without washing jeans, which sounds crunchy but it does make them last longer, and lightens the laundry load.

Building on the success of my personal capsule wardrobe, I focused on taming the laundry fiasco in the kids’ room. I started sketching out a plan for each child, figuring out the minimum reasonable number of items I might need for each one.  The weather was getting warmer, we would be outside more often.  I envisioned activities that would occur in the cool mountains and also in the heat of an urban summer, which meant they would need both long pants and shorts–long sleeves and short. Goodwill bag in hand, I looked through every clothing item and out went everything that was too small, too tattered, or not useful. The cute down vests the boys wore when they were 1, would be too small for my daughter when this winter rolls around–into the bag.

A simple three drawer chest dresser now houses 99% of all of the children’s clothing, even though it used to be quite inadequate for the previous volume of laundry. Everything has a place and the children only have clothes in their drawer that are their size and appropriate for the season.

Creating capsule wardrobes for my children has brought with it the added bonus of setting my children up for autonomy in choosing their own clothes. I know that everything in the boys’ drawer fits them well and since the the clothing colors are mostly neutral each piece can easily match any other piece. They can pick out their own clothes and look put together all by themselves. Mom Win!

These family-wide capsule wardrobes have been a harbinger of peace for me. If you have been buried under a mountain of laundry, a capsule wardrobe could be helpful in simplifying operations for your family. In my experience with this whole clothing endeavor, less is definitely more.

Creating a Capsule Wardrobe for Children

If you are interested in creating a capsule wardrobe for your kids, here are some helpful tips and things to consider as you get started.

Evaluate the needs of the season.

I create two wardrobes for my kids per year: one for spring/summer, the other for fall/winter.  Here are a few questions I ask myself:

Will they need long sleeves, short or a mix of both?
Will they need long pants, shorts or a mix of both?
What activities do you plan to engage in as a family? Camping trips, beach trips, pools/splash pads, parks?

Consider how kids will grow throughout the season. I try to buy clothes at the beginning of the season that are intentionally big because I know they will grow into them as the season progresses.

Buy clothes that mix and match well. Blue jeans and khaki pants (short and long) go with all t-shirts for both boys and girls. I try to stay away from outfit sets because they usually only look good as a set and not mixed. Err on the side of neutrals or clothes/shoes with no recognizable characters slathered all over. Give your kid a timeless look that is fashionable no matter what.

Buy the best quality you can afford. I tend not to care so much about the brand name of my children’s clothing because they are going to Wear.This.Stuff.Out. I am okay with that, but when I consider that these clothes are meant to last them through an entire season or longer, I want to buy the best made clothing I can afford. At the end of the season…I assess the clothes. If they are in good repair and still fit, I hang onto them for the next season, next year or next sibling. If they are too small but still in good shape, I donate. If they look pretty worn or shabby I will toss them in the garbage or make rags out of them.

Consider laundry habits. How often do you wash laundry now in your household? Are you comfortable with this frequency or would you like to do less? Design your capsule wardrobes around how often you would like to be doing laundry. After creating a capsule wardrobe for my kids, I am able to do one load of kid-laundry per week, which may not be possible for all families, but has been a life-saver for me.   

Here is an example of the capsule wardrobes I made for my children for Spring/Summer 2017:

My sons each have:

1 pair of dark wash jeans
1 pair of light wash jeans
1 pair of jean shorts
1 pair of cotton elastic band shorts
1 pair of swim trunks

4 short sleeve t-shirts
2 heavy-weight long sleeved shirts
2 light-weight long sleeved shirts

Other Essentials:
3 sets of pajamas
8 pairs of underwear
8 pairs of socks (approximate…there is a collective sock bin)
1 zip-up hoodie

My 1 year old Daughter has:
1 pair of jeans
1 pair of khaki pants
2 skirts
2 pairs of shorts
3 pairs of cotton pants

1 long-sleeved onesie
9 short-sleeved onesies

Other Essentials:
4 pairs of pajamas
1 dress
4 zip-up hoodies
6 pairs of socks

Every family and every child is different. A capsule wardrobe will look quite different based on the age, gender, and activities of each child. My daughter is 1 and her wardrobe contains several more tops and bottoms than her brothers, that is because she soils her clothes faster than they do. Diaper blow-outs, messy table habits, etc. The bottom line is that a capsule wardrobe should reflect the unique needs of the person it is created for. There is not a prescribed “right way” to curate a capsule wardrobe, it is more a practice of being mindful of real clothing needs and eliminating anything that falls outside of that.


 Jennifer Van Winkle lives in Seattle with her husband and three children (twin boys and a baby girl).  She is a teacher, musician, and currently a stay-at-home mom.  She loves fueling the imaginations of her children with creativity, songs, all things science, good food and lots of play indoors and out.  She blogs at Pepper Sprout Home and you can also find her on Instagram



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