How To Capsule Your Kids' Wardrobes

This post is written by Chandler Smith, first-lady of Cladwell.

I have 3 (almost 4!) kids, 5 and under. I love our busy, noisy, happy life, and I’m a big fan the little personalities budding in front of me every day. But the bigger our family grows, the more I want (ahem…NEED!) order and simplicity in our home. If it’s not necessary and bringing joy to our life, then it’s just creating disorder and chaos and we probably don’t need it. (Thank you, KonMari, for teaching us all the art of the purge.)


One of my biggest simplicity game-changers has been creating a capsule wardrobe for each of my children. Instead of having way too many (or too few) clothes, each child has exactly the right number and type of items they need for their little lives. By thoughtfully trimming down their wardrobe, I put one less tedious decision on their plate every morning, which means I put one less decision on my own plate every morning — X3. Capsuling helps me create beauty and order in my home, and that simplicity overflows out of the physical and into every relational dimension of our family. (It also means less laundry. WIN.) 


So get ready. I’m going to share the steps to creating a beautiful, interchangeable, kid wardrobe. Get ready for less laundry and better mornings!

 

6 Steps To Capsuling For Kids: 

 

1. Think about your child’s complexion. What colors do they look good in? Just like adults, there are some colors that make a kid look great, and others that just don’t work for them. If your child has a Spring complexion (think blonde hair, fair skin, and blue eyes) they probably look great in, well, Spring colors. Think pinks, blues, yellows. The colors of flowers you pick on a May afternoon. If you child has a Winter complexion (think Disney’s Snow White: black hair, fair skin, rosy cheeks), they’ll look best in bright reds, black, deep purples, and burgundies.

(If you’re having trouble pinpointing your child’s best colors, take Cladwell’s color quiz here.)

2. Think about their lifestyle. How does your child play? What activities do they do daily? What can they put on by themselves? Is your baby a crawler? Long baby dresses are adorable, but probably not the best choice for being on your hands and knees. Is your 2-year-old potty training? Double the inventory of undies! Is your 3-year-old always wrestling her big brother? Maybe she only needs one fancy dress. Is your son always running around and overheating? Maybe he only needs one heavy sweatshirt. Think through the unique season your child is in will help you figure out what kinds of pieces to keep in their wardrobe.


3. Think about your child’s tastes. What pieces of clothing do they gravitate towards? Are there fabrics or textures that they choose for themselves day after day? By the time most kids are 2-years-old they begin to develop their own personal taste and style. They are — believe it or not — turning into real people with preferences (O really? A two-year-old with preferences?!). Respect their personhood.


4. Think about your own tastes. Spend some time and think about how you want your kids to dress. For me, I decided that I just don’t like clothing with loud text. (Yes, yes, yes, my baby is “Mommy’s Little Princess”. But if I have to plaster it on everything she owns to convince you of her royalty, then maybe I have a bigger problem). It’s a very personal choice, but you get to decide how you want your kids to look. You’re teaching them how to communicate a first impression to the world. Show them how to communicate purposefully.


5. Think about your environment. This sounds silly, but what season is it? What kind of climate do you live in? As cute as that little baby sundress is, your child won’t wear it in a Midwest winter. But, if you live in the south, she’ll probably make great use of that dress all winter long. Use your brain here and help your child dress for the weather.


6. Think about laundry. How often do you do laundry? How much wiggle room do you want to give yourself in that laundry schedule? I do A LOT of laundry, but I don’t want to be bound to doing laundry every single day. (Believe it or not, there is more going on in life than laundry — some days.) How often you do laundry will affect how many items of clothing your child needs. This number isn’t the same for everyone — decide how often you want to do laundry and then plan for at least that number of clothes for your child.

Ok, lets get started! Here’s an example of all this brainstorming for my toddler.

 

Capsuling for Charleston Jane:

This is Charleston Jane. She’s 3-years-old, loves wrestling with her dad, stuffed animals with huge eyes, “cozy” clothes, The Little Mermaid, climbing on anything, and playing with water. She’s funny, kind, generous (about 80% of the time), and she thinks she does great Star Wars impressions. (She’s doesn’t. It’s hilarious.)


Based on Charleston’s complexion, lifestyle, our combined tastes, the climate, and my laundry schedule, here’s what I know:


1. Complexion: She has a Spring complexion, so she shines in light pinks, blues, yellows, and greens. 


2. Lifestyle: She lives a VERY active lifestyle, so she needs a lot of soft, cotton play shirts and leggings what let her move freely and don’t get in her way. She’s 95% potty-trained but has an occasional accident, so she needs a few backup pairs of underwear just in case.


3. Her Preferences: She loves the color pink, but doesn’t gravitate towards fancy dresses so she probably only needs one or two for special occasions. 


4. My Preferences: I don’t like writing on shirts. Sorry, I guess I’m high-maintenance. 


5. Climate: It’s winter and we live in the Midwest. Even though it’s cold, I want Charleston to be able to play comfortably outside.


6. Laundry: I do laundry 2x a week, so Charleston only needs 3–4 play outfits, plus extras just in case she gets them dirty ahead of my laundry schedule.

Are you still with me? You’re doing great. Let’s keep working. 

 

Closet Cleanout For Kids:

1. Take EVERYTHING out of the closet. Now — this is easier said than done. In our house, there is one load of laundry in the washer or dryer at all times. Do what you’ve got to do to get every piece of clothing out in front of you.

2. Sort each piece of clothing into piles of similar items. Tops, dresses, leggings, pajamas, sweaters, etc. Look at each item as you sort it. Does it have any holes or stains? Is it damaged in any way? If you’re feeling ambitious (and are the kind of parent who keeps a sewing kit handy), then put any torn items in a pile for repair. If you’re like me, put those damaged or stained items in the garbage and say goodbye.

3. As you sort, check to make sure each piece of clothing actually fits your child. I’m always amazed at how many things in my kids’ closet don’t actually fit them at all. If you have younger, same-sex children, put the too-small item in a pile to save for the next lucky hand-me-down recipient. If this child is your youngest, then put the items in a pile to give to a friend or to a second-hand store.

After you’ve separated all the damaged, too-small items, look at what remains. Here’s what Charleston’s capsule looks like, post purge...

Final product:

2 play dresses

2 t-shirts

4 long sleeves play shirts

5 leggings/pants

1 pair of shorts

2 “fancy” dresses

1 sparkly skirt

2 cardigan sweaters

3 pajamas

9 undies

7 socks

2 swimsuits

1 warm winter jacket (not pictured)

 

 

Well done! Now, before you finish, evaluate you child’s trimmed down wardrobe. Is there anything you need to fill in? What specific items do you need to buy? Are there still too many items? 

After evaluating Charleston’s wardrobe I decided that she could use a few more staple items: 1 legging/pant, 1 play dress, 1 play skirt.

(NOTE: In my experience, capsuling is more of an art than a science. Each time I capsule a kid’s wardrobe, I get better at knowing how many and what kind of items they need. There is not a right answer — you need to find what works for your family and child.)

Now, Charleston Jane has a beautiful, interchangeable wardrobe that she looks great in every day. I can send her to get dressed for the day and know that whatever she picks will be a good choice. By thoughtfully paring down her wardrobe, I am giving us both the freedom of one less decision to make every morning. She has more time to do the things she really cares about. Things like playing hide-go-seek, playing with baby dolls, and looking at bugs outside.


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