A Simple Children's Capsule Wardrobe In Six Easy Steps
Angela kindly invited me to share with you a series I wrote for Instagram about wardrobe planning for your child(ren), and she’s basically impossible to say “no” to so here we are! I am, in fact, deeply into childrenswear and styling - but I am not a strict capsule wardrobe person. Actually, I’m not a minimalist either. That said, I find a whole heap of delight in having a framework for my children’s wardrobe and shopping within that, so if you are or think you might want to be a capsule wardrobe person this will help you. If you’re a regular sort of wardrobe person that doesn’t want to waste money, also the right place. Actually, feel free to apply all these tips to your own wardrobe! My approach comes from a place of practicality (keeping track of what everyone needs in what size is mayhem!!) and it keeps us from having one child with five sweaters and no pants. Not that that has happened… (that definitely happened) Generally my goal is this: have enough clothes that we aren’t in a constant laundry emergency. Not that that has happened… (also definitely happened)
STEP ONE: Figure out your categories. I’m talking underwear, socks, pants, skirts, dresses, shorts - whatever the season and gender dictate. Do not forget activity specific categories (soccer/dance/water polo).
5 year old daughter, Fall Wardrobe
Ballet leotard, tights, shoes
STEP TWO: Take your categories and fill them with what you already have. This is a MEGA step for me since we are dealing with the hand me downs factor, but it’s also relevant if you had an amazing baby shower with garments gifted in larger sizes. Do you already have a coat and boots for winter? That’s a big deal! Start filling in what you have, and make a note of the colors. But wait there’s more? There’s a sub-step (that auto corrected to dubstep btw so make it a dubstep substep at your discretion) here. If what you have is something that you do not want (not your taste, fit is weird, too worn out) and you can afford to replace it...get rid of it. Seriously. I’m not a Marie Kondo devotee but I guarantee that if you keep something you dislike or that does not work for your kid it will not get worn...so why are you storing it?
STEP THREE: Palette: if you have a palette you work with then your kids will always look put together and best yet your family will look like you belong together. I’m often asked why my kids look ready to be on a set - it’s not that we are always dressed to the nines, it’s that the palette works!
The principle here is to think coordinated, not matching - and the biggest help you can be to yourself is to choose neutral colors and non-neutral colors you really, really like. You will be drawn to those colors anyway, that makes it easy to stay consistent.
Neutrals are beige, white, black, grey, brown and blue. Honestly, even maroon/plum/olive but shhhh that’s controversial. Those colors play well with others so I tend to choose one of them for the pricier pieces, like the knit sweaters, that way we maximize how much we wear the item.
Once you know the neutrals you can play with, choose a few other colors you love - for me this is olive green, brick red, mustard. It is important that you love them! That makes it natural for you to stick to your palette for the season.
Look at the items you already have. What colors are they? Are they neutrals or do you love to explore bright primaries? If it’s the latter remember that you will need neutrals to build your cherry red on. Invest in some navy. There isn’t a limit to how many colors you can have in a palette, but if you have a LOT and they are all over the place, you’re going to have trouble styling.
If you’re struggling to come up with a palette I recommend looking to nature. Landscape paintings even! Colors found in nature tend to stay in style longer and look good together - God built that in.
STEP FOUR: Measure. You need to measure your kids. There is a lot of variety between brands, and nothing more frustrating than ending up with the wrong size. That said, most include measurements alongside their standard age sizing - and I mostly find the age sizing USELESS beyond “[this kid] is a 2/3 in [this brand]”. Once you measure, keep track of the measurements in a note in your phone. You can get away with measuring every 6 months, but if there’s a big growth spurt we end up every 4. Measurements I find essential are sleeve, chest, girth (shoulder to crotch), shoulder to hip, waist, hips, inseam and foot (toe to heel). If you’re stumped you can even measure existing garments that you love the fit of!
STEP FIVE: One of the areas where the wardrobe can spiral out of control is sweaters. Shoot I mean shoes. SHOES, I want to talk about shoes today... but the sweater thing shhhhhh I’ll come back to that. Shoes are a classic Well That Escalated Quickly. You start with sneakers. Then you got leather boots. Mary Janes for church. Rain boots. Snow boots. Ballet shoes. Cleats. The dress shoes you bought don’t work for Christmas or the dress shoes you bought only work for Christmas and literally nothing else because how often do we really need black patent leather anyways?!? If pressed I could make a case for never. Ahhhhhh!! I have tried to refine this, and some of you will be able to live with even less, but here is an example:
Leather boots (boots or Mary Janes for daughter)
Rain boots with sock insert*
Now, you might still need a snow boot, like us, but if you live someplace warm this will work - and Ayrton only wore his Hunter boots in the snow the past two years 🤣.
The tennis shoe, if a classic style, will work for play and haphazard sportiness without totally destroying your outfit goals.
The leather boot will go with everything and, truthfully, can be styled up with most dresses with some nice tights and even fun velvet laces. Boom. Nailed it?
STEP SIX: Dressing the people - well... Shopping. Which you need to do to dress the people. if you’re overwhelmed by shopping this is where having the categories and the palette help: you are just going to fill in gaps! Buy the dress for church! Buy the pair of pants! If you love shopping and are trying to capsule, it helps in reverse: FOCUS. <- a Saoirse favorite. I’m also going to apply another Saoirse QOTD to this step: be patient and calm. If a garment does not fit your plan/budget/size range, be patient and calm. There are a lot of clothes out there at a lot of price points. So, how much to buy depends on how much laundry you want to do. Er... seriously though. There’s two schools of thought here: less clothes=more frequent but minimal laundry. More clothes=you can go away for a week and not need to use a laundromat. ;) I digress. This is a very broad step, but if you’ve made it this far then you know “my kiddo needs 3 long sleeved shirts, I’m going to find navy, mustard and cream ones”. Or, you have shirts, you need two pairs of pants to go with them, so you’re buying a pair of jeans and and a nice khaki trouser that you can dress up with a sweater for church.
Thanks so much for reading, I hope this helps and please hit me up @cathlins with any questions!
Written by: Cathlin Sentz
Photos by: Elizabeth Dickson