Toddler Capsule Wardrobe (Part 1: Girl Version)
Welcome to the Storey house experiment of 2018/2019! My goal is to create a Toddler Capsule Wardrobe that'll last us through the upcoming cold season until B either grows out of the clothes, or it gets too warm for pants and long-sleeves (usually mid September through late April in Kansas). We'll see what comes first, but in the meantime I'm hoping this capsule wardrobe will be a successful experiment in consuming less and staying organized. The hope for this blog post is that it will inspire you with a capsule wardrobe of your own, and help you figure out how to make it happen with your own child's existing clothing.
Also important to note, I haven't included jammies or nap t-shirts/onesies since they'll be more for lounging and sleeping. (Full disclosure, we totally have character tees in that nap shirt collection because #childhood.)
What the Heck is a Capsule Wardrobe?
A little Googling told me that the term Capsule Wardrobe was created by a boutique owner named Susie Faux in the 1970's, and later made popular by the famous designer Donna Karan in 1985. According to Wikipedia, "a capsule wardrobe is a collection of a few essential items of clothing that don't go out of fashion, such as skirts, trousers, and coats, which can then be augmented with seasonal pieces." Was anyone else ever obsessed with the TLC show "What Not to Wear"? They talked about staple pieces often on that show too! It's not a new concept, but in today's world of fast fashion with 52 micro-seasons, it's easy to feel like this is an extreme idea. The key is to have the ability to make outfits that work for any occasion without owning excessive pieces of clothing. The way this works is by finding quality pieces that wear well in coordinating colors. In addition, for my little girl that plays and gets dirty often, this means having enough options for two outfits a day.
I've lined out the steps I took to do this for B's existing wardrobe in hopes that it will help you do the same!
#1: Cut the Excess
If you've been following me on Instagram stories, you've seen firsthand how many clothes we've already accumulated for B in her two years of life - classic first-time Girl Mom move. You also know that I've been reorganizing it all, and the biggest motivator for that is the upcoming Fall and Winter season. I whittled her current wardrobe down to the absolute best of the best for quality, fit and colors that coordinate. Anything that didn't fit into my strict parameters was donated or sold. I sold quite a few items that helped pay for the pieces I needed to fill in the gaps with. Budget-friendly, am I right? Husband, be proud!
When B was still a tiny newborn, I had no idea how much brands could differ in fit and durability. There are some fantastic big brands out there (Old Navy for example) that create really cute clothes that are on trend and on budget. My issue was that I was constantly consuming new styles (especially when she was tiny and growing at the speed of light) because it was so affordable with all the sales. Plus, when you're sleep deprived and feeding a baby at 3AM, shopping online can get real dangerous. I was buying pieces she wasn't even wearing more than twice... Just all kinds of silly.
#2: What to Keep - Quality vs. Quantity
The older B got, the more I tried out small shops with big reputations. I learned that some shops make clothes that wear really well - so well that getting them secondhand guarantees you'll be getting that same quality with a much better price point. Not only did they fit well, and fit throughout multiple growth spurts if bought big enough, but they also survived all the washes, crawling, climbing, etc. babies put clothes through. Now that B's no longer in the tiny baby phase of endless laundry and growth spurts, I'm excited about putting her in staple pieces that can mix and match through seasons. And at this point in my Girl Mom status, I know far more about what fits her best, what she likes, and what's easiest to throw on in multiple scenarios. Until recently, there were quite a few outfits we didn't even bother with because they were falling off B's shoulder, too short, too loose or tight, etc. I could tell she was visibly annoyed with her own clothing. For kids, the most important thing is that they can play comfortably!
I started by grabbing images online and taking photos of B's existing wardrobe after I cleaned out what didn't fit. I did this in Photoshop because it eventually would become visuals for the blog post, but you can also just throw it all on the floor in a similar layout for the same effect. I recommend photographing it nicely laid out for reference later when you're figuring out pieces what to buy to fill in the gaps. It's much easier to see color coordination and outfit possibilities this way as well!
#3: What to Buy
Something to keep in mind is that no capsule wardrobe is created the same. Some girls love playing in dresses, and some do better in pants. If you know your daughter just doesn't enjoy wearing dresses, then make sure she has more options in rompers and pants. B has a lot of dresses and rompers because those are the items I gravitate more towards in her closet (easy to throw on). I also tried to limit patterns and graphics in favor of simple colors and mixed texture - easier to create new outfits that way. As much as we love mustard yellow and muted pinks, I added deep teal and some neutral grays to mix it up also. A good rule of thumb is more neutrals than colors, but we already owned and loved a few of these items, so I worked from that angle instead.
A few other thoughts about this wardrobe lasting us from September through May: We have two pairs of brown boots in two different sizes to last a potential growth spurt, and the smaller size is more appropriate for early fall, pre-snow, with a lower cut bootie. My rule for shoes was one pair of waterproof boots, one pair of play shoes, one pair of dressier shoes, and one pair of boots. I also have two sweaters in two different weights. The chunkier cardigans will be used more in Dec-Feb and the lighter cardigans are more for layering on the nicer days. In Kansas, we get some randomly nice days in the colder months, but overall it's pretty much freezing through mid-Fall to early Spring. After living here for 28 lovely years, I'm confident B will be prepared for all kinds of weather with this wardrobe.
At least 5 of these items were bought second-hand, a good chunk of them were already in B's closet, and a few were replaced by me selling a smaller size for a larger size (The hoodies mainly! We love Childhood's Clothing and Lulu + Roo, and they hold their value well.) My goal was not to go out and buy B a whole new wardrobe, although it WAS tempting. Overall, everything was still fitting well, in great shape, and I just needed a few pieces to fill in the gaps and prepare us for the colder months ahead. I've attached labels below so you can get a visual for how much we already had! It really helped that I bought 18-24 and 2T when B was still comfortably in 12-18 last year. I also tend to stick to a certain color scheme year-round (dusty pinks, neutrals, and mustard yellow), so a few items from last Spring also worked.
Finally, I recognize that some of these brands may seem a little hefty on the wallet even with buying gently-used clothing. You can totally pull this off without going to that level, and it may make more sense for kids that are growing more quickly or are harder on their clothes. Just stick to simple patterns, a majority of coordinating solid colors, and a balanced amount of tops and bottoms.
#4: Test It Out
I'm most excited about how much mixing and matching can happen with a very simple, minimal wardrobe. I could easily make 10-15 more outfits that all look unique and can be dressed up or down. Currently, it takes about 30 min just to leave the house, and I usually throw B in whatever nearby romper I can find because it's easiest. It'll be nice to have less to sort through when we're strapped for time and B needs more layers to stay warm.
Not every life scenario is strictly casual or dressy - sometimes you fall somewhere in-between. That being said, you should be able to create a few casual and dressy outfits, and dress them up or down for those in-between times. If you're finding your wardrobe leans to a dressier look, and you tend to dress your child more casually, you may need to reevaluate the pieces you have. And vice versa!
The first time putting this together is the biggest experiment in what works and what doesn't - I'm expecting we may need to reevaluate this a few weeks in, and swap a piece out for one reason or another. It's a learning experience, after all!
Tops: Teal hoodie - Childhoods Clothing, Mustard ruffle sweater - Zara, Gray button-down - Zara (last season), Pink crew sweatshirt - Childhoods Clothing
Dresses/Rompers: All Alice + Ames (previous seasons) Two of these are leotards, and were originally bought for gymnastics classes. They're awesome for everyday wear, so I've included them in the post! (The first and last pictured in this category.)
Bottoms: Suspender skirt - Childhoods Clothing (previous season), Tulle skirt - GAP, Black leggings - Old Navy, Jeans - Target, Sweatpants - Childhoods Clothing (previous season)
Jackets/Cardigans: Pink and olive cardigans - Woodmouse & Thistle (previous season), Vest - Zara (previous season), Knitted cardigans - Zara (previous season)
Shoes: Lace-up boots - Cat & Jack, Rainboots - Hunter boots, Fringe booties - Old Navy, Sneakers - Nike
Outerwear: Yellow coat - Zara (previous season), Snow bibs - Patagonia
Not pictured: Socks, tights, and hats. Honestly, we are probably 6 weeks away from stores even offering the bulk of their winter wear, so I'm waiting to purchase a few of those things for that reason. We like to visit the family farm often in the winter, as well, and I'm anticipating B will need some snow pants and one set of thermals for underneath. The last two winters, she's rocked this micro-fleece onesie from Patagonia, so I'm going to replace it with a toddler-friendly version. Consider the snow bibs as a placeholder for TBD winter wear in the meantime!
A Few Final Thoughts:
Buy gently, previous-owned clothing: I'm more of an online shopper, so I personally like the Facebook B/S/T (Buy, Sell, Trade) groups better, but local consignment shops and sales are also great places to look. The key is to find good quality clothing since it'll be getting more wear with a smaller wardrobe selection. The stinky part about this is that's a little heavy on the wallet up front. Buying gently-used makes this a little less painful. This leads me to my next tip...
Cult-followings hold their value: There are a few children's brands out there that have huge cult-followings, and for good reason. They're settings trends, of course, but they're also putting really well-made stuff out there. They're also easier to shop on B/S/T groups because they have very active communities and groups dedicated to specific brands. You're typically buying from moms that take extra good care of their kids' clothes (dryers are rarely used, for example) because they spent more on them, so you totally reap the benefits of that! I'll link my favorites at the end of the post.
Think staple, not seasonal: This is a good rule for all capsule wardrobes. Some pieces work well for any time, and some are more seasonal in pattern, colors, cut, etc. You can always add warm tights under a dress and layer a chunky sweater too.
It's OK to be flexible: A little grace is in order when starting something new. If things just aren't working when temperatures drop below 20, or if B starts to grow out of everything, I'll revamp a little. My goal is to keep as close to the original plan as possible.
As promised, I've linked some great B/S/T groups linked under their respective brands:
Alices + Ames - Sorry Boy Moms, but this is a classic for us. Their colors and patterns are always on point, and the fit/quality is above and beyond.
Remie Girl - Another great girl mom company! We haven't bought from them yet, but they're widely popular and loved by A+A fans as well.
Childhoods Clothing - We've loved them from the beginning. Their colors are always so perfect and uni-sex, which makes them great heirloom pieces to pass down to another kid. Tip: Their skinny sweats and hoodies work in a size or two larger than you need (with a little cuffing) and last longer!
Lulu+Roo - Another great hoodie and sweatpants company! Their shorties have a ton of stretch to them, and lasted us two summers!
Rags to Raches - A little bold for a Capsule Wardrobe, but occasionally has some great pattern-only rompers that are WAY cute.