Back-to-school shopping can be a tad overwhelming, are we right? And having the kids dress independently on a busy morning? A little daunting, for sure. Make it easier on everyone with a fashionable solution: a capsule wardrobe! We have the step-by-step guide you need to mix and match the right number of comfy, basic kids’ outfits. Scroll down to get started.

photo: Priscilla Du Preez via Upsplash

Step 1: Empty Closets and Drawers
We may not be able to follow Marie Kondo’s “KonMari” method to a T, but we can definitely manage a productive start with clearing out closets and dressers and taking an honest look at ALL. THE. CLOTHES. You’ll have an easier time seeing all that the kids really don’t wear anymore or have never really worn in the first place. And you won’t want to put all of it back.

Step 2: Weed the Wardrobe
Okay, it’s time to part ways with whatever isn’t going to end up in a capsule. Weed out the little worn as well as the outgrown, stained, or what can be otherwise donated, passed down or consigned. Pack it all up in respective bags, and get it out of the way. Hooray! You should now be able to see most of what you’ll be working with.

Step 3: Divide by Seasons
Okay, while we want you to aspire to the capsule, we will totally let you have two—one that can cover spring and summer attire and one for fall and winter. Deal? We are also giving passes to swimming or other sportswear, winter accessories, and dress-up duds and costumes because imaginations need styling too (You’ll have plenty of space leftover to organize these remainders.)!

photo: courtesy Primary

Step 4: Conquer the Capsules
Once you’ve narrowed that one massive mound down to two workable piles, it’s time for a little more math. There are various schools of thought on the ideal clothing ratio, but we think you should be able to complete an awesome everyday capsule with:

  • 5-7 tops
  • 4-5 bottoms
  • 1-2 dresses/fancy duds
  • 1-2 sweaters/hoodies
  • 1 jacket
  • 3-4 shoes
  • 2-3 pajamas

Lay out your options on the bed or floor and see what works with what. Choose tops that coordinate with any bottom or vice versa. And be sure to keep your kid’s absolute favorite dress or shirt (the ones worn nearly every day anyway). Ideally, shoes will work across the board as well, be they boots, sneakers, or sandals. Add leftovers to those respective bags.

photo: courtesy Youth Independent Party

Step 5: Fill in Blanks
So you’ve got it all narrowed down and realize you don’t have a sweatshirt that will fit for fall? Or there’s no way those handed-down T-shirts will make it through another season for a younger sibling? Rely on quality brands that cover the basics and shop those blanks without breaking the bank. Here are a few of our favorites:

Primary: Ideal for a capsule wardrobe, it’s committed to being free from “logos, slogans & sequins,” which is a big part of its charm and compatibility. Out of their stable of bright separates designed to be mixed and matched (and in many cases gender neutral), we particularly love their baseball tees ($16), pocket skirts ($12), and classic cardi sweaters ($24) and hoodies ($20).

Youth Independent Party: Made in Long Beach, CA of sustainable materials, this brand (nickname: YIP), is full of basics for kids ages 1 to 10 and encourages them to express their independent style. Upcycled and well made, these frocks will also go the distance, making some of these pieces suitable for growing with your kids from one capsule to the next. The gathered neck top ($12) can work as a slightly oversized dress layered over leggings before you use it as a straight top. Same goes for the kanga pocket sweatshirt ($20).

Madewell and Crewcuts: Did you hear?! Madewell teamed up with Crewcuts on a “matching mini collection” and it’s all kinds of adorable and versatile. Shop one of several looks for you and the kids online to check out the various ways its strawberry embroidered jean jacket ($69.50), for example, can be styled—surely inspiring capsule combos of your own.

photo: via Boden

Boden: If you want a similarly higher-end option for boys, too, catch a Boden sale. Its Breton collection, with bold stripes and fun color combos, is particularly capsule-friendly (the darling matching satchels their clothes come in make great storage bags too!)

Target: The price is definitely right when it comes to Target’s kids’ collections. When you stock up, you can often snag a BOGO deal, Target gift card, or extra Cartwheel discount in the process, too. And it’s a fun way to mix in a little flair with solid basics, whether it’s Junk Food Boy’s Mickey Mouse Short Sleeve T-Shirt ($12) or Cat & Jack’s Leggings Pants in rainbow stripe ($6). Target is also a great place to get a wide array of kids’ shoes for a song. So with little feet growing bigger seemingly overnight, you can make affordable seasonal sole upgrades.

photo: via Target

Step 6: Organize Leftover Space
Now, take a few steps back and admire all that hard-earned negative space! Without crammed closets and over-stuffed drawers, you should be able to hang the entire capsule in one quadrant of the closet or file it away in one dresser drawer. With a smart re-use of newfound free space, you’ll also be less inclined to fill things back up with more clothes! Here are some inspiring ideas:

  • Store your off-season capsule within reach, should the weather throw you a curveball.
  • Give the linen closet room to breathe by putting kids’ bedding and towels in their own closets.
  • If you always intend to rotate toys out so the kids don’t get bored with what’s out and about, use closet space to do so. You won’t have to dig into storage every time you want to switch things up.
  • Use rod space to finally hang those dress-up clothes and costumes.
  • Don’t have a mudroom or entryway storage? Line the bottom drawer of the dresser and put shoes there (you only have a few pairs now, after all!). So if your dresser has three drawers, you’ll put socks and underwear in the top, the capsule in the middle, and shoes on the bottom—giving kids an easy-to-reach, one-stop shop for dressing themselves head-to-toe.

photo: via Madewell 

Step 7: Maintain and Repeat
Once you find a brand or two you and the kids really like, you’ll have go-tos instead of guesswork when it’s time for a capsule refresh. To make replacements a little easier on the budget, shop brand websites for end-of-season sales, which is also a great way to get that Hanna Andersson dress and other more expensive brands at reasonable price points. Now that you know exactly what you’ll need, you can search strategically for those jeans and things needed for the next capsule—or two!

— Jennifer Massoni Pardini

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