Keeping a small wardobe, especially for kids, is one of the BEST ways to stay organized, keep clutter down, and not get overwhelmed with too much kid-stuff in your life. Let’s discuss the pros and cons of keeping a minimalist baby/toddler wardrobe, how to utilize the Split Size Strategy (TM) and the best approach to match your lifestyle!
Discuss pros and cons! Cons: travel? Predicting the right size and season, finding classic styles you love, and guilt about not wearing all clothing
A minimalist wardrobe is a great strategy to simplify your laundry routine, reduce clutter, and make getting dressed easier. You can reduce the amount that you spend on clothes or buy higher-quality clothing items by reducing the number of garments each of your children needs at a given time. Utilize the Split Size Strategy, especially when your kiddos are toddlers. Figure out a laundry routine and find a few online and in-person shops that you like for each clothing item.
Our Favorite Kids Clothing
Kate Quinn Organics for comfy staples and sweats, adorable baby clothes, and seasonal quirky patterns.
Burts Bees Baby for cute baby clothes and their amazing soft, neutral tee-shirts.
Robeez for tiny toddler jeans and soft-soled boy shoes.
Pact for some of their baby neutrals and their kids clothing.
Hannah Andersson – a great option for basics, organic baby items, big kid pants, and organic undies. Watch out for frequent sales
Thredup is great for picking up kids denim and linen items.
Goals and Benefits of capsule wardrobe
Why would you want to keep your kid’s wardrobe minimal in the first place? There are some huge benefits, which include
- Spending less money on clothing that your kid(s) will hardly wear
- Kids spend more time wearing the clothing in the styles that you love to see them in
- Easier organization and maintance. It’s easier to plan for upcoming seasons (of growth and weather) once you know your style and preferred color palette
- Kids will wear through some of their most favorite items. It’s great value for you and for the planet for an item to be worn through until it can’t be worn anymore. Then, if you have siblings waiting, they’ll get a few hand-me-downs, and a few brand new items of their own, and you’ll have plenty of justification for shopping the latest styles for your future little ones to wear through on their own.
Cons to a toddler capsule wardrobe
- If you don’t have a good laundry routine, messes and stains can derail a significant portion of your child’s wardrobe. Fortunately, Branch Basics exists and will have your kid’s clothing looking brand new the next day. Just spray, rub in the oxygen boost if the stain is serious, soak overnight if really serious, and literally anything will wash right out. It’s miraculous.
- Traveling can be tricky if you don’t have access to a washer and dryer and have a small wardrobe.
- When shopping sales for future seasons, you may not always get the right size for the right seasonal item if your kid grows an unpredictable rates (hint: they all grow at unpredictable rates). However, this is also a problem when your kid has a huge wardrobe, so just try not to stress about it. It happens!
- You will have fewer hand-me-downs with a minimals child wardrobe – and not just because (obviously) you have fewer clothes, but because each clothing item gets worn so many times. However, I actually find that this is a benefit. More on this below.
There are lots of different laundry strategies out there, but the
If you want lots of hand-me-downs, a minimalist baby-toddler-child wardrobe isn’t the best strategy, because there will be significantly more wear-and-tear on each garment. This can be minimized by buying quality items, and will be less of an issue for seasonal items and outerwear like rain boots and coats. But if you have 5 tee-shirts for your kiddo, and he wears a particular shirt once a week for a year, it’s going to be much more worn than if you have 30 shirts (not uncommon) and each shirt gets worn two or three times total.
However, I find that I actually prefer this. This is because after my last baby, I won’t have a lot of waste because much of the clothing will be well-worn. This strategy allows me to retire our favorites, and repurchase newer, more stylistically current clothing for each kiddo. I can also reuse a lot of the same sweats and pajamas, for example, while buying a few new gender-appropriate clothing items for opposite-sex younger siblings.
Split Size Strategy
Kids grow constantly and unpredictable. Their clothing won’t always fit perfectly, but by using the Split Size Strategy you can keep a minimal wardrobe while having all the clothes they need on hand.
When our babies were roughly size 18-24mo, we had some 18mo items, lots of 2T items, and a few 3T items. Then as they outgrew the 18mo items, we put those away and kept the 2T and 3T items for them to wear. Then as the 2T items start getting snug – and different brands are different sizes so this will not all happen at once – start retiring them and pulling out a few 4T items.
This way you have 2-3 sizes going at once. So if normally you would need 5 pairs of pants and 7 tops, now you can get 3 pants and 4 tops in each size instead.
The best way to not make kiddo look frumpy or dissheveled is to pair a slightly larger item with one that fits more snugly. So if baby has jeans that fit and an oversize sweater, that’s v cute. If baby has cuffed jeans with a well-fitted shirt, that’s cute. If baby is swimming in clothes that are too big on top and bottom, that may not be the look you’re going for. Or maybe it is, and more power to you. I’m not here to judge 🙃
How we made a capsule wardrobe for our baby
- Amount of day-to-day clothing: 3-5 of each garment and 1 of each outerwear item is a great place to start. I purchased my first baby’s clothing slowly, often as-needed, and stop buying when we have enough clean clothes to start each day. Recognize how often you do laundry. If you are able to run a load of laundry daily or every other day, you might get by with as few as 3 items of each type in each size. For the18month sizes and smaller, we have 2-3 tee-shirts, a 2 long sleeved shirts, 2-3 “real” pants, 2 sweatpants, and 1-2 pajama sets in each size. There are crazy weeks when it gets harder to wash, and for traveling we cant always wash as often, but this wardrobe is very flexible. Babies grow so fast that at 13 mo he was wearing his shirts in 18mo-2T (some starting to get small, some a little larger but not overly baggy), and he’s about to grow out of his 12mo pants. He was fully wearing 18-24m pants, sweaters, and jackets day to day. One pair of daily shoes per size, and then we purchased practical shoes (rain boots) as necessary. And there have been times when he’s reworn a pair of sweatpants or worn pajama pants to the grocery store because I haven’t pulled it together to do laundry all week. But it’s never been an actual problem and, since his pajamas are in a cute, versatile style I like, I still think he looked cute.
- Style: Come up with a few style rules and stick to them. I like solid colors, classic American style, and lots of neutrals. This means I look for solid, simple tee-shirts, jeans or sweatpants, hooded zip up sweaters or jackets, and classic shoes. Things I dont buy include onesies (preferred them only when he was under 6mo), rompers (they make potty time too hard), and brightly colored or loudly branded items. I love neutrals, so he wears a lot of navy, gray, black, white, blue and brown, with some brick red and other colors tossed in here and there. Because his basics are largely neutral, we can mix and match almost any set of items and it works well.
- Finding a color palette and styles you like helps a lot! Your preference might be pink, orange, and white (cute!) or button-downs and overalls (adorable), sports themed clothes (touchdown!), sparkly dresses with matching bows, or a 100% romper-based wardrobe (outfits solved!). Whatever you and your kiddo prefer, taking a moment to think through and identify those preferences goes a long way in targeting your spending.
- Targeted shopping. We buy clothes that are new, with a strong preference for organic, sustainable, and ethical clothing companies, and purchase/accept any kind of secondhand clothing make with good materials and without fire retardants. Having a minimalist, laser-focused shopping list in mind majorly speeds up the shopping in thrift stores, because it’s so easy to get overwhelmed by options in those stores and buy way too much clothing you kid will never wear. I’ve found great pants, jeans, overalls, shorts, and simple, basically unused button down shirts at thrift stores. Having this mindset also helps when shopping at Target or during online sales. When I buy my son new clothing, I can get much more out of sales because I know exactly what to look for. And I often buy him the same item in different sizes or colors. If it works and I love him in it at 6 months, I’m a lot less sad when he outgrows it if he can keep wearing it in a bigger size 😉
- A note on clothing quality: For new clothing, I do my best to find organic and/or fair trade items. Doing a capsule style wardrobe means I can spend a little more on each item since his clothing budget is already so small, and shopping sales is much more successful since I know what he’s likely to need for the next few seasons. Sticking with 2 or 3 main brands simplifies the shopping process, and makes it easier to maintain that consistent color palette that makes outfits so easy. Then, if you find an item you can’t live without dressing your kid in, you have more room in your budget and a good mental map of where it will fit into his wardrobe.
Children’s capsule wardrobes and gifts
Gifts are wonderful! I love when we receive donations of used clothes, or gifts of new clothes from friends and family! Especially when the gifted has observed our simple, consistent style, and instinctively gotten a cute item that fits into baby’s wardrobe. If not, my process is thus: if I simply don’t like how an item looks or fits, I pass that item along to another family. I don’t want it taking up physically or mental space if it’s just never going to get worn, by this baby or the next. If it’s passable, I might use it as a pajama or back-up shirt/pants etc. But regardless of how an item is aquired, if it’s not comfortable or cute or I just don’t like it for any reason, we donate it. And when he outgrows an item and I put it away for future babies, I really try to use the Kon-Mari method to only keep items I love. Even though the ugliest outfits still have sentimental value because my little baby wore them 😭 keeping only my favorites clears up storage space and mental space, makes moving easier, and leaves a little room in the hand-me-down wardrobe for future babies to have some new items of their own.
Toddler Capsule Wardrobe in the Winter
We have a few pairs of socks, but rarely use them because my kids go barefoot in their shoes. His winter wardrobe is basically the same things he wore in the summer, but with more pants instead of shorts, sweatshirts for layering, winter shoes, and no swim clothes.
Our favorite shops so far:
- Burt’s Bees Baby. I shop this store almost exclusively during sales, when items are $5-10 dollars. I love that their items are organic cotton (better for baby’s skin when it comes to new items), and their tee-shirts and pajamas are so cute and come in a color palette that works for us.
- Pact: organic and fair trade, super soft, and great basics for kids (and adults!)
- Robeez. This is where I’ve bought most of our kiddo’s shoes, again almost exclusively during sales. Their jeans l are unrivaled by any I’ve found elsewhere: they usually go on sale for $8-15 each, they’re stylish, stretchy so he can move easily in them, they fit well with a comfortable wasteband, and they come in the basic grays, blues, browns and blacks that I need to complete his outfits. The clothing here isn’t organic, but the socks are great and some of the shirts are super cute too so I’m flexible.
Not our go-tos, but may be yours:
Carters has classic styles that we use when gifted or when we find at a dollar-sale in the thrift store. Love their overalls!
Hannah Anderson: supposed to be great quality, just above my price point for items that are just outside our style zone. We have purchased a few items from here, and they are all great quality!
Thredup: if you go in with a plan, this can be a great place to fill in gaps in your wardrobe! Local second hand stores tend to have cheaper options for us, but as we need bigger sizes I think I’ll be using this online thrift shop more often. The denim and linen items I’ve found on Thredup are some of my favorites.