Closely related to my fascination with minimalism is my obsession for the past several years with capsule wardrobes. Unfortunately, as much as I love the idea, building one for myself has never worked. There are a variety of reasons for this, including the fact that I get anxious at the idea of throwing out my current clothes that don’t bring me joy—mostly because I’m pretty sure that all that will be left is a handful of evening gowns.

But while I haven’t been able to build one for myself, maybe it would be a good option for my son’s new wardrobe? For the first two years enough of his clothes were gifted to us that it was unsurprising that some of it was rarely worn and almost none of it was interchangeable. But since I’m pretty much starting from scratch this season, maybe I could change that? Plus, I’d been advised to buy all of Luca’s “normal” (i.e., not his wool or outdoor layers) in the U.S. to save money. So as Fernando gets ready for a work trip to Seattle, I’m sitting down to plan Luca’s wardrobe and do some MAJOR shopping. Major not because of how much I’m buying (despite what Fernando undoubtedly thinks) but because of how deliberate I’m being.

With that said, four days in to the process I found myself overwhelmed and noticed that I’d already accumulated some things that didn’t really work with the look I was going for. And there was more that I wanted to buy but that wasn’t going to fit with the wardrobe that I really wanted. So I stopped, took a deep breath and decided to start (sorta) from scratch.

First, a quick word on minimalist v capsule wardrobes…

Despite how the term is commonly used, I believe that in a true capsule wardrobe everything must be interchangeable and as a result almost everyone will need more than one capsule in their wardrobe. A minimalist wardrobe is all about only having the number of pieces you need, which will usually mean that many (but not necessarily all) pieces will be interchangeable. But they don’t have to be.

Based on these definitions, I think that “minimalist” is a more accurate term for what I’ve done than “capsule” although I will sometimes use the more common “capsule” term.

How did I go about building this minimalist wardrobe?

One of the problems with the majority of capsule wardrobes that I’ve found (for children or adults) on Pinterest is that while they contain cute (if not necessarily practical) ideas, they rarely walk you through the process of building a capsule. As a result, you are either left spending a lot of time analyzing what they’d done or just trying to buy identical pieces to fill out your capsule.

So here’s the exact process that I followed:

1. Decide on an approximate number of pieces for your wardrobe and a color scheme. In my case, I’d decided that I wanted about 20 pieces (not including underlayers (underwear, socks, wool) or outerwear) and that the main colors would be grey, green, and blue. I decided on 20 pieces based on this series from Anuschka Rees in which she builds 20 piece wardrobes that can be mixed and matched into 20 different outfits. Having a different outfit each day for almost a full month sounded good to me, and I liked that I had her capsules as a model even though they were for adults and not children. I knew that ultimately I would most likely buy more than 20 items, but I hoped I wouldn’t go too far over.

2. Break up your wardrobe into 3 mini-capsules. Twenty pieces doesn’t sound like that many, but I found myself overwhelmed by the idea of trying to coordinate 20 pieces and making sure that I had the right mix of items for different occasions. So after a couple days of trying to build my wardrobe, I broke it down further. The number three is somewhat arbitrary but I thought it made sense given the ideal size of the total wardrobe and the different kinds of activities we typically engage in.

The three mini-capsules I decided on are: (1) everyday or barnehage clothes—this is the most casual clothes designed for playing at the park and ease of dress (and hopefully cleaning!); (2) “birthday party” clothes—these are slightly dressier casual clothes and include jeans because I think they are so cute even if they are a little more cumbersome due to the buttons; and (3) dressy clothes—I think it is helpful to have one or two nice outfits for weddings, adult parties, etc., especially if you already have an event on the calendar when you are planning your wardrobe. I use the same basic color palette for the three mini capsules so they are largely interchangeable (i.e., a shirt from the everyday capsule can be worn with pants from the “birthday party” capsule) but conceiving of them this way ensured that I didn’t “miss anything” in terms of level of dressiness.

3. Figure out what else you need. In addition to inner and outerwear, does your child need any specialized gear? What about extra clothes?

At 21 months, we don’t have to worry about special athletic gear (other than swimming suits) but there are a few items that I would like to have that don’t fit with my color scheme, so I am counting them separately. Specifically, I want a Seattle Seahawks jersey f (even though we are currently living in Norway, we still have to represent the home team, right?) and at least one Ferrari shirt.

Another thing to think about at this age is extra clothes. Barnehage (which Luca isn’t in yet, but hopefully will be soon) requires 2-3 changes of clothes and since we are going to try potty training soon, three seemed like the right call to me. And until Luca starts barnehage, these will be good additions to the diaper bag.

4. Add anything else you just have to have. Sometimes even wannabe minimalists who try to be intentional about their purchases run into something that they just have to have. In that case, assuming that money isn’t a barrier, go ahead and buy it. Because you started with a small wardrobe the closet shouldn’t be overflowing, so an extra outfit or two isn’t that big of a deal.

Where do I like to shop for my toddler clothes?

One of the most common motivators behind minimalism is reducing our environmental footprint. (Did you know that the average American throws away 70 pounds of clothes each year?!) And the stories about working conditions in the factories where many of our clothes are made are pretty horrific. So while I don’t limit myself to “ethical” labels, I do try to focus on them when I’m shopping, filling in the holes later with items from my favorite “regular” stores.

Here are my top five online stores for shopping for my almost-two-year-old:

1. ThredUp. While the brands available from “the largest online consignment and thrift store” might not be ethical, buying things secondhand is not only good for the wallet, its great for the environment. And to make it even better, I had some credit with ThredUp from my pre-Prague closet clean out. So after deciding on a structure for Luca’s capsules and cataloging the items that I had already purchased, I headed to ThredUp to see if they had anything that I wanted and picked up several items, including a pair of pants that were new-with-tags and some shirts with cars and motorcycles on them that I knew he would love.

2. Primary. This company specializes in basics that are designed to mix-and-match, which is pretty ideal for a capsule wardrobe. Also, everything is fairly reasonably priced at under US$25 per item. The clothing is manufactured in India, China, and Vietnam, but the company assures customers that the factories “are approved by a certified third party inspection company and compliant with ethical manufacturing processes.” Given the price, I consider Primary to be especially useful for extra clothes for barnehage or the diaper bag.

3. Project Pomona. Hands down the best baby/toddler jeans out there IMO, I love this company so much. Designed with cloth diapered babes in mind, the GOTS Organic Stretch Indigo Baby Jeans are my personal favorite, and I have purchased two pairs in each size since I discovered them when Luca was about six months old. They also have other items such as the Color Pop Tee that I got this time—so cute!

4. Everlane Mini. The collection size is small and unfortunately some of the pieces I most wanted were not available in Luca’s size, but Everlane is another great option for high-quality basics at reasonable prices.

5.  Nordstrom. The brands here aren’t necessarily ethical and they tend to be more expensive, but as a Seattle girl, shopping at Nordstrom is in my blood and I would be remiss not to mention it. Almost all of Luca’s shoes come from here (it’s a great source for See Kai Run shoes) and if you like Mini Boden, they’ve got some great stuff, like this vintage car shirt and pant set.

What ended up in the Autumn 2017 toddler wardrobe?

I’m not done shopping, but here’s where I think we’ll end up:

  • 5 pairs of elastic waist “everyday” pants
  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 2 pairs of dress pants
  • 3 long-sleeved tees
  • 2 short-sleeved tees
  • 1 Seahawks jersey
  • 1 Ferrari shirt
  • 1 sweatshirt
  • 1 sweater
  • 2 casual button down shirts
  • 2 dressy button down shirts
  • 2 pairs of sneakers
  • 1 pair of dress shoes

Total: 25 items (plus 6 pairs of socks, 9 pairs of underwear, and under and outer layers)

I’m actually having a really hard time finding any dress clothes that I like, but I don’t think he’ll need anything dressy before we do a wardrobe refresh in November, so I might be able to wait on those 5 items, which would mean we are right at 20 items. As long as I don’t breakdown and buy all the Mini Boden clothes currently sitting in my shopping cart.

Have you built a capsule or minimalist wardrobe for a kid? Any tips or favorite stores?

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