How I’m Creating a Back-to-School Capsule Wardrobe For 3 Kids

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The capsule wardrobe trend has always been appealing to me. I used to be one of those people who felt like I had a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. Simplifying my clothes down to a few casual staples that I absolutely loved and was excited to wear has helped me save so much money, time, and laundry detergent. 

Now that back-to-school season is right around the corner and I have three kids to shop for, I’m highly considering creating a capsule wardrobe for the kids as well.

What Exactly Is a Capsule Wardrobe?

A capsule wardrobe is basically a limited selection of clothing that you can mix and match to make multiple outfit combinations. The pieces in your capsule wardrobe are typically sustainable, fully functional, and may even follow a theme or preference.

The goal is to get rid of all the items that are creating clutter in your closet and stick to the things that you will actually enjoy wearing. Switching to a capsule wardrobe makes it easy to pick out outfits for the day, and you’ll naturally spend less since you’ll be buying fewer clothes and maintaining what you have.

According to Statista, most parents expect to spend around $383.68 per child on shoes and clothing. This adds up to $1,151.04 for three kids, which is an amount I have no intention of spending. Instead, I’ll be creating a back-to-school capsule wardrobe for the kids.

My goal is to make sure each child has 12 to 14 different looks or outfits, for a total of 42 different looks. Keep in mind, with a capsule wardrobe, clothes are mixed and matched, so this doesn’t mean I have to buy 42 different pieces of clothing. Instead, I’m taking these 4 easy steps to get started.

1. Choose a Theme

Capsule wardrobes are best when there’s a theme. This theme can usually be a color palette or pattern. For kids, I’m also willing to throw in a few of their favorite character outfits or graphic tees. 

The good thing is that kids are not shy about their favorite outfits and what they like to wear. So I listen carefully to certain colors and styles that they seem to like. This way, the capsule wardrobe will be easy to mix up and more cohesive.           

2. Take Inventory

After settling on a theme, I like to take inventory of what we already have in the closet. I do this with school supplies, too, to make sure I’m not buying something we may already have.

We live in the Midwest, so I’m always looking for pants and long-sleeve shirts from the previous season that could be carried over to the fall. Any short-sleeve shirts from the summer can be mixed in for the capsule wardrobe as well if they’re still in good condition. This is also a great time to get rid of items that haven’t been worn in a while.

3. Set a Shopping Goal and Budget

Once I take an inventory of what we already have, it’s time to plan a shopping trip and determine how many pieces of clothing I need. After taking an inventory this time, I came up with these numbers per child

  • 6-7 shirts
  • 7 pairs of pants
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 2 sweaters or hoodies
  • 2 pairs of shoes

Now, some of these things we may already have, so doing the inventory step is key to get clear on which items can be added on. Based on these numbers, this is more than enough to create 12 to 14 different outfits per child.  

4. Shop

Back-to-school sales are already happening, and this makes shopping for a child’s capsule wardrobe much easier. I shop at a variety of places for kids’ clothing, ranging from Old Navy and Target to Children’s Place, as well as Once Upon a Child for low-cost gently used items. 

When preparing a capsule wardrobe, it’s important to get sustainable clothing from quality brands. Some items may be super cheap, but realize that they may not last long so it’s often worth it to spend the money on long-lasting clothing. 

5. Mix and Match

The final step in creating a capsule wardrobe for your kids is to mix and match early on. Once you finish shopping and have all the clothes, start creating different outfit combinations and take pictures. This can help remind you of the best ways to match the clothes up and create completely different looks. 

Consider a Capsule Wardrobe for the Entire Family

Back-to-school shopping and even clothing your kids on a regular basis can be very expensive and time-consuming. Why not organize their favorite sustainable clothing items to form a capsule wardrobe that is easy to keep up with and saves money? This method of organizing your child’s clothes is well worth a try, so you can simplify the shopping experience and free up time for other things.


This piece is part of a series focused on helping parents prepare their kids for back-to-school. For more tips on getting organized, mastering multiple schedules, and prepping for the 2021 school year, see our full back-to-school guide.

Tags: Education, Motherhood

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Written By

Chonce Maddox

Choncé is a CFEI and freelance writer from the Midwest who loves to encourage open discussions about personal finance with her writing. See Full Bio

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