While there's no single formula for creating a "capsule wardrobe," there's plenty of guidance for women in selecting a couple of choices (think 2-3) for each type of garment: slacks, jeans, dress, blouse, casual top, layers, shoes, accessories. A collection for women might include a couple of pairs of neutral slacks, tops in a variety of weights and colors, three dresses/skirts, two pairs of jeans, and a jacket and handbag.
However, a key difference in dressing adults is that they can wear something multiple times before laundering, so wearing a pair of trousers twice in a week is fine. This is simply not the case for kids. I throw everything in the laundry as soon as it comes off their bodies, save sweaters and jackets and other outer layers. That means that a capsule wardrobe for kids needs enough tops and bottoms to last Monday-Friday or longer depending on when you do laundry. So, a kids capsule wardrobe might start with 5-7 seasonally appropriate bottoms, and 5-7 shirts of varying sleeve length. Add a couple of layering pieces for the cooler days and a couple of sleeveless options for warmer days to get a good mix of clothes for changing temperatures.
Personally, I really like the "rule of 3" to create a capsule wardrobe for both me and my kids. For adults, there is a lot of "rule of 3" application out there when deciding what's in your wardrobe each season or even what to pack when traveling. Travel wardrobe planners are great for creating an organized family life; why not live like this every day? But there seems to be less guidance for planning and managing kids' wardrobes. I assume this is because we are constantly living in the reality of growing kids- every season they are just a little taller than the last and admittedly it's hard to juggle the sizing game. So, using the "rule of 3" and considering the reality of size wars, here are 3 tips for creating a capsule wardrobe for your kids:
1) Stop buying 2-piece clothing sets. You know, the matchy-matchy shirt and leggings in the exact same shade of pink and green with the same little kitty-cat detail on the shirts and pants? These sets offer nothing in the way of versatility for pairing with other items. However, 3-piece clothing packs of basic essentials can be very useful (i.e., 3 shirts, 3 leggings, etc).
2) Pick 3 colors, at least one of which is a neutral or darker color if you can manage that in the negotiation. So: red, light blue, navy. Yellow, green, and dark purple. Orange, blue, grey. Dark Pink, light pink, white. You get it. It doesn't have to be perfect. The point is to give your child some independence in choosing the colors as well as general parameters to work with.
3) Be strategic with layers. Previously, I would buy the adorable sweater made to match one outfit, and then when they were worn so infrequently I stopped buying layers all together. Both were decisions that inhibited our ability to get outside and spend the day away from the house as I wanted to. They need 3 layers: a heavy-weight sweater or sweatshirt, and a light-weight sweater or sweatshirt, and a medium-weight jacket, vest or fleece that can fit over the other two items (which can also fit over the base layer shirt). (If you live anywhere where the temperature dips below 40, then they also need a true puffer snow jacket but I consider that to be essential for "outdoor gear").
Following the "rule of 3" and these general tips should help give you guidance for creating a capsule wardrobe for your kids. Of course, kids grow, so you will keep replacing items they've outgrown seasonally but it will be much faster and easier to make those decisions. Your financial investment will be much smaller with a capsule wardrobe and your closets will feel so much more organized and easier to manage.