The Green Parent

By The Green Parent

04th December 2019

Rachel Scholkmann writes on how to create an ethical capsule wardrobe for children. Runner Up in our 2019 Writing Competition.

The Green Parent

By The Green Parent

04th December 2019

The Green Parent

By The Green Parent

04th December 2019

Does the term ‘capsule wardrobe’ make you think of chic French womenswear, a city break or minimalist living? Then it’s time to add conscious kids to the list. As an adult who’s embraced the benefits of capsule dressing, I knew I didn’t want boxes of outgrown baby clothes clogging up the attic when I became a mum. With some careful planning, the capsule concept is perfect for little ones. Here are my top tips.

Look for longevity

I try to choose the best quality I can. Budget will vary depending on family circumstances, but there are certain features that everyone can look out for. This is especially true when it comes to style and cut. For example, I love trousers and tops with a stretchy cuff. I’ve had items that have taken my three-year-old through three or even four sizes. Initially, I’d fold back the cuff at the wrists or legs, and eventually the fully extended cuff would graze the end of his growing limbs. Reversible garments also offer added versatility. As you are buying less, you can often afford to buy better, but there is no reason you can’t source all the items you need second hand.

Layer, layer, layer

It was my mountain-loving husband who first introduced me to the concept of “onion” dressing – layers of clothing that can be added or removed as dictated by changing weather conditions. As a convert myself on hikes, I now apply the concept to my son’s wardrobe. For example, instead of needing (and buying) a separate snowsuit for very cold days, he wears layers: thermal underwear (vest and long johns), a long-sleeved T-shirt, a zip-up hoodie and his lined cords. His winter coat, gloves and a pure wool hat keep him extra warm and cosy. If it’s wet outside, I’ll add a layer of waterproof trousers and wellies. It works for us every time. When we get on an overheated bus, arrive at a cool museum or pop over to a friend’s house, it’s super easy to remove the right number of layers for comfort in that particular situation.

Colour coordinates

Children love bright colours and pretty prints. Although I personally have subtler sartorial sensibilities, I respect my son’s fun taste. We tend to pick a few brightly coloured or printed bottoms to mix and match with neutral tops. I also think socks are a great way to get some fun into a simple wardrobe; we have insects, space rockets and dinosaurs in our house. They go with nothing and by default everything. For the neutrals, my favourite colour is white. It may sound like a nightmare in terms of washing, but I actually find whites respond best to natural stain treatments like oxygen or sun bleaching. I tend to wash all the family whites in one go – a nice full load once a week does the trick for us.

Mix and match

In my family, we’ve all embraced capsule wardrobes. My son loves to get dressed by himself. His clothing is stored by category in easy-access boxes. As we have a high turnover of clothing – about a week’s worth in use at any one time – it’s easy for him to see his options and I never have to worry that things could get dusty from lying out untouched for long periods. With my neutrals-plus-prints formula, he always looks great. He does still put things on the wrong way around sometimes, mind you. But that’s just sweet and as long as he’s comfortable, I don’t mind.

Best foot forward

Children’s shoes are expensive and those little feet grow so fast! I have just two pairs of shoes on the go for my son at any one time, plus a pair of wellies. Over the summer, for example, he has a pair of sandals and some light canvas shoes. I always opt for neutral, natural colours that will go with everything. My priorities are comfort, fit and durability. With the right socks (warm, wool!) I can stretch his canvas shoes to last through colder autumn snaps as long as it’s dry. And I sometimes layer a couple of pairs of socks to make his wellies warmer on wet winter day.

Enough is enough

I review my son’s capsule wardrobe every season to check we have all weather conditions covered and to remove or replace items he’s outgrown. I personally find that just over a week’s worth of clothing works well. I only wash things that are actually dirty. Otherwise I hang them up to air and re-wear. My little guy loves to get messy inside and muddy outdoors. An apron for craft and waterproof dungarees in the forest save me loads of washing and usually help keep the capsule going for a whole week.

Is it for you?

There are various takes on capsule dressing, from project 333 to the 10-item wardrobe. Do your research and find a way that works for your family. My advice is to start by looking at your lifestyle and decide what’s realistic. Babies can get through a lot of clothing in one day, let alone a week. The trick is right-sizing the capsule for your personal situation. If you have the time and inclination to do laundry frequently, you can get away with less at any age. Experiment with capsules put together from your children’s existing clothes, and discover the benefits of less. If you decide it’s the way forward, plan consciously for a capsule next time your child goes up a size.


It saves resources. Kids grow out of clothing very quickly so it really doesn’t make sense to have loads of clothing that they can only wear for a short time.

It saves money. You need less if you plan carefully. Also, by consciously planning your choices, you’ll avoid costly mistakes.

It saves time. With less choice, getting dressed really is child’s play. You might even want to try it for yourself.

Autumn/winter capsule for a three-year-old

· 1 set of thermal underwear (vest and long johns)

· 4 pairs of underpants (he wears each pair twice)

· 6 pairs of socks (sometimes we double up for warmth)

· 3 pairs of trousers

· 4-5 long-sleeved T-shirts

· 2 zip-up hoodies

· 1 sweatshirt

· 2 pairs of pyjamas

· Warm coat

· Waterproof dungarees

· Rain coat

· Hat

· Gloves

· 2 pairs of shoes

· Wellies

Rachel Scholkmann likes to travel slowly. Originally from the UK, she has lived in Germany, Japan and – for the last decade – Switzerland. She and her husband are raising their son to be conscious, creative and caring. A minimalist at heart, Rachel keeps life simple to allow more space for joy.