building a mix-n-match (capsule) wardrobe for kids.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

I have a different kind of post for you today, woo hoo!

It's the time of year when I start thinking about summer, and more specifically, summer clothes.  Since S2 can't wear anything that she wore last summer (those darn kids and their growing!), she'll have to get a whole new wardrobe, and it has to be budget-friendly.

When I was doing some online shopping for her recently, it dawned on me that I have a very deliberate mindset when it comes to kids clothes.  With each piece of clothing I come across, I ask myself three things:

1) Does this fit in my budget?
2) Is this piece versatile?
3) Is this piece practical?

Only you can answer the budget question.  For me, I don't spend more than $10 on a single item.  That tends to vary though - I wouldn't spend more than $6 on a "basic," and I'll spend as much as $20-$25 on a dress.  In general though, most of her clothes fall in the $10 range.

As far as versatility, we'll get to that in a minute.

For the practicality question, that will depend on your lifestyle, whether your child is in daycare, school, stays at home, how rough they are on clothes, etc.  S2 is in daycare, so I shop with daycare in mind, which means she wears almost exclusively separates.  You won't see any dresses or rompers in this post because they aren't practical.  Now, that's not to say that she doesn't have plenty of dresses and she's been known to sport a romper or two, but generally, those aren't things that I buy for her - she has grandparents, aunts and uncles who love to buy girl clothes (thankfully), so she's not deprived of "girly" things by any means.

Asking myself these three questions leads to what I call a mix-n-match wardrobe.  Have you heard the term capsule wardrobe?  It's all the rage in women's fashion.  This is pretty much like that, but I'm terming it "mix-n-match" because I think that more accurately describes the process for kids.

All of the items below are things that I've recently purchased for S2, with the exception of the white/gold pants and the shoes.  This isn't meant to portray an entire wardrobe for your child, but rather the process behind choosing articles of clothing and how they all fit together to create a comprehensive wardrobe.  That being said, I created 14 outfits from 13 articles of clothing and there are many more combinations than that!  Also, boy moms, this process totally applies to you as well, but since I have a girl, this post features girl clothes.

So, here are the 4 rules for building a mix-n-match wardrobe for your child:

Okay, let's talk about Rule #1 for a second.  This goes back to my 2nd question, above.  Don't buy a pair of flowery shorts that only matches that one coral tank top.  Your child will not get enough use out of said pair of flowery shorts to justify the purchase.  Each item that you bring into your home should be multipurpose.  A good rule of thumb is that for every flowery pair of shorts you buy, your child should have 3 tops to wear with them.

Onto Rule #2.  It would be easy to buy a bunch of cheap, solid-colored tees or tanks but then your child's wardrobe would be so basic and lack the cute factor.  So, when you're out shopping, look for what makes a piece special.  Sure, it's a navy blue t-shirt, but that white bow at the collar takes it up a notch.  See what I mean...

I think Rule #3 speaks for itself - solids and neutrals go a long way to making a wardrobe mix-n-match.

BUT, the counterpoint to Rule #3 is Rule #4 - mix in a few prints!  An ideal solid-to-print ratio is roughly 75-25.  You need those few special pieces to mix in to make a wardrobe interesting.  The caveat to this is, remember Rule #1 when choosing prints - don't forget that each piece has to have 3 items that match it.

Okay, now that you know the rules, let's get to mixing and matching!  We're working with 7 tops and 6 bottoms, but like I mentioned previously, I chose these items just to illustrate the process, and they do not necessarily represent an entire wardrobe.  Also, note that I'm focusing on summer clothes, but it's the same idea for winter!

1 // 2 // 3 // 4
5 // 6 // 7
8 // 9 // 10
11 // 12 // 13

I mentioned that these are all items that I've recently bought for S2.  (Except the white/gold pants which I included to illustrate another print, but do not fit my practicality question - they are WHITE and S2's playground at school is RED DIRT. Need I say more?)  In case you didn't click on the product links, they are all from Carter's/Osh Kosh.

I don't shop Carter's/Osh Kosh frequently because there's not a brick-and-mortar store near me, which makes returns more cumbersome.  However, the deals were worth it and I didn't expect needing to return anything this time so I went for it.  I got the above 12 items for about $116, but also qualified for $20 in Rewards to be used on a future purchase of any amount, i.e. no minimum $ amount, and 3% cash back through Top Cash Back.   So, while $116 was a lot for me, if you take into account that I got $3.50 cash back and $20 in rewards, the average price per item was only $7.70.  This also included a 25% off $40 or more promotion.  The MSRP for all the items totaled to $244, or an average of $20 per piece.  I include that last piece of info about the MSRP for your reference but take it with a grain of salt.  Retailers can list their MSRP at whatever they want, but when do you ever see an item at Carter's or Osh Kosh that isn't below a big 30% off sign?  Noticing the MSRP is a tricky proposition because it makes you think you're getting a great deal, but if you're still paying $10 for a t-shirt, even if it's 50% off, that's not a great deal.

As you can probably tell from the above analysis, I do not buy anything at full price (does anyone?), so I wait until there's a good sale or a lot of items on clearance or extra cash back on Top Cash Back or Ebates, or some kind of special promotion that makes me click over from my e-mail to the site.  Speaking of which, the best deals on kids clothes are online.  For example, Old Navy and are run as separate entities - Old Navy will not honor a sale that is running, and almost always has a 40% off entire purchase sale, which is hard to find in the store.  AND if you spend $50+, you get free shipping.  So, I'll add things to my online cart every now and then, and when there's a 40% off sale AND I have more than $50 of merchandise in my cart, that's when I'll make the purchase.

Okay, now that you have a little insight into the budget side of things, let's get to outfit-making!

Each article of clothing has its own number, so refer to the links above if you want to shop any of the items.

So that's it, an easy, budget-friendly mix-n-match kids wardrobe.  13 pieces, 14 outfits, and DONE.

I would love to hear your thoughts on shopping for kids!  Is budget your main concern?  Or maybe cuteness?  Quality?  Are you brand loyal or will you shop wherever there's a deal?


  1. This was great thank you! Enjoy your blog and wander over from time to time

    1. Oh and cuteness but budget friendly are mine. Had to be both :)