Organize kids’ clothes into color-coordinated “capsules” so they can pick their own outfits

Sara needs to dress my daughter, or at least help me pick out her clothes.

I love clothes, and Miss J has so many clothes it’s a tad embarrassing.  Even worse, the daily question of what to wear was turning into a daily power struggle, with J saying "I want to wear something else" to every suggestion (and going to daycare dressed in some pretty crazy outfits, which I know I’m not supposed to care about, but I do).

I went through all of her clothes and put them into 4 "capsules" (in wardrobe speak those are items that will go together because they are all in the same color family or have some other similarities — like what you do when you pack for a trip). I filter out inappropriate clothing (i.e. shorts) and stash it elsewhere. I put each capsule into a fabric bin that fits on her shelves.  When it’s time to get dressed, I pull down a bin, and tell Miss J she can wear anything she wants from the bin.  Each bin has pants, shirts, tights, dresses, and colored socks in it — a good enough assortment that many outfits can be made.

They key thing is refraining from making a recommendation — I just present what’s available in a certain category from the box and tell her she has to choose.  This also has made it easier for her dad to assist in making "presentable" outfits.

As an example, here’s what we ended up with:  The "pink" capsule — you’d be surprised how many different shades of pink look good together, plus denim, khaki, and some light purple; the "burgundy and pink" capsule (so much pink — she is two!) — more the darker pinks and reds and some fall colors like dark green and brown, as well as denim;  the "basics" capsule — red, black, white, blue; and the "pastels" capsule — peach, pale yellow, pale blue.

We’ve gotten rid of almost all the daily arguments over what to wear, I’m back to having a well-dressed little girl, with that cute "I put this outfit together myself" flair, and we’re both happy.

I’m lucky that neither of my kids fight my choosing their daily outfits. Yet. But I’ll have to keep this in mind for the near future. Anything that helps kids take on self-care is good in my book.


  1. Karin- Mommy of three 4yrs and under says

    That is a cool idea. My four year old likes to pick out what she wears but she’s not that picky. I have a 4 yr old daughter, 3 yr old son and a 4 mth old daughter.

    Here’s a something I do that is somewhat similar:
    In my older daughter and sons room they have a container with 4 plastic drawers in their closet. When I wash and put up the clothes I put two sets in each draw (they are wide drawers). Each set includes pants, shirt, undies, and socks. When it’s time to get dressed they just go to the drawers to pick out what they want to wear for the day. It holds eight sets, a weeks worth. Works out wonderfully. Especially since I buy all their clothes in sets and if I left it to them or their daddy they would be wearing mix n match sets. Which drives me crazy.

  2. Caro says

    That’s a great idea! I have a feeling I’m be upgrading my process to that one at some point. Right now I’ve solved a similar problem with my 2 year old by putting together 5-7 ziplock bags of clothing and then letting her pick a bag. The nice part is that I can bring all the bags into the place where I’m getting ready (or her Dad can) and continue doing that while she makes up her mind. Then I open the bag, put the rest of them away so she can’t get at them, and let her struggle with her clothings for the next 15 minutes. This helps a lot in reducing my frustration with her wanting to do it herself, and my desire to get the heck out of the house in the morning.

  3. Rachel says

    I just let my kids wear what they want, as long as it covers their bodies adequately and is weather-appropriate. Clearly my standards are low.

  4. says

    I’m with Rachel. But my oldest has a strong need to be comfortable in clothes, and different things are comfortable on different days, so just getting dressed in a reasonable amount of time can be challenge enough. In order to minimize the clashing, I try to buy things in the same color family.

  5. says

    UGH! This is BRILLIANT. The “ugh” is because I didn’t think of it and utilize it years ago! You know, a nice side effect from this great tip is that your child will probably learn what goes together what simply by being presented with matching stuff all the time.

  6. Tiffany says

    LOVE THIS IDEA!!!! I also love the ziploc baggie idea too. With my son, it’s not so bad, but my daughter can really come up with some doozies! Thanks for this!!

  7. Jennifer says

    The problem I faced was my son having a closet full of cloths & wearing the same 4 outfits ALL the time. I finally started folding together outfits when I put the laundry away. This way I could mix his wardrobe up a little and not have the morning drama.

  8. Jennifer says

    The problem I faced was my son having a closet full of cloths & wearing the same 4 outfits ALL the time. I finally started folding together outfits when I put the laundry away. This way I could mix his wardrobe up a little and not have the morning drama.

  9. Sandy says

    I guess my standards are a little lower too. I just let my 3.5 yr old boy/girl twins pick their own clothes. His rarely clash, since it’s usually jeans and a t-shirt. Most of the time, she picks ok outfits. Sometimes, she looks a little wild (orange t-shirt, purple & green skirt, with pink tights??). Then once in a while, she comes up with something absolutely adorable (peach blouse with denim skirt) that I would never even have thought to put together.

    Yeah, she may not always be a fashion plate, but I love seeing her creativity!

  10. Lin says

    While there is something to be said for teaching your children how to coordinate colors, at this age I hear it’s more important for them to make their own choices (builds self esteem!) and when the right age dress themselves w/o any help. I miss the cute outfits mine used to wear when she was two yrs old, and I don’t usually like her choices, but she has a good sense of self. no offense but I think there is a lot of focus on presentation sometimes to the detriment of what might be higher benefit. she will figure out style and fashion quite quickly when peers start to matter.

  11. Sandy says

    My 3.5 yo son started getting into the Spider Man phase almost a year ago. Since then, it has been all about the character shirts and even cross-matching them (Batman shirt with Spider Man pants). But PJ’s have to be plain and standard and matched in colors. After a couple weeks of morning battles (I am a control freak and my son apparently inherited more than just my blood type), I decided to just walk him into his closet and let him take his pick. Less battling and more awkward looking super-hero outfits, but hey, I get to learn Parenting 101 (Let your child self-express) and get to horde pictures of him dressed in outlandish outfits that will haunt him when he brings his first GF home.

  12. jaya says

    an easy way to do this for a school-age child: get one of those hanging-on-the-closet-rod shoe holder thingies and fold up and outfit in each cubby. then morning stress is so low, just pick one of 7 and dress!

    if you restock all the cubbies in the weekend, you have 7 days all ready to go.

  13. Paige says

    Your solution gives a lot more room for creativity than mine–I have all her clothes in drawers or in her armoire–then I hang 7 outfits in the closet (complete with tights/babylegs/socks) at the beginning of the week and she (or my partner who also can’t put together an outfit!) can choose what to wear. I have to add some additional choices toward the end of the week though–she’s not okay with the slimming down of options!