The Reality of a Capsule Wardrobe for Moms

by Robyn Welling
Originally Published: 
woman in closet choosing clothes

My toddler is all over this “capsule wardrobe” trend, which is no surprise. No, she doesn’t care about living a minimalist lifestyle or organizing her closet, but who’s better than a 4-year-old at focusing on a handful of clothes to wear every single day while completely ignoring absolutely every other perfectly good piece of clothing they own?

I’ve seen most capsule wardrobes online represented as lists of about 30 classic, versatile mix-and-match items: black purses, gray pencil skirts, favorite skinny jeans. Not to be outdone, my toddler seems to have distilled her entire wardrobe down to this:

  • 1 set of fairy wings
  • 1 Strawberry Shortcake nightgown, worn primarily as outerwear
  • 1 Hello Kitty dress—but not the new one, the one with a hole in it
  • Pink flannel PJ bottoms, two sizes too small
  • 1 unicorn t-shirt that gets glitter all over everything in the washer
  • 1 left flip-flop (we’re still looking for the other one)
  • 87 pairs of plastic novelty sunglasses

You know, just the essentials.

Really though, aside from the fact that it’s difficult to find something decent to wear anyplace nicer than Walmart from her chosen “capsule,” I’m just jealous. I’m jealous because, as a mom, I know I’ll probably never be able to pare down my wardrobe to its simplest form. I’ll never rediscover a pair of floral pants from ten years ago and figure out how to make them look like a “neutral,” or experience the blissful simplicity of having some space between my hangers.

Most of my issue with the capsule challenge, from a mom perspective, is the relatively minuscule total number of items you can keep.

First of all, don’t make moms choose a favorite pair of yoga pants. We’d probably hit our 30-piece limit just with the ones we keep in active rotation: regular day-to-day yoga pants, yoga pants to sleep in, dressy yoga pants, grungy yoga pants to wear when we’re doing messy stuff like feeding the baby or reshingling the roof, plus the back-up spare yoga pants in our favorite style that we bought on sale in bulk and are saving until the older pairs completely fall apart.

Then there are shoes, which are also included in the total number of capsule items. That’s fine if all you need is one pair of nude heels to go with everything you own, but heels are going to look pretty stupid with those yoga pants—even the dressy ones!—or on the soccer field sidelines. Besides, shoes are pretty much the only thing we can still wear in our pre-pregnancy size, so don’t tell Mom she has to get rid of the one thing she can still wear from college. I don’t care if it’s a pair of chunky-heeled Sketchers platform sneakers that no one’s worn since 1994; THEY STILL FIT, DAMMIT.

And speaking of pre-pregnancy sizes, which mom in her right mind is getting rid of her I-Might-Get-Down-To-My-Before-Baby-Size-Someday inspiration jeans? Not to mention the Post-Delivery safety jeans, which we never want to fit into again but we also never want to stop eating Nutella straight from the jar either, so… Then toss maternity clothes onto that pile of things we’re keeping even though they don’t fit us—those suckers were expensive as hell.

To compound the problem, mom daily wardrobes tend to be a bit more conservative, making it tough to find 30 things we can stretch into infinity outfits for every conceivable occasion. As 20-something fashionistas we saw a sequined mini skirt and reasoned, “Hey, I could wear that out to the club at night, then transition it to daywear with an oversize denim shirt!” As moms we see a sequined mini skirt and laugh our asses off at the idea of wearing it to a PTO meeting—but then we keep it anyway because screw you capsule wardrobe, maybe we’ll dress up as hookers next Halloween, you never know.

Finally, though, when you boil it all down and forget the restrictions and funky fashion necessities of motherhood, moms will most likely struggle to successfully complete the capsule wardrobe challenge for the same reason they struggle to successfully complete a sentence: interruptions. Just when we’d pull everything out of the closet and get our belongings strewn all over every bedroom surface, someone would injure themselves or poop on something or need a snack or beg us to fast forward through the “scary part” of an Octonauts episode—and there all our crap would stay, all over the bed and the floor and the top of the dresser, forever. Or at least until the kids move out.

I love the concept of the capsule wardrobe, I really do. It sounds ideal. But I’m not an idealist—I’m a mom. So for now, since I can’t reduce my wardrobe down to fairy wings and Transformers sunglasses, I’m going to follow my toddler’s lead in a different way—I’m leaving my clothes right where they are, smashed randomly into drawers and littering the floor of my closet. Just exactly where the 4-year-old insists they belong.

This article was originally published on