How to create a back-to-school capsule wardrobe for your son

Creating a good wardrobe for your son can be a real puzzle. Younger boys grow too big for old clothes, and older boys want to reinvent their style for a new school year. Between that and changing school requirements, each back-to-school season can mean buying all new clothes again. The good news is that there's a way to cut down on shopping expenses for your son with each school year: create a capsule wardrobe!

What is a capsule wardrobe anyway?

A capsule wardrobe is a collection of clothing items for one person. Capsule wardrobes can be for seasons, but with a back-to-school wardrobe, you'll need clothes that can be worn throughout the year. You can pair items from the wardrobe with seasonal or situational clothing as necessary. For example, a capsule wardrobe might have five pairs of boys' pants and five T-shirts that your son wears throughout each school week, adding a jacket or gloves if it's cold outside, or switching to shorts if it's too hot.

With a capsule wardrobe, you don't have to buy as many pieces for each new school year and your son's closet is easier to organize. It also means you're planning ahead for what your son needs all year, so you won't be caught needing certain clothes at certain times. You can get all of your shopping done in one trip.

The important features of a boy's capsule wardrobe

A capsule wardrobe for a boy is going to be a little different than one for a girl. Durability is extra important, so you'll want to look for clothes that can handle a bit of roughhousing. Boys can grow very quickly over a year in adolescence, so you may want to get clothes on the roomier side. He should grow into these roomier clothes, so they will fit well several years. Finally, being able to mix and match for different occasions is very important. Boys' t-shirts, for example, are mostly casual, but polo shirts can be casual or slightly dressy.

How to make a great capsule wardrobe

The most important thing to remember is utility: nothing you buy should be underused. The laundry hamper is a good test. If your son doesn't need to have his laundry done once a week, your capsule wardrobe is too big.

The key to making a great capsule wardrobe is planning ahead. If you look at the syllabus for each of your son's classes, the school dress code or school uniform rules, and the weather where you live, you should be able to form a solid checklist of clothing items. For example, in a hot climate with mild winters, a middle-school boy's capsule wardrobe could contain:

  • Nine short sleeve or warm weather shirts.
  • Three long sleeve shirts.
  • Five sets of jeans or pants.
  • Five sets of everyday shorts.
  • Four sets of gym clothes, like a plain gray shirt and short shorts.
  • Nine pairs of socks.
  • One pair each of sandals, dress shoes, and athletic shoes.

From there, he can customize what he wears depending on the situation. If it's cold or a little rainy one day, he could put a hoodie on over one of the shirts.

How to shop for a boy's capsule wardrobe

Making a great capsule wardrobe is all about your shopping choices. Consider your son's needs for school. If he's into athletics, he'll need extra sets of athletic wear for boys and light, breathable clothes. If he's in art classes or other classes that get messy, you may want some sturdy and plain shirts that he wouldn't mind getting stained. It all comes down to simplicity: what does your son definitely need for the school year?

However, just because a capsule wardrobe relies on simplicity doesn't mean it has to be boring or drab! The limited number of pieces you can buy actually makes it more fun. Shopping becomes a puzzle for you and your son, picking out only the pieces he likes the best. If there's something he really loves and wants to wear multiple days per week, consider doubling up on that item.

You should also try to leave some variety among what you pick, based on his taste. Some boys may not want to wear jeans every day, while others will want a mix of loose, casual T-shirts and boy’s polo shirts or dress shirts. If your son loves to explore the outdoors, you could focus more on breathable activewear. The goal is to meet all of your son's needs while not over-shopping.

Sometimes less is more when it comes to buying clothes for a growing boy, so why not make the back-to-school shopping rush as easy and affordable as possible? If there's one factor you can control to save money, it's buying a smaller selection of clothes that work through all four seasons and all of your son's school needs.

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