streamlined clothing


This is a continuation in our Children and Minimalism series.

Creating a streamlined wardrobe for the toddler has been a long process. He received so many clothes as gifts at baby showers and of course I bought things that I liked, then handmedowns found their way to us. It was a lot to process, and a lot to discard, while coming up with a wardrobe formula that we can follow each season.

For a while I found that we had an abundance of fancy clothes. Things that were not practical for everyday wear so he wore them once or twice for a few hours before they were outgrown. Now that I am buying all of his clothing myself, I limit his nicer outfits to two bottoms, two top sets for each bottom, and one pair of shoes. In the summer we switch to shorts and one shirt – just the t-shirt or roll up the sleeves on a button down.


We are very casual west coast people so this is totally appropriate for a toddler attending church or holiday parties or other occasions where one might dress up. The only social situation we’ve encountered where this style wouldn’t fly was a, capital F, fancy wedding back east. I bought him a pair of grey slacks, borrowed a white button down shirt, and he wore his nice shoes (Converse at the time). We as adults had to dress up more, but toddlers can get away with a lot. I am very happy his outfit, which was worn once, cost only $13.

At his age, weekday clothing is just a step above pyjamas. He is in daycare full time. He is running, climbing, and napping and his outfits have to be comfortable in all of those activities. For winter months the uniform is knit pants, a t-shirt, and a long sleeve shirt. I try to source these items as inexpensively as possible – handmedowns, second hand stores, clearance racks – because chance are good that it will all be rags when it’s outgrown. I want him to play hard and experience new things. I don’t want his daycare teachers worrying about dirt or paint or food on his clothing.


We have seven of these outfits sets – Monday through Friday, a spare at daycare, and a spare at home. When I put clothes away I stack each outfit together with a pair of socks so there is zero decisions to be made if we are rushing in the morning. I try to make both shirts match the pants, but the shirts probably don’t match each other. The vast majority are not pieces I love, but at this age we are going for function, comfort, and affordability. In the summer we switch to knit shorts and just a t-shirt.

Since we live in Canada, footwear and outerwear change significantly with the seasons and my only rule is to be reasonable. With things like snow suits or swim suits, I buy one initially and buy a backup if it becomes a necessity. His clothing is also wearing out or it is outgrown frequently. I replace each item as needed, but our overall total stays the same. Recently I noticed his shirts getting shorter so I did a big inventory, made a list, and hit the end of season clearance racks to find replacements.

I know as he gets older he will develop opinions on his clothing, but it is my sincere (although perhaps naive) hope that we can work together within these boundaries. He can choose what to wear, we set the limit on how many outfits are allowed each season.

Much like his toys, this isn’t a truly minimalist wardrobe, it is just streamlined and practical for our needs at this time. If he wasn’t going to daycare or if we could do laundry more frequently I would probably pare it back more. Our current formula will definitely be adaptable as our life and needs change.