15-Piece Stay at Home Mom Capsule Wardrobe on a Budget (2023)

Tired of feeling frumpy? Hollywood stylist Erin Ross is here to talk all things stay at home mom clothes. She’ll help you create a comfortable capsule wardrobe on a budget that will make you feel like a million bucks! (Watch the presentation, or read the article below.)

I spent my 20s and 30s as a stylist and personal shopper on Rodeo drive in Beverly Hills. There, I curated the wardrobes of A-list movie stars, musical icons, and entertainment industry moguls. But after having children, the never-ending demands of my day job didn’t fit with the mom I wanted to be.

Now, I’ve turned my attention to helping other mothers find their taste and successfully modify their wardrobes to suit their lifestyles and fill them with confidence. I get to teach women how to become their own personal shoppers by showing them how to discover their style and edit their closets and shop like a stylist.

A lot of times we spend most of our time on the floor with the kids playing, and we’re in comfy clothes. Even through the process of having the baby and going through pregnancy, you are constantly loving spandex and anything that’s not squeezing you! But it’s hard to be feeling so frumpy. You start to miss yourself after you have children. You used to take some time to put yourself together. The good news is, there are some ways of being comfortable, but still looking polished.

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What are the 5 stay at home mom wardrobe essentials we all need in our closets?

1. Toppers

The first would be toppers, which are outerwear pieces like
blazers, cardigans, or denim jackets. You can quickly throw on any one of these over plain old jeans and a t-shirt, and it immediately elevates your look.

2. Elevated T-Shirt

In addition to the outerwear, an elevated t-shirt will up your
outfit. You want to take a step up from your basic t-shirt. We want to do something like a sleeveless blousy shirt, or a
fluttery sleeve, or something that has a little more of a refined scoop neck to it. Add something a little more fluid and special to your daily look other than a plain t-shirt.

3. Legging Alternative

The third thing you need is a legging alternative. You can still
do yoga pants, and I’ll show you a way that you can get away with that. But there are other fantastic fabrics out there that will be just as comfortable, one of them being ponte. Ponte pants are wonderful! You can wear these in place of leggings.
They are fitted like leggings, but they have pant-like details, like a back seam pocket, that gives you more of a finished look.
Jeggings (skinny, stretchy jeans) in soft fabrics are also a great alternative.

4. Dark Denim

The other thing that you definitely you need, that would be
our fourth essential is dark denim. If you have multiple pairs of jeans, a medium wash is also a great choice. But if you are only going to have one pair of jeans, they should be dark denim. Inky, dark denim can be dressed up or down easily.

Like versatile black pants, you can put on a pair of flats or heels with them and you’d have a great polished look.

5. Refined Shoes

The last thing that you need are refined shoes – shoes that are a little more feminine, maybe more stylized, not big clunky gym shoes. You know the Birkenstocks are back in style right now, which are tempting because they are SO comfortable!

They have that nice big flatbed, but unless you have pretty feminine feet, and a fantastic pedicure they make you look like you have hobbit feet. I have my dad’s feet, so I put those on, and it’s a train wreck. Those are a little tough to pull off.

Instead, you need something that has a little more refined look to it. Narrow straps and clean lines are flattering. Block heels on shoes are going to give you a lot more stability, so you’re able to do a higher heel if you wanted – just a little, not a three or four-inch heel, but a little something to give you lift will emotionally give you a lift, too.

You also need sneakers instead of sports shoes. There’s a lot of sneakers out there, like Keds or Converse. Look for something a little more streamlined and not so bulky.

Those are the 5 things I would say are wardrobe essentials,
and we’ll look at some examples of those.

What is the stay at home mom capsule wardrobe?

A capsule wardrobe is an excellent idea for stay at home
moms. A lot of you have put together capsule wardrobes and didn’t even know it. A capsule wardrobe is a collection of clothes that all work together to make several different outfits.

Any time that you’ve gone on a trip, and you’ve vacationed
somewhere, you’ve put together a capsule wardrobe. If you’ll be gone for 5 days, you’ll grab enough clothes to mix and match into at least 5 different outfits. You’ll choose something for both casual and dressier occasions, and bring all the accessories you need to complete those looks in your suitcase.

How many clothes do you really need?

For a stay at home mom on a budget, all you need is to put together a small group of 10 to 15 basic pieces that will work together as interchangeable outfits.

Depending on where you live, you’ll need clothes for various temperatures. You can add warmer or lighter weight pieces to your core capsule collection as needed.

Stores like Target, H&M, Zara, and Macy’s are great spots to find excellent style at affordable prices. You can also find lots of hidden gems at TJ Maxx and Marshall’s.

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Capsule Wardrobe Essentials

This is the capsule wardrobe that I’ve put together for you. All of these items are from Target. You can see that we’ve covered the 5 Essentials here that I was just talking about.

  1. Dark denim can be dressed up or down
  2. The black ponte pants that I was talking about – those stretchy pants that feel like yoga pants but look a little bit nicer.
  3. These shirts all look like regular shirts, but if you look a little closer there are drapey fabrics, there are some details -ties in the front, we have scoop neck t-shirts, and a draped fluid plaid shirt.
  4. The toppers that I discussed – the cardigan, a jacket (which is a very soft blazer), and a denim jacket.
  5. And then the last of the pieces being the refined shoes. We’ have the tan shoe which is a great neutral, goes with just about everything. The black little low heel which gives a little more finished look, and then the sneaker which is a little more streamlined sneaker.

How to Get 18 Different Outfits with Your 15-Piece Capsule Wardrobe

1. Scoop Neck T-Shirt with Ponte Pant

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When you put these pieces together, you can get some different looks. I was my own model for this. The first picture is a mom on the floor playing with the kids in the ponte pants with the scoop neck t-shirt.

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And from the back is those slit pockets that you can see with the waistband, so you can see that it does look a little more like a pant.

2. Jean Jacket over Scoop Neck T-Shirt and Ponte Pant

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If I needed to run out to the store or look a little more put together, I can throw on a denim jacket with the strappy sandal, and that ups that look a little bit.

3. Fluid Sleeveless Top with Ponte Pant

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I can pull the polyester shirt, so it’s a durable fabric, but it’s a fluid looking blouse. That sleeveless blouse can be on the floor playing or you can get up, put some strappy shoes on and have it look put together enough to go out to lunch with some girlfriends.

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4. Tied Sleeveless Top with Jeans

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The blouse can be tied at the waist, worn with some jeans that you turn up the cuff and put on some tennis shoes.

5. Blazer over Floral Top and Jeans

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That same little boppy look on the left can be tailored up with that jacket that I was talking about. Those sleeves are nice and soft so you can push them to be more comfortable. And then pop the strappy shoes on again. Any shoe would work. The tan shoe would work as well, and that would be a nice look.

One of the things it is important to keep in mind is proportion. You can see that the blouse untucked or untied hits me in the middle and cuts me right in half. Whereas, if it’s tucked or tied (see below), you see more of a waist. So much of the idea of dressing is to find your waistline and accentuate it.

Even if your waistline is full, you still want to get your most narrow point and have things end there. If you have a short cardigan that ends there or a belt or something that brings that in, it gives you that one-third/two-third look that is more flattering – it elongates the length of your legs and makes it look a little more finished.

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6. Jeans and a White T-Shirt

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Let’s start with simple jeans and a t-shirt outfit.

7. Blazer over White V-Neck T-Shirt

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You can throw on that same jacket with some sneakers and that’s a great finished look. I could wear that just about anywhere and feel confident.

8. Scoop Neck Shirt with Jeans

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Another look is the jean with the scoop neck shirt.

9. Jean Jacket with Jeans and Scoop Neck Top

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I can throw that on with the jean jacket.

If you cuff the jeans, that’s a great look, but it does shorten the look of your legs. You can see the photo above, my legs look a little longer with the jeans rolled down.

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10. Tied T-Shirt with Jeans

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We have a t-shirt that’s tied in the front. That one is a nice easy piece, but it’s fluid and it has the detail of the tie in the front, so it looks fun and feminine.

11. Blazer over Tied T-Shirt

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We have tied shirt with the jacket and it immediately takes it up several notches.

12. Denim Jacket over Elevated T-Shirt

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Or throw on your jean jacket and you can head out to the park with your kids, with a pair of tennis shoes, of course.

13. Plaid Topper over Tank with Jeans

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This is a fluid plaid shirt that’s a nice rayon, so it has a nice drape to it. I threw it over a tank top and put it with tennis shoes for a nice park look.

14. Plaid Shirt Tucked Into Jeans

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Or tucked in with some sandals, those tan sandals from Target would be cool with this.

15. Blazer over Plaid Shirt and Jeans

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And then of course the look with the jacket again.

Another topper is could be a combination of a cardigan and a jacket. Target has a fantastic cardi-jacket combo that is made in that ponte fabric. But that would also be good if you didn’t want to have the blazer.

16. Blazer over Blue Tank and Jeans

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Here is another look with the blazer.

Another thing to notice is that the structure of the jacket. With the jacket, your eye is drawn upward because it has a sharper shoulder.

If you’re fuller on the bottom and you’re trying to give more of the hourglass shape, a sharper shoulder, something that has some embellishment, a statement necklace-anything that’s up top like that, will draw the eye up, and create more of that coveted hourglass figure.

17. Navy Cardigan over Tank and Jeans

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There you have the regular cardigan. You can see that it has a softer shoulder, but your eye isn’t drawn up the way it is with the sharp shoulder.

18. Cardigan over White Top and Jeans

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Then, I’m showing you with the white tank underneath instead of the blue tank you can see that a little bit of contrast gives you that nice pop.

Yoga pants are the unofficial stay at home mom uniform. Is it a good idea to wear them?

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Yoga pants tend to be the fall back for comfortable clothes for stay at home moms. Yoga pants are so wonderful, but they belong in the gym for the most part.

But there is a way to cheat.

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A good way to do that is to put on a shoe other than a tennis shoe, other than a sneaker that goes with it. This shoe from Target is stylized with faux leather straps. They have a great sole on them, so they feel like tennis shoes, but it looks a little more refined.

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I put the swoop neck “the perfect t-shirt”, and it is very flattering. Then throw on some sort of jacket, preferably that covers the rear. That is the key with yoga pants. They are unforgiving, even if you have a fantastic figure, you’re drawing attention to it. If you’re okay with that, that’s great, but you definitely need to be aware that that’s something that yoga pants do not hide.

A jacket that will cover that backside is a little more polite, so to speak. That will make you feel a little more confident. Don’t throw them away because they are definitely awesome to have.

Additional Ways to Mix Up Your Capsule Wardrobe

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One more thing I wanted to mention, (this wasn’t in our 15 piece wardrobe, and neither was the jacket from the yoga pants pictures) one more great option that a lot of women don’t do for themselves is skirts. Skirts and dresses are so comfortable.

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If you get the right fabrics, like this one from Target, it’s a polyester fabric, you can throw it in the washer and then in the dryer. It feels good on, and you can thrown on a pair of slides with it and still have a casual look.

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Or you can even dress it up more by putting on some strappy heels, like the black ones there. Especially in the spring and summer, those are such good go-to things.

If you are looking for ways to save money, I don’t recommend dresses because it gives you only one look. Add that dress with a denim jacket or throw a cardigan over, but other than that it doesn’t give you much to play with. Separates are where you want to stay if you’re on a tight budget because you’ll get so much more wear out of them.

Shop the Look

I put together the Capsule Wardrobe Shopping Guide, so you can easily find the things that are included in this capsule wardrobe. In it, I’ve included those 15 pieces that we talked about for the capsule wardrobe, both in regular and plus sizes as well as accessories. I’ve also included some alternatives and additional accessories that would also work into the wardrobe. This is an opportunity to take care of yourself and let it be your turn for a while, to have something of you own.

Stay at Home Mom Clothes FAQ

What’s a reasonable budget for a capsule wardrobe? Many moms have to shop new sizes or are in transition sizes, so if we have to start from scratch, how much would we plan to spend?

The 15 pieces that I put together in this particular capsule wardrobe amounted, before tax, to $299. However, shoes were the most expensive part of it.

One of the things that I thought about when I put together this collection was that a lot of you will already have many of those pieces. You already have jeans. I’m sure you have a white t-shirt. I’m sure you have Keds kicking around. Just adding a few of the things that I selected here will help you to build your capsule wardrobe.

An important thing to do is to edit your closet. Go ahead and find some of the things that you do have that will work. Know what you’ve already have, so you are able to go ahead and start adding to it and create more outfits.

But if you had $20 to 40 a month to spend on yourself, you can strategically put together a good wardrobe over time that would work for you. Many of the pieces are under $20, so you can do two pieces a month, and build your wardrobe pretty quickly, especially if you already have some pieces that will work!

For instance, maybe you already have some denim jeans that aren’t dark denim, but in the meantime wear regular denim.

Should you bother with a capsule wardrobe when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding?

A capsule wardrobe is an excellent idea for any experience you’re going through such as breastfeeding or maternity wear, too. Capsule wardrobes can be used for vacations; they can be used for changes in your weight. Clothes that you used in the beginning of your pregnancy can be used afterward and for the breastfeeding stages when you’re still a little bit fuller with that extra room.

I’m tired of buying clothes that don’t last me more than six months. Do you have a recommendation for brands that are durable?

I’m impressed with the Universal Thread at Target. A New Day, as well as some of the Who What Wear, and Prologue. Those are brands that Target carries. I’m impressed with their cuts, their fabrics, and their structure.

Even the shoes and other styles they do are knocking off some the highest design that’s coming out from the fashion world, so I would stay with that.

I love Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, any of those at Macy’s, and Polo. The quality is fantastic.

I’d be careful with the logos. Michael Kors gets a little too logo happy on his accessories. Unless it’s a high-end logo, logos can cheapen the look of accessories, so you want to be careful not to do that.

One of the things I love about Universal Thread jeans is that they don’t have any name on the back of their jeans, so it could be anything! You could be wearing Dolce and Gabbana! It doesn’t matter! They have the cut and the look, so great! It works!

Do you have any suggestions for alternatives to synthetic fabrics to avoid static?

One thing to try is those little travel sprays, so you could do that if you wanted to stay with the polyesters and rayons and avoid static.

An alternative to those would be cotton. Look for a little bit of a thicker cotton. If there’s a little thicker feel to the fabric, then generally the fibers are a lot stronger. Be careful when you’re washing them. They should be fine in the washing machine, but when it comes to the dryer, cotton is known to shrink. Unless the garment is already shrunk, you want to think about line drying it. You’d need a warm iron at that point, so its hard to live without synthetics.

There’s also modal fabric that has the drape of rayon. It doesn’t have the static that you get with polyester, so that would be a good option to look at as well.

Is line drying a good idea for all out clothing to make it last a little longer?

Line drying is especially good with knit wear or with shirts that have a little bit of stretch to them. Often the dryer, especially the front loading dryers that we all love so much, are hard on the clothes and gets them moving around a lot. That can cause some of that fine pilling that you get with knits.

There are some fabric shavers that you can use that will help with the pilling, but if you can avoid drying, then that’s the best.

What is the best way to make your chest look smaller?

This Hollywood stylist doesn’t get asked that one much, but you can minimize your chest with the following strategies:

Avoid chunky sweaters and double-breasted jackets. Both add unwanted extra bulk.

Wear wider shoulder straps (2-3 inches +) as opposed to thin tank straps. They create a more proportionate line with a wider bust, instead of emphasizing the dramatic width difference.

Emphasize your waist and avoid boxy, oversized silhouettes. This flatters your curvy shape.

A wrap dress or top beautifully shapes the figure by separating the breasts and creating a long neckline.

Stick with necklaces that end above the bust line. Long necklaces don’t lay flat against a large bust and draw attention to the area you are trying to minimize.

Do you have some suggestions for summer wear for moms? When it’s hot, there are no real options for toppers, but I don’t like just wearing tank tops all summer. I’m no in my 20’s anymore and feel like while tanks are more comfortable in the heat, are too revealing.

There are some pretty, gauzy toppers. Ann Taylor did one a cardigan that’s almost a mesh fabric. Anything that has a fine gauge to the fabric will work. Even lace type construction are nice, and they keep you cool.

Otherwise a flutter or cap sleeve sleeve is pretty. Those would be nice addition to the spaghetti straps or tank tops while still staying cool. That sleeveless top that I showed in the photos, that’s a nice option. There’s a lot of those in lots of different colors. Target has some in stock right now that would be worth looking at for sure.

Do you still carry a purse or do you have any tips on how to make that look a little more stylish?

I did a piece on essential handbags and that includes some diaper bag ideas. You don’t want to get a diaper bag like I did, I got the one that says, “Oh when you’re done you can convert it to a regular handbag.” By the time I carried that thing around for so many years, I was finished with it and didn’t ever want to see it again.

Instead, compartmentalizing is the way to go with a diaper bag. The last thing you need is another thing to carry. Keep it all together. Get a nice big diaper bag that will accommodate all you need for baby, but then have a section or a pretty pouch or two just for Mama as well. There are many flat, zipper pouches that will fit your wallet, lipstick, phone, etc. Some have wristlets and can even be carried as clutches.

What is the best way to accessorize when you have your hands full with a baby that grabs at your jewelry?

Stay with little stud earrings. A longer necklace is a good choice because it’s going to be harder for your baby to pull it far enough away to do any damage. If it’s too short, then they get a good grip, and they can pull and break it with one strong tug. Luckily, it’s only a short time to go without your favorite jewelry.

Do you have any organic fabric brands that you love?

Eileen Fisher is best for quality and style, but moderately expensive. It’s Available at Nordstrom.

The H&M Conscious and Sustainable Collection is excellent for style at affordable prices.

Are you looking for more ways to save money? This week registration is open for the 30-Day Savings Challenge here on Affording Motherhood. Past participants have gotten amazing results to help them pay off debt faster and save money. I’d love to have you join us!

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