1063 W. Madison


American women are always trying to suss out the secret of French style. Many imagine it’s inaccessible to the likes of us, a collective memory built by generations of women passing down carefully guarded sartorial techniques to their daughters. But one obvious aspect of Gallic chic is the understanding that you don’t have to let it all hang out to look alluring. Ouest, a new boutique in the West Loop, promotes the concept of classic dressing sans fustiness. “I knew we were onto something when my mother and my sister liked the same things,” says Kelly Bry, who opened Ouest last week with jewelry designer Courtney Plumb. The two carry hip French lines from Sonia Rykiel, Vanessa Bruno, and Barbara Bui as well as homegrown designers such as Vena Cava and Rozae Nichols. If you’re looking for an alternative to halter tops and leggings, you’ll be delighted with the ladylike yet body-conscious clothes, such as a Vena Cava black silk top with cutout triangles around the collar, an oversize cropped tweed jacket with velvet accents by Rozae Nichols, and a sheer printed silk blouse with a tie neck by Barbara Bui. Plumb’s jewelry, made of gold and semiprecious stones of uniform color in a style reminiscient of classic Chanel, feels similarly timeless. In a random sampling of prices most fell into the $300-$400 bracket, but shoppers might want to remember another maxim of French women: spend more money on fewer clothes.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Suzy Poling.