Here’s What Happened When I, a Maximalist, Tried a Minimalist French-Girl Capsule Collection for a Week
- Value: 17/20
- Functionality: 19/20
- Aesthetics: 18/20
- Fit: 18/20
- Quality: 20/20
- Total: 92/100
If I had to describe my personal style in just one word, I’d have to call it “extra.” I love an over-the-top look (excuse me while I bow down to Iman at the Met Gala), I’m all for a good of-the-moment trend (give me all of this tailored fall suiting) and basics are the last thing I tend to stock my wardrobe with (if it’s not fun, I don’t want it). In short? I’m a maximalist, through and through. And yet…the older I get, the more I find myself drawn to the minimalist elegance of French style. French women always seem to be ahead of the sartorial curve, looking fashion-forward and put-together in a way that I’ve never quite managed to master. Needless to say, I couldn’t jump fast enough at the chance to try out Ouisa—a newly launched capsule collection created by stylist and industry vet Bryn Taylor that’s tailor-made for the aspiring French girl.
What Is a Capsule Collection?
Essentially, a capsule collection is a set number of pieces that are designed to be mixed and matched with one another. “[It’s] this idea that less is more,” Taylor explains via telephone. “[It’s an] approach to style [where] if we do a little more slow and intentional dressing in our lives, it can make our lives a lot easier.”
How so, you may ask? “I think the main benefit is just you’re freeing up a lot of brain space by having your wardrobe pretty much taken care of and not having to devote too much energy trying to cultivate a specific look,” Taylor tells me. “You don’t have to think about your wardrobe as much as you used to.”
Making capsule dressing work, however, requires a bit of a mind shift from all the abundance that’s been drilled into our brains by brands and social media alike. “You can’t be afraid of being an outfit repeater,” Taylor says. “When you are considering a capsule wardrobe, you have to rethink what your relationship is with your clothing [and] using your clothing as absolute expression. While that can still come out, you have to really be comfortable with repeating your favorite piece many times a week [or] many times a month….That’s the very first hurdle that we face.”
What Is Ouisa?
Ouisa, which launched in 2021 at the height of minimalism post-pandemic, is Taylor’s own take on capsule dressing. “The idea for Ouisa began [when] I noticed I was styling my clients in the same fundamental basics over and over—key pieces that would work in a variety of wardrobes and circumstances,” she says.
Her first made-to-order collection of six basics—aka Les Six—consists of those tried-and-true items that popped up time and time time again. “We spent a long time honing in on these specific six pieces,” Taylor explains, adding they are focused on the quality of each one, as well as how they could be mixed and matched. In essence, you're creating a uniform. “That uniform doesn’t necessarily have to be the same for each woman, [but consists of a few] key pieces that each woman repeats," she says.
While the idea seems simple enough, Taylor says that it’s one her American clients have struggled to fully grasp. “[They] are overwhelmed with options. They feel like they want to create a signature style, and they want their lives to be simplified, but they don’t know where to start,” she reasons. “It’s detrimental when they are bombarded with all of the fast fashion and [are] not really understanding what’s right for their bodies.”
French women, on the other hand, have a more innate knowledge of their individual sartorial needs, based on Taylor’s observations. “What I have heard from them through interviews…is that they have more of an understanding of what works for their bodies. Their mothers and grandmothers [teach them early on]…what pieces to really stick to their whole lives.”
If you’re unsure what those pieces might be for you, Taylor suggests first thinking about how you function in your day-to-day life to figure out what will best suit your needs.
It certainly sounded simple enough. But would it be the same in practice? I was about to find out.
For my own journey into capsule dressing, I set out to wear an item from Ouisa’s inaugural Les Six collection—a mock neck top, a satin shell top, a white button-down, a pair of black panel leggings, a fitted blazer and a pair of trousers—for seven days straight, without fail. Keep reading to see how my week as a minimalist French girl turned out.
On Monday, I had a doctor’s appointment first thing, and just enough time to shower, get dressed and head out the door. Needless to say, I was grateful not to have to think about my outfit. I grabbed the mock neck from the capsule collection, threw it on with a pair of jeans and left: little to no thought required. I felt put-together and unhindered in the stretchy rayon and spandex blend, which looked smart, was super comfortable (no pulling at the hem) and generally well-made. In fact, I didn’t think too much about my outfit for the rest of the day—imagine that!
While I wasn’t quite ready to dip my toe into the collection’s more structured pieces just yet, I fully committed to the brand on Tuesday, pairing Ouisa’s satin top with its panel leggings. The draping and quality of this top was exquisite, and instantly made me feel like Victoria Beckham: chic, fashionable and empowered. It was just what I was going for on a day full of important meetings! While I regularly change out of my day clothes into comfier sweats right around 5 p.m., I kept this getup on straight through until bedtime.
Emboldened by the level of polish I’d experienced the day before, I decided to try out the piece I felt most epitomized the French way of dressing (and, incidentally, the first piece in the collection)—the white button-down. From my own closet, I added a pair of jeans, my new favorite Coach slides and a vintage gold watch. And just like that, I was transformed into the kind of chic, sophisticated French woman I’d always dreamt of becoming—or at least, it felt like I had in my head. I had to chuckle at the simplicity of it all: I had spent so many years collecting so many clothes, and yet, somehow, this plain, basic white top made me feel better than all of them combined. Perhaps there was something to this minimalist way of life after all…
On my fourth day of capsule dressing, I hit my first real snag, and in hindsight, it was no wonder—it was the first day I would be repeating a top and really testing that mind shift that Taylor had spoken of in our interview. I was planning pair the white button-down I’d worn just the day before with jeans and the collection’s pièce de résistance: the blazer. Except, as gorgeous as this one was (the drapey, 100 percent polyester felt like silk on my skin), it wound up being about two sizes too big—much too large to wear. Immediately, I started to panic. With such a successful week of throwing my clothes on without much thought, I hadn’t left a whole lot of time for myself to get dressed—and now I had no idea what to wear.
I frantically began cycling through Les Six—should I repeat the satin top with a blazer of my own? Throw the button-down on with the yet-to-be-worn trousers? I had fallen back into the old familiar tailspin of chaos that I realized had become a regular part of my life prior to this week—and I wasn’t too eager to see it return. In the end, I decided to go with my original plan by cheating just a little and swapping in a bold red blazer of my own. The effect was a look that was all me—just slightly more elevated. With my quick styling (I also added plenty of jewelry), I hardly noticed that I was in the same shirt as yesterday—and I don’t think anyone else was any wiser, either.
Saturday brought another appointment—this time for my hair. With a healthy fear of getting dye on any of Ouisa’s gorgeous tops (and OK, maybe a little bit of longing for a few of my own pieces), I opted to recycle the panel leggings, this time with a favorite striped French Connection jumper hanging in my closet. While they offered a similar look to leggings I would have normally paired this outfit with, these bottoms were far more sturdy than any I owned. Made of a thick rayon, nylon and lycra blend, they were full coverage enough to keep me decent despite that fact that my sweater didn’t quite cover my butt, and provided enough structure to keep my tummy in, but not so much that it restricted my range of motion or affected my comfort in any way. Once again, I wound up wearing this outfit all night long.
On Sunday, I pulled out the piece I’d been avoiding all week: the brand’s trousers. As the item least aligned with my own personal style (I’m more of a ripped jeans or dress kind of gal), I felt a bit intimidated by these structured bottoms and unsure of how to best wear them. As with most other Les Six collection pieces, however, these were no basic trousers. With a cropped hem and an elasticized waist, the tailored style was far more approachable than most. I ultimately combined them with the very first item I’d tried—the mock neck—and found them to be a lot easier to wear than I had expected. In fact, I began to dream up other ways I would wear them if I had another week to test.
After a week of capsule collection dressing, I think I found a happy medium between minimalism and maximalism. While I’ll likely never be a true minimalist (I did find myself scheming as to how to zhuzh things up with some color and jewelry near the end) I felt downright silly that I had a closet full of clothes with almost none of the cornerstones Taylor had identified in any good wardrobe. How had I gone 36 years without a basic button-down? The perfect pair of trousers? A versatile shell for layering? Leggings that didn’t feel like they were going to rip at any possible second? Or even a good turtleneck? It was immediately clear to me that, for all of my pizzazz, I had truly been missing out on these foundational pieces, which were far from boring, if only I had given them a chance.
That said, I do think Ouisa’s quality, draping and fit go beyond your average “basics.” Nearly everything, sans for the blazer, fit effortlessly, without needing to be tugged or pulled. While their straightforward aesthetic didn’t blow me away at first sight in the same way something flashy, like a fringe coat or a leopard-print skirt, might, they looked plenty chic and cultured once I put them on. They were easy to move in, and the quality was undeniable—in fact, the only real downside to these pieces was the high price tag.
Would I have experienced the same sophisticated feeling that I did while wearing the line’s button-down with a $20 Amazon knock-off? Maybe, but I have a sneaking suspicion the answer is no—Taylor’s stylist-first approach to design makes these particularly pieces truly effortless. “I’m considering the everyday living of the person who is working with [them],” she explains of the design process. The result? That same je ne sais quoi you always hear tell of when it comes to French fashion. “The draping of the fabrics makes [the items] look tailored from afar,” she quips. “They [don’t have] a very stiff, restrictive feel. You can sit on the couch with your Zoom call [in them].” (A fact I can 100 percent confirm.)
All in all, it was that winning combination of not only having the right basics on hand, but high-quality versions of them, that allowed me to unlock that capsule-based, uniform mindset—or at least, my own version of it.
“It’s a process,” Taylor says. “It’s truly freeing.” Hear, hear.