Smug sentence alert: I speak French. I've lived and studied in France. So I should be able to translate the notion of "je ne sais quoi," non? Directly, yes. It means "I don't know what." But it actually has a much more abstract meaning, one which is actually hard to interpret if you're not French. And it's even harder to describe when you're talking about fashion.
If you're an avid reader of Who What Wear, you'll know that we're big fans (read: obsessives) when it comes to French fashion and the way Gallic women get dressed. Their ability to assemble an outfit in the most put-together-but-doesn't-look-like-you've-tried-too-hard way is a source of constant inspiration. It's precisely when I'd use the term "je ne sais quoi" to explain a look.
Of course, not being a native speaker, I thought it would be a much better idea to speak to a selection of French women on what they think it means and to find out how the idea is represented in their wardrobes. Ready to discover the secret? Keep scrolling, mes chères.
"I think that the French je ne sais quoi is more about the attitude. But more tangibly it's about the details, whether that's beautiful jewellery, beautiful basics or just beautiful materials." — Adenorah, blogger
"Je ne sais quoi means a lot of things to me but also kind of nothing. Ultimately I think it kind of explains the way French girls can seem to be 'careless' about their hair or makeup (which is a total lie!). For me, my leather jacket I've had for years is the piece in my wardrobe that best represents the idea. It's now completely moulded to me. Someone even tried to steal it off me last year!" — Adeline Rapon, jeweller and blogger
"It refers to the effortlessness that's specific to French women. It's our mantra—we will never be overdressed, even at a wedding. In my wardrobe, my je ne sais quoi piece is a heart-shaped faux-fur scarf." — Lydia Bahia, founder of faux fur brand La Seine et Moi
Meet the girls who have je ne sais quoi by the bucketload…
French style icon Jeanne Damas has exudes her je ne sais quoi by the way of dressed-down frocks and minimal accessories.
Just one of the beautiful & Other Stories dresses currently on our wish lists.
Given the fact you'll wear this every single day, you'll soon reap the cost-per-wear benefits of this cardigan.
The Who What Wear office is collectively obsessing over Missoma's latest collab.
Note how Slip Into Style's Ellie makes her ladylike pieces look edgy with the addition of a playful bag, statement shades and fierce boots.
The subtle shimmer woven through this knit is ideal for party season.
Because who wouldn't want another checked skirt in their collection?
We guarantee this bag is about to be all over your feed.
These boots are selling fast—best act now or risk having to put your name on the wait list.
Unpack AnneLaure's outfit and it's simply jeans and a jumper, but her je ne sais quoi is tracking down elevated basics. A pink knit worn with leopard denim? An unlikely pairing but it just works.
The texture on this knit makes it look (and feel) super premium.
Protect your peepers against the low winter sun.
A checked blazer, a white tee, indigo jeans and black courts—items most women already have hanging in their wardrobes. However, take away fussy accessories and this look is as chic as they come.
Tartan has made a huge comeback for autumn/winter 2018, and the easiest way to wear it is in blazer form.
We're constantly on the hunt for the perfect white tee—and this one comes pretty close.
Classic courts get a sexy update with a cross foot strap.
French style isn't all about paring back; instead, it's wearing what you want with utmost confidence, be it darling prints or
This blouse also comes in cream, black and tan.
We challenge you not to be in a good mood when you wear these sunny corduroy strides.
Try pairing these boots with a burgundy dress for a more subtle clash.
In need of some more French style inspiration? These women certainly know how to pull together an outfit.