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 by a piece in their wardrobes. Ready to discover the secret? Keep scrolling, mes chères.
A minimal bucket bag from Staud is a great idea if you're looking for a chic long-lasting basic in a quality material.
"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 molded on me. Someone even tried to steal it off me last year!" — Adeline Rapon, jeweller and blogger
It might be high street, but we guarantee it'll be a fabulous investment. Plus, it'll only get better with age.
"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 La Seine et Moi
Note how this faux-fur scarf is wearable with plenty of different outfits, thanks to it being just two different colours.