Some things never go out of style, and a woman who is elegant, graceful, gracious and just a little bit sassy, is one of them. We are all born women, but one becomes a lady.
“You may be a princess or the richest woman in the world, but you cannot be more than a lady.” Lady Randolph Churchill
Whilst in the past being a lady often meant deferring to men, today’s woman can make her own decisions, voice her own opinions, compete for whichever job she likes and take charge of her life whilst still being ladylike.
Choosing to become a lady is empowering. In a social world where good manners are dwindling, where there is a strange obsession with reality TV stars and lowest common denominators, a lady stands out. Similarly, in a cutthroat professional world such as the legal sphere in which I operate, embracing your ladylike qualities whilst demonstrating your capabilities, expertise and skills will set you apart from the mass. May the best person for the job win, but acting and looking like a gender-neutral type of woman is never a requisite.
Being a lady is all about class and savoir-vivre. Our posts on the gentleman and chivalry seem to have struck a chord in our followers and it is only fitting to present the gentleman’s partner in crime, the lady. The central principle is the same for both: savoir-vivre and noble values are more important than fine feathers, and both can come from any walk of life.
As He-colibri said it well, it is important to distinguish between elegance and snobbism. Snobbism is an exaggerated respect for high social, wealth or intellectual status. A snob strives to associate with those of superior standing, seeks to imitate their distinctive manners and behavior, such as language, taste, interests, lifestyle, and often behaves condescendingly to others.
Elegance, on the other hand, is the quality of someone graceful, refined and stylish in appearance and manner, someone who communicates tactfully and whose behavior displays moral distinction. It’s not only a way of doing, it’s a way of being.
A LADY HAS CLASS
Class is a mysterious essence. Class is elegance of spirit, manner, speech, and dress.
Class comes from within, from a woman’s sense of herself, her confidence, self-awareness and graciousness. It is expressed through her attitude and her manners, and it extends to a distinct sense of style.
“A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.” Coco Chanel
There is nothing as classy and refined as humility. A lady always acknowledges others when they achieve their own success. She also knows when to back off and give others the personal space they need. While it’s fine to announce a promotion or mention an award, it’s never a good idea to gloat or make someone else feel inferior. If you have a gorgeous summerhouse in Nantucket and a yacht in Monaco, your closest friends will find out eventually, so keep it low key. In the words of an incredible lady I’ve had the chance to collaborate with towards the end of her life, Baroness Margaret Thatcher:
“Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” Margaret Thatcher
A lady never backs down when defending her convictions, but she handles adversity with grace and dignity. There certainly are times when anger or frustration must be expressed, but we should just avoid being drama queens.
A lady also knows when to let her gentleman take charge (or let him think so). When a man does something a woman is perfectly capable of doing herself – such as opening doors, helping her be seated, ordering for her – she should appreciate the gesture, smile graciously and thank him.
Remember that he is showing his gentlemanly upbringing as a mark of respect for you and is wanting to make the moment more beautiful, more meaningful.
A LADY HAS SAVOIR-VIVRE
A lady has good manners and mostly follows the rules of etiquette. Importantly, she also knows when to break them.
Savoir-vivre is the ability to live well and with intelligent enjoyment, meeting every situation with poise, good manners, and elegance. The French origins of the term literally mean to know how to live. Savoir-vivre encompasses both etiquette and good manners and is first and foremost about respect: for others and for yourself. It is also about seeking to elevate yourself, to become a better version of yourself.
“Respect for ourselves guides our morals, respect for others guides our manners.” Laurence Sterne
Savoir-vivre has a profound impact on the people with whom we interact. Knowing the rules of proper etiquette and having good manners helps instil confidence in a woman. And confidence alone makes a woman more attractive than someone who is not sure of how to act in any given situation.
A lady is gracious, which to me means she is kind and courteous, has empathy and generosity of spirit. Graciousness should be practiced in every aspect of our life, whether it’s gently letting down the guy who asked us out, or giving a moment of time to help a stranger. The golden rule is treating others the way we want to be treated. Even if we’re having the worst day ever, we should never take it out on the people around us. As for people we encounter who are rude and snappy, we should never let their behavior affect ours. By all means we can let them know what they are doing with poise and humor, but we should never stoop to getting back at them with bad manners.
A LADY IS CHIC
“Dressing well is a form of good manners.” Tom Ford
A lady minds her appearance and dresses elegantly and appropriately. Making the effort to dress elegantly and to be well groomed is a mark of respect.
Dressing elegantly means dressing appropriately for the occasion, but also for your body type, and for your age, whilst still being stylish and fashionable. And dressing for your age or body type should never mean giving up on style and the latest trends, frumpiness is to be avoided !
Bling too is to be avoided. Money won’t buy elegance. Elegance was never about having lots of fabulous things : fashion and elegance are only distant relations. Elegance might take on a fashion trend but it could never become a slave to it.
A lady’s clothes are impeccable and she always adopts a good posture. Wearing beautiful and properly fitting shoes is essential. They must be in perfect condition and the shape must flatter your legs and feet. It is best to buy fewer but better quality, better fitting, clothes and shoes.
A lady can be chic and sexy by revealing a beautiful part of her body – but preferably only one at a time: a very low cut in the back, bare shoulders, a thigh high slit skirt, delicate strappy sandals… A lady will hope to be noticed for her elegance and refinement rather than for her extravagance.
“Your dresses should be tight enough to show you’re a woman, and loose enough to show you’re a lady.” Edith Head
Elegance is driven by attention to detail: perfectly groomed hair, nails, skin and teeth ranking among the most important, along with a figure that is never let go.
A lady steers clear of tacky trends and does not sell herself cheap. Nothing screams vulgar more than hair extensions, gel nails and badly-applied make-up. These days, relaxed expectations have taken some of the penance out of perfection but, whatever way you look at it, elegance takes commitment.
NO HARM IN BEING A LITTLE BIT SASSY
A lady with confidence, a sense of humor and a sprinkle of sass is irresistible. Instead of blending in with the crowd, try standing out for all the right reasons ! Instead of going with the flow, try creating it.
In difficult social situations, a lady’s smile, tact and wit are her weapons of choice. She will avoid blowing up or resorting to petty, passive-aggressive jabs.
“Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.” Winston Churchill
A LADY HAS SELF-AWARENESS
Every woman, every lady, can stand to improve something about herself. Being aware of your shortcomings helps you relate to people. A lady has self-awareness, wisdom and inner strength. As her confidence comes from within, she doesn’t need validation from others; nevertheless she will always try to act respectfully and in good taste and not embarrass herself or others.
As social networks are fast becoming an extension of a modern woman’s existence, it is important to ask ourselves whether or not it is a good idea to post something. We should always keep our audience in mind and not embarrass ourselves. If in doubt, a lady privileges humility, poise and dignity.
A lady is interested in other people’s views and experiences. She is eloquent and can carry a conversation. This requires being well-read and informed about current affairs. Although a formal education is always beneficial, it is by no means necessary as the Internet provides access to an endless array of scholarly articles on various topics.
“There’s something I must say out loud: you’re once, twice, three times a lady.” Lionel Ritchie
A lady is a woman of substance. She-colibri
⇒ RELATED ARTICLES :
- A gentleman’s point-of-view in A few rules of savoir-vivre and gallant etiquette by He-colibri
- Savoir-vivre, etiquette and manners by She-colibri
- Of gentlemen and chivalry by She-colibri
- Our view of elegance by He-colibri