There are all sorts of theories on how to be a lady.
Ashley Judd plays a wonderful lady in the movie De-lovely
Two theories that stood out for me was that being a lady does not require wealth,
though historically there were a larger proportion of ladies among the wealthy. The other one is an Southern Texan saying that
it normally takes seven generations to make a lady.
Since one generation is equivalent to thirty to forty years, that means it would take over 200 years for anyone to become a lady!
Thankfully, with modern technology, libraries and video, we can draw upon them for examples and study.
It is my goal on elegantwoman.org to minimize the 200 time period, though I must admit that I understand why it might take
seven generations to make a lady.
Ladies are Not Born, They are Made
“Being a woman does not automatically make one a lady.“
The quicker we understand this, the less hard we would be on ourselves when we make mistakes or etiquette boo-boos.
The key to understanding of learning to how to become a lady is this: Learn through reading, understanding, imitation, acting and
get over your blunders as soon as possible.
Many women tell me they often feel fake, unnatural when they try to develop ladylike behaviour. Their friends also are unused to
them, often commenting that they have become too formal.
When change happens, you’ll often feel like everything is thrown off balance. You feel uncertain, may feel nervous and wobbly.
That is simply the process of finding a new balance. Tweak it, adjust and you’ll find the right balance as you change sooner than you think.
What does being a lady mean to you?
So many images are conjured in people’s minds when they think about how to become a lady. Perhaps, they are thinking of
Scarlett O’Hara in victorian times and feel that they must go back to the style of dress in order to look ladylike and elegant. Quite often
celebrities and their movie/television characters are mimicked as reference points for ladylike behaviour
due to their high visibility.
But being a lady is more than that. I believe it’s best summarized by Candice Simpson, who wrote How To Be A Lady A Contemporary Guide To Common Courtesy.
Here is my paraphrased and abridged version:
Manners, attitudes, appropriate dress and social mores have changed so dramatically that the definition of being a lady has left everyone confused.
A lady by today’s definition knows that educating herself in every way possible, from higher education to the common sense manners, empowers her to become a woman of accomplishment and poise. She knows it is not her dress size or the money she possess that brings her satisfaction in life.
A lady knows that beauty and wealth can be fleeting, but her inner character is the measure by which others will ultimately judge her as a person.
Her courtesies, the high esteem in which she holds herself and others, and her sincere words of praise and thoughtfulness will reflect her strong values and place her ahead in the minds and hearts of those who know her. Being thought of as a “lady” may be the one of the highest compliments a woman can receive in her life.
The Modern Lady
In the past, women from all socioeconomic backgrounds wanted to be thought of as ladies.
Peasant girls treasure a hand-me-down bonnet
and wear them on special occasions or when they go to town. Other girls who were fortunate to be educated at home pride themselves in learning
and made effort to remember their manners, read, write, draw, play the piano and sing, no matter how much money, connections or status they lack.
Servant girls served with dignity and tried their best to mimic the way ladies spoke and devoted their time to read by
candlelight when their duties were over.
Wanting to be ladies in modern day
I know wanting to learn ‘how to be a lady’ in modern times may seem unnecessary and uncool. You might even get laughed at.
Afterall, it is more fashionable to be like our modern day superstars, Katy Perry, Rihannaa, Fergie etc etc. Learning how to be a lady – the
subject – itself sounds old fashioned and grandmotherish.
Call it what you like, but understanding the processes of how to be a lady is akin to pursuing a well-rounded education, as written
extensively as anywhere on elegantwoman.org. It is the fruit of a studied life, which will produce greater happiness, fulfillment, purpose
and influence, depending of course on what you would like out of this life.
These studies of being a lady did not come without a price. It is the result of many years of trial and error, research and
discoveries, years of thought and philosophy and culture that was inherited, modified and passed down to us by our forefathers. I think
we are sometimes too quick to discard the old and embrace the new.
Misconceptions of Being a Lady
Today, what it means to ‘be a lady’ is lost among the sea of messages of what one wears, what one talks about, who she hangs out with or where they dine, holiday, hang out. That is hardly accurate at all.
Here are some misconceptions of becoming a lady, or who is a lady. Don’t let this stop you!
- A lady has to know all the rules of etiquette.
- A lady is boring, she doesn’t say what she really thinks.
- A lady can’t be fashionable. She has to wear conservative looking clothes from the Victorian ages.
- Being a lady means you’re old-fashioned and boring. Only grannies care about being ladies.
- A lady is so feminine, she doesn’t like sports.
- A lady is elegant but not sexy. She is not carefree and free-spirited.
Read more misconceptions of Being A Lady and myths about elegance.
How did teachings of “How to be a Lady Develop?
Some say training women to become ladies originated from Royal Etiquette
This is my version, my own conclusions drawn from my research.
It seems that it all began with a little set of rules. It is in human nature to prefer beauty over vulgarity. With some basic
observation and development of culture, a series of ‘behavior’ had been encouraged and others been eliminated – pretty much in favor
of what is beautiful. I suppose that is how cutlery had been developed, instead of eating with our hands.
Etiquette had developed alongside.
Back when kings and queens ruled the earth, etiquette was written for people who lived in the royal courts.
They were guidelines on ‘how to behave’.
Fun fact: A little bird told me that the first etiquette rule was in french and it meant ‘stay off the grass’!
Over generations, the art of ‘how to be a lady’ has been studied, polished and refined perhaps starting in the royal courts
and aristocratic circles which then trickled down to the masses and finally to us, due to social and technological advancement and the wide
spread availability of education.
See “History of How to be a Lady” for a more in-depth explanation.
You might also be interested in The Fading Art Of ‘How To Be A Lady’
The Essence of Being A Lady
A Kind Heart and a Conqueror
Being a lady is simply having extended manners such as always looking for a way to be kind and generous,
as well as being a conqueror in life (meaning overcoming struggles and rising above difficulties).
A lady has usually given thought and also more or less developed an organized way to go about life.
However if you are without a kind heart and thus without manners, people will see through the actions as being articial.
Bite Sized lessons on Becoming a Lady
- Bite sized lessons ‘How To Be a Lady’ Page One
- Bite sized lessons ‘How To Be a Lady’ Page Two
- Bite sized lessons ‘How To Be a Lady’ Page Three
- Bite sized lessons ‘How To Be a Lady’ Page Four
- Gestures that Ruin Your Elegant Appearance
- Read what it means to be an Accomplished Lady back in Jane Austen’s Times