To me, the above sums it all up and is something I’ve encouraged my daughter to live by. It’s not always easy though, which got me wondering, what exactly encompasses being a successful lady on every level? What is elegance and how does it differ from charm, grace and class? Where do manners and style come in? Can I be feminine yet strong? Let’s examine all of these.
Just last week I was telling my friend Jeannie that, with Kristen growing up, my mantra to her almost every time I talk to her has changed from “make good choices” to “be smart and be a lady.” Although I know making good choices is still paramount, now I simply ask her, “WWAD?” and she knows that means, “what would Audrey do,” as in Hepburn.
Some say Audrey Hepburn was the quintessential lady, and I happen to agree. She was elegant, stylish, modest, smart, and caring. It’s important to note that she, however, wasn’t your classic All-American or bleach-blonde beauty. In many ways she was considered beautiful because of the many additional qualities she possessed and not solely because of her physical beauty.
So what makes a true lady?
Yes, I indeed wonder and yet I am not always a lady, just ask anyone who’s watched a football game with me! I also tend to be outspoken and fairly confident in my beliefs and abilities and I can tend to have a potty mouth when upset. Although I admit I often need to “rein these in,” other than the potty mouth, are they necessarily bad traits?
In her book “Lean In: Women , Work and the Will to Lead,” Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg has started a bestselling firestorm claiming women haven’t made the progress they maybe should have over the last decade because they don’t “lean in” and better position themselves for promotions and senior positions.
Perhaps, but I also believe women need to be women, not men, and be true to themselves. Just because someone is feminine doesn’t mean she’s weak. Just because you are pretty doesn’t mean you need to dumb yourself down. Today many women think they need to “toughen up” and be more masculine, but coming off as extremely independent and assertive doesn’t always lead to success. You don’t need to be a push over or doormat, but you need not give anyone the opportunity to use the “b” word when describing you.
“I believe in feminine strength,” says Karla M. Davis of “The Classy Woman” blog. “I believe in a woman being soft, elegant and graceful yet at the same time being intelligent, strong, intellectual and hardworking.”
Indeed, smart is beautiful. Unless you’re a supermodel, looks will never be enough, so it’s imperative we women receive a good, strong education. Degree in hand, you should continue to learn, making it a life-long goal by way of interesting hobbies, reading, travel, writing, continuing ed classes, etc. You should never cease at wanting to learn more. Street smarts are also important. Who hasn’t met that Ph.D holder who can’t hold a conversation or write a legit thank-you note?!
Elegance, grace, composure, warmth, charm, and class are also beautiful, yet you don’t have to be physically beautiful to be any or all of them. Think about it, it’s those people who try too hard that well, come across as they’re trying too hard. When you try to make an impression, that’s the impression you make.
If you are a true lady with class and elegance, you are a natural and are naturally kind and caring to others. Think of Audrey Hepburn. She was successful and wealthy beyond words, but she dedicated much of her life to improving the lives of others. She is the perfect example of treating others fairly, regardless of their lot in life, and living by the motto “no one is better than me and I am better than no one.”
Etiquette and manners also come into play…and in a major role. As a matter of fact, it is nearly impossible to be an elegant lady without good manners. As Horace Mann said, “Manners easily and rapidly mature into morals.” Best of all, everyone is capable of learning and practicing good manners; you don’t have to be rich to have them and it’s not just about table settings.
So very true. And, in spite of what many believe, having high standards does not necessarily make you a snob, as long as you pursue those standards in a humble and sincere way. Arrogance and cockiness are two of the least most elegant and charming qualities I can think of…right up there with phony and sneaky. I love someone who is just at home at a greasy diner as a five-star restaurant. And, I’m not impressed if you know wine labels but I am impressed if you say “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am.”
To me, if you have good manners you are more confident. You are composed when you need to be composed (I could learn a thing or two about this!) and you move with grace and dignity. You are also modest, whether about what you wear or what you earn. I’ll never forget my friend Shelly telling me that, while growing up in West Texas, her grandpa always told her that “those with old money and no money are the same…they don’t talk about it.” Well said grandpa!
That brings us to dressing like a lady and one with elegance, style, and class.
Nothing rattles me more than seeing someone dressed in something inappropriate, either age-wise or style-wise. Casual doesn’t have to be sloppy and formal doesn’t mean slutty. You don’t look great because you show off your body; you look great when you have style. It doesn’t take money to have style, it just takes…style! I’ve blogged about this before and can’t stress it enough! Ladies, please:
- If you wore something when it was first on trend, when it comes back in style you are more than likely too old to wear it again.
- Just because something fits doesn’t mean it looks good or that you should buy it.
- Dress your age, regardless of your figure and size.
- Remember, your clothes are often the first impression you give off. What you wear is telling others, “this is me!”
Okay, now that I’ve gotten those out of the way, let’s talk about dressing with those same ideas of grace, modesty, and dignity in mind. It’s all the subject of a recent book I bought entitled “How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World” by Jordan Christy. (Kristen: are you still with me????)
In the news this week is a story about a middle school principal that is forbidding 8th grade girls attending a school dance to wear strapless dresses. Good idea, right? Well, apparently not everyone in the school agrees and the directive has caused quite a controversy. My question is, why would 8th grade girls want to wear a strapless dress? Oh yeah, I forgot, we’re living in a Hilton world.
What’s happened to a little thing called class, and I’m not talking about school? Yes, being classy can also entail being sophisticated and polite, but it by no means has anything to do with wealth. You can be classy merely because you have self-respect. You can also be classy in a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt. Designer clothes do not make a lady elegant or classy, her personal style and tastes do…as long as they are proper and somewhat refined…and the older you get, the more this should be adhered to. Notice I did not say expensive. Elegance and being a lady are priceless. My grandma Dodie was anything but wealthy, but she always wore earrings and lipstick and her daughter, my sweet mom, has always had a sense of style.
So yes, it’s important we as women move on and move ahead, but at what cost? Do we really want to sacrifice our femininity for a corner office? Is it more important to attract attention than it is to earn respect? Maybe it truly does all go back to WWAD?