How to dress — and play — the leading lady

We might have suppressed her for a few seasons, but it’s time to embrace the lady within


IT’S a new year and almost a new season, so its time for a new you. 

With the awards season in full swing and the global circus that is fashion week taking place, its also time to embrace new styles and, quite possibly, a wardrobe rethink.

Recent seasons have seen the return of a retro ladylike aesthetic, but with a more modern feel. We might have suppressed her for a few seasons, but she’s made an appearance of late. A real favourite of mine, the ladylike trend means you have no excuse not to look – and feel – good every day.

So its time to embrace the woman within and express her femininity. She is seductive yet demure, confident yet controlled. Think peplum waists and modest hemlines.

Coco Chanel said that “a woman should look classy and fabulous”.  However, being ladylike is so much more than just dressing like a lady. Legendary Spanish designer Cristobel Balenciaga said: No woman can make herself chic if she is not chic herself”.

Yes, money will buy you lots of gorgeous things, but you don’t have to spend a fortune to look polished and stylish. And you don’t need to go to finishing school to act like a lady. Dressing the part is half the equation, the rest is up to you.

Here’s what every woman needs to play the leading lady.


* Keep nails short and paint them in a neutral colour or with a French manicure
* Wear classic pumps or elegant slingback kitten heels
* Wear a belt and show off your waist
* Shop vintage — think the elegant and glamorous ’40s and ’50s styles
* Be inspired by ’50s icons such as Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Jackie O and modern muses such as Cate Blanchett, Helen Mirren and Scarlett Johansson
* Consider your hair – keep it manageable in a short bob, or if long, wear in a classic low chignon or ponytail
* Wear a skirt suit, dress or gathered full skirt
* Show off real jewellery or top-quality statement pieces
* Wear classic straight-leg jeans
* Wear high-waisted pants — the higher the waist the longer the legs. Who doesn’t want longer legs!
* Find a perfume and make it your signature fragrance. Have another for evening
* Wear a watch, preferably a classic tank or round face with Roman numerals
* Carry a structured top-handle handbag or buy the best quality leather bag you can afford
* Handwrite invitations and invest in monogrammed stationery
* We all love our smartphones, but a real lady always carries a diary or notebook and a good quality pen or pencil
* Subscribe to certain publications so you are well versed in global news and cultural affairs. A womans mind must also be attractive!
* Be polite and respectful, and learn to listen. And remember, if you dont have anything nice to say, say nothing at all!

Related: What every stylish woman knows
Related: How to look rich when you’re not
Related: How to age gracefully
Related: How to look fabulous at 50 (and beyond)


* Wear neon or glitter polish
* Wear shoes with scuffed heels
* Wear ill-fitting tops
* Shop retro, grunge or bohemian
* Be a girl behaving badly. Think Miley Cyrus, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and Lady Gaga … you know the girls I’m talking about
* Shag your hair or wear your bed hair as a badge of honour
* Wear a skirt so short it leaves nothing to the imagination
* Keep your good jewellery in the safe
* Look like a hippie or gypsy
* Wear embellished, dip-dyed or distressed denim
* Expose your bum cleavage or muffin top!
* Smell unisex or au naturel
* Wear a gimmicky or digital watch
* Wear a backpack or bumbag or even think about carrying a small dog in your handbag!
* Send mass emails
* Carry your money, keys, phone, lipstick, bus tickets, credit cards etc in a plastic bag or in your pockets
* Be completely ignorant or news, local affairs and global events
* Be rude and obnoxious, and talk too much.


Are you also celebrating the return of ladylike style? How should a lady dress and behave? Like to add a few points of your own? Would love to hear from you. Ever stylishly yours …

* Picture: Pinterest


  1. Anonymous
    February 24 / 6:02 am

    Love your blog! Can't wait for more posts. Very inspiring and has given me a much needed boost and many ideas for making over my look and my wardrobe. thanks!

  2. February 24 / 8:26 pm

    Hi Anonymous,
    Thank you for your feedback! Yes, I'll try and get more regular posts happening.

  3. Anonymous
    March 9 / 3:45 pm

    I read this in the Sunday Telegraph today and I have to say that it's one of the most ridiculous things I have read. Why should women have to meet these standards that you have categorised as "lady like"? Have you failed to recognise that not all women will dress in this way? This sets women back into the 50's. The idea that we have to dress a certain way,act a certain way,be a certain person. I find it saddening and more then anything annoying and outdated. Who's to say that a girl dressed in bohemian clothes isn't ladylike? Or someone with short hair isn't classy. If you are such a lady that you think you can tell other females what they can and can't wear,how they should act and what they should do,why don't you build up our girls and women of today and tell them that as long as they are kind people and confident in who they are then they can be anything they want to be regardless of wether or not they're wearing neon nail polish or a French manicure. Regards,Montana Belle.

  4. Anonymous
    March 27 / 5:56 am

    Hi Ann Maree,
    I hope you continue to post on your blog. I only discovered it two months ago and like your posts. You have a great eye and I can relate to your style. Please don't be put off by the comment rant that 'Montana belle' posted. She has her opinion but many of us get what you are about. I know you were not saying that ladylike means only one thing. It is a particular style and phrase that describes that style. Just as bohemian describes a style. lLooking forward to more posts in the near future. Cheers, kathy

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