20 ways to be a lady

Derek Blasberg
As promised in an earlier post, here’s my take on Derek Blasberg’s book Very Classy. So who is Derek Blasberg and what makes him such an expert on lady-like behavior? He’s a fashion writer, editor and author of the New York Times best seller Classy. Based on his observations and his experience in the industry, he can categorize the women he’s met into two groups: ladies and tramps.

During my first reading of the book I thought to myself: He’s got some solid advice for young women. If I had a daughter I might give her a copy, but for the fact that he uses some form of the word “skank” 22 times and “tramp” 54 times. If these words offend you, don’t bother reading it.

Very Classy covers everything a young girl needs to know to become a responsible, successful adult. There is way too much content for me to discuss here, so I’ll just share some of my favorites.

It goes without saying that appearance is the basis for most first impressions. According to Derek, it is one of the things that best differentiates ladies from tramps. This pretty much says it all:

Real ladies dress to respect themselves. They dress up their assets and cover their asses. Tramps confuse their asses with their assets.

My top 20 pearls of wisdom culled from the book -- in no particular order -- I would pass on to a daughter approaching adulthood -- if I had one:
  1. A lady doesn’t do anything she's not comfortable with.
  2. It’s not always the loudest, least covered, blondest, biggest-chested girl at the party having the most fun. It is the smart, sweet, thoughtful girls who are most attractive.
  3. There is a fine line between looking sexy and slutty. Exposed body parts and underwear are not sexy.
  4. Nothing good can come from a young woman’s amateur attempt at pole dancing.
  5. While dining, a lady knows that her cell phone should not be visible unless there is an emergency. It's downright gauche to give your phone more attention than your dining companions. (See manners makeover.)
  6. A lady doesn’t apply makeup at the table.
  7. A lady understands that once she posts something on the Internet she can never take it back. The World Wide Web has a very good memory.
  8. A lady knows how to give a compliment—and mean it. She also knows how to receive a compliment gracefully.
  9. A lady is careful with her words, even the nasty ones.
  10. A lady accepts an apology, even if she doesn’t want to. There’s nothing ladylike about a grudge.
  11. A lady makes an apology, not an excuse.
  12. A lady doesn’t cheat – on cards, tests or boyfriends.
  13. A lady is aware of what she eats, but is not obsessed by it.
  14. A lady takes her health seriously.
  15. A lady shouldn’t do something she’s going to feel guilty about later.
  16. A lady is always learning. Unlike large breasts and full bottoms, in a few decades intelligence won’t sag. (Love this!)
  17. A lady is never worried about possessing intelligence.
  18. A lady is knowledgeable about current events.
  19. A lady has opinions and lets them be known freely and at appropriate times.
  20. A lady has a charitable heart.
The book’s photos, illustrations, quizzes and play lists provide much of the humor and entertainment. You really need a hard copy to get the most out of it. Because I’m so nice, I’m giving one away.

Want it? Leave a comment answering one of these two questions:

Q: If you had a single piece of advice to offer your young lady, what would it be? 

Q: If you don’t have a daughter, what was the best piece of advice your mom/grandmother/aunt/sister/friend gave you when you were young?

For example, Derek's mother gave him this advice before he moved to New York: "Be careful of the toes you step on today -- they may be connected to the ass you'll need to kiss tomorrow." Good advice.

I'll go first. And, don’t be shy. I’ve changed my comments settings to accept anonymous comments. Email your comment if it is not accepted.

The winner will be chosen by random.org. The deadline to comment is this Friday, January 18.


  1. My mom told me that a lady always has her own money no matter what age or stage of her life. On portion control when I was in high school: "what is on the table will soon be on the chair."

  2. My mother's one word advice to me for most occasions but particularly social occasions was to sparkle. As my sister and I left the house her last words were always "remember to sparkle." Back then, I loathed her saying this to me. However, as time has marched forward, I have to admit there's something to be said for being able to force oneself to sparkle. Of course, those readers who know me are probably saying "And when is it, Suzann, that you currently sparkle?" But if done right, it's not dependent upon one's school girl figure or lack thereof!

  3. Love the whole list! #4 made me laugh.

    Best advice I think is that you should not derive self-worth from a man. Ever. But you should be with a man who values who you are.

  4. Funny advice I got from my grandmother and my father too - never chew gum in public. I will admit that I cringe when I see anyone smacking their gum, and I almost never buy gum for myself as a result. My mother also advised me to always write a thank you note for a gift or a kindness.
    Love this blog!
    Leslie Joiner

    1. Ok, so I'm a self-professed gum chewer, but my mom hated gum smacking, which of course is unladylike . Do you all remember Oprah's gum phobia?


    2. My mother said no gum as well! My grandmother said only cows chew their cud in front of others... Secretly, I like to blow bubbles- the bigger the better :)

  5. My mother never gave me any advice as a teenager other than, "please try not to get pregnant." In college, my sorority had a guidebook to being a lady which was hilariously dated. It said things like "don't smoke while walking." I think it was written in 1940. With guidance like this, you can imagine I don't have much to draw on to give advice to my own girls. (which is why I need the book). Most recently, though I did tell Molly that if you're wearing leggings, you need volume on top to balance out the tight pants. This was "don't dress like a slut" without getting into the meaning of "slut."

    1. You certainly don't want 'the girl' to be a tramp.

    2. I am constantly explaining this to Ana as well. If you wear leggings, there must be something on top to cover the tush.

    3. Yes! That is one thing I am constantly saying to A: LEGGINGS ARE NOT PANTS. Corollary is TIGHTS ARE NOT PANTS.

  6. My mother's advice in high school was "they will promise you the moon." Boy, was she right. My advice to my boys is the same I would give a daughter, always be who you are, because friendship should be a joy, not a job.

  7. My mom always told me to never be caught without your lipstick. Carry it in your pocket if you don't intend to carry a purse. I do actually carry it everywhere and keep extra in my car. I don't know if that advice necessarily contributes to being a lady, but I sure do feel more "lady-like" when I have it on!

  8. I was told my earlier comment doesn't count. SO MANY RULES.

    My mom was a fan of the old standby "Nothing good happens after 1am." Or was it midnight? No matter, for my kids right now it is 9 pm, so I've got a few years to sort out the details.

  9. So my advice came from a family friend...always have good hair and good shoes!


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