When you hear the word “ladylike,” what might come to mind is an antiquated code of conduct for women; a standard of behavior that begins with your grandmother telling you to act like a lady when you are being too rambunctious. This season, that notion of feminine behavior has been translated into a trend that is all about sophisticated silhouettes, demure details and modern touches. With voluminous skirts and cinched waists that accentuate curves and pretty adornments in the form of delicate jewelry like pearls and fabrics like lace and cashmere, it’s no wonder the lady look is having a big moment in fashion right now.
The Fall 2012 runways were full of models dressed like society darlings. Jil Sander displayed an array of girly, ballerina pink dresses accented by heels with ultra-feminine ankle straps, as well as oversized coats reminiscent of ’30s or ’40s styles. Try this look yourself by combining soft pastels with structured accessories and posh-looking outerwear. Preen showed a number of delicate but structured work-ready outfits, complete with collared shirts tucked into pencil skirts, showing off the waist and hips — and plenty of femme florals. Jenny Packham’s slim, delicate dresses featured conservative necklines and understated embellishments worthy of the Junior League. Oscar de la Renta highlighted retro shawls, full crinoline skirts and glamorous decals.
Fortunately, you don’t actually need to be a debutante to dress like one. The look is attainable even on a college student’s budget, thanks to more affordable, trendy stores like H&M.“H&M is very big on angora right now,” said Marquise Sutton, a manager of the store’s Fifth Avenue and 18th Street location. “Angora blend is very in.”
It is rich fabrics like angora, velvet and silk that give feminine garments their visual appeal in lieu of flashy colors or exposed skin. An angora sweater makes the perfect addition to any wardrobe, ideal for professional settings when paired with a longer pencil skirt. Show off your shape without showing a lot of skin; the demure look calls for a more subtle display of the figure. So if a skirt is tight, it should not be short and vice versa.
This conservative trend is perfect for work, internships or interviews because the modest necklines and hemlines combine with posh pieces to create a look that is tasteful and mature while still being fashion-forward. Add a dainty, beige coin purse to hold your essentials, and should you choose to wear the outfit to a social lunch — or New York Sunday brunch — consider swapping in a fuller skirt with a touch of shine to make it more formal. The fuller skirt accentuates even slimmer hips, honoring the shape of an hourglass and showing off a small waist.
Finish the outfit with neat hair, such as a simple chignon, and neutral makeup for the face. Keep eye makeup natural, with only thin black eyeliner, mascara and shimmery shadow. Use highlighter on browbones and cheekbones for the appearance of having gotten enough beauty sleep. Stick to a soft pink shade of lipstick, with just a dab of gloss, and a simple pastel pink, nude or white for your nails.
With the holidays approaching, the versatile, ladylike trend finds its place at cocktail soirees and family gatherings alike. Find an amazing dress with a voluminous skirt, perhaps in an on-trend brocade fabric. ModCloth is great for vintage-inspired finds like this gold, sparkly A-line pleated dress. If you have any heirloom jewelry, like a classic ring, this would be the perfect time to wear it. If you are feeling particularly dramatic, channel the royals and try a fascinator that matches your dress. Arrange your hair in big curls, keeping them neat and glossy, or try a French twist for a look that is distinctly glamorous. The feel should be just a step up from daytime makeup: wing out your eyeliner and make your lipstick a classic red, with matching nails. Elegance is key — The perfect feminine ensemble showcases the wearer’s natural beauty and sophistication.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Nov. 29 print edition. Ariana DiValentino is a staff writer. Email her at email@example.com.