What with all this ladylike fashion in the shops over the last couple of years, I've been thinking about a lot about just whether I can carry it off. It's hardly surprising. For those of us who were kids in the 1970s, teens in the 1980s and just making our way in the world in the 1990s, there's been little ladylike to either inspire or guide us. Hippies? Yes. Blinged-out power-shoulders? Certainly. Grunge? Aplenty. But demure chic? Well, not really. So, if you're anything at all like me you probably baulked at the very idea of 'being ladylike'. After all, being ladylike sounds like something you were told to be by an aunt, or a Sunday School teacher, or even an elderly neighbour. Something that meant being sensible and boring and generally prevented you having fun. It meant sitting down 'nicely' and not climbing trees. 

But with all this ladylike style around me, even I thought I ought to give it a try. I'd long ago succumbed to the promisingly ladylike pursuits of baking and gardening. So, while I didn't really think I'd have a natural affinity with everything elegant, I thought I might at least have a shot at faking it. After all, I've always held that just as confidence has nothing to do with actually being confident, and more to do with appearing to be confident, perhaps being ladylike is something anyone can muster if they just  make a few adjustments.

I felt I might rather enjoy throwing in my lot with the whole genteel thing. I love the 'Mad Men' and 'Pan Am' fashions. And old Hollywood stars like Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn. I also love the retro-Forties 'Foyle's War look, and it was the reappearance of the wartime-era tea dress that actually reintroduced me to the frock.  I shied away from anything dresslike. Convinced myself that it would either not fit me of that I would look silly. Mainly, I think, this attitude comes from my  teenage years when wearing a dress meant something probably bright red, with big shoulders and with lots of legs on display. Having shoulders that never need padding out – trust me, they would rival any Olympic swimmer's  – and not being a particular fan of my knees, this was just not something I wanted to revisit. I did have dresses and, looking back at photos, they actually didn't look that bad but they were never anything I was all that comfortable in. But one day something made me try again. And I am so glad I did! Perhaps it's getting older, or just more confident, but now I love dresses. I have lots. They are simple, easy to slip on, and make matching  your outfit a doddle. And, providing they aren't too low-cut or short, dresses bring an instant ladylike look to even the most unwilling ladette. 

But dressing in a ladylike fashion is more than just slipping on a dress. Or carrying an extortionately expensive handbag or slinging on a string of pearls. Because, of course, although ladylike is a hot fashion trend at the moment, being ladylike is not in itself a trend. It's timeless and, in a way, a state of being.And, assuming you are going to go to the trouble of at least appearing like a lady, with matching shoes and bag and tasteful jewellery etc, it seems to make sense to ensure that your behaviour matches. 

I'm not suggesting we all go around being 'posh' and drinking tea, but it would seem a bit out of place to climb atop a table and dance drunkenly whilst wearing a pretty tea dress. I'm sure it's something some people would do, but personally I'd rather not know about it. And, haven't we all been there, at an event, or a celebration, when someone comes in looking like a third-rate TOWIE star, all fake tan and blindingly white teeth, with their thighs and their cleavage on full show. They've obviously spent hours getting ready, yet forgot to take ten seconds to consider whether they look 'right'. Of course, the basic rule of thumb states, if you have to ask someone whether it's too much, it almost certainly is. Go back and tone it down a bit.

While you don't have to go all pearls-and-twinset, a string of the ultimate in feminine jewels can add a real element of class to an outfit. You don't have to stick to the traditional single string either. Did you know there are 'official' names for the different lengths of pearls? Actually the terminology applies to all types of necklaces but, perhaps because of their ladylike associations, most people only every think of the names when describing strings of pearls. It starts with 'collar', which is actually what most of us think of as a choker. It hugs the neck high up, usually with several rows of pearls. Think of Victorian ladies or the late Diana, Princess of Wales in a ballgown. A 'choker', on the other hand,  is actually a little longer, sitting at the base of the neck, although still close to it. It's perhaps the most classic length of pearl necklace. The 'princess' length sits just above the collarbone, while the 'matinee' length nestles just below it. The 'opera' length sits mid-bust and the flapper-like 'rope' lies anywhere beyond that, often doubling or tripling up, being knotted, or just swinging free a la Coco Chanel. I have to confess that I do own some pearls. Several strings, in fact. And, when I want just 'something' to lift or pare down an outfit, without coming over all blingy or arty, pearls fit the bill perfectly.

I must be growing up. I'm certainly growing used to being just a little bit ladylike. While I used to feel a fraud in a dress, out of place in anything elegant, in drag in anything pretty, as I've grown used to it I've realised being ladylike is ageless and classy and there can't be anything wrong with that!

But it's not always easy juggling being a lady with being a modern woman. So what do I think makes the lady for the modern times? To me she's demure, yet not dowdy. She is confident to show off the better elements of her figure or her looks, but knows when not to do so. She has a sense of occasion, but is never stuffy. She is confident in herself, yet interested in others. She knows how to stand her ground, but is always well-mannered. She puts others at ease. She never wears anything chipped, scuffed or crumpled, but doesn't have to be 'dressed up' all the time. She can carry off high heels, but enjoys ballet flats just as much.Being ladylike doesn't mean abandoning dressing for fun, or hiding your assets.Neither Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly were ever anything but sexy. They were just sexy in a classy, elegant way.

Do I conform to all these elements? Well not all the time, certainly. But I try.  All this being said, I'm still more often to be found in a pair of jeans and a shirt than anything else. But come summer, when I want to stay cool and fresh, or at the next wedding or party, or even a trip into town, you can bet I'll be calling on that ladylike chic. After all, I can at least pretend to be a lady …