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Lessons in Sophistication

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Being a cultured and classy individual doesn't always come naturally. Sometimes you need lessons — Lessons In Sophistication. These may include instruction in the world history, deportment and etiquette classes that teach good posture and regal carriage, education about proper forms of address for nobles and diplomats, what to wear, and relevant trade skills to whatever your craft may be. For women especially, this may including dance lessons and other high class forms of sport and entertainment. All the kinds of things a Proper Lady at court, or Quintessential British Gentleman would need to know to carry themselves in the presence of both great and small. Doubly necessary if she's a common girl with a Really Royalty Reveal, and now needs to act the part of a Princess Classic.

But do people appreciate these lessons? Hardly. They'll probably find the manners stiff and antiquated, the history dry and uninteresting, and the deportment painful and unnecessary. If she's a Rebellious Princess, or a former Street Urchin, she may sneak out of her lessons or openly refuse to participate.

Since traditional "proper" gender roles for women tend to be seen as repressive, a female protagonist's story is usually on the side of the "uncultured", cheering on her attempt to challenge tradition, chronicling her pursuit of more relevant skills, and capping it off with a moral about the importance of staying true to yourself. Because of the lament that "chivalry is dead" for young men it tends to be encouraged that they accept the old ways. This could mean becoming more like a Gentleman and a Scholar.

As the trope continued to develop, the formula became so recognizable that the plot may actually punish the women and men alike for their School Is for Losers attitude, throwing in a twist by having something from the Lessons in Sophistication be a Chekhov's Skill that becomes improbably necessary to the plot, or even just genuinely useful if she decides to take her role in society seriously. It is related to Royal School (where those lessons are taken).


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Lady Jewelpet is about a girl who attends a school dedicated to teaching its students to be proper ladies and gentlemen. The female students are called Petit Ladies and they aim to be Top of Lady (sic). The male students are called Princes.
  • Jane of Secret of Cerulean Sand is receiving these lessons in the Pilot Episode and is shown sewing for herself a trouser.
  • Usagi and her team went to these in the third act of the first season of Sailor Moon. The classes were imparted by a real princess and focused on class, manners, elegance, and the princess's favorite hobby: Frisbee throwing. It was all a set-up by the Dark Kingdom to discover the real identity of Princess Serenity, since she acts like the opposite of a princess but is skilled at throwing her tiara as a disc.

    Comic Books 
  • On Lucky Luke story has The Lad-ette Calamity Jane take lessons on how to be more ladylike. She fails so badly at the end the gentlemanly teacher is now headed out west to live the cowboy life.

    Fan Works 
  • Bethany, in Beyond Heroes: Of Sunshine and Red Lyrium, is nervous about attending the Orlesian court ball because she doesn't know how to do the appropriate dances. Varric, who has the requisite knowledge thanks to his reluctant membership in the Merchants' Guild, offers to teach her and they have a series of these.
  • In the Miraculous Ladybug fanfiction "The Legend of Royal Blue and La Sylphide," this is a mandatory course at Lycée de Mirabeau, the snobby school the main characters attend. Gabriel initially hates the class because it's taught by a Sadist Teacher, Professor Patience, and the fact that he's a Penny Among Diamonds tends to get emphasized, but he enjoys it when his crush Emilie joins.
  • In With Grace And Elegance, Ranma's annoyance with manners come from the fact that it's not really hard but annoyingly precise. She's naturally coarse and blunt, but as the heiress of an old and powerful family attending a prestigious school aiming to turn the students in refined ladies, she doesn't get a pass on the etiquette — and she also refuses to shame her grandmother.

    Film — Animation 
  • Orphan Anya from Don Bluth's feature Anastasia gets schooled in all things mannerly and urbane by Lovable Rogue Dmitri and Count Vladimir, because the men aim to pass Anya off as the missing Romanov princess, Anastasia. She's coached in ballroom dancing, dining etiquette, complete royal genealogy, and much more.
  • Brave shows us Merida's impatience with her princess lessons and her clear preference for archery and horseback riding. However, her indifference is shown as somewhat immature, with the movie going to some lengths to help her see her mother's side of things.
  • In the film Cinderella II: Dreams Come True, the Grand Duchess attempts to give these to Cinderella, being a newly elevated commoner. Cinderella cannot and will not accept many of the teachings, which include the notion that she must be cold and elegant at all times no matter what, and instead opts to be herself and give her own twists to the fancy party being organized. The King is initially baffled, but gets over it quickly, and even the Grand Duchess admits that what Cinderella has done is entirely delightful.
  • In an early script of Frozen, made prior to the decision to have both sisters as shut-ins, Elsa and Anna were explicitly shown getting princess-related lessons in the Cut Song "We Know Better". Neither are particularly into them— Elsa being a Rebellious Princess and Anna being a Clumsy Girl:
    Elsa: They say a princess learns elegance in school.
    Teacher: Chin up, eyes bright!
    Elsa: She's trained in etiquette and follows every rule.
    Anna: Spoon on the right.
    Elsa: They teach a princess to...
    Both: [drone-like] Copy word for word
    Elsa: They teach a princess to be...
    Both: [drone-like] Seen and never heard.
    Elsa: They say she doesn't dare or dream.
    Elsa: They say she doesn't plan or scheme.
    Elsa: Or go to any big extreme, to reunite a princess team.
    Elsa: But you and me...
    Both: We know better.
  • In Gay Purr-ee, Meowrice takes Mewsette to Mme. Rubens-Chatte for lessons in how to be ladylike. He plans to make a huge profit by marrying her to a rich American cat.
  • In Disney's version of The Prince and the Pauper, the Prince is first seen sitting through a boring trigonometry lesson, passing the time playing tricks on his assistant Donald. When he trades places with Mickey, the latter has to endure the various lessons set for the Prince, all of which he fails miserably.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Gigi: The title character's Aunt Alicia is an aged and successful courtesan with an expansive set of jewels, a butler, and her own private residence. She is training Gigi to follow in her footsteps and spends hours teaching her such things as the proper way to eat lobster, and how to recognize the most expensive jewels.
  • In Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Iris, who has a Received Pronunciation accent, tries to make small Maisie speak the word "bath" the 'proper' way, deeming the American pronunciation as barbaric.
  • In King Ralph, an American schlub becomes King of England when the entire Royal family is killed in a photography accident. (He is the son of a duke's illegitimate child.) After he becomes king, he is given lessons in acting royally by Sir Cedric.
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service: The Kingsmen live by the code 'manners maketh man.' A big part of Eggsy's Training from Hell, in addition to being a superspy, is learning how to be a gentleman, including buying him his first proper suit, and improving his palate for expensive drinks.
  • In The Man in the Iron Mask, the Musketeers give Philippe a crash-course in court etiquette while preparing to kidnap his identical twin, the Royal Brat Louis, and install Philippe as an Identity Impersonator king in his place. For a man who spent much of his life in a prison cell, he picks up the lessons remarkably quickly.
  • In The Mask of Zorro, Don Diego de la Vega (the former Zorro), now an old Impoverished Patrician whose child was abducted and raised by his nemesis, teaches the new Zorro (Alejandro Murrieta, who was a thug and Zorro's fan) on how to be classy so he can infiltrate the party that his nemesis hosts.
  • In Miss Congeniality, to make Gracie properly fit among the Miss United States contestants she is inflitrating, along with The Makeover she gets lessons from a pageant coach.
  • The Princess Diaries covers Mia's princess education, one of which is "the art of fan". Despite the fact that the clumsy, awkward Mia doesn't take naturally to any of her lessons and clowns her way through them she still absorbs quite a lot, and is able to demonstrate much of what she's learned in her grand debut at the end of the film.
  • Sam: When Sam undergoes his Gender Bender, he has no idea how to act as a woman and so comes across as The Lad-ette. Although his boss is pleased with 'Samantha''s performance, decides that she cannot meet with clients with her current standards of dress and manners and sends her to Blondell for training in how to be more ladylike.
  • The plot of one Three Stooges short involved a bet between two gentlemen about whether three street bums (the stooges) could be turned into polite members of high society. They could not.
  • Titanic (1997): Jack is put through one by Molly Brown since after saving Rose he is invited to the Captain's Table. She gets him a tux, teaches him some conversational gambits, and tells him he shines up like a new penny.

  • The titular Jane in the Boston Jane series by Jennifer Holm is taught how to be a impeccable proper lady at a finishing school, and must determine whether she fits more in frontier life or as a high society lady.
  • Ella Enchanted: Ella is depicted as being very clumsy at the beginning, stating that "curtsies often make me fall over". Her father wishes for her to become less clumsy and more ladylike and sends her to finishing school. Ella rebels against the stern teachers at the school but eventually gives in to their teachings, until she runs away. The next time her father sees her she's much more graceful and able to do a perfect curtsy.
  • In Empire Star, Prince Nactor's sister mentions that she ran away from Miss Perrypicker's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies, which she describes as "a perfectly dreadful place where basically nice young ladies are taken from the best families and taught to appear so simplex you wouldn't believe it."
  • Enchanted Forest Chronicles: Cimorene's introduction is a review of her attempts to get better training than her standard Princess Lessons could provide, explaining that she has random cooking, fencing, and Latin skills because she'd bully experts in interesting subjects until they tutored her, much to the chagrin of her parents, who insisted these were not subjects for a "proper" princess. All of these lessons — including the boring ones — turn out to be Chekhov's Skills.
  • Pip, the main character of Great Expectations, finds himself receiving a large sum of money from a mysterious benefactor so he can become a gentleman in London.
  • Green (2009): Emerald is among several girls being trained to serve as a lady in hopes that the Duke will choose them as his latest courtesan. It's not voluntary- she's more literally a slave.
  • The Hunger Games: To prepare Katniss for time in the high society life of the Capitol as part of her status as a tribute, the ladylike Effie gives her lessons of this nature, such as informing her to not lift her dress skirt up high and showing her how to sit and eat.
  • Just Ella: Ella, a merchant's daughter used to living as a maid-of-all-work, is subjected to these after being whisked away by Prince Charming at the ball. She eventually runs away because her new life is so stifling.
  • Phèdre's childhood in Kushiel's Legacy is filled with these. In the Night Court, she receives lessons in etiquette and comportment to prepare her for life as a High-Class Call Girl; after adopting her, Anafiel Delaunay expands the curriculum to include court politics, arts and sciences, languages, espionage, self-defense, and the arts of love.
  • In Malory Towers, Gwendoline, an old student, returns to teach the sixth formers etiquette.
  • Mistborn: The Original Trilogy: After Kelsier recruits Vin the Street Urchin into his rebellion, he has his friend Sazed coach Vin in etiquette and court life so she can go undercover as a noblewoman in the Decadent Court. Sazed has an entire Magical Library encoded in his jewellery, so he has a lot of knowledge to impart.
  • The princess lessons thing is used for contrast in A Song of Ice and Fire. The Stark sisters, Sansa and Arya, receive them. Arya resents the lessons, fails them constantly, preferring swordplay and adventures, and eventually gets stuck as a lost child in the middle of a war-torn land (with all of the dire consequences this has). Sansa likes the lessons and succeeds in them, and they eventually help her survive in a hostile Decadent Court, but several other characters point out that she's an Empty Shell just going through the motions they taught her.
  • Song of the Lioness: It is implied the tomboyish Alanna was made to take these before she disguised herself as a boy and went off to learn how to be a knight. She complains about how people always tried to reprimand and teach her how to be ladylike and she would hate it every time. She is a little more accepting of the idea in the second book when Mistress Cooper puts her in a dress and tries to teach her how to be a lady.
  • Moiraine in The Wheel of Time is self-appointed Mentor to The Chosen One Rand al'Thor, and provides him lessons in politics and etiquette to prepare the former Farm Boy for various royal courts. Rand, for his part, alternates between using the lessons, delegating the politicking, and deliberately ignoring them to play off his role as a Destructive Saviour who presages the end of the current social order.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Mentioned in The Big Bang Theory: In one episode, Sheldon turns out to be a surprisingly skilled dancer. He says that his parents had sent him to a finishing school where he learned everything needed to function "in 17th-century Vienna."
  • General Hospital's Jax does this with his best friend V when he realizes that he needs a high society lady on his arm at an upcoming event. (V is a terrific girl, but she's a tomboy who isn't versed in these things).
  • The premise of the UK Reality Television show Ladette To Lady revolves around a group of "ladettes" trying to learn how to become ladies at a finishing school.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: In Numenor, The Social Expert Halbrand tries to teach the stubborn and entitled Galadriel to behave herself in the royal court. He advises her to kneel in front of Queen Miriel, and when they both land in prison, he tells her that if she wants to obtain what she want, she should analyze people's fears and use them to her advantage, instead of just antagonizing everyone around her.
  • The made-for-TV movie The Man in the Iron Mask from 1977 has France's Louis XIV imprison his twin brother Phillippe in the remote fortress on the Ile Sainte-Marguerite. A daring rescue is effected by The Three Musketeers, who hope to supplant the pompous, irrational Louis with a more effective regent. Firstly, however, they must educate Phillippe in all things cultured and stately, including politics, swordsmanship and equestrian arts.
  • The female protagonist of A Royal Christmas takes these so as to fit into her princely boyfriend's circle.
  • The Young and the Restless. Nikki and Victor's romance kicked off with him taking her under his wing to teach her how to be a lady (she'd been working as a stripper until then).

  • My Fair Lady: Eliza Doolittle receives such lessons from Professor Henry Higgins after he made a bet with Colonel Pickering.

    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 

  • In Yokoka's Quest, Grace dresses up Yokoka for Clyde and Blinky's wedding day, as Yokoka has no idea how to dress for a wedding, what a wedding even is, or even basic grooming skills like how to brush her hair.

    Web Original 
  • Whateley Universe: Exemplar Grace class:
    [The] final exercise was to do an entire combat in high-heels and a skirt while holding a full cup of hot tea! Even worse, I was only allowed to hold onto the saucer! You have to disable your opponent without breaking a heel, marring your makeup, spilling the tea, or being immodest with your skirt.

    Western Animation 
  • Surprisingly, Toph from Avatar: The Last Airbender does this—she was born in Earth Kingdom High Society, so she does know how like a Proper Lady (she simply chooses not to). She's able to help clean up Katara for a palace party hosted by the Earth King but she doesn't even attempt with Sokka and Aang. They're hopeless.
  • Carmen Sandiego:
    • While being raised on V.I.L.E. island, likely Carmen received these lessons in her youth when being tutored, or as part of her classes in thief school.
    • Carmen must later give Zack these lessons in "The Duke of Vermeer Caper," when V.I.L.E. agent Dash Haber arrives early to a meeting and is looking for "The Duchess," an alias Carmen is using, but Zack opens the door and improvises himself as "The Duke." These lessons range from table manners, to art history, and to diction lessons so Zack won't speak with his native Bostonian accent.
  • The Flintstones: Fred goes through one of these to become "Frederick J. Mumblemumble" so he can hang out with the snooty wealthy of Bedrock on their own territory.
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: In "My So-Called Wife", Mr. Herriman has to teach Coco how to behave like a lady when a rich benefactor thought that she was his wife and the two were invited into his mansion for the charity. All the while, Mac teaches Bloo what sarcasm means.
  • Hey Arnold!: The episode "Polishing Rhonda" had Rhonda and Big Patty signed up for a finishing school by their parents when the two of them got into a scuffle in school. Rhonda fared poorly due to her Spoiled Brat tendencies, while Patty excelled. Rhonda eventually goes to Patty for help and the two ultimately pass.
    • Done again in an episode with Helga trying to gain the attentions of Arnold by striving to be more ladylike—specifically, like Lila (who Arnold was crushing on at the time). She even seeks out Lila for these kinds of lessons—the two of them practice kindness towards others, going to operas, dressing properly, and curtsying.
  • Wendy took such lessons in an episode of The Legend of White Fang. Notably, during her first attempt to bake a cake, she used all the yeast she had.
  • Recess had an episode where the Ashleys challenge Tomboy Spinelli to a Beauty Pageant. Bizarrely, sports loving Vince is the hyper-competent coach schooling Spinelli in how to win in a Pageant. His justification is that his characterization is hyper-competitive and will learn how to win at any competition; he's meticulously studied Beauty Pageants just in case one of his friends was challenged to win one. Ultimately, Spinelli wins by explaining to the judges that her rehearsed lines weren't really who or what she's all about, and they in turn find it refreshing that for once, someone isn't using the same cliched lines.
  • Sofia the First has six-year-old Princess Sofia, who was Adopted into Royalty after her commoner-mother gets remarried to a king (both Sofia's mom and the King were widowed in previous marriages). She's ultimately enrolled at a princess school with other international princesses—and unlike most examples of this trope, Sofia genuinely likes it.
    • In the last season, Sofia has to pass these lessons on to her tomboy partner Crysta, a fairy who never earned her wand due to not being dainty enough. Crysta is initially resistant, but finds she enjoys the validation that comes with fitting in with other fairies and manages to find a middle ground.
  • In the Sonic Boom episode, "My Fair Sticksy", when Sticks gets nominated for an Awardy Award, Amy decides to teach her how to be more lady-like so that people will see her more as a lady than as a feral badger, especially around her, Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles. Although Sticks doesn't really get the hang of any of it, Sonic decides to escort her so that he can keep an eye on her. After the Awardy Award both Sticks and Dr. Eggman were nominated for gets awarded to Leroy the Turtle, Eggman takes out his anger by attacking Sonic and his friends. Sticks tries to remain ladylike at first, but when her friends all get captured, she decides to go back to her old ways, and in the end, it saves her friends.
  • Played straight and subverted in an episode of the short-live animated series, The Wuzzles. Butterbear and Crock have a wager that she can teach his slovenly henchbeast, Brat, to be a proper gentleman for an important party and succeeds. The subversion comes when her friends (after getting scolded by Butterbear for their lack of good manners and are forced to learn classy behavior in time for the same party) go find a book on how to be classier, Crock overhears them and thinks the book is for Butterbear in teaching Brat, and puts the title of a book on classy behavior on a book for "teaching 'bad manners'". Instead of learning how to be proper, they're taught to behave even worse.