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Silk Hiding Steel

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So demure. So elegant. So dangerous.

"Just because somepony is ladylike doesn't make her weak. In fact, by using her wits, a seemingly defenseless pony can be the one who outsmarts and outshines them all."
Twilight Sparkle (about Rarity), My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, "A Dog and Pony Show"

Step lightly around delicate flowers like the English Rose or the Yamato Nadeshiko. Their manner and appearance suggest meekness and submission and they have perfect etiquette, never speaking out of turn, their voices but an ephemeral whisper. They are beautiful things, kind and pure, clothed in fine dresses and soft gloves who hold silk fans... made of sharpened blades. In short, beware the proper ones.

Such a lady may look like The Ingenue, perhaps even purposefully, but this rose has thorns. Others may think these characters are powerless, but they know how to be subtle and operate within the means their "role" grants them. She may not ever show it publicly, but this character has a cunning mind with sharp intelligence and a strong will that won't bow for anyone. A word here, a look there, add a little subterfuge with Politeness Judo, and often no one ever finds out they were manipulated. Things they approve of always get done, things they disapprove of are somehow never accomplished. Such a character never loses her cool and can take anything life throws at her.

And should the time come to fight, she won't hesitate. She fights—bravely, courageously, and without holding back. She won't turn away from danger or pain. She'll deliver the final blow herself—with violence if necessary—but she'll always mix the violence with class.

In the Southern US, these women are known as Steel Magnolias. Beautiful, elegant, and symbols of their region; but they will take you down if you mess with them or their loved ones.

Related character tropes:

By its very nature, this trope is almost Always Female (although sometimes, a classy Crossdresser or The Dandy can also play the part, depending on the context). For the same reasons, there is no direct Spear Counterpart; the closest male equivalent is probably the Gentleman and a Scholar, who is likewise polite, cultured, and often badass without (necessarily) engaging in physical heroics or combat.

Compare Cultured Badass, More Deadly Than the Male, Badass Adorable, and Kicking Ass in All Her Finery. May overlap with Girly Bruiser, but not necessarily. Not to be confused with Nothing Up My Sleeve where silk sleeves are used to hide steel weapons, but there's definitely some overlap.

For "Steel Hiding Silk", see the classical variety of Tsundere, or, more literally, Samus Is a Girl; Bruiser with a Soft Center is the gender-neutral opposite.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ah! My Goddess:
    • Lind, a polite and proper goddess whose job description is "Heaven's One-Man Army".
    • Belldandy. Sweet, nice, demure, naive, and with a valkyrie qualification. Whatever you do, don't give her a reason to use violence, or you'll regret it. She's been given access to absolutely immense levels of power because she's so kind and gentle that she'll never abuse them on purpose — once she's given a reason to untap them, and especially if her dear Keiichi is threatened, she will fuck shit up.
  • After her Character Development, Ao of Asteroid in Love becomes more of a Determinator for her own goals despite continues to be quiet, demure, and a bit shy. When Shiho understands why she is there, despite not passing the screening, during the Shining Star Challenge, the latter pretty much lampshades this point:
    Shiho: Wow. You seem so docile, but you're pretty bold.
  • Black Butler: Elizabeth Middleford counts as one. She would do anything for Ciel, and goes out of her way to be seen as a cute girl by him, hiding her Lady of War side from him for this reason but her father is still The Leader of the British Knights, and when she sees no alternative, she WILL whip out a pair of swords and defend her future husband!
  • Black Lagoon: Roberta and Fabiola may look demure and proper, but if you mess with them (or Garcia), prepare to die, especially in the case of Roberta. That parasol in her hand? It's a shotgun with a bulletproof shield. She also wields a 50 cal. sniper rifle with an under-mounted grenade launcher one-handed.
  • Bleach:
    • On the surface, Captain Unohana seems to be the kindest, most motherly character in the entire verse. However, she's a captain in a meritocratic military, so she must be badass. Then it's revealed the 11th Division is terrified of her. Then it's revealed she's the second strongest captain behind Yamamoto. Then it's revealed that this sweet, demure woman was the First Kenpachi of the Eleventh Division, meaning she was the most skilled, powerful, and battle-hungry swordsman alive. In fact, Kenpachi Zaraki modelled his Ax-Crazy behaviour on hers.
    • Kanae Katagiri is a gentle Yamato Nadeshiko who serves the Ishida Clan as a Ninja Maid, quietly listens to her ward Ryuuken Ishida whenever he needs a confidante, and obeys her orders without a whisper of protest. However, when Ryuuken realises Katagiri went behind his back to reveal his secret to his mother, she doesn't hesitate to stand up to him and point out just how wrong his decision was. Later, when Ryuuken is forced to accept he's failed the clan and attempts to run away to live with his shame in self-imposed exile, her refusal to obey his final order, and the reason for her disobedience, is the sole thing that brings him back into line.
  • Bodacious Space Pirates: Jenny Doolittle is initially portrayed as the Ojou and displays major nerve when facing down the Lightning 11. She later plays this trope literally, concealing a pistol in her (silk) wedding dress.
  • Boruto, gives us Sarada Uchiha, a child version of a Proper Lady, and the heiress of The Dreaded Uchiha clan. She is well-mannered, if a little aloof, stylish and bookish, but also a force to be reckoned in a battle. Even more, one of her favourite tactics is to appear less dangerous than she really is, only to attack when the enemy expects less.
  • Cells at Work!: The Macrophages look like beautiful homemakers in proper dresses. They also carry cleavers. and slaughter bacteria and infected cells without batting an eye. In all situations, they never stop smiling.
  • Corrector Yui's Haruna. A corrector (i.e virus basher) who eventually overcomes her Shrinking Violet tendencies and becomes a semi Team Mom.
  • Crest of the Stars: Lafiel, polite and proper even when threatening someone. By her strength of will and cleverness, she maneuvered her way from 'prisoner' to recruiting Klowal's pet-like maids in rebellion against him. As for 'being in charge', she may be a princess, but she's still a 'pilot trainee' and must obey the hierarchy. Also, She Cleans Up Nicely.
  • Cyborg 009: Lina, a Sugar and Ice Girl and mother figure for Phil. Both of them are Psychic Assassins, with Lina as the most skilled of the two.
  • Demon City Shinjuku: Sayaka, a lovely ojou who travels into the most dangerous place in the story, by herself, and redeems a fire demon with her sheer love and kindness. Point in fact, she did not go into Sinjuku to defeat Levi Rah, but instead to redeem him.
  • Lenalee from D.Gray-Man falls somewhere between this trope and Yamato Nadeshiko. On one hand, she's a Chinese girl who's devoted to friends and family and likes serving tea. On the other hand, she's a professional exorcist with a unique Innocence, so she doesn't fit the 'domestic housewife' aspect.
  • Digimon Adventure: Mimi Tachikawa of the original series. She's feminine, good-looking and acts like a princess but she's more capable than she looks like when she leads an army of Digimon alone to help the others against Piedmon making her possibly the most badass female Digidestined of this season.
    • Renamon and all further of her evolutions in Digimon Tamers. Despite being one of the most powerful and action-prone digimon shown in the franchise, she's also a rather introverted, spiritual, quiet digimon who likes to question aspects of her life to herself and is unconditionally loyal to her Tamer. Her final form is even one of a beautiful woman with long, white hair who wears golden armor and stilettos to battle.
  • Doraemon: Shizuka is a calm, sweet Nice Girl who is beloved by everyone and hates seeing her friends fight amongst themselves. She is also brave and determined in the face of adversity, and is not afraid to respond with violence when boys act perverted towards her or when facing off against villains.
  • Fairy Tail presents Mirajane, who runs the guild from behind the scenes and holds the rank of Class S. She's also the most feminine member of Fairy Tail in addition to being adorable and a good cook. It's revealed that her magic is Demon-Takeover magic, allowing her to take on the forms of various powerful demons after absorbing them (yes she basically eats demonic energy) and has earned the title of "Fairy Tail's She-Devil". In the past, the steel was far more obvious and the silk almost nonexistent, but she changed her personality after a traumatic incident involving her little sister Lisanna's apparent death.
  • Fist of the North Star: Such is the unconditional love and compassion of Yuria, the fiance of Kenshiro, that even the tyrant Raoh — whose fists could shatter Heaven and Earth itself — is utterly helpless before her redemptive kindness.
  • The Garden of Sinners: Ryougi Shiki crosses this with Lady of War. Raised as both the Ojou and a competent swords-woman, she generally wears a kimono.....with her favorite knife tucked behind the sash.
  • Girls und Panzer:
    • Being able to drive a tank is part of being a Proper Lady. It's even a women-dominated line of work!
      Propaganda film voiceover: If you learn tank combat, you will become a great wife, a great mother and a great career woman.
    • This is explicitly Hana's reason to learn Tankery: to her, tanks are flowers too and she wants to arrange flowers with 'more vigor'.
    • Even the demure, polite and kimono-clad maids of the Nishizumi family have experience in Tankery; Kikuyo serves as a Combat Referee for the training match between Miho and Maho's teams, and Sakuyo mentions once studying Tankery under her mistress Shiho.
  • Gundam has a few:
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers:
    • Lithuania, who would be a Yamato Nadeshiko if he were not from Europe and male. He's sweet, hard-working, and shown to not only be excellent at cooking and house-cleaning (to the point where he works as America's housekeeper for some time) but also formidable in battle. However, he also happens to be the main Woobie of the cast, which tends to overshadow his other traits, especially considering that his deference, loyalty, and humility might be one of the causes of him tending to be pushed around by Poland, Russia, and Belarus.
    • Liechtenstein plays this straighter. So Switzerland is a super Trigger-Happy gunslinger and skittish Jerkass? Yep, but he can't deny anything to his baby sister. Who can handle his mood swings without even blinking. What's more, she represents a country that's small and hidden in the mountains and was passed around among other nations, but the people living there stood up to the freaking Soviet Union in World War II, and the country is now among the richest ones in the whole world.
  • Highschool of the Dead:
    • Saya Yuriko’s mother appears to be the perfect lady. She remains quiet and generally stands behind her husband. However, we last see her massacring zombies in a dress and using a gun that’s almost as big as she is... in the middle of a fire.
    • Saeko's demure elegance and cool competence masks a bloodthirsty streak she fears could overcome her. She practices kendo to both exercise it and discipline it. Boy, does she unleash it once the zombies start to take over.
  • Hungry Joker: Literally in the case of Vivia. She's a self-described Oujo-sama who has beautiful silk clothes and metallic skin that can extend into scythes. Sadly for her, she was stripped of her oujo-ness because her powers weren't proper and her parents abandoned her, but Haiji thinks her powers are beautiful.
  • Karakuridouji Ultimo: Matoko Sayama is a very polite girl, but there's some cold steel underneath. It sharpens after she contracts Regula, the doji of discipline and memory wiping.
  • Nanami Yasuri from Katanagatari has the looks of a little girl, is polite, well-dressed, and almost never talks louder than a whisper. And she's one of the strongest and most skilled fighters in the entire series.
  • Maison Ikkoku: Kyoko is much more independent-minded and temperamental than her sweet, proper demeanor suggests, as Godai soon discovers. Her resolve is the only thing that keeps Maison Ikkoku from descending into (complete) chaos.
  • Sailor Moon:
    • Michiru/Sailor Neptune is a graceful Ojou whose girlfriend Haruka/Sailor Uranus is much more masculine than she is, but it's obvious that while both are badasses in their own right Michiru is the one you really don't want to cross. It's strongly hinted that the super girlish Michiru is the one with the reins in their relationship, and she could have Haruka totally wrapped around her finger if she wanted to.
    • Ami/Mercury starts as a super-smart Shy Blue-Haired Girl, but as the series goes on she also shows shades of the trope. Specially obvious in Stars, where she endures a massive beating from an enemy while trying to find its weak spot, and when criticized by the aforementioned Haruka she calmly says "this is how I fight" and manages to win her respect.
  • Soul Eater:
    • Demon Hammer Marie Mjolnir. She is a goofy example and her belief in being an Old Maid was enough to have her consider marrying a toliet, but nonetheless a feminine Death Scythe and one of the few who listens to Shinigami's orders. Her kind demeanor and calming soul wavelength allows her to help keep Stein calm and away from Madness. As for the steel — her nickname is "Crushing Weapon." She is a powerful hammer with lightning powers and can extend the hammerhead to become a tonfa. When confronting Justin Law on BJ's murder, she reacts to the possibility of him harming her students by landing a punch on his chest so hard he's thrown into the air. This comes after Justin, having clearly forgotten he's in a World of Action Girls, points out that though he and Marie are both Death Scythes, she has only a "woman's power".
    • Tsubaki is gentle, kind, and patient, she more than holds her own in battle, and early in the series, her competence is said to be the reason her Idiot Hero meister Black*Star is still alive. She also beat her insane brother Masamune and took his Enchanted Blade form, single-handedly.
  • Star Driver: Female lead Wako Agemaki falls under this, with a MAJOR emphasis on the touch of iron... or cold steel, in this case.
  • The Tower of Druaga: Kaaya looks like a Nice Girl, and she is, but there's cunning and an ulterior motive behind her pleasantness.
  • The Twelve Kingdoms: Lady Ribi is not an Action Girl, and she knows it clearly. She's just the Ojou in a very dangerous time, which is marked by the intrigues of Atsuyu and his disciple Kouya against the King that she works for and strongly believes in. Will that stop her? Nope. Ribi handles all of this very calmly and cleverly, protects the depowered Enki as much as she can, and in the end she unlocks Enki's powers despite clearly knowing that taking his Power Nullifier off will produce a backlash that will kill her. She dies, yes, but she also derails Atsuyu's Evil Plan, and helps to cause his fall.
  • Vinland Saga: Thorfinn's mother with elements of a Mama Bear back when Thors was still an arrogant warrior.

    Comic Books 
  • Albedo: Erma Felna EDF: The mother of the eponymous heroine, Eda, is a non-human and example. Not so much in her earliest appearances (she once shocked Sonic in retribution for shaking her), but since obtaining her lynx form she's been nothing but shy, sweet, and nurturing... when she's not Brainwashed and Crazy.
  • Diabolik has Altea. She's nice and always proper, and she'll remain perfectly proper as she's hiring a Professional Killer to murder a mob boss who had put a bounty on her fiancee's head or tricking the titular King of Terror into swearing he'll do the job she had hired that now-dead killer for (as Diabolik always keeps his word, Diabolik took the time to kill the mob boss when he went to rob him)...
  • From Marvel Comics: Wanda Maximoff. Despite having strained family relationships, frequently uncontrollable powers, and mental health issues stemming from these, Wanda carries herself with an air of composure and elegance whenever she has to save the day. The fact that she often wore beautiful red dresses to battle probably helped to cement the image as well.
  • The Mickey Mouse Comic Universe has Minnie, of all people. Her transition from The Ingenue into this can be seen in the Spot the Imposter moment of the three stories with Miklos the Grey Mouse, a Master of Disguise with a penchant for replacing Mickey and tricking people in believing that Mickey is the imposter who committed all those crimes: in "Mickey's Dangerous Double" (1953) she recognized Miklos immediately but then doubted her own findings, in "Mickey and the Grey Scourge" (1978) she once again recognized Mickey on the spot and it took Clarabelle for her to doubt her findings, and in "Mickey and the 7 Boglins" (2014) she not only recognized Miklos early when everyone else, including Mickey, believed him the real deal (it took keeping Mickey drugged up for him to fall for the ruse, but fall for it he did), but tricked him into getting a tattoo that said he loved Minnie for easier spotting, so when Miklos was to be arrested she could easily point out the fake.
  • Cornelia Hale from W.I.T.C.H. Despite initially appearing similar to the typical "blonde mean girl" character in teen series, the fact is the story always presents her as a fairly practical, intelligent girl who never loses her cool and is shown to be quite deadly in a fight.

    Fan Works 
  • In An Acceptable Arrangement, we have Hou Yue, who on the surface is feminine, somewhat demure and is implied to be built delicately. She is a capable manager of her household with strong willpower and who is unafraid to deliver verbal smackdowns when they are much needed. She's also said to go on Night Hunts, though doesn't do so in-story.
  • In By Any Other Name, this is what Wu Yingtai appears to be, as a cheerful and sweet if delicate lady who braves ghosts and walking corpses with nothing but talismans. The truth, of course, is somewhat more complicated.
  • In Downfall we have Unohana, who is an example of this trope in Bleach canon. In this case, however, she's the villain, sort of, and slaughters an entire platoon of Soul Reapers with her bare hands before takes on Zaraki Kenpachi himself.
  • In the Harry Potter fanfic: Arc of Sacrifices, this is the very definition of the Puellaris witches, who live to protect the family and home. Submissive on the outside, but harm a child and she will become a lioness and kill you.
  • In Everyone Lives With Knives, Jiang Yanli is this, going toe to toe with her mother-in-law in their power struggle around running the household and watching Yanli's children without ever raising her voice. Jin Guangyao knows not to cross her when she is as impressive as she is while recovering from a near-Death by Childbirth.
  • The character of Pretty Butterfly, Twoflower's eldest daughter, appears in canon as Rincewind's reluctant bodyguard and escort in Interesting Times. While she looks demure, petite, and a perfectly submissive Agatean girl, she is lethal in a fight. The canon hints she is Ninja-trained. Fanfiction takes this a step further. In the stories of A.A. Pessimal, Pretty Butterfly comes to Ankh-Morpork and accepts a position as the Assassins' Guild School's visiting lecturer in Agatean Studies. These include origami, flower-arranging, Agatean language tuition, how to wear a formal kimono (Girl students only), and how to chop somebody in two with a shuriken. Kicking somebody's kidneys out through their ears is also a skill she teaches to pupil Assassins, who refer to her with the most respectful honorific 'Koukouchou-sama''. Oh, and she's also quite fond of Rincewind.
  • Kurosaki Yuzu grows up into this in the Bleach fanfics Phases of the Moon and Chasing the Moon. Her zanpakuto, Jungetsu, reflects this by being a pair of Combat Hand Fans with reiatsu blades. It's also an illusion-type.
  • The Girl Genius fic On Her Undying Majesty's Secret Service has The Ingenue type in Melisande, and a motherly variation with her godmother and spymistress Baba Anya. Wooster is fully aware that the sweet little old lady probably has the authority to have him killed.
  • Grace Montello-Wayne in the The Dark Knight fanfiction Question of Honor is amiable and polite with a strong will. Until you threaten her husband or unborn child.
  • In a Kung Fu Panda fanfic The Vow, we have a noble swan lady named Lianne. She is a gentle pacifist well-taught in courtly manners, but she's certainly not weak-minded. She prefers using diplomacy over force, even if she's taught to defend herself with a war-fan. For twenty years she governs over Gongmen City competently and unmarried.
  • Euphemia of A Cold Calculus is still kind-hearted and idealistic much like her canon counterpart, if a bit more grounded, but she shows more steel in the face of threats. When the Blood of the Samurai takes Nunnally hostage, she threatens to kill them all and later (through Cornelia) follows through with it.
  • Princess Luna Equestris of RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse. She is very reluctant to use her full political and legal authority, due to her fear of repeating her sister's fall into madness. But when the corruption in her Night Court finally grows too blatant for her to ignore, her nobles are reminded that she is their ruler, and they serve only at her sufferance.
  • Elissa Cousland in Shadow and Rose is described by Warden-Commander Duncan as possessing unusual wisdom and sound judgment for her age, as well as being "the only daughter of a noble house who excels in the art of war." Repeatedly throughout the story, other characters are subdued by her kindness and sweet manners; at the same time, she's a badass swordswoman who won't let anything stop her from saving the world or protecting those in need. Even Alistair, who loves her, is kind of afraid of her when she's angry.
  • Chloe Cerise in Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail is a girly girl in a pretty white dress with long flowing hair and enamored with Alice in Wonderland along with having a love of reading. She also has a short temper and will be ready to fight with her donut holer (a steel pipe) and will stand her ground against those who would mock her or push her aside.
  • Bethany Hawke falls into this in Beyond Heroes: Of Sunshine and Red Lyrium, an AU fic in which she's the Inquisitor. Varric, the narrator, is comfortable with the silk aspect of her disposition, as he's used to her being that way, but the steel sometimes worries him because she doesn't always hide it well (from him, that is — from other people she hides it beautifully, but he knows her too well and the steel honestly scares him sometimes).
  • We Must Be Killers: Adessa is the most elegant and well-dressed Victor of District 2 by a notable margin, but is also willing to take part in the occasional scrap with the younger Victors and tends to do well. The A District Upside Down: The War Fix Fic reveals that she once told Snow to his face that he should retire or Panem would be doomed by his single-minded desire to protect his power and that she has her own private list of deplorable Capitolites she would happily kill for mistreating her mentee.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Book of Life:
    • Maria becomes more proper after the Time Skip, but keeps her fighting spirit.
    • La Muerte is a proper lady with a soul as sweet as the candy she's made out of. But she's not one to be trifled with. Just ask Xibalba.
  • Brave: Queen Elinor is always polite, graceful, and well-versed in every courtly art. She stops an all-out brawl by simply walking through the middle of it with her head held high. Her daughter, Merida, is pretty scornful of her willingness to compromise and stick to tradition even when it doesn't make sense. However, the two learn from each other: Elinor fights the Big Bad twice and kills him for good, all while protecting her daughter, and Merida learns how essential this trope is for a princess; being a master archer is all well and good, but she also has to placate her bickering vassals and change tradition in a way that doesn't immediately alienate them.
  • Disney Animated Canon: Several female leads/princesses embody this trope.
    • Beauty and the Beast: Belle reforms Beast first by standing up to him and then with more gentle affection. She's technically a captive with no authority the whole time.
    • Cinderella puts on a stoic smile and cheerful demeanor every day in front of her oppressors, never letting them get to her despite her abuse. In the third movie when her life is actually in danger, she keeps her cool while figuring out a way to rescue herself and her mouse friends.
    • Hercules: Meg, though crossed with Femme Fatale and Broken Bird, fulfills the trope in her ability to manipulate like a damsel and her Heroic Sacrifice inner steel.
    • Peter Pan:
      • Wendy, a very mature girl with the ability to influence someone like Peter Pan himself. During the Walk the Plank scene, she is the definition of composed.
      • Tiger-Lily as well. When she gets kidnapped by Captain Hook, in an attempt to get her to reveal the location of Peter's hiding place, she refuses to talk, even when Hook threatens to let her drown and possibly end up Barred from the Afterlife as a result of it.
    • The Rescuers: Miss Bianca is a very composed and sophisticated lady mouse who loves wearing furs and perfume, but has an adventurous spirit and is more determined than her male counterpart.
  • Epic (2013): Queen Tara is introduced as flighty and gentle, but willing to go through great lengths to protect her people.
  • The Last Unicorn: Amalthea is soft-spoken and rather withdrawn, but she also shows immense courage by going into this hopeless quest of freeing the unicorns, knowing full well that she could die at any moment.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Seven Brides for Seven Brothers: Millie is an example in territorial America. She embodies every ideal of femininity at the time: she's not afraid of working hard; she cooks, cleans, and sews for seven men, and yet turns a house of barbarians into a matriarchy through sheer force of personality and timely laundering.
  • The Conjuring Universe: Lorraine Warren. Lovely, ladylike, compassionate, rarely even raises her voice, devoted to her husband and daughter — and will face down the darkest spawn of Satan in defense of her family or those who need her help. Also, she's a Combat Clairvoyant who can banish literal demons back to literal Hell if required, and when her husband tries to get her to stay out of danger because he's terrified for her safety, she promptly reminds him that God brought them together for a reason and makes it clear that they are doing this side by side no matter what. They do it her way.
    Lorraine: You think I'm going to let you walk into this alone?
    Ed: [beat] I can't lose you.
    Lorraine: You won't. Let's finish this together.
  • Horrible Bosses: Not only is Dale's situation an almost perfect Gender Flip of the workplace sexual harassment seen in films like 9 to 5, Dale himself is an almost perfect Gender Flip of the sort of sweet, innocent girls most likely to get harassed in films of that nature — complete with their deeply buried rage.
  • In the Mae West film My Little Chickadee, West's character, a glamorous lady from Chicago, calmly shoots down Natives attacking a train.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Iron Man: Pepper Potts is a polite, benevolent, elegantly dressed businesswoman cum art curator. She's also the only person who can wrangle a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist superhero; has obtained incriminating evidence from under a villain's nose; fried him; oversaw the evacuation of a public event during an air raid; argued with the US government over the ownership of War Machine and won (as of Iron Man 3, it's on loan from SI); kick-punched another villain to death; and will deliver a mean burn if you demean her. Do not mess with the woman.
    • Frigga in Thor and Thor: The Dark World is the graceful and gracious Queen of Asgard, and she's also a formidable sorceress and swordswoman who can kill a Frost Giant with a single stroke of her blade, plus she deceives and defeats Malekith, the King of the Dark Elves, in combat.
  • Mary Poppins: the title character is a prim and Proper Lady; she's the only one not to lose her composure during the laughing scene. She also manipulates her employer with the ease of a pro. See her entry on Reverse Psychology.
  • The Mask: Tina Carlyle may start off as the girlfriend/arm candy of mobster Dorian Tyrell, but in the course of the film, she not only risks her safety to talk with Stanley in prison but in the final confrontation in the Coco Bongo, while tied up over a bomb set to go off in a few minutes, she tricks Dorian into removing the nigh-omnipotent Mask. Then she kicks it away from him and give Milo and Stanley a chance to use it against Dorian's goons.
  • Miss Meadows: Miss Meadows' first would-be kidnapper doesn't suspect at all that she'd have a gun kept in her purse, never mind have no problem — in skill level or emotionally — with using said pistol to shoot him dead. This also applies to the other criminals, who never suspect that she (or likely a woman at all) could be a threat. It works to her advantage as they let her come close without shooting her first.
  • Pig: The head of the other truffle-hunting operation Amir buys from seems like a demure old lady, until she learns that two of her customers have stolen a truffle-sniffing pig (which could be used to cut her out of the truffle-harvesting operation). She instantly starts swearing up a storm and races for her car to go confront the thieves.
  • Scream (1996): Casey has a demure and innocent demeanor and a fairly modest wardrobe, but also grabs a knife, decks the killer a couple of times and delivers a Groin Attack during their struggles, even after being wounded. It's not enough to save her.
  • Shenandoah: Ann acts like a demure, well-dressed wife and mother for the most part, but when Tomboy Jennie fires a warning shot at several horse thieves, Ann is standing behind her, with a second rifle ready. Unfortunately, she doesn't have that gun handy when a trio of Dangerous Deserters show up.
  • Sky High (2005): Layla's Establishing Character Moment is encouraging a sunflower to grow with her powers. She refuses to use her abilities casually (and is thus written off as sidekick material) and spends the movie forging her Ragtag Bunch of Misfits into True Companions, encouraging Warren's Heel–Face Turn, and later — when there is actual need for her powers — curb-stomps The Dragon in seconds. These actions save dozens of lives and are vital to triumphing over the film's Big Bad.
  • 1944 Sherlock Holmes film The Spider Woman: Adrea Spedding is a thoroughly evil version of this trope. She's beautiful, feminine, charming and polite, and even after Holmes and the police catch up with her, she never loses her cool or stoops to uncouth behavior. She's also a criminal mastermind who orchestrated the murders of several innocent people for their insurance money — and if Holmes hadn't caught on, the authorities would never have realized that the deaths had been murders at all.
  • The Wind and the Lion: Mrs Pedicaris may seem like a Victorian Proper Lady... but she's also a Lady of War with two children to protect.

  • The BattleTech Expanded Universe novels have Omi Kurita, a polite and soft-spoken Kuritan princess and Keeper of the House Honor, making her a classic Yamato Nadeshiko. However, do not mistake her gentle and demure nature for weakness or timidity, as the events of Grave Covenant show that while her silk is a kimono, it hides the refined steel of a katana—when she and Victor Davion were attacked by assassins sent after them by the Combine's ultranationalist Black Dragon Society, she did her part to fend off the assassins alongside Victor. Omi did so by stealing one of the assassins' swords and unflinchingly beheading him in a single stroke after the man's compatriots attacked Victor. They had unwisely disregarded her due to their sexist views on women as weak and non-threats, and they did not live to regret the error.
  • In The Belgariad:
    • Polgara is a reserved, decorous lady both in the kitchen and in any number of royal courts. She is also a 3000-year-old sorceress who has stared down gods and watched any number of those royal courts pass into history. When she is pushed into Not So Stoic moments, they are terrifying for anyone in the vicinity.
    • As a star pupil of the Drasnian spy academy, Velvet sometimes exploits this. The rest of the time, she is an overt Action Girl and bristles at the suggestion that she's harmless.
  • Belisarius Series: Towards the end of In the Heart of Darkness, Belisarius' wife, Antonia realizes the Malwa spies she has been feeding (false) information to decided to kill her and works out how they would do so with maximum discretion, but what could a diminutive thirty-something ex-courtesan do with such knowledge? Try setting up a counter-ambush that leaves seven street thugs dead, one maimed, and one frightened soul keeping her at bay with a club as he screamed for backup.
    • Princess Shakuntala is a tiny slip of a young woman who, as a princess, was trained in what was expected of a princess in an Indian court. She was also trained by the deadliest hand-to-hand combatant in India and, unless she tries to get fancy, can easily outfight and kill most ordinary soldiers. When she is crowned as Queen, she demonstrates an iron will just as powerful as her combat skills.
    • Anna, wife of Calopodius. Raised in a noble (although financially impoverished) family, her marriage to Calopodius was arranged in order to unite her family's social standing and his family's merchant wealth. She spent her entire life as a proper upper-class Byzantine woman, and when she goes off in search of her husband, whom she's only briefly known, she seems utterly lost and only avoids being raped by hiring a pair of former soldiers who happen to be there. And then she finds an incompetently-run military hospital on her journey. By the time she finally reaches the front and reunites with Calopodius, she's become a legendary and beloved figure to the soldiers of the Roman army and their allies due to her ruthlessness in dealing with corrupt officials and poorly run medical services, she's become skilled in medical treatment in her own right, and she's formed her own uniformed corps dedicated to proper health, hygiene, and medical care. The once sheltered young woman reveals a steel backbone so strong that she demands Belisarius — himself a near-legendary figure and effectively supreme commander of an international coalition against the Malwa and with whom she has absolutely no authority in any way at all — issue orders to correct problems she's identified. And he does.
  • Fiona Patton's Branion series: Includes both males and females, in which a Guild of Companions provides same-sex partners to the nobility. They are highly trained, and also serve as bodyguards, assassins, and spies (you learn a lot between the sheets).
  • In A Brother's Price, Jerin's grandfather Alannon is hinted to have been this. Jerin recalls that although his grandfather was a quiet-spoken, dignified man, he always got what he wanted. Jerin is a bit less silk and more steel, but he, too, is a proper gentleman with the equivalent of a Chastity Dagger on his person.
  • The Circleverse, also written by Tamora Pierce, has the young Lady Sandreline fa Toren. So sweet, so kind, so composed. Oh, and she has thread magic? How... quaint. Surely she's no threat — OH GOD MY CLOTHES ARE CRUSHING ME.
  • Count to the Eschaton: In John C. Wright's The Hermetic Millennia, Menelaus explains that despite her hyperbolically feminine appearance and her profuse declarations of love and harmony, Oenoe is a member of the Nymph security forces. Though she would drink potions of forgetfulness after the fight — to keep it from disturbing the hedonistic life — she is unquestionably a veteran.
  • Destructive Harmonics. Zandra's a downplayed example, as she is a punk rocker, but she's both the most traditionally feminine and the best at holding everything together in adverse circumstances.
  • Discworld:
    • Lady Sybil Vimes (nee Ramkin) navigates Ankh-Morpork high society effortlessly, is on a First-Name Basis with the Patrician, raises money for charitable causes, shows a keen knowledge of and deep appreciation for arts and culture, and wields her rank like a scalpel. She also cooks and darns socks for her husband (she is terrible at it, but believes in traditional gender roles and considers it her wifely duty). She has also, over the cause of the series, stared down rioting mobs, followed her husband into warzones, negotiated trade deals with the Low King of the Dwarfs, and at one point orchestrated an escape from a castle by ripping a bar from a cell window and hitting a werewolf in the head with it hard enough to leave a head-shaped dent in the metal.
    • She also manipulated the Discworld's political power into acknowledging goblins as sapient beings with personhood, intrinsic value, and rights.
  • Steven Brust's Dragaera books: Lady Teldra is patient, kind, loyal, courteous to the point of magical to friends, strangers, and enemies alike, will never speak ill of anyone... and once just up and stabbed a being whose power was beyond that of gods to protect her friends. In general, all Issola are supposed to be like this. Their hat is social grace and unexpected strikes.
  • Dread Empire's Fall: Martinez's eventual wife, Terza Chen. She always bends to the will of her father and (arranged) husband but proves to be very shrewd in advancing her and her family's interests. On rare occasions, Martinez sees "an intensity that bordered on ferocity" under her tranquil veneer.
  • The Dresden Files: Charity is this — although her dislike of series' main character and narrator Harry means readers rarely see the 'silk' part. She's a devoutly religious housewife who raises more than half a dozen children, and is apparently an ace in the kitchen. Her husband is also a Knight of the Cross, and she's been acting as his practice partner/armorer for years. When one of her daughters is in trouble, she doesn't hestiate for a moment before armoring up and trekking into the Big Bad's freezing, Mook-filled castle to rescue her. Harry describes her as 'a rose wrought of stainless steel.'
  • Lady Jessica in Dune: Bound concubine to Duke Leto. It basically means she's his Duchess but not married for political reasons. She's also extremely dangerous and says so to Thufir Hawat: "You've glimpsed the fist within the Bene Gesserit glove".
  • Gone with the Wind: Melanie is a stellar example of this, and the book contains several monologues on the quietly awesome nature of 'true ladies' as Southern society calls them. She is sweet, humble, and seems frail as a kitten for most of the novel... but hurt her friends, either verbally or physically, and she will bring her persuasive abilities and status as Georgia's social keystone to bear by (metaphorically) kicking your ass.
  • Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar:
    • Herald Talia. One of her two single most significant moments in the series involved epic babysitting — specifically, being the only person in the kingdom kind enough, patient enough, and domestically talented enough to un-spoil the Royal Brat, Princess Elspeth. Given Elspeth's importance to the plot later, this act saved the world at least twice over. She also holds the position of Queen's Own Herald — the monarch's entirely loyal, completely dependable friend and advisor. However, Talia is not tall, her hair is chestnut, curly, and short, and she can fight with a knife as well as a bow.
    • A slightly stronger example of the steel that Talia hides comes near the end of the second book in the series; when confronted with a man who had repeatedly abused and raped his stepdaughters and finally murdered one who was trying to escape, she with no hesitation and no remorse then or later Mind Raped the perpetrator into reliving all that he had done from his stepdaughters' point of view until he had accepted what he had done was evil.
  • Honor Harrington has Lady Dame Estelle Matsuko, Baroness Medusa, most recently the Imperial Governor-General of the Talbott Quadrant in the name of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth III. She is absolutely diminutive, polite, pleasant, and not known to have any kind of martial training whatsoever. It is also made abundantly plain that even when she is sitting at a table otherwise filled with high-ranking admirals, she is clearly the one in charge, and those who attempt to gainsay her once don't try it again.
  • Lady Lucy Fitzmartin in A Pearl for My Mistress is dainty, sophisticated, and impeccably polite. She will also totally demolish your life if it serves her personal or political goals.
  • Denise Baudu from Zola's The Ladies Paradise. Completely selfless, everything she does is for the benefit of her brothers. She also shows humility under extreme provocation, and there is iron at the core of her character: she will not allow her ideals to be compromised, either through threat, hardship, or temptation. Denise is described as 'formidable in her gentleness'.
  • The Alpha and Omega side stories of Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson universe.
    • Anna Cornick. As an Omega wolf, she is the lowest in the pack's hierarchy and rather meek in personality. Also as an Omega wolf, she has the bonus of soothing empath powers over other werewolves and Nerves of Steel.
    • Mercy Thompson herself. As a female coyote shifter in the sexist werewolves' world, she can't directly confront or even disobey the stronger werewolves, so she smiles and nods to their faces, but somehow she always gets her own way in the end.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries: Elizabeth manages to fill the role of being a gentleman's wife well enough that she's liked and respected in society but she also does just as much legwork — mental and physical — as her husband when solving crimes.
  • The Parasol Protectorate: Alexia counters her inherent lack of morals by studying the manners and ethics of her time and at least acting the part of the Proper Lady so long as it is practical to do so. When it isn't, she displays enough sheer willpower to command a pack of werewolves. She also carries a parasol with a number of built-in weapons, and her Preternatural state gives her a distinct advantage against London's Supernatural population in close combat. The Finishing School Series, set in the same universe, features a school dedicated to the concept. Mademoiselle Geraldine's teaches everything a proper young lady should know, along with less traditional courses in seduction, spying, and assassination.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Percy's mother Sally is endlessly sweet, kind, patient and loving, rarely ever gets mad or even raises her voice, and while she puts up with her husband Gabe's verbal (and physical) abuse to Extreme Doormat levels, Percy notes that she still shows subtle signs of defiance against Gabe and it's revealed later on that she stayed with Gabe solely to mask Percy's demigod nature with his stench and hence keep him safe from the monsters who would otherwise have hunted him down, and that once she no longer needs to protect Percy, she deals with Gabe on her own (with Medusa's head). Now that is being true Silk Hiding Steel.
  • Reign of the Seven Spellblades: Despite being the girliest and physically weakest and least combative of the Sword Roses, Katie Aalto has a will of iron and is far more resilient under pressure than you'd expect. She also has a great deal of knowledge about magical creatures and begins to surprise people with her abilities as a Fluffy Tamer, getting first a troll and then a griffin to befriend and protect her.
  • The Riftwar Cycle: Mara of the Acoma is repeatedly underestimated by her opponents, and even when they learn better, she's still no warrior; she's slight of stature and was training to become a priestess, not a fighter. But when she has to step up and lead her House, she plays the Game of the Council to win. She ruthlessly exploits impeccable politeness and the cast-iron Code of Honor to bring down all challengers, even her own husband, who was abusing his position and selfishly exploiting the wealth of the Acoma. Her mixture of fair treatment, willingness to make hard choices, creativity in working around the rules, and open-handed generosity in victory, inspires her servants and armies beyond what mere military skill could do, and ultimately she becomes the de facto ruler of the entire Empire, standing beside her young son who officially holds the title, because everyone who stood in her way was either outmaneouvred or won over to her cause.
  • Edith Stone from The Rolling Stones (1952). She's a quiet housewife who appears to have no strong opinions, but her kids point out that no family debate is resolved until she weighs in, and she politely but firmly dismisses her husband's objections to her going on a dangerous mission.
  • In Rose of the Prophet, the women of the Akar, Hrana and Aran are this, much to Zohra's ignorance. It's a major turning point for her to realize that just because they aren't bloodthirsty and waving swords around like the men that doesn't mean they are weak by any measure.
  • Safehold gives two stellar examples:
    • Sharleyan Tayt-Aharmahk, empress of Charis and queen of Chisholm: a skilled diplomat, a dedicated ruler, and a caring wife and mother. She's also perfectly willing and capable of helping her armsmen shoot a horde of attacking fanatics, or continuing to sentence traitors to death after getting shot by an assassin.
    • The second is Madame Ahnzhelyk Phonda, who is a highly-cultured courtesan who caters to the most prestigious members of the Church of God Awaiting. Behind the scenes, she's a master spy and schemer who manages to sneak hundreds of people out from under Clytahn's nose. Oh, and later she trains and leads a small army of counter-revolutionaries.
  • Sano Ichiro: Sano's wife, Reiko, is a well-mannered lady of the shogun's court. She's also an Amateur Sleuth and uses her high status and kind disposition to aid her husband's investigations. If she gets into danger, she'll usually make her own way out of it between her martial arts training and the dagger she keeps hidden up her kimono sleeve.
  • Song at Dawn: Sanchez is a pro at balancing her Proper Lady and Manipulative Bastard sides. She, or rather he, has everyone fooled into thinking she's a twit when he's really Dragonetz's spy. He later becomes Estela's instructor in subtlety.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire is full of these; justified: due to the Crapsack World, highborn ladies (when not being full-on Action Girls) have to grow into this in order to protect themselves:
    • Lady Catelyn Stark would rather be living quietly at home with her family, but she makes decisive actions when pressed to protect her loved ones. However, as the sacrifices and demands of her role grow, she becomes more and more weary of it. Jon Snow directly states there's metal in her, but it is iron and brittle.
      • Her daughter Sansa Stark was initially the purest example of The Ingenue, but a brutal cutie-breaking is slowly turning her into this.
    • Lady Olenna Tyrell (aka the Queen of Thorns) puts only the barest veneer of a proper lady over her thorny personality.
      • Her granddaughter, Margaery Tyrell, plays the part of the sweet, polite queen-in-waiting perfectly — but she's obviously a lot more shrewd than she lets on; she investigates King Joffrey's true nature and takes drastic measures to protect herself from him (all under Queen Regent Cersei's nose), as well as easily seeing through Cersei's efforts to get her arrested.
    • Princess Arianne of Dorne and a few of the Sand Snakes are also this. The Snakes are Oberyn's bastard daughters, whom he raises in the palace, educating them in all that young ladies should know... including battle.
    • The perfect male example may be Lord Roose Bolton. Unlike other Northern lords, he is not boastful, he is more of a commander than a fighter, comes across like a true gentleman (in public), and prefers subtlety and guile. He is also a Torture Technician, Token Evil Teammate, The Dreaded, Manipulative Bastard, The Chessmaster, and about a hundred other evil and ruthless tropes.
    • Doran Martell and his brother Oberyn pull something of a double-act version of this.
      Doran: Oberyn was ever the viper. Deadly, dangerous, unpredictable. No man dared tread on him. I was the grass. Pleasant, complaisant, sweet-smelling, swaying with every breeze. Who fears to walk upon the grass? But it is the grass that hides the viper from his enemies and shelters him until he strikes.
    • Queen Cersei Lannister, the beautiful queen, is even more ruthless, brutal, and power-hungry than most of the high lords of the realm, but she usually maintains a cold, dignified, and ladylike facade in public.
    • Daenerys Targaryen is a beautiful, demure 15-year-old girl, who has sacked three cities and is bent on reclaiming the Iron Throne.
      Daenerys: I am only a small girl, and know little of the ways of war...
  • Special Circumstances: Barbara Everette seems like a stereotypical Southern US middle-class Christian stay-at-home-wife. However, due to growing up a Military Brat with a father who encouraged her to take up the martial arts of the various countries he was posted in, she's skilled in assorted unarmed combat methods, martial arts weapons, and firearms. Her family assumes she goes to a dojo for exercise like tai chi or something, not realizing that she's probably the most lethal combatant there.
  • The world of The Stormlight Archive requires this:
    • Jasnah Kholin is beautiful, always elegant in her manners and appearance, princess of the most powerful nation in the world, and a noted scholar. When a gang tries to mug her, she ruthlessly kills them all, including the ones trying to flee. Later, she shrugs off being Impaled with Extreme Prejudice just as efficiently.
    • Shallan Davar is a shy, beautiful young lady from a failing noble house, who is prepared to do anything it takes to protect her family. This includes robbing one of the royal family, recruiting a band of deserters as bodyguards, joining a highly dangerous secret society, traveling halfway across the continent to pursue allies, sinking her own ship when it is hijacked, and killing any number of people who threaten her — including both her parents. She also becomes one of the new generation of Knights Radiant by gaining a spren and shardblade.
    • Taravangian is the kindly, doddering old king of a small city-state, best known for its libraries and publicly-funded hospitals. He is also the man behind Szeth's murder spree, as part of his plan for the world to survive the True Desolation at any cost.
  • Many in the Tortall Universe.
    • Thayet, a model court lady who could insult and frustrate her would-be suitor (and future husband) Jon while remaining impeccably polite. She's also the founder of the Queen's Riders, a branch of Tortall's military.
    • In the Trickster's Duet we have the Bailtang sisters, Sarai and Dove.
      • Sarai is the most popular belle in the Copper Isles. One time she talked down a poorly planned noble revolt while making it seem like she was only interested in a date for the Summersend ball. Also she's no slouch with a sword.
      • Dovasary states at one point that she can find more information when she's quiet. The creator has said that she's the kind of person who appears as a delicate queen and men will say they're going to show her what's what, before coming out thinking, "I was going to... what did she..."
    • A relative of Kel's who had barrels of lard lit and catapulted onto raiding ships, just like "any delicately raised noblewoman" would.
    • Alanna, the original heroine, tries to be this but she's just no good at the silk part. This is part of the reason she rejected Jon's proposal; she didn't think she could pull off being queen.
    • It is implied that most of the women from the Yamani Islands (aka Japan/Asia) are this, being taught to fight as well as the boys because of the frequent pirate attacks. They're also experts at hiding emotion and being unfailingly polite and friendly even when plotting someone's murder. The Yamani women that are seen in the books are definitely this. The domestic side doesn't show as well because they're fighting their enemies or guiding their allies.
    • A particular Yamani example is "A shukusen—a lady fan. If a lady thinks she is in danger, but doesn't want to complicate things by openly carrying a weapon, she takes a shukusen". It's a heavy fan with steel ribs that are razor sharp on the end— sharp enough to easily slice through wood.
      Yuki: Beware the women of the warrior class, for all they touch is both decorative and deadly.
    • Kel's mother appears so nice and motherly now, but she was part of the Tortall delegation to the Yamani Island, and an agreement was reached because of her. She matched their stoicism and protected the Yamanis' most sacred items from being stolen by pirates, by herself, with their weapon of choice.
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: Katie Rommely is a little too willful and rebellious to fulfill it entirely. It's implied that her daughter, Francie, will grow up to be exactly the same: beautiful and seemingly docile, but utterly iron-willed and intelligent.
  • In the Vorkosigan Saga series:
    • Lady Alys Vorpatril is the perfect Barrayaran Lady: very concerned with being Right and Proper, in the old tradition of Barrayaran high society... and has enough leverage and experience to bend that society to her will without their even realizing it. She's not above playing dirty pool, either; one Upper-Class Twit brusquely dismisses the value of her opinion, offhandedly remarking to Miles Vorkosigan that "Lady Alys holds no vote in Council". The next we hear from Alys is a polite letter to Miles letting him know that thanks to some judicious social networking on her part, the twit in question is now down half a dozen votes (out of sixty total). She also blithely circumvents the standing orders that serving military personnel are required to avoid involving themselves in political matters by adding a written order for her son Lord Ivan to assist Miles — and at the time, she is technically Ivan's Commanding Officer. Miles doesn't take her up on it.
    • Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan in the pre-Miles era. Starts as steel and saves an empire by protecting the child heir. Complete with running, hiding, feeding, dressing, and ultimately parenting him until he's come of age. The silk grows on her.
  • The Trope Namer comes from The Wheel of Time series, where Always Female Aes Sedai are frequently described in these terms. In order to master the female half of the source, one must "surrender" to it, and likewise the most masterful manipulators show every sign of being submissive... while somehow discreetly guiding people to their goals. Rand uses this exact term to describe Moiraine, and says the more forceful Elaida is similar but has "dispensed with the silk".
  • The Wolf Chronicles: Azzuen is a male example. He's the runt of the pack, patient and intellectual- everything his love interest, Kaala is not. He considers her his alpha, and follows her with Undying Loyalty, even breaking pack law to protect her. And when Kaala starts to insult him and act like a Jerkass, he calmly and fearlessly explains to her that he will not tolerate such behaviour in a friend. This prompts Kaala's realization that Azzuen is a strong wolf in his own way — that not everyone who follows does so because they're weak — and gives her some much-needed Character Development.
  • Young Wizards series: Elizabeth Callahan, Nita's mother. Former ballet dancer, dedicated homemaker, accomplished cook — but fully capable of facing down the Lone Power itself, without an ounce of wizardry to her name, when her daughter is at risk.

    Live-Action TV 
  • All Creatures Great & Small (2020): Housekeeper Audrey Hall is warm, sweet, soft-spoken, kind, motherly, feminine, a divine cook by all indications, and absolutely the heart and linchpin of Skeldale House's ad hoc family. She is also a crack shot with a gun, served in the Wrensnote  in World War I, and is the only person capable of managing the notoriously bombastic and mercurial Siegfried Farnon, who obeys her orders when he won't listen to anyone else.
  • ANZAC Girls: Matron Grace Wilson, in charge of the Australian field hospital's nurses on Lemnos during World War I, is eminently pleasant, eminently reasonable, and eminently adamant about getting her way. By politely steamrolling everyone in her path, she managed a 2% mortality rate at the Lemnos hospital — unheard of even when you don't take into account the extremely limited supplies and primitive facilities. Grace Wilson was a real person, and her management of the hospital got her the Royal Red Cross.
  • Babylon 5:
    • The series uses this trope with Londo's third wife Mariel, whom one of his other wives describes as follows:
      Timov: Still the iron claw in the velvet glove, Mariel?
    • Delenn is sweet, polite, The Heart, kind, generous — and able to make the most powerful beings in the galaxy do exactly what she wants, whenever she wants.
  • The Big Bang Theory: Bernadette. Despite her height, her apparent meekness, and her mannerly behaviour, she's among the rare characters able to make Sheldon shut up and abide. She can even handle Howard's mother, which is NO easy feat.
  • Boardwalk Empire: Gillian is always polite, cheerful, and proper, but she's also ruthless, encouraging her gangster son to murderous action and doing so herself when needed.
  • The Borgias: Almost every major woman has elements of this, but former ingenue Lucrezia Borgia is perhaps its epitome. She may look and act innocent and adorable — yet she can also outwit kings without blinking and seduce Wide-Eyed Idealist boys in a heartbeat. And don't forget that she has her brother, sociopath and Sinister Minister wrapped around her little finger and ready to do her bidding.
  • Call the Midwife: Sister Julienne is calm, polite, ladylike, and forever unruffled, and can make anyone on the series do anything she wants them to do with nothing more than a few calm words, an eyebrow, and a polite smile. Nobody ever dares to cross her.
  • Criminal Minds: FBI agent Jennifer "JJ" Jareau. Adorable, petite, kindhearted, soft-spoken, blonde, devoted mother and wife.... and will put a bullet through your skull if you endanger her team, her (future) husband, or especially her son.
    J.J.: My friends call me J.J.
    UnSub: Well, hello J.J.!!
    J.J.: [flinty] You are not my friend. You can call me Jennifer.
  • Doctor Who: In "Tooth and Claw", Queen Victoria and Lady Isabel MacLeish are this. The former is the one who kills the monks' leader, with a pistol she's taken to carrying after six assassination attempts. The latter does more damage to the werewolf than all of the men with guns by boiling up a batch of mistletoe brew and personally throwing it on the wolf.
  • Downton Abbey: Seen in several prominent female characters.
    • Cora Crawley is a force to be reckoned with. Appearing every inch the proper and gracious lady, she rarely raises her voice, but with a smile and a kind word can make her opinions crystal clear. As a Nouveau Riche American heiress, she’s not afraid to go against the grain of English aristocracy, but mostly does this in an unobtrusive way that ruffles minimal feathers.
    • Sybil Crawley is arguably the most sympathetic member of the family. A kind and generous peacemaker, she’s described as "the sweetest spirit under the roof" and loved by everyone. As an unfailing advocate for women's rights, she’s fiercely rebellious of her aristocratic society, gutsy enough to become a nurse and even to run away with the chauffeur.
    • Anna is consistently the most loyal and selfless character on the show, standing up for the family and her fellow servants in equal measure. She may Team Mum to half the cast, but this doesn't mean she can't rip you apart with a few short words or single-handedly free you from prison. She remains above the more petty servants’ scheming and backstabbing and is Mary Crawley’s closest confidant.
  • Firefly: Given the status Companions hold, Inara. She's classy, well-mannered, and serves as the Team Mom, but don't underestimate her.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • House Tyrell makes this trope their entire brand. Lady Olenna is the Grand Dame, her granddaughter Margaery the Proper Lady, and both play on stereotypes and perceptions of femininity to appear much weaker than they actually are. Olenna's son Mace comes across as a jolly fat man but is just as ruthless as the others, and her grandson Ser Loras - an androgynous-looking, gay Knight in Shining Armor - is one of the greatest swordsmen in Westeros.
      • All the noble Houses of The Reach (the region where the Tyrells are from) do this to a certain extent by cultivating a Bread and Circuses image to throw people off of their political wheelings and dealings. House Florent is a particular example, as they play nice around the Tyrells despite having a greater claim to rulership of The Reach that was taken away after the Targaryen Conquest. They often ally themselves against the Tyrells when they can get away with it, such as Selyse Florent marrying Stannis Baratheon, whose rival brother Renly was married to Margaery Tyrell.
    • Don't let Catelyn Stark's Proper Lady demeanor fool you. A true mother wolf, she'll cut your damned throat if you think of touching her children with anything less than a hug. As early as the second episode of the series, she fought off an assassin with her bare hands to protect her son Bran.
    • Sansa Stark, who always idolized her mother, starts off meek and submissive but already shows signs of this mentality. In the Season 2 episode "Blackwater", she manages to sass Joffrey, make clear to Tyrion how much she hates the Lannisters, weather a drunken Cersei, calm down a room full of anxious noble ladies, and stand up to the Hound without once losing her resolve. By Season 6, the ladylike and sweet-mannered Sansa decides to march on Winterfell and kill Ramsay Bolton with her brother Jon Snow at her side. After years of being manipulated and abused by everyone around her, Sansa has finally learned how to play the Game of Thrones well, and is perfectly willing to use her own cunning and Jon's battle prowess to reclaim their homeland. She does it, too, and is crowned Queen in the North at the very end of the series.
    • Despite her inherent rebelliousness and lack of a filter, Arya immediately puts on a sweet-and-innocent facade when it suits her, notably while serving as Tywin Lannister’s cupbearer under an anonymous identity or setting up to kill a Frey soldier in the Season 3 episode "Mhysa". This ability also serves her well when she joins the assassin's guild known as The Faceless Men, which gives her the training she needs to kill all her enemies.
  • Good Girls Revolt: Jane is always proper and calm outwardly and accepts her bosses’ decisions, but she isn’t afraid to get serious when things reach a certain point.
  • Good Omens: Has the Angels. They dress in immaculate white or tan suits and are constantly polite and soft-spoken. However, the four Archangels are major driving forces in attempting to bring about Armageddon, specifically to prove their superiority over Hell. Gabriel in particular is shown to be a power-hungry shark that's just as evil as Beelzebub, his opposite number in Hell.
  • Hell on Wheels: Lily Bell is beautifully mannered, elegantly dressed and coiffured, and capable of killing her husband's killer with his own arrow, trekking miles across a prairie and sewing up her own wound. She's also capable of slapping down a sneering sister-in-law both verbally and physically.
  • Jeremiah: Julie from "And the Ground, Sown with Salt" is compared to an angel due to her appearance and sense of unease about violence, and wears particularly fancy outfits. However, after turning on her Wasteland Warlord lover (initially out of self preservation and then out of a desire to atone for standing by in silence while he did horrible things), she helps the heroes escape from detention and engages in a shootout with their captors before personally detonating their base’s entire stash of missiles to keep anyone from using them.
  • Merlin: Guinevere "Gwen" has aspects of this; as the future queen of Camelot she is not your typical housewife, but considers her job as a lady's maid and castle servant a worthwhile one and doesn't hesitate to call out Arthur when he belittles the role. She is patient and understanding, was incredibly devoted to her father before he died but will take up arms to defend Camelot or her loved ones at a moment's notice. In the first episode of Season 5, Queen Guinevere discovers her maid is a traitor and promptly sentences the girl to death. This is to root out the girl's father, the real threat, but she does sentence a traitor to death for real in the series finale.
  • The Musketeers: Queen Anne. She is gentle, kind, and elegant and she genuinely cares about her subjects and has even forgiven attempts on her life. She also is a subtle but powerful influence on the king, has the loyalty of the most skilled soldiers in France, and has earned the respect of some of the most dangerous and powerful people in France. She also doesn't shy away from life and death situations and as one man learned, she's rather handy with a hair pin.
  • NCIS: Los Angeles: Emma Mastin is at first presented as this but she proves that when her son is threatened, she has other qualities. It turns out that she had once been one of the best operatives among Chechyan rebels but had retired on her husband's supposed death. She'd seen enough death that the thought of home life was attractive.
  • New Girl: Jess is sweet and cute and initially comes off as helpless, but she can handle herself — AND YOU — and do so classily. She's a lot braver and more direct than her roommates at navigating problems that come their way as a household.
  • Once Upon a Time: Loves this trope. Snow White, Belle, and Aurora are all graceful and polite until they have a reason not to be. Even the Evil Queen was this way for a time.
    • Belle, Rumplestiltskin's wife, is always trying to redeem him... until her son is in danger, then she decides "fuck it" and lets Rumple do whatever bad shit he has to save their son; the means do justify the ends after all.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Keiko O'Brian. A prime example is the Season 1 finale "In The Hands Of The Prophets" when she absolutely refuses to bow to pressures from Winn that she teaches Bajoran spiritual beliefs in her classroom.
    • Jadzia might look like more of a buttoned-up scientist in comparison to the more rough-and-tumble Major Kira, but she is a dangerous combatant with hundreds of years of experience to call on, and knows her way around a bat’leth well enough to hang with Proud Warrior Race Guys like Kang and Kor as an equal.
  • Upstairs Downstairs: Hazel Bellamy. Normally gentle and retiring, she does show backbone when she believes something strongly.

  • Lucretia of The Adventure Zone: Balance is polite and well-spoken (especially compared to the Tres Horny Boys), and was the chronicler on the Starblaster. She's also the head of an extremely important and secret organization. Not to mention, she survived Wonderland and one hundred years being chased across the omniverse by the Hunger.

    Puppet Shows 
  • In The Ferals, Mixy is generally the most reasonable and sweet-tempered of the gang, yet quite capable of bullying the others into following her lead when she felt inclined to stand up for herself.
  • Miss Piggy of The Muppet Show would like to be silk hiding steel, but that silk slips pretty often.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Dungeons & Dragons Book of Exalted Deeds there is a goddess named "Estanna" who is the goddess of the hearth and home. Her clerics are literally the clerics of home keeping, but keep in mind this is a game where the cleric is regarded as one of the most powerful classes in the game so any Player Character who is a Cleric of Estanna is likely to end up like this.
  • Exalted:
    • It's very easy to make this type of character. In fact, there two Supernatural Martial Arts styles that seem designed for it. Dreaming Pearl Courtesan Style uses elegant clothing as weapons, meaning a practitioner can seamlessly go from a formal ball to a battlefield and back again. White Veil Style (which does not exist) is an extremely subtle martial art based around casual movements. If a White Veil master is doing his job, you won't even know you were in a fight until a week later when the magic poisons start to kick in.
    • The Sidereal scene-length dodge charm, Defense of Shining Joy, is located in Performance, a caste ability for Sidereals of Venus (i.e. Joybringers). It reduces Defense Value Penalties for attacking, lets a character add their Performance to their Dodge when calculating Defense Values, and lets them use Performance Excellencies to bolster their defenses. One Sidereal Excellency (The Fateful Excellency) can turn an entire dicepool of the applicable ability into successes or double static a value. An experienced Sidereal of Serenity who doesn't focus on combat probably has both The Fateful Performance Excellency and Defense of Shining Joy. The Lesser Sign of Venus adds the Joybringer's Essence Rating to all of their and their nearby allies' Performance dicepools as successes. The Greater Sign of Venus is something that will make everyone fighting within a few miles have a bad day. Joybringers can be very formidable opponents even if they aren't all that martially inclined.
  • Magic: The Gathering has Michiko Konda, with the ability "Whenever a source an opponent controls deals damage to you, that player sacrifices a permanent." This beautifully captures the idea of "I will calmly endure your abuse in public, and then in private I will always get my revenge" in a game mechanic.

  • 1789 gives us Olympe du Puget, who, while appearing to be a perfectly sweet, submissive lady of the royal court, also breaks a revolutionary out of one of the most guarded prisons in Paris, all while being chased around by Secret Police.
  • Cordelia of King Lear is the innocent Proper Lady and her father's saintly good daughter. Some interpretations of the love test at the start paint her Brutal Honesty as naivety — but others state that it is this; she refuses to stroke her father's ego for personal gain. Whichever interpretation, she still leads her husband's army to invade the kingdom in the fourth act.
  • Desdemona from Othello was previously viewed as a chaste, submissive damsel for hundreds of years. But Maggie Smith portrayed her this way in the mid-'60s, and this has prompted a re-examination of the character. Irene Jacob of the 1995 adaptation played her this way too.
  • Westeros: An American Musical: Margaery Tyrell, true to her canon self. She's introduced as the peasant-loved daughter of one of the richest families but is quickly shown to be quite ambitious and eventually goes as far as to deal with a husband who turns out to be less than ideal via organising his assassination.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War has Kei "Edge" Nagase, the only female pilot in the Wardog squadron. She's gentle and soft-spoken, often compared to a princess by her comrades, and the most idealistic character in the game. She's also the only trainee to survive the massacre at the beginning of the game. When she gets shot down, the narrating reporter Genette thinks that she did so deliberately to avoid having to kill any more enemies; after she's rescued, they find out that she captured the enemy soldiers sent to capture her, and he says he has to rethink his image of her.
  • Ar Tonelico 2: Luca refers to it as 'attacking with smiles': pretending to be sweet and submissive when she's really luring someone into a trap.
  • Chrono Cross features Lady Riddel. A sweet and elegant girl, daughter of General Viper, who is hands-down one of the strongest magic users in the game.
  • Dragon Age introduces a number of these.
    • Leliana, French-accented bard of Dragon Age: Origins, deliberately adopts this façade so people will drop their guard around her (as she puts it, men are all too willing to believe that a woman is docile and harmless). She's actually a confident and aggressive Action Girl.
      • By the time of Dragon Age: Inquisition, she has become this trope in full force as the Inquisition's spymaster. Where the Warden needed to harden her a little to make her stronger, the Inquisitor may find it worthwhile to soften her a bit, because the ten years between the games have seen her become extremely hard and world-weary.
    • Leliana's dear friend, Ambadassador Josephine Montilyet, also fits this trope in a gentler capacity. She's a sweet, perfectly mannered, perfectly coiffed noblewoman from Antiva who spins every rumor and story to the Inquisition's advantage. She's also able to manipulate circumstances in the direction she wants them to go, whether it's destroying a marriage to eliminate a political adversary or cheating at cards to get Commander Cullen out of his armor. It must be seen to be truly appreciated.
    • And of course, a female Warden, Hawke, or Inquisitor can be played as this as well, by selecting the most polite and agreeable dialogue options while at the same time being completely ruthless in battle.
    • Hawke's sister Bethany, in Dragon Age II, is this if sent to the Circle at the end of Act 1, having begun the game as effectively The Ingenue. She's loved by most of the cast for her sweetness and kind nature, and more than one character comments on her beauty and grace. That said, she's also a very well-trained mage who is absolutely deadly in a fight.
  • Dragon Quest:
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Rosa of Final Fantasy IV first appears to be a harmless girl, due to being helpless and then kidnapped for the first quarter of the plot, but once she joins permanently, you realize she's a combination of this and White Mage; she can seriously fuck shit up with her Aim ability. And she is refusing to move out of Cecil's way after he ordered her off the Big Whale for the final confrontation, flat out telling him that she won't let him go unless he takes her with him.
    • Lenna of Final Fantasy V is a Princess Classic who decided to skip the 'frail' part.
    • Final Fantasy VII: If Aeris is Silk Hiding Steel, it could be said that Tifa is Steel Hiding Silk.
      • Aeris looks like a typical Proper Lady with her flowing pink dress and curly long hair with ribbons in it, but in personality she's anything but; witty, flirty, boisterous, and independent.
      • Tifa is a tough-as-nails martial artist who runs a seedy bar and dresses like a biker, but personality-wise she's rather shy, kind, and motherly.
    • Final Fantasy X: White Magician Girl Yuna appears soft and demure, but proves herself to be a Damsel out of Distress twice; firstly, when kidnapped by Al Bhed, Yuna saves herself — leaving just as the party arrives. Secondly, when she is kidnapped and forced to marry Seymour. She conceals her staff somewhere and goes along with it for a chance to Send Seymour.
    Seymour: You would play at marriage for a chance to Send me?
  • Fire Emblem:
    • The Mysterious Waif Ninian from Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, an emotionally broken White Magician Girl who does her best to help the group despite her massive trauma and at some point fearlessly offers herself to Nergal to save her brother Nils, despite clearly knowing she's totally screwed. Also, Fiora the eldest Pegasus Knight sister: more evident seen in her supports with her teenage sister Florina, whom she adores and overprotects. And there's a male (if girly-looking) example, too: Lucius the Monk.
    • Ellen, Juno and Sophia from The Binding Blade, all hitting the trope in different degrees.
    • Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones has Eirika, who is known throughout the land of Magvel as a kind and tactful woman who is just discovering how harsh the world actually is... who bails out Warrior Prince Innes from an ambush and threatens to send Sunstone General Glen home with his tail between his legs. There's also the Pegasus Knight Syrene and another male, the monk Artur.
    • The Tellius games (Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn) have a female and two male examples: Astrid, Rhys and Oscar, respectively.
    • The Judgral saga brings them of the three separate "timelines". Genealogy's first generation has Princess Adean of Jungby, a White Magician Girl who's fearless (apparently she trained to be a knight before joining the clergy to search for her sister); the second generation has Adean's daughter Lana and Lana's expy Manna, also White Magician Girls and just as plucky as Adean is. Finally, Thracia 776 has Safy the White Magician Girl, Selfina the Lady of War Horse Archer, and maybe Sleuf the White Magician Dude.
    • Fire Emblem: Awakening gives us others as well, namely people like Cherche (sweet and classy Yamato Nadeshiko with a snarky side who willingly rides into battle on a freaking wyvern), Sumia (super klutzy and shy but VERY good at fighting), Libra (softspoken War Monk and Lucius expy) and Emmeryn (the epitome of Badass Pacifist, especially when she chooses either death or severe brain damage (depending on whether you play her Paralogue) rather than endangering her people.)
    • Fire Emblem Fates has Queen Mikoto and Ryoma's subordinate Kagerou as straight-up Yamato Nadeshiko, but many other girly girls have this. The biggest example is Mikoto's ward and niece Lady Azura, a quiet Dance Battler who is also blunt in her opinions, kind and helpful in her interactions with others, and plucky as Hell when either she needs to defend herself or someone else needs her help. Mikoto's youngest daughter Sakura is a variant; she's a Shrinking Violet but is no pushover where it really counts and has risked her life to help people many times.
  • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn: Karis acts calm and gracious in public, and generally acts as The Face of the party for much of the game (especially since The Leader of the group doesn't talk much). However, to her friends, she's a Hot-Blooded Tsundere, and not above punching out Tyrell to get his attention.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • Princess Zelda herself in most of the games. Depending on the one you're playing, she'll be a Proper Damsel, a Ninja, a pirate, or this trope. She switches into Tsundere mode in all of the cel-shaded games.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Zelda is the sweetest she's been in any game. However, she's the one to verbally tear Groose a new one when he picks on Link. It's easy to forget that she's a student at the same Knight Academy Link attends since her father is the headmaster. She also makes it through two dungeons on her own, unarmed, before Link is able to catch up to her. The only reason Impa had to save her in the third is that the bad guys got smart.
    • Mipha in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The Quiet One of the Champions, she is graceful and feminine even when speaking of annihilating Ganon, but is as competent a Champion as her more boisterous companions and noted to be peerless at wielding her trident.
  • Onmyōji has Yaobikuni, the soft-spoken, gentle, and compassionate lady who has Psychic Powers and can kick ass in battle with the most beautiful skills ever, and then there is our hero Seimei, the local Nice Guy whose ass-kicking is his day job and whose refinement and elegance in battle has prompted an Even the Guys Want Him reaction from one of his foes. And that's when they're not angry. Each of them has their moments, the former when she slays Yuki-onna, but that's still milder than the latter who flips his nuts and goes toe-to-toe with the Big Bad himself.
  • Persona:
    • Persona 4 has Yukiko Amagi, who is generally a calm and serene person 60% of the time, and a lovable goofball 30%. The remaining 10%? A living nuke who is not afraid to let you have it if you've pissed her off. Paparazzi beware.
    • Persona 5 meanwhile has Haru Okumura, whose genuinely sweet, ladylike, and sometimes dorky nature belies a penchant for heavy weapons and more than a hint of blood lust. Her initial Persona is also an amusingly literal example: Milady's voluminous skirts conceal a staggering amount of heavy artillery.
  • Planescape: Torment: This is Fall-From-Grace in a nutshell. Despite being a succubus, she's a Proper Lady who's calm, chaste, intellectual, and polite. And she will unhesitatingly blast you in the face with Call Lightning should you threaten someone she cares about.
  • Pokémon:
    • Gym Leader Jasmine from Pokémon Gold and Silver. The first time you meet her, she's caring for a sick Ampharos in the local lighthouse, and she seems very gentle and feminine. Then you fight her. Oh, and remember that "touch of iron" mentioned in this Trope's description? Jasmine happens to specialize in Steel types.
    • Cynthia in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl is a pretty and kind woman who showers you in gifts, advice, and encouragement in exchange for you running an errand to her grandmother. Then you fight the Elite Four, and Cynthia turns out to be the Pokémon Champion of Sinnoh and her signature Pokémon is Garchomp, a shark-jetplane-dragon-Pokémon that remains one of the most powerful and commonly-used Pokémon in competitive play.
    • Mienshao is by far the most elegant and sophisticated of the Fighting-type Pokémon so far. But it is known as the Martial Arts Pokémon, so underestimating its potential is not a wise move.
    • Xerneas is an incredibly pretty, elegant Pokémon... that happens to be the boxart legendary for Pokémon X. It naturally learns Close Combat and has a signature move that raises its special stats and speed two levels; most of its attacking moves, including its STAB moves, run off special attack. It should also be mentioned that its type was created as a Nerf for Dragon-types; Pokémon of this type include Garchomp (the aforementioned shark-jetplane-dragon-Pokémon), six of the boxart legendaries (with only Dialga having an edge against Xerneas), and Hydreigon, a Pokémon that previously had no effective counters.
    • One trainer in the X and Y Battle Chateau, Marchioness Fiona, admits after the battle that she's actually a bodybuilder, with a "tapestry of muscles" beneath her elegant furisode.
    • Any Pokémon in general with an extremely feminine appearance, but has incredibly high stats and strong attacks qualifies. The more prominent examples being Gardevoirnote , Diancienote , and Primarinanote .
  • Princess Maker: One of the paths for the player to educate the main character, and among the most important one: If the girl doesn't have the basics of this, she will NOT be able to befriend Castle people like the Knight (who appreciates well-mannered and polite girls) and the Queen (who will be friendly to girls with high Temperance, meaning they must be patient and be used to talking to people without losing their cool). So if the player wants her to hang around the Castle and get good jobs in the end, she must be this.
  • Soul Series: Setsuka, first appearing in Soul Calibur III. Her oil-paper parasol is actually a sheath for her sword.
  • Suikoden V:
    • Luserina Barrows is sweet and graceful and apparently stays home while her dad and brother politic in the capital. However, if you talk around Rainwall, you'll find out that she is the one running the place. She also takes part in the coming battles as 'morale', in other words, encouraging them to victory.
    • Miakis is ever courteous and polite; she can make an offhanded comment about a river into a death threat. Her steel is more obvious, though, being a Queen's Knight.
  • Suikoden Tierkreis has Erin, a sweet, gentle, caring young woman who only wants to help her father run his inn in peace. To do so, she acts as The Mole to expose the local Corrupt Bureaucrat, and when the main party reveals that all might not be well in the outside world, she insists on joining and helping them. While she isn't a combat character, she does have a cooperative attack with her father, which shows the two of them beating up the target.
  • Tale Of Food: Lóngjǐng Shrimp would be a Yamato Nadeshiko if he was Japanese: a beautiful Long-Haired Pretty Boy and a cultured Warrior Poet with polite mannerism, is into poetry and tea and practices Dainty Combat, but can be firm and steely if crossed and is a brutal repeated herd hitter mechanic-wise.
  • Tales of Symphonia's Colette; a girl so sweet and eager to please, yet capable of redirecting her very specific quest into detours by making them sound like they're part of the quest. Thanks to her Cruxis Crystal, she's also the physically strongest member of the group (except maybe for fellow Cruxis Crystal bearer Presea,) able to effortlessly lift Regal (who's about twice her weight) over her head with one arm.
  • Total War: Shogun 2: Geisha assassins are one of the most deadly weapons at a daimyo's disposal. While a ninja will be killed if he fails an assassination attempt, a geisha will simply wait for the right opportunity to strike, which she eventually will do so with extreme prejudice. All while hiding her intent under a completely unthreatening veneer. The only way a rival daimyo can stop her is by using one of his own assassins to kill her, who may or may not succeed.
  • Valkyria Chronicles: Isara Gunther. Pretty, polite, and very feminine, yet also strong-willed, not to mention she's the operator and mechanic for the Edelweiss heavy battle tank, and she's pretty handy with a rifle as well.
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon: Eri is a sweet, soft-spoken, shy and demure girl, who is also an absolute terror on the battlefield, with a good variety of direct-damage attacks and one of the game's most cost-effective AOE spells in her starting repertoire. She also doesn't hesitate to deck a rude business rival in front of the shareholders.

    Visual Novels 
  • Beneath her wholesome and almost innocent image, Amanda from Daughter for Dessert knows not only the nuts and bolts of running the diner, but also what is needed to save it. She is also more willing to fire poorly performing employees than her father is.
  • Amy from Melody is an extremely feminine woman who wants a man to look after her, but she is also a businesswoman who negotiates for what she believes she is worth.
  • Downplayed in Princess Waltz with Shikikagura Suzushiro, who looks, acts, and tries very hard to be one of these. Stand in her way, however, and she shows a much more ruthless and bitchy side to her personality, and also possesses a powerful and brutal fighting style.
  • Two in Kanon:
    • Akiko Minase, the gentle and assertive mom who takes care of her daughter, nephew, and more than one girl in severe need of either a living place, kindness, or both (like Makoto).
    • Sayuri Kurata, an Ojou who stands up to demons despite being a muggle, for her friend Mai.
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Hakari Mikigami (Justine Courtney), from Ace Attorney Investigations, is a sweet-faced, polite Proper Lady who carries herself like a priestess. She is utterly merciless to anyone who breaks the law, and even Miles Edgeworth gets on her bad side.
    • Morgan Fey in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All is very clear cut example. She's basically an elderly lady with the most polite manners towards everyone she meets. Morgan also is very skilled in the art of Stealth Insult and Passive-Aggressive Kombat to put others in their place if she feels they're stepping out of line. Her "steel" isn't shown, but some investigating and debating in the court reveals that Morgan conspired with the murderer to kill the victim so that Maya Fey (Morgan's niece) is branded as a murderer, which would allow Morgan's daughter, Pearl, to become the next Master.
  • Tokimeki Memorial Girl's Side 2: Hisoka Mizushima. Though feminine and ladylike she has a way of manipulating the people of her high school for her own benefit without them realizing it.
  • Aunt Natsumi from Spirit Hunter: NG is a kindly and demure woman, but Akira notes that she has to have nerves of steel to run a bar by herself, and she isn't intimidated by Seiji's ties to the Yakuza.
  • Ikemen Sengoku:
    • Mitsunari Ishida is an extremely polite and deferential Nice Guy who regularly turns the other cheek when other people pick on him for being more interested in reading than fighting. However, when the arrogant military commander Akabori tries to kidnap the female main character after she learns about his misdeeds, he tells Akabori that he will not tolerate him hurting her and accepts his challenge to beat him in a swordfight which he wins with his analytical skills.
    • Yoshimoto Imagawa is looked down on by many people who see him as only a puppet leader of a moribund clan who's too weak and combat-averse to be of any use. But when push comes to shove in Sasuke and Mitsuhide's routes, Yoshimoto proves that his backbone is much stronger than believed by calmly and sternly talking his more bloodthirsty allies into accepting a non-violent solution to their problems.

    Web Animation 
  • DSBT InsaniT: Asia is way more effective in combat than a polite young woman like her would lead you to believe.
  • RWBY:
    • Kali is the soft-spoken and elegant wife of Faunus Chieftain Ghira Belladonna, and mother to heroine Blake. She primarily provides support to her politician husband and her troubled daughter, watching over them both and acting quietly to smooth things over for them. When assassins attack her home and manage to injure her bodyguards, Kali lives up to her namesake. She takes up a pistol and fights off her attackers, before beating one assassin unconscious with a tea tray. Afterwards, she helps her husband and daughter organize a volunteer militia to defend Haven Academy from a terrorist plot.
    • In the distant past, Big Bad Salem was this before evolving into a terrifying Lady of Black Magic. Originally, a maiden rescued by a great hero, she fell in love with him and became his elegant companion. When Ozma fell ill and died, Salem petitioned the God of Light to revive him. Her request was denied, so she braved the journey to the realm of Darkness and became the first human to petition the God of Darkness. She was able to manipulate him into granting her wish and nearly caused the Brother Gods to fight among themselves. For her deception, she was cursed with Complete Immortality and Barred from the Afterlife — Salem used this curse to manipulate a trio of rulers into giving her a great army. She then led mankind in a rebellion against the Gods, ultimately leading her species to destruction.

  • Fumiko of Contemplating Reiko is ever the proper Yamato Nadeshiko. She cooks, she cleans, she sports a kimono, etc. She's also a demon, married to a demonic Yakuza, and loves her firearms. Especially her 24K gold Desert Eagle. Which she's happy to show people.
  • White Dark Life: As an adult, Tori is very submissive outside correcting her husband. It's when antagonists start assuming that they can push her family around that she suddenly becomes fast and armed.

    Web Original 
  • Dream SMP: Niki starts out as this. During the early L'Manburg era, Niki was a Sweet Baker and the "First Lady" who was respected by most people, both inside and outside her faction, and she was typically generous, thoughtful, and relatively forgiving. However, she was by no means a pushover, most notably seen after Schlatt took over, as she burnt down the Manburgian flag and planned to eventually blow up the White House, essentially leading a one-woman rebellion against him in a country where everyone else was either too scared and beaten-down to speak up, or were spies that would risk having their covers blown if they protested in public. However, the events of the rebellion eventually took a massive toll on her, and an overall lack of mental health support on the server as a whole caused her to be unable to deal with her grief and other issues properly, and ultimately causes her to shift away from this trope as a whole, even as a Broken Bird.
  • Grandmaster of Theft: Julia, the shy assistant that takes care of all the details of Vincent's business. This gives her a lot of power, martial arts aside.
  • Imperium Nova: An ideal for House Suzumiya albeit with a female supremacy twist and a touch of Pragmatic Villainy on the side.
  • The Questport Chronicles: The Lord of the Supreme Council is usually an Iron Lady, hence the name, but occasionally indulges in this trope.

    Web Videos 
  • Demo Reel: Rebecca Stone. Girly appearance, overly optimistic and not all there, she still gets the respect of two war criminals for being an intelligent, gun-toting Violently Protective Girlfriend.

    Western Animation 
  • Arcane: Mel is considered "soft" by the standards of her family and homeland, but she showed a keen and cunning mind from a young age. That talent for politics has seen her rise to the top in Piltover, easily manipulating the other members of the Council. Her influence sees Jayce go from a rogue student facing exile, to a member of the Council, to leading it within a few years' time. She rarely needs to raise her voice to accomplish her goals, and even her mother has to recognize the power Hextech has given her on the global political stage.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Toph Beifong is crude, rude, and outspoken; but she had to act like a demure, helpless blind girl for 12 years, so she can definitely act the part on occasion, such as when the group need to get into Ba Sing Se and she manipulates the clerk in check to get free passports.
    • While her family run around the world and are driven by personal honor/ambition/friendship, Ursa calmly took care of her family. That means encouraging her children to play together and killing her father-in-law to save her son, while never breaking the mask.
    • Asami Sato is a daughter of a prominent industrialist, pretty and proper... who is also a race car driver and has had the best self-defense training money can buy. She'll electrify her own father if it means doing the right thing and saving authority figures and her friends from terrorists. As the fighting escalates, she dispenses with more and more silk until she better fits Lady of War than this trope. There's a visual cue to demonstrate the switch from silk to steel: her formal induction into the Krew shows her switching from her 'rich girl' clothes to a trench coat and Power Fist.
    • Opal Beifong also fits this quite nicely. While she was raised in a gilded city, she is one of the most talented of the new airbenders and stops a fight between her mother and aunt, who are both master benders.
  • Batman Beyond: Dana Tan as the affluent girlfriend of the new Batman, Terry. Sweet, supportive, and one of two people who can strike fear in him. Unfazed when he tells her his secret. When in danger she can hold her own until he shows up. Even Bruce doesn't unnerve Terry as much as Dana; he'll sass the old man to his face, but only really gets worried when Dana is mad at him.
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers: Gaia is wise and respectable and generally above lying, but one time she twisted a "Freaky Friday" Flip to get a villain's minion to do her bidding even after she switched back. On a daily basis, she'd have to be steel-willed to put up with the pollution of the villains.
  • Justice League has plenty of Action Girls to go around, but there's a few who show this trope in spades.
  • Kim Possible: Yori, occasional ally of Kim and Ron, is unfailingly polite, philosophical, praises Ron constantly, and never raises her voice under any circumstances. She is also one of the few people in the franchise who can hold her own in a fight with Kim Possible, even with Kim's "sixteen forms of kung fu".
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Rarity is always prim and proper, but she boldly charges in to fight a manticore, gets into an EPIC pillow fight, and single-handedly turns the tables on the Diamond Dogs when they try to enslave her. Notably, every time she's been in an actual fight, she doesn't rely on her magic; instead, she resorts to good old hoofticuffs, such as punching out mooks with right hooks.
    • Fluttershy too. She definitely fits the character-type (humble, loyal, wise, nurturing, etc. but with a clear touch of iron). She initially comes off as an Extreme Doormat, as long as you don't push her too far or threaten her friends. You shouldn't do those things. That's when the other side of Fluttershy's personality shows. The side that can stare down a cockatrice as it's turning her to stone, or scold a giant dragon so hard that it cries.
    • Princess Celestia as well. Granted, she generally desires a less formal relationship with her subjects and has a rather puckish sense of humor, but she clearly is a mare of great elegance and refinement. At the same time, when the chips are down, the steel comes out, as when she orders the Mane Six to do away with Discord (and later Queen Chrysalis) with all dispatch, or when she and her sister dealt with Discord themselves thousands of years before that, and King Sombra a mere thousand years ago. And then there's Daybreaker...
    • Her niece, Princess Cadance, is described by Twilight as all sweetness and light. As for the steel? Ask what's left of King Sombra. She denied him victory by keeping him at bay and inspiring those around her. She's also shown fighting courageously against a giant Sand Worm along with Twilight.
  • The Simpsons: As of the Season 8 episode Hurricane Neddy, this trope arguably applies to Ned Flanders; it's revealed that his perpetually happy and unflappable exterior was the result of psychological conditioning as a child to keep his highly aggressive tendencies in check. While subsequent seasons haven't featured any similarly dramatic outbursts to the one in this episode, it's frequently on people's minds that Ned is not as much of a pushover as he seems. Also, Ned retains his sunny disposition but becomes more willing to display his anger when the situation requires.
  • Steven Universe: Pearl is the most ladylike of the gems and apparently "wasn't built for fighting"note  but is so proficient at swordsmanship that she can hold her own against powerful fusions and high-class gem such as Amethyst.
  • SWAT Kats: Calico "Callie" Briggs. Beautiful and compassionate, her official title is "Deputy Mayor" as Mayor Manx's Hypercompetent Sidekick. In reality, she's the one running Megakat City (a good thing, considering Manx's laziness and incompetence) and can become an Improvised Weapon User if one of the Rogues Gallery attacks her.
  • Total Drama: Zoey is one of the kindest and most compassionate contestants in the franchise. However, towards the end of her debut season, Revenge of the Island, Zoey's patience with the show runs out when a necklace her boyfriend Mike gave her breaks, causing her to go into a Heroic Safe Mode "commando phase". Fortunately, Zoey's friend Cameron breaks her out of said phase through The Power of Friendship, but she retains the skills attained during that phase.

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television: Mary Ann Patten, the teenage ship captain's wife who navigated the clipper Neptune's Car around Cape Horn while pregnant and caring for her sick husband. She wasn't the only one like this. Rich New England shipping princesses of the nineteenth century were a tough breed despite their outward show of propriety. note 
  • Theodore Roosevelt was the Spear Counterpart of this trope. Though he preached "speaking softly" he was anything but in his day-to-day life.
  • Jael of Heber, whose account is recorded in the Book of Judges. An enemy general, worn out from a long day of generalling, imposes on Jael's hospitality while her husband is out fighting. He asks for bread and water; she provides milk and a heavy meal. Then she gives him a nice place to nap, since naps after big meals are nice. While he sleeps she, ever the proper hostess, drives a tent stake through his head and the man's own sword through his neck. Normally, this would have earned her a death sentence or the scorn of her own community, considering how people back then were BIG in Sacred Hospitality, but she was given a pass because the guy she defeated was that dangerous.
  • There is an expectation that aristocratic and middle-class British women will develop into this trope at some point in their forties if not before. To do otherwise is a sign of bad breeding.
  • The Victorian era might have been known for prudishness and spontaneous fainting at home; things were different in the Empire. Army wives, in particular, were regarded as indestructible, expected to keep up all the best particulars of British decorum while also meeting adversity with iron resolve. Lady Florentia Sale, "the grenadier in petticoats," is the archetype here; she followed her husband into India and Afghanistan. When the Kabul garrison was annihilated in the First Afghan War, the wives were taken prisoner — after marching with the army under fire. Lady Sale was shot in the wrist and later negotiated the women's release and safe return to India. She went on to write one of the definitive books on the war, and after her husband died the British Government granted her a pension in her own right.
  • The Yamato Nadeshiko archetype relies on a woman being demure and softspoken, but able to handle herself and others if she's in trouble. Unlike the stereotypical interpretation in the West, if a woman isn't as plucky and strong-willed as she is dainty-looking, she is not a Yamato Nadeshiko. (There's a different term for the stereotype: the "china doll".)
  • Similarly, this was the ideal expectation for women in the past in general, as well as today (in some countries). While there were some beliefs enforced on women that are considered sexist by modern standards, almost universally it was required for women to be strong-willed along with being a Proper Lady in order for them to manage their domestic life and household — to take care of the children, look after the house and property while the husband is away, etc. This is easily recognized when one reads historical examples like Queen Victoria and Penelope from Classical Mythology.
  • In the animal kingdom, swans can be an example of this. They are often thought of as elegant and graceful creatures, but you should NEVER approach a baby cygnet if you know what's good for you. Swans can flap their wings hard enough to break someone's leg. It's not their main form of attack, but they can knock a grown man down with frightening ease.
  • Similarly, deer. Between Hollywood depictions of them and the fact they usually appear much more slender and graceful than, say, a horse or a cow, they're usually seen as somewhat dainty or fragile. However, anybody who has ever been victim to that frequent battle of Deer vs. Car will tell you that the deer will usually hop off (seemingly) unharmed, while you end up with your car's engine in the passenger seat with you. For example: a deer crashes into a moving bus, and its windshields are totaled. The deer is confused and dazed but otherwise unharmed as far as we can see, and it hops away the moment the bus stops and opens its doors. One should also take note of the deer's antlers, which are very much not for decoration. Let's just say there's a very good reason why many deer hunters construct their hunting blinds on stilts or plant themselves in the branches of tall trees where the deer can't get to them.
  • In the words of a biographer, Aung San Suu Kyi was, until age 42, "a dutiful housewife who produced home-cooked meals every day, ironed her husband's socks, and sewed her own curtains and clothes". When her country needed her, she stepped up and made history.
  • Borzoi, if properly trained, have been described as "gentle, with good house manners, and relatively silent" and they look the part. They are still hounds, and they're most known for chasing down wolves and holding them still until the hunter arrived.
  • Dolley Madison, wife of fourth U.S. President James Madison, codified many of the ideas associated with the First Lady (to the point where she's sometimes credited as the first person to hold the title, although it was not actually conferred on her until after she had died), including hosting parties, holding luncheons, and generally entertaining important guests; she was even said to be the first hostess in the United States to serve ice cream at a party. All in all, she was a true society gentlewoman... but when British troops showed up during the War of 1812 to burn the White House down, Dolley revealed her unbreakable will. Madison trusted her enough to gather crucial state papers and hold them on her person in case she needed to flee quickly, a prediction that proved accurate. But in an even greater display of courage, Dolley absolutely refused to leave the mansion until the government's official copy of the Landsdowne Portrait (a gigantic oil painting of George Washington; this copy was painted by the original artist, though the First Lady didn't realize it was a replica) was removed by the mansion's slaves. Dolley was so determined to save the portrait that she ordered the men to break the frame rather than wait to unscrew it from the wall. Again, there were soldiers marching to her doorstep, and she wouldn't budge. Way to go, Dolley.
  • Sleeper cars or Q-cars have otherwise mundane-looking exteriors, until you get in one and floor the accelerator pedal.

Alternative Title(s): Silk Over Steel, Proper Outside Powerful Inside