Book Excerpt: What Would Jackie Do?

ByABC News via logo
July 28, 2006, 4:12 PM

July 31, 2006 — -- Ever wonder how the elegant yet practical and wise Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis might fare in today's world? It's clear that four decades after her reigning years, times have changed, egos have grown, and most rules of decorum have relaxed. Authors Shelly Branch and Sue Callaway deliver advice on how todays' women can acheive the same no-nonsense class of the famed former first lady.

Below is an excerpt from their book, "What Would Jackie Do? An Inspired Guide to Distinctive Living (Gotham, 2005).

"A beautiful gesture is really a very rare thing ..." -JBKO

Shall we dare to be ... like her?

It's an alluring-and terrifying-idea. After all, Jackie O was the model for how to do practically everything right. There was the indestructible coif, chic whether windswept or tethered by a silk scarf. A whispery voice that could alternately charm, devastate, captivate. Even her physical carriage had an easy grace that seemed lit from within. Then, of course, there were the outfits-beaded bodices and A-line coats. They dazzled in the absence of colossal gems. The very image is enough to make us straighten our backs, pat our hair in place, and pull our beau a little bit closer.

And no wonder. Much that we've seen and read about her is so reverent, distant, unattainable. But at a time when everything in our world is so brilliantly recherch-from clothes and entertaining to manners and even language-what better opportunity to intrigue as if "Jack-leen"?

Perfection isn't the goal, of course. To transcend the ordinariness that Jackie so feared in youth means feasting on a diet of discipline and restraint-whether you're into dungarees or Dior. As Jackie knew, fabulousness is a state of mind, something you harness day in and day out to neutralize the "dreary" things and people that threaten to drag you down.


It won't, it can't, it mustn't always be about you. And even if you don't agree, you'd do well to at least pretend so some of the time. A substantive woman-and Jackie was nothing if not that-can check her hubris as easily as she does her evening wrap. It's always there, of course, but sometimes it's better left in the background.

Shift the spotlight. Self-promoters, Jackie once said, "really get my back up." But because people tend to crave the limelight so much themselves, they'll be thrown (and delighted) when you transfer some of the attention you command. Out for aperitifs with girlfriends? Insist that the cute guy in the opposite banquette is ogling one of them, not you. Tell your hairdresser that his splendid up-do-not your fine form-drew gasps at the charity ball.

A master at shifting the spotlight, Jackie would playfully say to friends that the press "must know you're here!" when helicopters buzzed overhead. Even when the pressure was on, she knew to turn the focus away from herself. Once, when one of Jackie's Doubleday authors-Tiffany design director John Loring-asked the editor to do a rare interview on his behalf for The New Yorker, Jackie at first agreed, but ultimately reneged by using a clever deflection technique. She told him, "You don't really want me in that profile, because people will only remember me, and you'll just be forgotten completely."