Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What Would Jackie Do? (2005)

Good morning!

I picked up this book at McKays a while ago in a fit of desperation as to how to spend my trade credit on something I could take home with me that day. That particularly used book dealer doesn't hold credit on account, but instead issues e're so delicate slips of yellow paper that are bound to be thrown out/go through the wash/fall out of pocket. Mindful of this, I always try to spend whatever amount I have on the same day to avoid missing out on the fun altogether. This process defeats some of my good-intentioned clutter busting, but it IS kind of neat to have "funny money" you have to spend on the spot, no matter what, indulge yourself. Right? Right.


At any rate, I was loathe to pick up this title at first because as much as I love Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis (JBKO as it is commonly abbreviated in the book, or just "Jackie" in most instances), she's one of those "too famous" retro icons. Do you know what I mean? Like Marilyn Monroe or Audrey Hepburn, people who have no interest in retrophilia profess an admiration for her as a kind of short hand for "See, I have classic taste". Not to say that everyone who's interested in any of that triptych of mid-century womanhood is fake...those girls are the chocolate ice cream of style. There's no arguing their beauty and  OF COURSE you're going to like Marilyn and Audrey and Jackie...have you seen them? I'm just saying I've seen any, either, or all of their faces splattered across mugs, t-shirts,   and dorm walls that have about as much to do with elevated style as a Styrofoam peanut. Speaking of the trinity, I'd recently tried to read How to be Hepburn in a Hilton World and found that the intended audience were Girls Gone Wild sorority sisters the author was trying to save from a life of spring break, tabletop-dancing, drunken debauchery by pointing out the fragile gamine movie star as a possible role model. Needless to say, I was disappointed. Those girls need saving, but I don't know if this was the book to do it, besides which, I am not one of those girls what about girls that just need pointers not a complete overhaul thankyouverymuch.

So, the constantly-stoked fires of dark hatred that keep this two sizes too small heart of mine beating made me pick up this book out of the etiquette section and go, "Ugh...well...it's worth a shot."

I can't tell who's riding with Jackie in this limo, but dig that vinyl rain coat with the bangle-y, kicky zipper pull! Color me impressed.

Ladies and gentlemen! I couldn't have been more wrong! THIS was the book I was hoping to read when I picked up the Hepburn book. A cross between a biography and a sage etiquette manual, What Would Jackie Do takes you through the do's and don't's that contributed towards the je ne sais quoi that makes JBKO a style icon to this day. Authors Shelly Branch and Sue Callaway apply anecdotes and blurbs from Jackie's real life to situations you would encounter in your day to day life, lending a guiding hand towards what would be the most "Jackie" thing to do in each case. Questions from the back jacket (sprinkled through the text, complete with answers) take the title literally and ask:

Would Jackie...
  • Emulate celebrity fashion?
  • Help herself to a few office supplies?
  • Get a hair weave?
  • Pick up the tab on a date?
  • Give cash or cash equivalents as a gift?
In giving point-by-point back up straight from JBKO's life, you not only get better acquainted with the woman-behind-the-icon, but also gain inspiration as to how to handle yourself in similar situations. While you might never receive yoga instruction from Indian Prime Minister Nehru (as Jackie did) or have to drop Andy Warhol from your social calendar for bringing journalist Bob Colacello to an intimate holiday gathering (as Jackie also did...poor Bob Colacello! Poor Andy Warhol!), the social implications of the choices JBKO made are applicable to even the most pedestrian of lifestyles (like mine). The grace and elegance which has come to define her reign as queen of the "Camelot" era White House is not something that you're "just born" doing. Though Jackie's social register pedigree certainly didn't hurt, she was still a shy, tomboyish girl who described herself in a high school essay thus: "I am....5'7''...with brown hair and eyes so unfortunately far apart it takes three weeks to have a pair of glasses made." This, from one of the most universally well-known beauty icons of the twentieth century! Everyone works with what they have...emphasis on work.

"You better WORK."

Something that always burns-my-biscuits about modern day etiquette shirkers is the idea that people who go out of their way to do things "right" are just inherently more stylish or more capable or more elegant by the grace of God. I've wanted to shake a person before for saying "Oh, I could never do that [throw a party, wear a fancy dress, have a bouffant hairstyle]." Even in the form of a compliment, it makes me want to stand up on a chair and say "YES YOU CAN!". Even more so than I want to say "Do you have any idea how much thought/effort/work goes into all this?" (which is something the Jackie-aspirer must always keep a secret). The only person who tells you you can't have everything like you want it is YOU (how many "you"s can I fit in one paragraph?). You learn to do better, and then you do better. Reading etiquette books only reinforces my strong belief in the self-made person. Over years of applying herself to situations that were initially scary and out-of-water-ish for our wide-eyed heroine, Jackie eventually became the soignee creature she'd hoped she would be, by sheer force of personality and determination. Now that's something worth reading a book for!

Enough with the pep talk though. You really should read What Would Jackie Do if you're at all interested in Jackie Kennedy or how to become a graceful, Jackie Kennedy like creature in today's wanton world (who isn't and who isn't?!).

Are you a big Jackie fan already? Do you have any celebrities you've always particularly hoped to emulate? What self-help/etiquette/advice books do you swear by?

As a coda, I'd like to share with you my naked hope that my future female progeny look like their father. Because, believe it or not, he has the SAME DEEPLY SET, FAR SPACED EYES as the most famous first lady of them all:


See ya tomorrow!


  1. i hate the "Wow you must have a lot of spare time" when i talk about a hobby or something like that. everyone has time! you just make time to do what you love!
    this is going to sound really lame, but my favorite autobiography/advice book is richard simmons "still hungry after all these years." Seriously. i have read it four times! it is so FUNNY and honest and basically says you have to do things for YOU, not to please anyone else. so good.

    1. Re: spare time: AY.MEN. SISTER.

      Re: R-simms:I have "Never Say Diet" and it is WONDERFUL. I'm such a thrift-store-celebrity-self-help-book addict that I also have Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder" and Chuck Norris's "The Secret Power Within". I have learned (honest to goodness helpful, intelligent) things from all three books!!

  2. Rae said it best; you make time to do what you love! arnt her sunglasses to die for!

    1. I know! I want some. She and Audrey Hepburn and those completely circular sunglasses-- a style train I want to get on!!



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