Want to Be Like Jackie Kennedy? Here Are 8 Rules She Lived by
There is, perhaps, no greater American figure more beloved for her style and grace as the late Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. Her legacy as the wife of President John F. Kennedy and the keeper of the Camelot legend alone has been a subject of fascination for decades, inspiring countless movies and biographies along the way.
It comes as no surprise, then, that Natalie Portman’s gripping portrayal of the former First Lady in Jackie drummed up buzz all awards season long. The Academy Award-winning actress’s latest tour de force (for which she received an Oscar nod), transcends an ability to retell history after JFK’s assassination; it’s her keen sense of zeroing in on all of the little details that lend credence to this biopic. “She’s so well-known in terms of what she looks like and what she sounds like and how she moves, so to get that is definitely daunting,” Portman told Entertainment Weekly about preparing for the role of a lifetime.
From capturing her signature breathy, mid-Atlantic accent to donning her famous pillboxes just so, it’s clear Portman spent time studying Jackie’s every move and every thoughtful action. We recently sat down with Beaumont Etiquette founder Myka Meier to find out what, exactly, made the former First Lady so magnetic and charming—and how we could apply some of this elegance to our own lives.
Scroll through for some of the most fun, useful, and surprisingly easy-to-incorporate findings—you'll be mastering Jackie Kennedy-level etiquette in no time!
Show Appreciation and Be Grateful
“It was no secret that Jackie loved giving handwritten thank you cards and notes,” Meier explained. “It was known she usually never started her thank you cards with ‘Thank you for … ’ and instead wrote something more personal as an opening line. In the current digital era where a quick text or e-mail is often more common, try writing a thank you note for added impact, which shows you took the time and effort in doing so and are truly grateful. Thank you letters are great to show thanks when receiving a gift, after a dinner party, or even to show thanks for the smallest gestures!”
Sweat the Details
“Jackie spoke beautiful French and as she loved to host, she would often send formal invitations to even the most simple of gatherings,” according to Meier. One thing she would never do? Write “Please RSVP” when asking for attendance response, as RSVP literally translates into "répondez, s'il vous plaît,” rendering “Please RSVP” redundant. Instead, a simple "RSVP to Jane Smith” will suffice.
Be the Perfect Hostess
“From the moment guests arrive, you want them to feel at home. Remember, the host sets the tone of the event!” As the host, it’s your job to keep up conversation; have three open-ended topics you can pull out of your back pocket at any time. Start group conversations, talking to each person when possible. When it’s time for guests to leave, show gratefulness for attending and thank everyone individually.
“Minimum Information with Maximum Politeness”
One thing Jackie would never do: swear. “It was a sign that you did not have a sophisticated enough vocabulary to communicate your feelings and instead would just blurt out an offensive word to express yourself,” Meier instructed. “Jackie also did not often talk with her hands by using over-exaggerated gestures when explaining something or telling a story, as it can make you look less composed.” (Guilty.) Another gesture to avoid? Never point. Simply flip your hand upside-down, keeping all of your fingers together, and refer to the direction or person you want to draw attention to.
Meier expounded further. “Jackie was very well-spoken and had a clear voice. When speaking, she would articulate every word and speak at a pace where she was easily understood. She was assertive and did not use short cuts for words.” That means “yes,” not “yeah.” Additionally, Jackie would never talk too loudly or too much. Think less is more.
Look the Part
Without a doubt, Jackie is perhaps most famous for her elegant, timeless sense of style. “No matter if she was traveling or simply running an errand or going to a black tie event, she never left the house without putting effort into her fashion choices,” explained Meier. Noted! She was always classic in her choices, played with plenty of color, loved to color-block and was a true believer of less is more. Classic Jackie items? Pearls, day gloves, and closed-toe shoes with a moderate heel height.
As expected, Jackie had fantastic posture and would never be caught slouching. "She would have been aware that bad posture was a sign of negative body language. Poor posture can signal lack of confidence and assertiveness, and can imply that you are disinterested or not paying attention when communicating," Meier explained as I found myself immediately adjusting my own posture. Some posture rules always to follow to get Jackie’s look:
Knees and ankles always remain together: Jackie rarely ever crossed her legs in public. If you cross your legs, only cross at the ankle (a signature Duchess Kate move!).
Keep your hands either to your side or folded in your lap one over the other: Do not clench fists together when your hands are in your lap—it’s a sign of tension.
Shoulders always rolled back and don’t lean into the back of your chair: The second you do lean, your spine relaxes, curving your back, which makes you look like you're slouching.
Be Gracious to Everyone
Jackie was known to show through her actions that everyone deserved the same treatment and respect, being as gracious and polite to her wait staff as she was to her friends. "Someone can know all the place settings of a dinner table but without respect for others, one can still have very bad etiquette," Meier pointed out. "She would treat everyone the way she wished to be treated and was famous for having wonderful etiquette in that regard, no matter if she was interacting socially or professionally."