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Did you know that Kate Middleton, before she became Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, took etiquette classes on how to behave and act like royalty? The former commoner had to learn how to sit, get out of a car, hold a teacup properly, and of course curtsey, before walking down the aisle with her very own Prince Charming.
And while the vast majority of us won’t be marrying into the Windsor family, we can still look as graceful and elegant as she, whether at the office, on a date or just because it’s fun to feel like a princess.
On the eve to her first official visit to New York City and Washington D.C., Yahoo Style spoke with Myka Meier, Etiquette Expert and Founder of Beaumont Etiquette, who teaches The Duchess Effect in New York City, a class very similar to the one Kate would have taken in the UK, for the most important lessons every lady should know. (Tiaras not included.)
Yahoo Style: Kate has to attend a lot of events, where we see her sitting perfectly straight. How does one get the perfect posture?
MM: Posture is everything and the Duchess has superbly mastered the art of the pose. When seated, make certain your shoulders are rolled back, your chin slightly lifted and your spine straight. As tempting as it may be, do not use armrests, as it automatically can make you slouch. The Duchess of Cambridge would have been taught to keep her knees and ankles together at all times. If you need to cross your legs, make sure to only do so at the ankle. Contrary to popular belief, crossing at the knee is not lady like, and crossing at the ankles prevents both revealing too much and bouncing of the leg.
YS: The Duchess shakes a lot of hands during official events, what’s the formula for a firm, but not too firm, handshake?
MM: Although always elegant, the Duchess would have been taught to have a firm handshake leaving a modern impression of confidence and professionalism. When you put out your hand for a greeting, make sure the web in between your forefinger and thumb connects with theirs. Ensure that your handshake is not too aggressive and the shake should only last two to three pumps. Make sure to keep good eye contact throughout the handshake and remember to smile, a sign of friendliness and approachability.
YS: So many celebrities have revealed too much getting out of their cars. How does one make sure she doesn’t reveal too much?
MM: While it may sound easy, getting out of a car graciously would have taken the Duchess quite some practice. With hoards of paparazzi and onlookers waiting for the moment the car door opens, the Duchess of Cambridge must be careful when exiting, especially because she wears a dress to most functions, and one wrong move could be caught on camera. Here are step-by-step instructions on how to get out of the car in a skirt or dress:
1. Slide to the edge of the car seat toward the door with your knees and ankles together.
2. Open the door, or as the door is opened for you, keep your knees angled toward the crease of the door.
3. Use your hands to balance your body and slowly push yourself outward. Put one leg outside of the car and onto the ground, continuing to face your torso toward the car door so that if a gust of wind or prying camera were to appear, your knees are still angled away from the public.
4. Once both legs are sturdy and on the ground, stand straight up while keeping your ankles and knees together until balanced before walking.
5. If a valet or doorman opens your door and offers a hand, take their hand with your right for assured balance while getting out of the vehicle.
YS: A lot of daytime events Kate attends involve a cup of tea. What’s the proper way to have tea, or coffee? And what does one do with their pinkie finger?
MM: Drinking from a teacup is as symbolically British as it gets, and a common social interaction which the Duchess will find herself in often. The main pointers to remember: When drinking either coffee or tea, the handle of the cup must be facing 3 o’clock at all times. If you are drinking tea, you should always lift the saucer in the left hand while holding the handle of the teacup in your right hand (or opposite if left handed). When drinking coffee, the saucer may remain on the table. The pinkie finger must absolutely never go up! Wear nude color gloss or lipstick…you’ll never see the Duchess leaving a lipstick stain on her china!
YS: Kate is coming to New York on Sunday, if you run into her on the street, what’s the proper way to curtsey?
MM: One of the oldest royal traditions and the ultimate sign of respect is the curtsey. Follow these steps and you’ll curtsey just as elegantly as Kate does when she’s with the Queen:
1. Starting with both legs together, Kate takes her left foot and crosses it just behind her right foot.
2. Gracefully, she lowers her torso so both knees bend at least a few inches down.
3. She keeps both arms at her side. Note: She does not pull her dress or skirt to the side, as it’s very old fashioned to do so.
4. If Kate is holding a clutch handbag, she holds it in front with both hands.
5. She’ll hold the curtsey for just a second or two and then slowly bring her two feet next to one another, lifting herself back to an attentive stance, straightening her back, and making eye contact.
6. To add a nod of respect, subtly lower your chin as you curtsy, especially to someone who may outrank you in the royal household. A deep curtsy is considered gracious.