Monday, January 26, 2015

Etiquette and More on London's Yearly Season for Debutantes, from 1957

A"glamorous guest" from Sweden, above, Mrs Nina Wessel, wife of the Duchess of Bedford's, Danish half-brother, Hugo, attended one of the many balls and functions in 1957. The Queen Charlotte Ball was introduced by King George III in 1780 as a way to celebrate his wife’s birthday. The ball used to see the daughters of some of society's most prestigious families make their social debut. Historically the event was to help the ladies find a suitable husband. The tables alone, at the 2014 Queen Charlotte Ball, started at $2500.00

The Debuts Are Wonderful But Wearing

For English debutantes the round of parties, sporting events and charity flower shows is a grueling but unforgettable three-month grind. There is nothing haphazard about the organization of their time: their mothers met over at luncheon and tea months ahead and planned everything. (Asked if she were going to Henley, one debutante consulted her schedule and said, "I suppose so. What is it?")
A "Tiny Tea Party" given by Miss Tiarks, breaks the tedium and gives friends a chance to rest.
Four and five nights a week there are impressive but exhausting balls like the one at ancient Rockingham Castle.

There the 450 guests of Sir Michael Culme-Seymour arrived about 11 o'clock, consumed champagne (which the debutantes call "poo") and danced until dawn. The round of balls is so tiring that many girls set aside a week for rest just before their own debuts.

The languid look of the socially proper English blade is another hallmark of the season, and some debutantes do complain about seeing the same young men night after night. But the girls insist being a debutante is the greatest fun in the world.

The season is much less fun for the hard-pressed parents, mothers who worry about invitations to events such as the Queen's garden parties and fathers who must pay the bills. "I don't know why we try to do this season anymore," said Mrs. David Lycett Green, mother of Julia Williamson. "Most of us can hardly pay our taxes. But it was done for me and it was a wonderful experience."

                                                   
The debuts may be wonderful, but these Scottish socialites look either gloomy or bored to tears.

LIFE Magazine, August, 1957


The Etiquette of a Dance

"The master of the house should see that all the ladies dance; he should take notice of those who seem to serve as drapery to the walls of the ball-room, or wall-flowers, as the familiar expression is, and should see that they are invited to dance. He must do this wholly unperceived, in order not to wound the self-esteem of the unfortunate ladies. Gentlemen whom the master of the house requests to dance with these ladies, should be ready to accede to his wish, and even appear pleased at dancing with a person thus recommended to their notice. Ladies who dance much, ought to be very careful not to boast before those who dance but little or not at all, of the great number of dances for which they are engaged in advance. They should also, without being perceived, recommend to these less fortunate ladies, gentlemen of their acquaintance. In giving the hand for ladies' chain or any figures, those dancing should wear a smile, and accompany it with a polite inclination of the head, in the manner of a salutation. At the end of the dance, the gentleman re-conducts the lady to her place, bows and thanks her for the honor which she has conferred. She also curtsies in silence, smiling with a gracious air. In these assemblies, we ought to conduct ourselves with reserve and politeness towards all present, although they may be unknown to us." From the Ladies' and Gentlemen's Book of Etiquette 1883

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