International Debutante Ball

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The International Debutante Ball is an invitation-only, formal debutante ball, to officially present well-connected young ladies of distinction from upper-class families to high society.[1][2][3] Founded in 1954, it occurs every two years at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.

Young women from all over the United States and from around the globe are brought together at the ball and the surrounding parties, including daughters of Presidents of the United States, billionaire businessmen, diplomats, nobility, ambassadors and governors. Over the years the ball has benefited numerous charities from the International Debutante Ball Foundation including the Soldiers', Sailors', Marines', Coast Guard and Airmen's Club of New York, a social club for members of the United States Armed Services.[4][5]

The International Debutante Ball is considered the most prestigious debutante ball in the world.[6][7]

Format[edit]

Waldorf Astoria Hotel
58th International Debutante Ball, 2012

The International Debutante Ball is held biennially in the Grand Ballroom of the exclusive and historical Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City[8]; although from 2016 it is held at The Pierre in New York City due to the billion dollar renovations and temporary three-year closure of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.[9] Each ball is preceded by a number of events, dinners and parties for the debutantes, including the Bachelor's Brunch, in private Manhattan members-only clubs such as the Colony Club, 21 Club or the University Club of New York.[10][11]

At the ball, each debutante is escorted by two men: one United States Military Academy cadet and one American civilian.[12] According to New York magazine, the current organizer of the International Debutante Ball stated that "Every young lady should have two men."[13] Civilian escorts of the debutantes are young men of distinction, who are often scions of distinguished families, e.g. the Rockefeller family.[14][15] Each debutante represents her state or country at the International Debutante Ball and a song, e.g. a national anthem or a song associated with the country where the debutante is from, is played by the renowned Lester Lanin Orchestra for the debutante when she is presented on stage.[16][17] The military escort of the debutante also carries the flag of the country or US state where the debutante comes from.[18] Each debutante must also greet approximately one thousand or more guests, from a close-knit social world, individually in the receiving line.[19][20] Due to the fact that there are debutantes representing their own US state or country, the International Debutante Ball has been dubbed by publications as 'The United Nations of Debutante Balls and the private world of polite society'.[21][22] Gold and pink are the main traditional colors of the ball. The Grand Ballroom is thus decorated with gold, silver (symbolising elegance) and pink (symbolising femininity) decorations[23], which Countess Bobrinskoy oversees at each ball biennially, and guests dine on edible gold leaves.[24] The debutantes also receive flower bouquets containing pink roses and golden leaves.[25][26]

The ball is considered the "ultimate networking event" where members of the world's elite, rich and powerful meet up and mingle and where their daughters are prepared to enter the world of high society and foster lifelong international friendship with each other.[27][28][29][30][31] The pink invitation that the chosen debutantes receive is written with gold ink and is therefore sometimes jokingly called the "Golden Ticket".[32][33][34][35] The International Debutante Ball has been described as a ball which "most young women nowadays will never attend" and which has largely become a "who’s who of the upper class", with daughters of US Presidents, billionaire businessmen, European royalty, US governors, and diplomats receiving invitations. The scene at the International Debutante Ball has been described as a "Gatsby-style splendour in Manhattan's Waldorf-Astoria" (referring to F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby).[36]

Qualifications and selection[edit]

In order to be presented as a debutante at the International Debutante Ball, debutantes must be recommended by a previous debutante of the International Debutante Ball.[37][38] Debutantes must also be accepted by the Chairmen of the Debutante Committee of the International Debutante Ball and be able to afford the debutante presentation fee.[39][40] Once chosen, each debutante is required to pay at least $22,000.[41] Additionally, many debutantes spend thousands more for their required white haute couture gowns, celebrity hairdressers and other related expenses.[42] Debutantes who are usually accepted are "women of distinction" who are highly accomplished young ladies in athletics, community service, academics, philanthropy and charity and are from well-connected families.[43][44][45] The debutantes are young women who maintain the standards of civility, chastity, manners, etiquette and gentility.[46] Chosen debutantes are usually between the ages of 17 and 21 years old.[47][48][49] According to the current organizer of the ball, the debutantes must be well-known with connections in the New York debutante and high society and as long as 'the debutante has the right connections, she has a chance of being invited'.[50][51][52][53] According to the New York Times, the organiser of the ball stated that the ball does not want any "Tootsie" to participate or join "the club".[54] Debutantes of the International Debutante Ball have been referred to as "members of a special and very select, elite, social group and of a carefully guarded social circle" and they have also been dubbed as "high profile" and "preppy".[55][56][57][58] It has been reported that some guests have paid at least $100,000 for a table at the ball.[59]

The debutantes include royalty, members of imperial families, heiresses, aristocrats and daughters of many political figures including Presidents of the United States, such as the daughters and granddaughters of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, President Richard Nixon, President Lyndon B. Johnson, President George H. W. Bush and President George W. Bush. Ivanka Trump (daughter of President Donald Trump) and Sasha and Malia Obama (daughters of President Barack Obama) have also been invited to be presented as debutantes at the International Debutante Ball in New York City.[60][61][62] The International Debutante Ball has therefore been referred to as "the debutante ball with the strongest (and bipartisan) ties to the White House".[63] Debutantes of the International Debutante Ball also include daughters of billionaire businessmen from the Forbes 400 and many Wall Street financiers.[64][65]

History[edit]

The International Debutante Ball was founded in 1954 by socialite, philanthropist and humanitarian Beatrice Dinsmore Joyce, who was dubbed as the 'Duchess of Debs' and the 'Grand dame of debutante balls'.[66][67][68] Joyce was inspired to create an American debutante ball after hearing Consuelo Vanderbilt make an observation about debutante balls and how lucky girls are who travel to debutante balls in different countries.[69][70][71] The band leader Lester Lanin played the music from the start in 1954 until his last ball in the 1990s.[72] Every guest was given a special "lanin hat".[73] The first balls were held at the Plaza Hotel, with 35 girls from different countries and different states. As it grew with more girls participating, it moved to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen of the Debutante Committee of the International Debutante Ball include or have included:[74][75][76][77]

Notable past debutantes[edit]

Over the years, the International Debutante Ball has had the honor of presenting many notable young women to society, including, but not limited to:

Other debutantes of the International Debutante Ball have included members of prominent American and international families, including:[121][122]

Impact[edit]

Debutantes of the International Debutante Ball have been dubbed as 'Blue Blooded Socialites', 'the crème de la crème of young women' and 'the next it girls' by the media and 'The luckiest girls in the world' by the New York Observer.[127] The International Debutante Ball has also been dubbed as 'the ultimate debutante ball for young society ladies of distinction' presenting the next generation of eligible accomplished socialites. The debutantes have also been referred to as the "Real Gossip Girls" referring to the TV series Gossip Girl about rich upper-class young women from the Upper East Side of New York City.[128][129][130] According to Gotham magazine, the International Debutante Ball is the "Ball of the Deb Season" where the "well-heeled of the world" head to.[131] The International Debutante Ball serves as a charity benefit, with money collected benefiting a variety of charities over the years. Chief among the beneficiaries is the Soldiers', Sailors', Coast Guards', Marines' and Airmen's Club of Manhattan, which provides a home away from home for men and women of the United States Armed Services. The ball has also been called "the prettiest sight in this fine pretty world where the privileged class enjoys its privileges", referring to a quote from The Philadelphia Story.[132] When a young woman has been presented as a debutante at the International Debutante Ball, she is considered to have become part of an "exclusive organization and club" of "post-debutantes of the International Debutante Ball ranging from royalty to billionaire heiresses from all over the world who all have this debutante ball in common".[133] The Ball has been called a "female version of the elitist and exclusive Bullingdon Club, but with good manners and without the vandalising rituals".[134][135] The International Debutante Ball is considered a "rite of passage" into high society for the "crème de la crème of young womanhood".[136][137] The debutantes of the International Debutante Ball form lifelong lasting friendships and connections with each other.[138][139][140] The International Debutante Ball has been described as a ball which "most young women nowadays will never attend" and which has largely become a "who’s who of the upper class", with daughters of US Presidents, European royalty, US Governors, and Diplomats receiving invitations.[141][142]

Cultural references[edit]

The International Debutante Ball has been the topic of several media, both fiction and non-fiction.

Books

  • Cornelia Guest, The Debutante’s Guide to Life (1986)
  • Ward Morehouse, Inside the Plaza: an intimate portrait of the ultimate hotel (2001)
  • Kimberly Schlegel, The Pleasure of your company: Entertaining in High Style (2004)
  • Lucy Kavaler, The Private World Of High Society: Its Rule And Rituals (2011)
  • Diana Oswald, Oscar de la Renta and David P. Columbia, Debutantes: When glamour was born (2013)

Movies

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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