It’s Easy to Dismiss Debutante Balls, But Their History Can Help Us Understand Women’s Lives
by Kristen Richardson
The debutante ritual flourished roughly from 1780 to 1914—beginning with the first debutante ball in London and ending with the outbreak of World War I. During these years, Great Britain became the dominant power in the West, and its culture spread outward from the fashionable capital of London to provincial cities in Britain and eventually to its far-flung colonies.
His Majesty’s British subjects, and later Americans, too, waited on coral atolls and in bustling port cities for ships that brought newspapers filled with word of fashionable music, dance and conversation. Daughters had their seamstresses copy dresses they saw, adapting them to climates with Spanish moss and pink sand or icy winters and salty air. Even the daughters of an innkeeper at a ferry on the Shenandoah walked for seven miles three times a week to attend the lessons with a French dancing master who taught them to trace the same quadrilles danced by aristocrats in distant, foreign courts. CLICK TO CONTINUE
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