The crème de la crème of modern debutante balls is held at the luxurious Hotel de Crillon in Paris, in a ballroom overlooking the Place de la Concorde. It has been running since 1992, with young women from prominent international families dressed for the evening in haute couture creations, all in the name of charity. Recent debutantes have included Demi Moore and Bruce Willis’ daughters Tallulah and Scout, the actress Lily Collins, and Princess Diana’s niece Lady Kitty Spencer. The girls begin the evening by dancing with their fathers before taking to the floor with their dashing “cavaliers”.
2. The International Debutante Ball at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, New York
The Waldorf Astoria Hotel has hosted the International Debutante Ball biennially since 1954. It is one of the most exclusive events in the US, and former debs have included the daughters and granddaughters of Presidents, and the children of the rich and famous. The evening is filled with dancing, dining, and dashing military escorts. The family of the debutante can expect to shell out $14,000 (nearly £10,000) for a table as well as thousands of dollars for couture gowns, hairdressers and other related expenses.
3. Queen Charlotte’s Ball at the Royal Courts of Justice, London
Queen Charlotte’s Ball was the first debutante ball in the world. King George III founded it in 1780, in honour of his wife Charlotte’s birthday. Britain’s most well-bred young ladies were presented to the monarch at Buckingham Palace to mark the beginning of the social season. The Queen ended the tradition in 1958, after Prince Phillip called it ‘bloody daft’ and Princess Margaret lamented that ‘every tart in London was getting in’. But the Ball was resurrected in 2009 and is now held at various London hotels, including the Savoy, with the chosen few arriving in chauffeured sports cars. The debutantes still wear white gowns and diamonds donated by couturiers and jewellery houses.
And now the tradition is spreading across the globe…
4. Chaumet Shanghai International Debutantes Ball, Shanghai
Last year, Shanghai’s elite gathered for the first International Debutantes Ball, sponsored by Chaumet. China’s love of luxury made it a natural venue for the glittering event, which sees debs from around the world parade in white gowns and jewellery, after being chauffeured around the city in a fleet of Jaguars.
It all makes the school discos of our youth look a little sad, doesn’t it?
Debutantes: When Glamour Was Born by Diana Oswald is published by Rizzoli; £35.00.