The backdrop is one of New York City's most luxurious and revered hotels, the players are the well-heeled scions of the world's elite families, and at stake are their first impressions on a world accustomed to only the greatest of poise: these are the living dolls of the International Debutante Ball.
The participating young women are the crème de la crème, the next generation of the international elite who present themselves to the sons and families of ambassadors, world leaders, and giants of industry.
They are college-aged young women from some of America's and some of the world's most prestigious universities putting their most congenial faces forward in the Waldorf-Astoria's grand ballroom as they meet and greet with future husbands, friends, colleagues and business and charity contacts.
The tradition of debuting young and privileged women decked out in billowing white gowns and elbow-length satin gloves stretches back far beyond the first New York City ball in 1954, but the Big Apple's ball is the quintessential state-side cotillion.
Per the International Debutante Ball website:
The evening begins with the receiving line in the Astor Salon, where guests meet the debutantes and press and candid photos are taken. Cocktails are then served in the Jade Room and Basildon Room. After dinner and dancing in the Ballroom, each debutante is presented, one at a time, accompanied by a young man in white tie and tails. As the debutante walks down the center of the Ballroom to make her bow, the orchestra plays a song appropriate to the country or state represented.
These daughters of nobility have for six decades used their beauty, glamor and magnetism to help benefit a range of charities that most notably include, according to the official site, ,the Soldiers’, Sailors’, Marines’, Coast Guard and Airmen’s Club of New York City, which for over ninety-five years has provided a home away from home for young men and women of our Armed Forces and those of our Allies.'
While forty-six of the young women hail from the United States, by far the most represented country every year, about a quarter of the debutantes come from across the globe. Most commonly the international debutantes come from France, England, Italy and Germany.
This year, China, Hong Kong, Scotland, Spain and Austria were also represented, among other nations.