The African American Elite are Real

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Cotillions are a standard “coming out” or “rite of passage” for middle-, upper-middle, and wealthy groups in Europe and the United States. Countries with other Western roots have variations of the cotillions, e.g., Quinceañera (Mexico), quadrilles (France), etc.

What most people do not understand is that communities-of-color in the United States have an established aristocracy that dates to the founding of the country. Granted, many within those communities have a direct lineage to the countries –and Europe’s– own aristocracy and royalty. There are those within communities-of-color that are “self made,” that is, they’ve amassed wealth, social status or success through their own intelligence and foresight rather than familial connection; however, many had a head start on their status. Due to their familial connections, they were able to gain opportunities and privilege higher than the enslaved, but below the full rights of whites.

Within this insular world, communities carved out security and status for their children by networking amongst others. They also took on social cues of Europeans and colonists as a way to differentiate their status and to show off what they had attained or to what they had gained access. Some thought this was a waste of money and time and merely a show of arrogance, but is was also a defiant refusal to be caste into what they felt was a “non-being,” i.e., a refusal to recognize the humanity, dignity and perseverance of their existence.

The web-site Edwardian Promenade lists some of the cities with a strong Black elite. Atlanta, GA, and Nashville, TN, are suspiciously missing. Lawrence Otis Graham, however, has a better account of the Black American elite in American in his book “Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class” (1999, Harper Collins). The Edwardian Promenade is a good primer for information.

Read more at: http://www.edwardianpromenade.com/african-american/the-black-elite-in-america/

What Do I Wear?

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Are you a new debutante? If you’ve never attended a debutante ball or if you just aren’t sure what’s expected in your attire, then your first step is to check with the organizers or hosts. New debutantes are usually provided an orientation of the dress code for your night.

Debutante Don't's

 

Standard dress code for debutantes is:

  • Floor-length, white ball gown;
  • Ample support in the bodice;
  • Minimal cleavage (better known as “boobage”);
  • Minimal flourishes in textures and appliques;
  • White formal heels;
  • Minimal “trendiness”; and
  • Well maintained and tastefully styled hair.
Debutante Do's

 

Stay away from “trendy” looks in hair, dress, shoes and cosmetics. (Looking back on your photos, you will kick yourself in twenty years if you’re covered in glitter lotion.)

I made the mistake of letting an “aspiring” make-up artist do my face. It was all very 1980s. Luckily the ballroom was candlelit with mood lighting…but I digress.

Everyone wants to stand out, but don’t let that longing force you to lean toward trend. You may look fantastic and hip that day, but you’ll look like a fashion victim in hindsight.

There are classic elements that will always keep your look tasteful:

  • Make-up that enhances rather than hides your features:
    • Stick to natural or berry-hued matte lipsticks. Glossy, gloppy lipsticks will look grossly exaggerated in spotlights and ballroom lighting.
    • Keep any blush soft and natural. Avoid harsh streaks of color.
  • Hair that is neatly maintained in a chignon (bun), French roll or softly upswept is always acceptable:
    • Avoid harsh, plastered down bangs or any bangs.
    • Keep hard, crunchy “ribboned” hair for your other events.
    • Choose a style that requires minimal maintenance once it’s done.
    • Natural hair should be neatly pinned or secured with a rubberband.
    • Locs (“dreadlocks”) should be kept off the face and neatly secured.
    • Avoid distracting hair decorations if a tiara is not required. Pearl and diamond/rhinestone combs or pins are acceptable if kept tasteful and minimal.
  • Keep your gown free of distractions like sequins, appliques, colors and contrasting colored embroidery:
    • Your gown should be floor length and full enough to include a petticoat if it doesn’t have one.
    • Full, quarter, short, cap and gathered sleeves are always acceptable. Avoid exaggerated “bell” or Dolman sleeves.
    • If your gown is sleeveless, make sure that your bodice has ample support with no boob “spillage” on the top or on the sides.

Your presentation rule doesn’t have to break the bank, but the rule of thumb is to keep your look tasteful, neat, and well edited.

Below are excellent examples from designer and design house Amsale:

 

Queen Charlotte’s Ball

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On May 2, 2015, Britain’s Duke and Duchess of Cambridge welcomed a daughter into their royal family. After much anticipation, the new princess’ name was shared with the public: Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. Media reports attribute the name “Charlotte” to honor the father of Prince William, namely Prince Charles; however, did you know there are a number of queens and princesses in the British royal family named “Charlotte”?

Perhaps the most famous of the royal “Charlottes” is Queen Charlotte of Meckelnburg-Strelitz. Queen Charlotte is best known to Americans as the spouse to King George III, under whose rule the English colonies declared their American independence and became known as the United States of America.

Aside from the king’s role in American independence, he and his wife Queen Charlotte were apparently quite the happy couple.
In 1780, King George III of the United Kingdom debuted his own debutante ball in honor of his wife, Queen Charlotte of Meckelnburg-Strelitz. The ball was aptly named Queen Charlotte’s Ball.

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Queen Charlotte’s Ball was held annually on the queen’s birthday and included an elaborate, towering and fussy cake. The daughters of the best landed gentry families were presented to the queen and her husband and the tradition continued to reign long after their passing. It wasn’t until 1958 that the ruling monarchs ended the traditional event with Queen Elizabeth’s sister Princess Margaret proclaiming, “We had to put a stop to it . . . every tart in London was getting in!”

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Though the exact count of “tarts” wasn’t readily available for this article, the ball had apparently lost much of its purpose and (ahem) quality.
In 2009, the ball was revived with private and corporate sponsorship. In 2014 the Queen Charlotte’s Ball was presented at Highclere Castle, the current working castle of Earl and Countess Carnarvon and set of the hit PBS series “Downton Abbey.”

Queen Charlotte’s Ball 2014 // Highclere Castle – The London Season from Anneka Ireland on Vimeo.

Trip the Light Fantastic…Not Your Partner’s Feet! Ballroom Dancing Etiquette

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Ballroom dancing is not only an enjoyable sport, it’s also an art form and in case you weren’t aware of it, there is also a very decided code of conduct and etiquette that accompanies ballroom dancing. If you have any doubt about that whatsoever, just make a wrong move on the dance floor and you will quickly discover the truth.

One of the biggest questions most people have about ballroom dancing is in regards to what to wear. Proper ballroom attire is an absolute must-not only to meet proper protocol but simply in order to perform the proper moves on the dance floor correctly.

It is imperative that you obtain the right footwear. Most ballroom dance instructors will tell you that sneakers are absolutely forbidden on the dance floor. This is true even in practice lessons and the rule applies for a very good reason. The best type of shoes to wear are those with a smooth sole. This type of shoe allows you to turn and spin properly with little friction on the floor. Sneakers are a no-no because they cause your foot to stick to the floor.

When it comes to clothing for ballroom dancing, you should always opt for clothing that is comfortable and clothing that does not restrict your movements in any way. Avoid tight pants or skirts.

Generally, the formality of your attire will depend upon the formality of the event. At a bare minimum, proper ballroom attire for men indicates a coat and tie. For a more formal occasion, a gentleman may be requested to wear black tie. This type of request indicates that the man should wear a tuxedo, although a tailcoat is not necessary. The phrase ‘white tie’ is the most formal degree of attire for gentleman and indicates that a man should wear a tailcoat, matching pants and wing collar shirt. For a black tie optional event a man may wear either a tuxedo or a suit with a nice bow tie. A stated formal event indicates the requirement of a nice suit and tie for gentleman while a sport coat and slacks or a nice shirt, slacks and tie will suffice for a semi-formal occasion.

While many things have changed in our modern world, it is still anticipated that a woman will wear a nice dress or blouse and skirt for occasions and events that involve ballroom dancing. The length of the skirt or dress is somewhat left up to debate; however, proper ballroom attire does not typically include a skirt that is any shorter than mid-calf. The one exception to this rule is for events with a stated Latin dance them. In this instance, it is acceptance for a woman to opt for shorter skirts or longer skirts with a slit.

Depending upon the formality of the event, it may be more appropriate for a woman to wear an actual ball-gown. A ball-gown is classified as an evening gown with a long, full skirt.

Depending upon the formality of the event, it may be more appropriate for a woman to wear an actual ball-gown. A ball-gown is classified as an evening gown with a long, full skirt. The dress may feature an open back or low neckline. Ball-gowns are considered to be proper attire for both white tie and black tie events; although a white tie occasion will also generally require the addition of elbow length gloves as well.

For a semi-formal occasion, a lady does not necessarily need to wear a ball gown; however, proper protocol does require a long or full skirt. Both evening dresses and cocktail dresses are acceptable for black tie optional and formal occasions, while a dinner dress or evening dress would be proper for a semi-formal event.

While hairstyles are not an absolute must for women, it is a practical to take this matter into consideration; especially if you happen to have long hair. Many women find that wearing their hair up and off their neck in a nice bun or chignon allows them to move freely without the worry of hair flying into their eyes as they spin and turn. Finally, it should be noted that while the restriction of jewelry is not a matter of protocol for women, it does make good sense; particularly in regards to long or loose necklaces as well as any jewelry that could easily catch on a dance partner’s attire.

About the Author:

Jason Petrina is the Editor and Publisher of Article Click