Deb Season closes out the year

Debutantes from around the world at the 52nd International Debutante Ball at the Waldorf Astoria

The debutante season in New York has just passed! Fifty-three young ladies from around the world were presented at the 52nd International Debutante Ball at the Waldorf Astoria on Dec. 29.

The evening benefited the Soldiers, Sailors, Coast Guards, Marines and Airmen’s Club. Pretty young things like Lady Henrietta Seymour of England, Countess Magdelana Maria Habsburg-Lothringen of Austria, and Christine Baranski’s daughter Lily, who wore an entrance making crimson gown by Jackie Rogers, all made their bows into society. Ashley Walker Bush the daughter of Sharon Bush, the granddaughter of former President George H.W. Bush, and the niece of President George W. Bush represented the United States. She was escorted by her brother Pierce Bush, a Marine Cadet.

Miss Bush, who goes to school in Texas and is studying to be an actress, first came out last year at Le Bal Crillon des Debutantes in Paris. Her sister Lauren Bush came out at the same ball in 2000. This year four Americans made their debut in Paris: Angela Mellon the daughter of James Mellon; Zara Beard the daughter of photographer Peter Beard and his wife Nejma; Zoe Bullock the daughter of the RI Group’s CEO Janna Bullock, and Shamsa Mangalji. Two other debs that caught my eye were Hannah Olivennes the daughter of the British actress Kristin Scott Thomas, and Princess Costanza della Torre e Tasso of Italy.

There is nothing quite as beautiful as a young girl making her debut. Wherever this is done it’s inspiring and hopeful. Le Bal Crillon in Paris is a unique forum for the presentation of the world’s most alluring young ladies. It is also referred to as Le Bal de Haute Couture, because it is a catwalk of the creativity of the worlds top couturiers.

Le Bal celebrated its 16th anniversary in 2006 at the Hotel Crillon, one of the grandest and most historic hotels in the world. Their generous suites overlook the Place de la Concorde and have a view of the Eiffel Tower, which was lit up like a blinding diamond light saber for the holidays. Staying in the Crillon’s elegant rooms allows the visitor a rare opportunity to step back into a time, when gracious living and perfect manners were important goals in and of themselves. The Crillon was commissioned by Louis XV in 1775 and was a Parisian landmark from the day its cornerstone was laid. 

Once upon a time, young ladies from aristocratic families in the United Kingdom waited breathlessly for their eighteenth birthday. It was then that they were presented to Her Majesty the Queen, and got to go to their first Ball. These girls were called debutantes. This Anglo-Saxon tradition of being presented at court ended in 1958 but there are still important balls in Boston, Philadelphia, New Orleans, London and New York. Chic French PR Ophélie Renouard reinvented this British tradition and adapted it to the modern world in 1991 in Paris. It is now one of   the most dazzling social and fashion events on the international calendar.  

Every year one star shines above all others. In 1938 Brenda Frazier was the It Girl, In 1947 Jacqueline Bouvier (later Jackie Kennedy Onassis) was It, Cornelia Guest was crowned Deb of the Decade in the 80’s and Lauren Bush was It in 2000. Amanda Hearst came out in Paris and Lydia Hearst bowed both at the Crillon and the Infirmary Ball at the Waldrof Astoria in 2002.   

Le Bal takes place in the Crillon's marble halls festooning with towering bouquets of roses and draped with garlands dotted with red roses. It’s a magical night and the debutantes are escorted by a troupe of dashing young princes and aristocrats from Europe’s top families including Prince Francesco Ruffo di Calabria, The Hon. Frederick Windsor, Clive, Comte Edouard du Monceau de Bergendael, George Gurtler, Makharam Madeira, Edoardo Grazzi, Mattia Rovano, Sebastian Deletaille, Suril Shah, Jean de Commarque, Arthur de Clermont-Tonnerre, Vladimir Tenev, Henry Boswell, Gabriel Deletaille, Paul de Froment, Jan Lisman, Pierre Martin-Saint-Etienne, Comte Pierre de Pahlen, Pierre Mattei, Etienne-Marie de Boissieu, Alexis Garcia, Sebastian Donnelly and Lamen Mihov.

There were 23 new debs this year including France’s Olivia de Rohan-Chabot wearing Jean-Louis Scherrer, Aude de Cammarque in Stephane Saunierand the aforementioned Hannah Olivennes wearing Chanel Haute Couture.

The Italian debs were well-known girls this year; Comtesse Sofia de Pahlen who wore Valentino and the aforementioned Princess Costanza della Torre e Tasso in Hardy Amies.Other young ladies were Princess Alexandra de Croy-Roeulx of Belgium in Givenchy; the Franco-Italian deb Camilla Rizzo in Lanvin; Julie Boeri of Monaco wearing Franck Sorbier; the Lebanese Caroline Ghosn wearing Elie Saab; Switzerland’s Maud Brustlein in Versace; and Germany’s Anna Asbrand-Eickhoff in Talbot Runhof.

Three new debs were presented from the U.K. this year including cousins Eppie Windsor Clive wearing Dolce & Gabana Couture, and the HonorableIndia Windsor Clive wearing Neil Cunningham. Also from the U.K. was Willow Kemp who wore Carven. London-based Ria Sharma, who chose to represent India wore Didier Ludot Vintage.      

Four Americans traveled to Paris for the debut, including the aforementioned Zara Beard who wore Dior; Angela Mellon who wore Christian Lacroix, Zoe Bullock in Chapurin and Shamsa Mangalji wearing Dominique Sirop. The two stunning Chinese debs were Veronica Chou wearing Zac Posen, and Xiaodan Chen in Oscar de la Renta. Coming from Japan, Ruriko Nakahara chose to wear Vivienne Westwood. And finally, from Africa, Elisabeth Senghor, the granddaughter of Abdou Diouf, the former president of Senegal, wore Gaultier Haute Couture.

- R. Couri Hay reporting from Paris


Peter and Nejma Beard

Pierre Martin-Saint Etienne and Hannah Olivennes

Princess Costanza della Torre e Tasso, Zoe Bullock, Hannah Olivennes, and Zara Beard

R. Couri Hay

Sebastien Deletaille and Zoe Bullock

Eugenia, Zoe, and Janna Bullock

Lauren Bush and Ashley Bush

Zara Beard

Hannah Olivennes
Behind the scenes at the the Hotel Crillon

I covered this party in the Diary last month – at Keith Langham’s atelier, dressed for Christmas and toasting Frances Schultz and Paula S. Wallace for their newly published book A House in the South: Old-Fashioned Graciousness for New-fashioned Times.
Ms. Wallace is also president and cofounder of the Savannah College of Art and Design, the largest art and design college in America. She author of 7 books, and collaborates with a team of artists and designers responsible for the award-winning architecture and interiors of the college’s historic buildings in Savannah and Lacoste, France, as well as numerous homes throughout the south.

Frances Schultz I have known for some time on the social circuit and also through her writing on the interior design scene for Quest and for House Beautiful, among other magazines. I knew she was Southern since her inflection informs. She is, it turns out, a native of Tarboro, North Carolina, also the former host of Turner South’s Emmy Award-winning series Southern Living Presents and the author of several books, including Atlanta At Home, Atlanta at Table, and Ryan Gainey’s The Well-Set Table.
A House in the South is an exploration of “Southern Style” with practical tips to bring southern elegance into your home, no matter where you live. It’s also basically one of those looksees at people’s houses and the way they live. Endlessly fascinating for the voyeurs, novelists, filmmakers, interior designers and cultural historians among us. In Schultz and Wallace’s boo, they explore different design concepts from the sumptuous to the simple, the traditional to the contemporary, the practical and, of course, the eccentric.

Frances Schultz and friend

Beth DeWoody

Frances Schultz and Paula Wallace

GGlen Wallace, Andre Leon Talley, and James Andrew

Paula S. Wallace, Dakota Jackson, and Frances Schultz

Keith Langham and friends

Lisa Anastos and friends

Paula Wallace and Andre Leon Talley

Mark Gilbertson and Paula Schultz

Paula Wallace and Santiago Gonzalez

gals at A House in the South

Photographs by Vlada Krassilnikova (debutante)


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© 2006 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/