Social Safari
The new debutantes from Le Bal Crillon des Debutantes
Paris, France 2005
by R. Couri Hay

‘Tis the season for the world’s loveliest young girls to begin blossoming into young women. This rite of passage is known as “coming out “ as in making one’s formal “ debut” into high society.

These girls are called debutantes. Some became glamour girls of their generations such as Barbara Hutton in 1931, Brenda Frazier in 1938 and Jacqueline Bouvier,later Jackie Kennedy Onassis, in 1947 and Charlotte Ford in 1959.

In New York we have the Infirmary Ball where Cornelia Guest and Lydia Hearst-Shawcame out and the International Ball which has one debutante representing her country from all over the world. It’s thought that Ashley Bush, the niece of President George W. Bush, the granddaughter of George H. W. Bush and the younger sister of Lauren Bush will be asked to represent America next year.

These balls both happen at Christmastime at the Waldorf-Astoria. I escorted Blandy Uzielli to the Infirmary Ball the same year Cornelia came out. I was also the escort for Cornelia, along with director Jack Hofsiss at her own dance in Long Island. Cornelia scandalized Long Island society by wearing a black and silver mini dress by Fabrice while the other girls wore traditional white princess dresses. Naturally she was a sensation. Fashion columnist Eugenia Shepard who wrote for the New York Post dubbed her the “Deb of the Decade” and Suzy a.k.a. Aileen Mehle proclaimed her the only Deb who mattered. Cornelia was a deb with portfolio. Her godparents were the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and she is a distant cousin of Winston Churchill. Her grandmother Amy Phipps was a steel heiress was once named the eighth richest woman in the world and her mother the legendary society and style icon C.Z. Guest, a Boston Brahmin who was the glamour girl of her generation. Her father was the famed polo player Winston F. C. Guest.

We didn’t see a debutante of this magnitude until 2000 when Lauren Bush, Lydia Hearst–Shaw, and Amanda Hearst made their debuts in Paris at the Le Bal Crillon des Debutantes which not only launched their social careers but also their modeling careers. This year it was Ashley Bush who took the crown in Paris at 16, which means she’ll reign for at least three years until she makes her official debut at 18 in New York.

Ashley Bush with Prince Ahsley Poniatowski

Miss Bush was a vision in a periwinkle blue gown with a train by Ralph Lauren, and a pearl tiara by Mikimoto Her 21-year-old sister Lauren Bush wore a black Ralph Lauren gown with an opera length strand of pearls. Her beau is David Lauren, the son of Ralph Lauren.

I attended the ball with the girls’ mother Sharon Bush who wore a divine green velvet column by Naeem Khan and her own blinding chandelier diamond earrings. Other New Yorkers at the ball included John deNeufville, Vogue magazine contributing editor Alexandra Kotur, Teen Vogue Editor Kimball Hastings, Vanity Fair Editor Punch Hutton, and celebrity modeling agent Christine Schott who was checking out this years crop of girls for potential modeling contracts. Schott represents both Lauren and Ashley Bush and Amanda Hearst.

Once upon a time, aristocratic young ladies
from the United Kingdom waited breathlessly for their eighteenth birthday. It was then that they were presented to His or Her Majesty, the King or Queen of England. After that the season’s all important balls began. This Anglo-Saxon tradition of being presented at court ended in 1958 but there are still important balls in London, New York, Boston, Philadelphia and New Orleans. The two Southern balls take place during Mardi Gras and called are called Comos and Rex, Comos being the crème de la crème of the two.

I was an escort the year that Caroline Kennedy was there. My first time as an escort was in Boston at Pamela Wicks’ Ball when I was 16. The debutante balls were as important a ritual for young men as for the young girls. They were an ad hoc graduate course in polite behavior, chivalry and ballroom dancing, the final test of the skills you were taught in dancing school. Mine was the last generation of boys who had to wear white gloves at the cotillions. This was done so as not to get the girls all icky when we started to sweat while being humiliated on the dance floor as the girls who are always better dancers.

There’s nothing on the planet quite as beautiful as a young girl making her debut into high society. When this is done on an international level it’s inspiring. Chic French PR princess Ophélie Renouard re-invented this British tradition and adopted 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.

The final presentation of the debs
Le Bal Crillon des Debutantes in Paris is a unique forum for the presentation of the world’s most eligible young ladies. The ball is also referred to as the Le Bal de Haute Couture, because it is also a catwalk of the endless creativity of France’s top couturiers including Christian Dior, Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, Gerald Watelet, Dominique Sirop, Stephanie Saunier, Monique Lhuillier, Atelier, Didier Ludot, Franck Sorbier, Jean-Louis Scherrer, Natan, Jean Paul Gaultier, as well as a select few American designers including Ralph Rucci, Zac Posen, and Ralph Lauren.

Le Bal benefits the Saint Lazare, the humanitarian organization that helps the under privileged in more than thirty countries who are sick and have been rejected by society.

France's Haute Couture Houses, Champagne Tattinger, Baccarat, the Crillon Hotel and the jeweler Mikimoto join forces to present the "Paris Haute Couture Ball". Mikimoto has been the patron of the Crillon Debutante Ball since 1996. Its founder, Kokichi Mikimoto, is the creator of the cultured pearl and on this fairytale night, the 23 Debs wear the house’s jewelry. Some of the girls wear tiaras, which makes them look like princesses out of a storybook.

Le Bal de Crillon celebrated its 15th anniversary this year. It takes place in the reception rooms of the Hotel Crillon which is one of the grandest and most historic establishments extant in Paris. Staying in their gracious rooms and living in there hallowed allows the visitor a rare opportunity to step back into a time, when elegant living and impeccable manners were important and worthy goals in and of themselves.
The Hotel de Crillon is a rare jewel in the heart of Paris. It is a perfect combination of history, beauty, art, service, and cuisine. It was commissioned by Louis XV in 1775. The hotel'
s name refers to the Count of Crillon also known as Francois-Felix Dorothee Berton des Balbes who acquired the mansion in 1788. It was seized during the French Revolution by the government. Just beyond its door in what is now the Place de la Concorde, the Bourbon king and queen lost their heads of the guillotine of the Terror.

The property was returned to the Crillon family in 1907. The hotel has 103 rooms, 39 suites and 5 luxurious penthouses and retains the intimate atmosphere of a private residence. The reception dining rooms overlook the magnificent Place de la Concorde, which was built by Jacques Ange Gabriel, Louis XV's architect. The construction began in 1754 and was completed in 1763, and it was originally called Place Louis XV. The initial purpose of the Place was to hold a statue of Louis XV on a horse.

The Crillon is part of the Taittinger Group, and was acquired by Starwood Capital last fall, and thankfully they are committed to the keeping up the tradition of Le Bal Crillon des Debutantes. Mr. Russell Sternlicht, the dashing brother of Starwood Capital Group founder and CEO Barry Sternlicht, is the managing director of this esteemed establishment, and this year hosted the Ball with his wife and SAR Prince Charles-Philippe d’Orleans, along with Vanity Fair photographer Jonathan Becker who was the evening's master of ceremonies.

Le Bal Crillon des Debutantes

The 2005 debs are sixteen to nineteen years old and come from ten countries including France, Italy, Japan, Spain, Thailand, and the United States. This gala is the only debutante ball in France. It begins with a presentation of the girls followed by a dinner and “le Bal”. Each debutante wears a gown from a Haute Couture House of her choice that is made for her.

1. Ashley Bush was escorted by Prince Ashley Poniatowski. Miss Bush prefers theatre to politics and wants to become an actress. Ralph Lauren designed her elegant periwinkle blue gown for her.

2. Comtesse Bianca Brandolini d’Adda was escorted by Antoine de Tavernost, and wore a gorgeous black and white Valentino gown. Bianca carries a legendary Italian name, which goes back to the year 700. Her mother, Georgina, is Brazilian, her father is Prince Jean-Louis de Faucigny Lucinge and great uncle was Giovanni Agnelli.

3. Princesse Augusta von Preussen was escorted by Rodrigo Olaechea. She wore a Giles Deacon gown and a Mikimoto tiara. Augusta’s sister Beatrice made her debut at the Crillon in 1999.

4. Vicomtesse Dorothée de Jonghe d’Ardoye was escorted by Antoine Woitrin. The Vicomtesse who is from Belgium chose a cocoa colored gown by Natan, the designer to the Belgian Royal family for her big night.

5. Yuki Mori was escorted by her brother by Ben Mori. She is the granddaughter of the Japanese fashion designer Hanae Mori, who had her own Haute Couture house in Paris until last year. Her older sister Izumi made her debut in 2004 and was also escorted by her brother Ben. Yuki came from Los Angeles with a gown by Monique Lhuillier packed in her bags. Personally I wish she had worn a vintage gown by her grandmother whose clothes are an important part of fashion history.

6. Rainsford Qualley was escorted by Gabriel Deletaille. She wore a wore a black lace illusion dress by Jean Paul Gaultier. Rainsford is the daughter of the actress Andie MacDowell, who also wore Gaultier and carried a professional size camera to photograph her daughter. Rainey lives with her family in North Carolina and hopes to become a professional dancer. This quality demonstrated real presence on the Crillon’s marble floors

7. Molly Flattery was escorted by Greg Young. She is the granddaughter of Steve McQueen and his first wife Neile Adams. Molly made her debut in Dior Haute Couture. Molly carried herself with great grace.

8. Maria Juncadella-Hohenlohe was escorted by Christian Juncadella-Hohenlohe. She is Spanish and lives in Madrid with her mother, Princess Cristina Hohenlohe. Maria’s late great-uncle, Prince Alfonso Hohenlohe founded the Marbella Club and was the father of Princess Arianna von Hohenlohe who lives in New York and is married to Dixon Boardman. Maria chose a bottle green gown by Ungaro Haute Couture.

9. Sofia Barclay was escorted by Sebastian Donnelly. She follows in the footsteps of her sister Jenna who made her debut at the Crillon last year. Sofia is the daughter of Aidan and Ferzana Barclay and the granddaughter of Sir David Barclay. She wore a dress by her favorite designer Elie Saab.

10. Laetitia Marie de Moustier was escorted by Louis de Chaudenay. She wore Gerald Watelet. The Moustiers are from France and trace their lineage back to the Crusades. They live in Rio de Janeiro, but Laetitia chose to make her debut on the soil of her ancestors.

11. Natapree Pichaironarongsongkram was escorted by Nicolas St. Bris. She is the first “new deb” from Thailand and wore a gown by Dominique Sirop and a simple strand of perfect pearls by Mikimoto.
12. Quitterie de Rivoyre was escorted by Paul-Mederic de Rivoyre. She chose a gown by Stephane Saunier Haute Couture.

13. Salima Mangalji was escorted by Felipe Olaechea. She is from Texas and wore a gown by Zac Posen.

14. Marie de Menthon (who is a student at Hypokhagne) was escorted Ludovic des Yons de Feuchin. She loves fashion and the designs of Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel Haute Couture. She wore the evening’s best dress, a pink gown by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel Houte Couture, the very one that stunned and delighted the critics when it appeared on the runway last season.

15. Camille de Dampierre was escorted Alexander Tsavliris. She is the fourth of the debs to follow in her sisters’ footsteps. Laurence de Dampierre came out in 1999. Camille sports an aristocratic Norman name, dating back to the 14th century. She chose Versace and it was without question the raciest and most talked about dress at the ball that was slashed as high and cut as low as the law allows. She looked like a Hollywood’s glamour girl, ready for the red carpet and the big screen. Time will tell.

16. Laoura Lalaounis-Macropoulou was escorted by Paul du Fraysseix. Her grandfather, Ilias Lalaounis is the legendary jeweler. Laoura studies in England, but had her fittings in Paris, at Givenchy, her favorite designer.

17. Nadine Ghosn was escorted by Jacques-Louis de La Beraudiere and has just returned from Japan. She was dressed by Didier Ludot in a black, white and brown dress by Jacques Heim vintage Haute Couture 1950.

18. Yasmin Kerr was escorted by Louis Delafon. She is the child of rock royalty. Her father Jim Kerr is the lead singer of the group “Simple Minds” and her mother Chrissie Hynde is a member of the “Pretenders”. Yasmin wants to be an actress. Her dramatic evening gown was by Vivienne Westwood.

19. Theodora Warre was escorted by George Northcott and is classic British rose. She wore a gown by Neil Cunningham with long white gloves.

20. Philippine Hubin was escorted by Edmond de Fels. She chose a dress by Franck Sorbier Haute Couture and a tiara by Mikimoto.

21. Mathilde Katsura Kanno was escorted by Nathaniel Eckovich. She is the daughter of the renowned pianist, Jun Kanno and his French wife. She wore a red gown designed by Stephane Rolland for Jean-Louis Scherrer Haute Couture.

22. Ginevra Doria was escorted by Ambrogio Doria. She wore a pink confection by Christian Lacroix HC. Miss Doria is descended from one of Genoa’s oldest families. One of her ancestors was Andréa Doria, an admiral and advisor to Charles V of Spain.

23. Michaela Raikes was escorted by Prince Dimitris Soutzo. Michaela chose Ralph Rucci. After her debut she will travel to India to do volunteer work in an orphanage. Bravo Michaela who sets a perfect example for young ladies of privilege who are committed to helping those less fortunate than they are.


Ashley Bush, Molly Flattery, Rainsford Qualley, Michaela Raikes, and Salima Mangalji
Camille de Dampierre, Yuki Mori, and Natapree Pichaironarongsongkram
Rainsford Qualley and Sofia Barclay
Sofia Barclay, Yasmin Kerr, Theodora Warre, and Princesse Augusta von Preussen
Nadine Ghosn, Marie de Menthon, Philippine Hubin, Camille de Dampierre, Quitterie de Rivoyre, and Bianca Brandolini d’Adda
Ginevra Doria
Maria Juncadella-Hohenlohe
Molly Flattery
Nadine Ghosn dancing with her escort
Camille de Dampierre with her escort Alexander Tsavliris
Marie de Menthon with her escort Ludovic des Lyons de Feuchin
Salima Mangalji with her escort Felipe Olaechea
Theodora Warre with her escort George Northcott
Sofia Barclay dancing with her escort
Molly Flattery with Greg Young
Laoura Lalaounis-Macropoulou with her escort
Yuki Mori dancing with her brother Ben Mori
Ashley Bush and her sister Lauren Bush
Bianca Brandolini d’Adda with SAR Prince Charles-Philippe d’Orléans
Philippine Hubin with two escorts
Andie MacDowell with Mr. and Mrs. Russell Sternlicht
L. to r.: Salima Mangalji surrounded by her parents, her two sisters and her uncle; Bianca Brandolini d’Adda with her escort.
Bernard Danillon de Cazella, Doris Brynner, and Neile McQueen Toffel
Rainsford Qualley and Andie McDowell

January 4, 2006, Volume VI, Number 2


Click here for Today's Party Pictures
Click here
for NYSD Contents


© 2006 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/