Local Debutantes Provide Us With Gilded Age Glamour

Yes, Philadelphia: Even in the era of Glee and Gossip Girl, these girls exist

In 1881, the swells of Philadelphia put on a party. And not just any party. A ball. One that would serve as a “debut” for their young people into high society.   

At this month’s 131st Charity Ball, debutantes in white gowns and their escorts in white ties will waltz in front of 600 guests in one of the city’s most elegant traditions. But in keeping with its title, the ball will also raise money — this year, a projected $50,000 for the Gesu School, a private elementary school in North Philadelphia erving disadvantaged kids and promoting personal responsibility and rigorous academics.   

Today’s debutantes are no demure, fan-snapping lot, but rather smart, self-possessed and often wickedly funny girls. They’re also serious about their mandate to give back, volunteering for everything from tutoring Gesu students to constructing water wells in Africa. “It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” one deb says of her days working for Cradles to Crayons, which distributes clothing, toys and school supplies to needy kids. “It reminds you that the world is so much bigger than you are.”

Want more debutantes? Check out a behind-the-scenes look at the photo shoot.

 Photography by Trevor Dixon. Styling by Lauren Kozkiewicz. 

Photographed on location at the Union League of Philadelphia.