“Some people love tradition,” said Margaret Hedberg, general chairman of the 58th annual International Debutante Ball.
“There’s a niche for everything. This gets you out of your jeans and sweat suits.”
For billionaire James Dinan, founder and chairman of York Capital Management LP, one young woman stood apart from the 47 floating through the Waldorf-Astoria ballroom in white gowns and long gloves on Saturday night.
That was his only daughter, Katherine, a Harvard freshman who was escorted by her younger brother, Zachary.
The debutantes began the event in a circle around the Astor Salon, where they greeted the 600 guests. Then the crowd gathered in the ballroom for lobster rolls, grilled tournedos of beef with potato souffle, and coffee-cream profiteroles. Dancing followed.
Once regarded as a husband safari for young women and socially ambitious parents, the event has changed with the times. Michelle Quick, daughter of former American Stock Exchange President Peter Quick, said the ball gives her an opportunity to make new friends from different countries. Scotland and China were among the others represented.
Dinan said he recently made Katherine a trustee of the family’s philanthropic foundation. Alabama’s Courtney Walls works for South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.
Among the other debs were Amanda Crown, great granddaughter of U.S. industrialist and philanthropist Henry Crown, and Haley Anderson of Texas whose father is Shy Anderson, chief operating officer of Blue Star Investments and a vice president of the Dallas Cowboys. Her mother, Charlotte, is executive vice president of brand management for the team.
Haley Anderson was presented with her cousin Jessica Jones. Looking on were their grandparents Jerry Jones, owner of the Cowboys, and his wife, Gene. (The following day the Cowboys lost to the Washington Redskins.)
Most debutantes paired pearls with their white ensembles, though Jenness Gough of Texas wore a tiara along with diamonds and emeralds that have been in her family for generations.
Each debutante was responsible for $16,000, which covered 12 tickets to the event and access to the pre- and post-ball parties.
“What fiscal cliff?” one spectator asked as he took in the glittering scene.
The proceeds of the ball go to the International Debutante Ball Foundation, which benefits a number of charities.
(Stephanie Green is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
Muse highlights include Norman Lebrecht on music, Catherine Hickley on art.