Tag Archives: Queen’s Drawing Rooms

The Cost of a Curtsey: Court Presentation Expenses: 1907

London, June 29. The court held this week by King Edward and Queen Alexandra lends interest to the inquiry as to what it costs for a debutante to make her curtsey to the king and queen.

A certain amount of exaggeration has attached itself to the expenditure which is cited as necessary for a court outfit. The all important dress may cost thousands and tens of thousands of collards, but on the other hand, a very dainty little debutante at the last court only spent $25 on her frock. It was made by a good dressmaker and the train was lent by a friend.

A calculation has been made to decide the maximum and minimum cost of a presentation at court. There is, of course, practically no limit to the expenditure, which might be involved. A gown may be sewn with real jewels. A petticoat may be fashioned of priceless lace; a feather fan may be adorned with sticks of gold. All that can be done is to take a fair average of the sum total which would be considered necessary by a society debutante.

The minimum cost is a more difficult matter. The most rigid economy must be practiced, and the greatest difficulty which will present itself will be to invest a comparatively small sum on the outfit and yet to compare favorably with the woman who has spent three times the amount.

The fact that it is now possible to hire a court train has proved a veritable boon to many debutantes. The price varies from $12 to $30, but a very dainty train of chiffon, lace and touches of silver embroidery can be procured for the evening at a charge of $15. Bouquets are not so fashionable now as white feather fans, but not everybody can afford one of these fragile luxuries, and in that case flowers must suffice. A firm of court florists will make up a bouquet of white poppies and marguerites for an extremely small sum.

A visit to the photographers might even be omitted but it would be a pity to economize in this respect. Every woman is anxious to hand down to posterity a picture of herself gowned for the great event.

As a last word of advice to the would-be debutante who is faced by the problem of a moderate dress allowance, it is interesting to note that the ladies, some of the most noble in the land, who go often to court, do not agitate themselves on the question of the outfit. They wear the same costumes, sometimes with a slight alteration, on many occasions and constantly borrow a train.

The Maximum Cost.

Court gown $525; petticoat $50; lingerie $50; corsets $25; silk stockings $10; satin shoes $15; veil and feathers $25; gloves $5; bouquet of orchids or white feather fan $50; cloak $165; real lace handkerchief $25; photographs $30; hairdresser (at the house) $5; manicure (at the house) $5; face masseuse (at the house) $5.

From this it will be seen that the grand total is about $1,000.

The Minimum Cost

Court gown $50; hire of court train 15.00; petticoat $5; lingerie $10; corsets $5; silk stockings $5; veil and feathers $5; gloves $5; bouquet $5; cloak $25; real lace handkerchief $5; photographs $10; hairdresser (at the shop) $2.50; manicurist (at the shop) $250; face masseuse (at the shop) $2.50.

From this it will be seen that the minimum is approximately $150.

The largest amount ever expended on a presentation outfit was paid by an American bride. The gown was made of white silk chiffon embroidered with real seed pearls and moonstones to represent lilies of-the-valley and white forget-me-nots. The court train was composed of real lace mounted over cloth of silver. The lace for the lingerie was specially made at Honiton for the occasion. The petticoat was composed of rich brocade and hand-painted chiffon.

The “Record” Outfit.

Court gown $7,500; petticoat $130; lingerie $150; corsets $50; silk stockings $35; shoes; $75; veil and feathers $35; gloves $15; bouquet (rare exotics) $75; cloak $250; real lace handkerchief $50. [$8,365 in total.]

From this it will be seen that the lingerie of the “record” outfit cost approximately as much as the “lowest possible” outfit.

The queen wore a mauve gown embroidered with gold in India; corsage and train to correspond; tiara of diamonds; ornaments, rubies, diamonds and emeralds; orders, the Garter, Victoria and Albert, Crown of India, and the Danish family order. It was a night of pretty debutantes, among whom may be mentioned Lady Helen Grosvenor, who was presented by her mother, Katherine, Duchess of Westminster, the latter dressed in black with a lovely diamond tiara and a necklace of pearls. Then there was Lady Cynthia Needham, presented by her mother, Lady Kilmorey, who wore a wonderful Paris gown with a tiara in the form of a waving ribbon in diamonds. Miss Drexel, as was anticipated, was one of the sensational debutantes of the evening, and looked perfectly lovely, her mother, Mrs. Anthony Drexel, blazing with jewels, presenting her. Miss Millicent Grosvenor, a daughter of Lord Henry and the late Lady Henry Grosvenor, was also presented by Katherine, Duchess of Westminster.

The Salt Lake [UT] Herald 30 June 1907: p. 10

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has been ransacking her Debrett’s to discover the identity of the “American bride” whose presentation attire was so costly. She thought first of Miss Mary Leiter of Chicago, later so successfully Lady Curzon, whom we have met before in this forum. However, the new Lady Curzon’s gown is described thusly:

She wore a magnificent court train, suspended from the shoulder, of white cloth and silver moiré antique lined with the palest of green satin and embroidered with large bouffon. Her gown was of rich ivory and silver duchesse, the corsage being arranged with silver wings back and front. The under bodice was of soft tulle finished with exquisite point d’Alencon lace… Her head dress was of plumes and she also wore a white veil. She carried a Goodyear bouquet of white orchids. [Alexandria [DC] Gazette 22 May 1895: p. 2]

A “Goodyear bouquet” was not, as Americans might presume, rubber flowers, but an exclusive nosegay from Edward Goodyear of the Royal Arcade in Bond Street, holding a Royal Warrant  first from Queen Victoria, and thence to the reign of her present Majesty. Due to some unpleasantness during the last War, the firm is no longer located in that desirable location.

Consuelo Vanderbilt, the Duchess of Marlborough, wore her wedding gown “cut low,” at her court presentation, but descriptions of the garment are scant. It seems to have been ordered in Paris before the Duke of Marlborough proposed; Consuelo’s mother, Alva, was as optimistic as she was ruthless.

The newspapers who printed the description of the “record outfit,” are all equally discreet, mentioning only “an American bride.” If Mrs Daffodil may speak frankly, she is surprised that only one “American bride” could be cited for this lavish expenditure.  In her persual of Debrett’s Mrs Daffodil sees scores of possible candidates. Britain has always been a fertile field for opportunists. First it was the Romans, then the Vikings and their little smash-and-grab raids; and in 1907 it was the dashed Americans baying after a coronet.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.