"What carnival is to Nice, the Autumn Ball is to Tuxedo..." Dance Magazine, September 1929
The Autumn Ball was, for many years, Tuxedo Park's most glamorous social event. It was given by the Governors of the Tuxedo Club for the New York debutantes who were about to "come out" in Society and it was considered to be the opening of the New York City social season.
The Ball took place originally on the fourth Saturday of October but this was later changed to the third Saturday when the fall foliage was at its peak. From 1886, when the Club was founded, to 1926 the Ball was held in the Ballroom of the old Club. Then in 1927, when the old Club was being pulled down and a new clubhouse built, the Ball was moved for one year to a private home. Though the present clubhouse was renovated and rebuilt several times throughout the years, the Ball continued its existence there from 1928 to 1971. Every year the Ballroom was lovingly and gloriously decorated with autumn leaves and flowers by expert Italian immigrant gardeners who worked in Tuxedo Park.
Before World War I, the Ball was a very formal affair. Men were dressed in white tie and tailcoats and the ladies in elaborate flowing gowns. After the war, the Ball was less formal. The men wore short dinner jackets, which had for several years been called "tuxedos", so named when men from the Tuxedo Club began wearing the new garment in public in New York City. The ladies wore simpler dresses. Guests at the Ball were younger, the orchestra played without stopping and the gentlemen "cut in" on the ladies whenever they pleased.
Autumn Ball week was a very exciting time in Tuxedo Park. All the houses were filled with guests and there were large dinner parties before the Ball and farewell lunches the next day. In the following days the newspapers were agog with Autumn Ball commentary on decor, dress, attendees and gossip.
With changing social mores and population in 1970s the Autumn Ball was suspended. In 2011 to mark the 125th anniversary of the first Autumn Ball and the 150th year of the first short dinner jacket in England, the Tuxedo Historical Society in collaboration with London College of Fashion resurrected the Autumn Ball tradition. Rather than a recreation of Autumn Balls past, the 2011 event reinvented the Ball for a new century. The debutante component was replaced with an exciting student design project by London College of Fashion.
So great was the success of Autumn Ball 2011 that the Tuxedo Historical Society and London College of Fashion have partnered again. But this year it is all about the ladies! The theme for Autumn Ball 2014 is the "Art of Dress - Celebrating Centuries of Dress Evolution," a project by LCF showcasing couture student designs inspired by dresses through the ages. Many of the student designed dresses will be on display before traveling on to events in Dubai, Shanghai and Florence.
The Tuxedo Historical Society welcomes guests to join in the grand tradition of visiting Tuxedo Park in Autumn, to reawaken the magic of Autumn Balls past and to create the stuff of new legends.