What *I* would teach at Cotillion

What do they teach at cotillion?

I returned from a conference yesterday and was reminded of the moment back in May where I (apparently) lost my senses and agreed to let my 11 year old attend Cotillion classes.  Truth be told, I think they were having a hard time filling the class, so they started calling down the list. Our last name starts with “D”.. we were doomed (no pun intended). Anyhow.. there it sat on my desk.. almost as complete as a wedding invitation except this outfit would be a Sunday dress and white gloves.

Don’t get me wrong.. I am ALL for a good dose of etiquette and it’s always good to know that the salad fork is the itty, bitty one with 3 prongs.  (kidding..geez).  What I also am is amazed that things such as Cotillion and Debutante Balls are still around.  So it got me to thinking of how we could take such a quaint little Southern tradition like Cotillion and jazz it up a bit. Make it a little more refreshing and maybe a few more folks would want to participate, I thought.



So here it is.. a few points that I would teach at Cotillion.

For starters.. Clothing.. a Sunday dress and white gloves? Really? I realize that we don’t get to church that often but if wearing a dress were a requirement, we’d NEVER be there. And white gloves? Even my mother, the queen of clean, would be hard pressed to tell me where to find them.  Lbd

How about this.. teach them how to buy and wear a couple of really nice, high quality pieces that are timeless. It doesn’t have to be a dress (although what girl in her right mind doesn’t have at least one LBD
hanging there ready to rescue the night?) but it could be a great blouse, slacks and solid pair of pumps.

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Manners. I agree that our society has gotten pretty slack with the Mr’s and Mrs’s, please and thank you’s but not sure that I want my daughter to be “only” addressed as Mrs. John F Whoever (disclaimer.. I did have to explain to her that the women on the invitation were, in fact, her friend’s moms as they were all addressed that way).

I would much rather have her be taught how to eloquently (or not so eloquently) tell someone to mind their business when they’ve asked her for the XXth time why she doesn’t have a boyfriend, husband, job, baby, triplets or whatever. NUNJA! Teach her to say (with a smile, natch) “Bless your heart! Why is it so important to you?” as she gracefully cuts her meat with the engraved steak knife.

Next.. The dancing. I can count on one hand the number of times that I have been called upon    Shag-contest_girl
to do a waltz or a foxtrot.  If you want to teach a dance that has more than a snowball’s chance in hell of ever being danced, why not the two-step, elecric slide or Shag? I mean, this is the South for heaven’s sake.

Relationships/Courting.. It is okay to call a boy if, and only if, it’s a last resort and you really have to. At 11, why would you have to? And why would he want you to? I realize they’re all maturing faster than we did but still.  What they need to be taught is how not to be a skank. How to be strong and that yes, it is really true, that “those” kind of girls are not the kind you want to be.

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Being the one in charge of the relationship isn’t for every girl, but all girls need to be taught self respect and how to stay true to themselves. I think if there’s one thing that hasn’t changed, it’s that.

So there you have it.. I obviously won’t be called on anytime soon to take over the Catillion training but if they ever did.. that’s the lesson plan that I’d lay out..

Did I miss anything here that you would teach/?

Resurrecting this post to share with The Mommy Mess and the Going Green series!



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December 4, 2018 at 9:13 am

LOVE THIS POST! As I sit here preparing the package for our upcoming Orientation Tea, I googled to find information to summarize the experience to give the participants an idea what they (or their mother/grandmother) signed them up for. We’ve existed since 1949 and have held a Cotillion every year since then and we are constantly assessing today’s audience to make our program more conducive to today’s experiences. Your observations are spot on! Our program caters to high school-aged students and our focus is preparing them for the next chapter in their lives. It does include traditional etiquette, comportment and manners training but we also give public speaking, classic wardrobe staples, how to make an introduction, social media ‘manners’, how to BE MENTORED and build a personal board of directors, how to handle encounters with law enforcement, how to tie a tie. Ours is also a scholarship cotillion and this has proven EXTREMELY effective in helping sustain interest over the years – we’ve awarded almost $2 mil. Last year, we had 45 students and we awarded $89,000 to the seniors heading off to college. I am pretty sure our numbers would not be nearly what they were/are without the scholarship component. The participants are extremely social beings so we take great care to design all program components to allow them to interact and have fun. At the end of the day, our Cotillion is just the culminating event for a series of value-added programs. It IS extremely traditional (ball gowns, waltz, curtsy, etc.), and they love it. We are still looking for ideas to sustain interest so I hope the conversation in this thread continues.

    December 4, 2018 at 10:10 am

    Yvonne I just looked at your site and I LOVE IT!! You look like you’re doing an amazing job guiding these teens to lead a life of self-respect and knowledge! Ours was geared towards middle school but I wonder if it isn’t better suited for the teenage years. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment and keep doing a great job of helping our teens!!

Deborah Mohn
April 10, 2016 at 3:12 pm

In defense of cotillion classes, I attended six years of cotillion a very long time ago. It was not about frilly dresses and white gloves, although I had white kidskin gloves for church. One of the purposes was to learn how to be comfortable wherever you were, whether it was hosting a sit down dinner for twenty, attending said dinner, or eating out of a can in the woods. Manners is more than which fork for escargot. One learned how to discretely decline an unwanted invitation, how to write legible, coherent correspondence, and how to interact with all kinds of people. Dancing was important, and learning to dance the waltz, foxtrot, and “racier” ones assured that one could follow another dancer, even in a line dance. We learned the VA reel, which is the original line dance. Get that down and the rest are easy. It was a fun, well supervised activity, that included everything from formal dances to pool parties (wet and dry ones). I don’t call myself, “Mrs. …”. I am Dr. …, but I use the information I learned all those Saturdays ago every day.

    April 10, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    I have mellowed a lot since I wrote that piece.. honestly, I don’t think I knew what to expect – we live in a very conservative area. But, like you said, I figured there was nothing wrong with getting some formal manners training in them. All 3 of my girls loved it and one even wanted to go back and volunteer once she had “graduated”!

July 24, 2014 at 4:27 pm

I don’t know if I agree with the dancing part. I think there is still a timelessness about a foxtrot or waltz. I believe that dancing dances such as those could help with grace, posture, agility and interaction. Those dances take more skill than line dancing. But, yes, line dancing is a southern staple, so incorporate that as well; just don’t leave out the romanticism of knowing how to do classic dance on top of the country corral jukes. If it were up to me, I’d still incorporate black-tie formal dress as I feel that is a lost art form. Cotillion, again from what I understand of it, should be a life guideline that you tread your own path from. I think that is all… 🙂
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    August 3, 2014 at 10:30 am

    I agree, Tim.. nothing wrong with knowing a classic dance step. Like many things.. a good base is all you really need to build on!! And yes.. in our world of casual, it is nice to get all gussied up for an event 🙂

July 24, 2014 at 4:17 pm

I didn’t even know what a cotillion was until about a year ago (maybe two). We had no such thing in WV where I grew up and by the time I was here in Winston-Salem, I was older (15) and had passed the realm of such things. I wish I could put my son in one. He is in DIRE need of it from what I understand of them and admittedly, I don’t really know that much about them. I need to send him to the Hen House, eh?

March 19, 2013 at 9:15 pm

LOL!!!! “What they need to be taught is how not to be a skank.” True.

I’m all for traditional, but this seems a little too white glove for me. 😉

Stacey @ Life So Lovely
March 19, 2013 at 2:48 pm

I had no idea Cotillions still existed! But I do think you are on to something with your ideas…maybe you should jazz up this apparently alive tradition 🙂

Stopping in from the Going Green link up!
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