Edinburgh World Heritage

Assembly Rooms - Looking Good

During the 19th century girls from high society Scotland would attend balls at the Assembly Rooms in the hope to find some decent marriage material.

The balls introduced the “seasons” pool of potentially satisfactory spouses to both sexes.  As they were one of the only places men and woman could meet they were later referred to as  “matrimonial bazaars”. It was important therefore for everybody to look there best. In a letter to her friend in 1840, Elizabeth Hope gives us some insight into 19th century “post-party gossip”.

“There was a number of pretty people, Lady Leigh of Stoneleigh and her daughter both very handsome… Lord Chanders Polle who must have been handsome and three pretty daughters. Sir and Lady Mostyn were about the ugliest, he is a tall thin repulsive looking man and she is like the side of the house”!

It is hardly dissimilar from conversations we might have with friends today! The balls were a chance for woman to flaunt their beauty and they did so willingly, with one punter describing the balls as “nothing less than a market place for beauty”.

It is probable that the Victorians teenage girls held as much importance to makeup and fashion as teenagers do today.

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