- The Gentleman's Page
- Victorian Gentleman's Attire
- Manners for the Victorian Gentleman
- A Miscellany
The Etiquette of the Ballroom
Ladies and gentlemen were on their best behavior in the ballroom. Manners were more formal, clothing was finer, and bows were deeper.
Men were expected to be extremely active in the ballroom to make up for the total passivity required of ladies; who could not ask gentlemen to dance, and who could not even be seen to cross the dance floor unescorted. Ladies would be conveyed to their station by a gentleman, and there they would wait until another gentleman came to speak to them, ask them to dance or convey them to the punchbowl.
"The gentleman should call for the lady whom he is to escort, go with her to the ball, escort her to the dressing room, return to join her there when she is ready to go to the reception room... engage her company for the first dance, and escort her to supper when she is ready to go. He must watch and see that she has a partner for dancing through the entire evening. Upon reaching home, if the lady invites him in, he must decline. It is his duty to call in two days".
"A gentleman should always walk around a lady's train and never attempt to step over it. If by accident he should tread upon her dress, he should beg her pardon, and if by greater awkwardness he should tear it, he must offer to escort her to the dressing room so that it may be repaired. If in the ball room a lady asks any favor of a gentleman, such as to inquire if her carriage is waiting, he should under no circumstances refuse her requests... well bred gentleman will look after those who are unsought and neglected in the dance".
Rules for the Ballroom
A man who knows how to dance, and refuses to do so, should absent himself from a ball.
Noisy talking and boisterous laughter in a ballroom are contrary to the rules of etiquette.
In a ballroom, never forget nor confuse your engagements. If such should occur, an apology, of course, must be offered and pleasantly accepted.
Always wear white gloves in a ballroom. Very light shades are admissible.
Usually a married couple do not dance together in society, but it is a sign of unusual attention for a husband to dance with his wife, and he may do so if he wishes.
Great care should be taken by a lady in refusing to dance with a gentleman. After refusing, she should not accept another invitation for the same dance.
"When gentleman are introduced to ladies at a ball for the purpose of dancing, upon meeting afterward, they should wait to be recognized before speaking; but they are at liberty to recall themselves by lifting their hats in passing. An introduction for dancing does not constitute a speaking acquaintance"
[Editor's note: ladies and gentlemen could not dance unless they had been introduced, so the hosts and escort spent much of the evening rushing about making introductions]
All the above quotes are from "Rules of Etiquette & Home Culture" 1886
Some Additional Materials
- A modern take on the etiquette of today's Vintage Dance ballroom.
- More about Victorian ballroom dancing
- Evening Wear for a Gentleman
The bow and curtsy demonstrated (Library of Congress American Memory Project). Yes, it is just that simple.