The rise and decline in popularity in finishing school for young women. Will they make a comeback?
Finishing schools were created to help give young women a more complete education. This program follows after the highest educational level attained by the young women, hence the term “finishing”. It is usually an intensive program occurs between a couple of months to a year.
Wikipedia defines finishing schools as
“private schools for men or women that emphasizes training in cultural and social activities.”
However, finishing schools have been declining rapidly over the last couple of decades.
Switzerland is known for its private finishing schools.
The finishing school that made Switzerland renowned (for finishing schools) was the Institut Villa Mont Choisi.
It was founded in the 1870s and closed in 1996. Other notables schools included Institut Chateau Beau-Cedre which closed in 2002.
Two other reputable ones include the Institut Villa Pierrefeu (Institut Alpin Videmanette) which is now closed, where Diana, Princess of Wales studied, and where Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall was partly educated.
While the term “Finishing School” should only be used by authorized vocational institution who issue legitimate qualifications, the term has been growing in popularity by etiquette schools, small women’s colleges, cultural training programs and some cross-dressing enthusiasts.
Since the 1960s, many of these schools have become defunct as a result of financial difficulties stemming from parents’ decreased interest in paying for such an education for their daughters.
How Finishing Schools Came About
Once a young girl becomes a woman of a marriageable age, she starts to receive training in the social graces. She trains to become accomplished.
She then learns to cook, clean and keep a household as well as learning to entertain. Hosting a ball was important to help her future husband as it is required to manage the social life of his friends, clients or business partners.
Though these skills may seem menial or superficial – they were practical skills designed to prepare the young woman for her adult life and a successful marriage.
In the book Genevieve Antoine-Dariaux’s book, “A Guide to Elegance
“, she writes
Before 1914, the education of young girls was exclusively designed to teach them how to win and hold a man.
Once a young man had been captured in the web patiently woven by a doting mother, instruction in cooking and good housekeeping, in order to retain exclusive rights to the young man’s affections – and to his income.
Finishing schools differ in great variety in present to accommodate the fast changing society and their different needs. They may also be known
as charm or etiquette schools (donning similar curriculums).
The reputable finishing schools have these subjects as compulsory curriculum.
- French (official language of polite society)
- Hosting or entertaining
- Music and Theatre
The Relevance of Finishing Schools today:
Will they make a comeback?
Genevieve Antoine-Dariaux quotes again,
The social evolution which women now compete with men on equal grounds for equal pay.
But this radical innovation has not diminished the eternal attraction of the sexes. The woman may be a breadwinner but her number one objective is still to win a man.
Unconsciously or not, men and women thus in attempt to exploit their natural advantages, they destroy all hopes of elegance.
Personally, I’m not sure if finishing schools will be a high priority especially with a growing number of activities competing with our
and our daughters’ time. I am, however, all for learning the skills and knowledge from what a finishing school provides … then take responsibility on teaching them to my daughters (and sons).
Over the course of time, I’ve put together a finishing school program for self-study online classes on elegantwoman.org. It’s not quite ready yet, but do follow me on instagram or on facebook to get the latest updates.
Go back to How to be a Lady.