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Behind the velvet curtain at London's debutante ball

Debutantes Maria Austin, left to right, Amelia Simmons, Sophie Bonello, Zoe Rawson, and Georgina Riddle attend a dress-fitting for Queen Charlotte's Ball in central London, July 25, 2012. Maria, 20, studies drama and theater at Royal Holloway, and would like to either become a classical actor or go into business development. She says she was attracted to partake in the London Season partly because of charity fundraising.

Olivia Harris / Reuters — Queen Charlotte's Ball is the crowning event of the London Season, a program for a hand-picked group of girls from rich backgrounds, normally between 17 and 20 years old, involving meetings with aristocracy, etiquette classes, and charity fund-raising.

Debutante Ella Venables is taught to waltz by a guest in the spacious ladies' toilets at Queen Charlotte's Ball in central London, Sept. 14. Ella is anxious because she must waltz with her father but does not know how.

Kitchen staff peek at debutante Eli Miansarow as she passes by during Queen Charlotte's Ball in central London, Sept. 14.

Dress designer Dana Kruszynska examines a dress to be worn at Queen Charlotte's Ball in central London, Sept. 14.

Debutante Alice Palmer, left, is scorned for walking too fast by former debutante Patricia Woodall as she rehearses for Queen Charlotte's Ball in central London, Sept. 14. The girls make a grand entrance walking in one by one to be judged on their posture, elegance and pace.

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