Monday, April 13, 2009
The Ton: A Unit of Measuring Notoriety
So what exactly is the ton? The tag has been on this blog forever but I do not think I ever took the time to explain what exactly the ton is. I've found varying sources on the origin of the name. Amanda Foreman states that it means "The World" whereas other sources take to its literal french translation which means "taste." Sometimes this would be proceed by "bon," so le bon ton, "the good taste." Both of those translations accurately convey what the ton was.
The ton was an elite group of high society. They were the popular kids in high school. They decided what was in and what was out. In essence, the ton decided what was in good taste and their decisions affected the fashionable world. Think: Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. This didn't just mean fashion, in meant plays, artists, and especially people. Just as with the popular cliques in high school, people both made fun of the silliness of the ton and wanted to become part of it. Members were both friends and enemies and frenemies.
The leading matriarch of the ton when Georgiana first became the Duchess of Devonshire was Lady Melbourne. She gracefully stepped down and allowed Georgiana to take her place as leader of the ton, figuring someone young, full of energy, and more importantly, naive, would be more apt at the position. The position meant hosting many social social events and allowing themself to be the most publically scrutinized of the group. Georgiana rose to the challenge and quickly established herself as having an eye for the next fad; whether that was feathers or fiddlers.