What a great question, and fun topic!
As the Butler for a billionaire's family, I'm delighted to tell you what I know!
Finishing Schools (also called Charm Schools) primarily teach social etiquette in such areas as:
- Proper topics for social conversation.
- How to address someone (especially dignitaries and royalty).
- How to shake hands and/or bow.
- Letter writing, invitations and regrets.
- How to set a formal dining table.
- And so forth...
These schools also teach physical comportment -- posture, how to walk with style, how to sit, how to eat.
They flourished in earlier times when professional careers were not open to girls. And therefore were designed primarily to prepare young women for marriage -- hopefully into high society.
But many (if not most) of these schools closed when women began entering college and going into professional careers.
Even so, social skills are still important to learn, and many prominent schools have survived.
It's well known that even Diana, Princess of Wales briefly attended the Institut Alpin Videmanette -- a famous finishing school in Switzerland!
In modern times, finishing schools have evolved and are experiencing a resurgence. Especially as the rich grow in numbers.
Even major Corporations are jumping in and sending their prized employees to what they call "Protocol or Etiquette Schools", especially when dealing with foreign corporations.
But long gone are the days when every city and small town in America had a "Miss Lovely's Finishing School for Girls".
(For more information on the best schools still in existence, just Google the phrase "finishing schools switzerland")
I hope this was interesting, and somewhat informative.
Any Butler School in the world (such as the one I went to) covers social etiquette in minute, excruciating detail! Ha!
Example: If your employer has a dinner party for fifteen-or-twenty state Governors, do you know the proper protocol to seat them at the dining table?
I do -- and any good Finishing School would teach you the same.