one's place in society required considerable expense. The cost
of running a summer estate was between $2,000 and $4,000 a week.
It was not uncommon for a family to spend as much as $70,000 on
one evening event. 
The struggle for upper-class families to outdo each other extended to summer entertainment. At one event, Theresa Fair Oelrichs decorated her estate, Rosecliff, with white flowers and swans and had a fleet of white ships constructed to float at shore. Grace Wilson Vanderbilt shut down a popular Broadway show and brought it to Newport to play at a specially built theater on her estate, Beaulieu. 
summer residents did not share Newporters' liberal views toward
other races and ethnicities. Most of these families were of European
descent, and they expected their peers to have the same background.
Samuel Ward McAllister and Caroline Schermerhorn Astor,
the creators of "the Four Hundred" social list, established
a "third-generation rule" to weed out brand-new money on the presumption
that it took three generations to make one worthy of society. In addition to being from an old-monied family, one had to have at least $1 million in cash and live a life free from labor.
To maintain their families' status in society, many upper-class women arranged for their daughters to marry European noblemen. These marriages gave the illusion that America's upper-class families were like Europe's landed gentry.
Alva Vanderbilt betrothed her daughter, Consuelo Vanderbilt, to Charles Richard John, the Ninth Duke of Marlborough. The marriage gave the Vanderbilts added notoriety. And with the Vanderbilts' gift of $2.5 million, plus $100,000 per month for life, the marriage was a significant financial move for the Duke. 
Roles for women were limited in the nineteenth century. Many women who dreamed of success married men of wealth and pedigree.
But many of these marriages did not last. The Vanderbilt-John marriage ended in divorce. Consuelo later remarried, this time selecting her own husband. Alva Vanderbilt also divorced and remarried. In later years, both Alva and Consuelo Vanderbilt took up the cause of women's rights. 
Purchase and display of expensive, beautiful objects was another example
of conspicuous consumption.
at Marble House
be accepted into society, upper-class families needed to have
summer homes, typically based on European models; fine furnishings
from Europe; gowns designed in Paris; and elaborate coaches.
Upper-class families preferred authentic
goods from Europe to mass-market reproductions. Imported furniture,
gilded interiors, and specially made gowns legitimated wealth
and class status. 
were an important part of the legitimation process. In their desire
to emulate European nobility, upper-class families selected European
servants to run their households. English butlers, Irish maids, English and Irish nannies, and French governesses worked at the estates.
on the Cliff Walk
Veblen argued that employment of domestic help was evidence of
wealth and class status. Domestic workers vicariously
consumed goods through their employers and received "badges" of
merit for work performed, such as the liveries they wore for their
were the consumers of upper-class households. Their job was to
display the wealth their husbands made.
Whereas men displayed
their wealth through material possessions—homes, horses, carriages,
and so on—women displayed their wealth through fashion. A large wardrobe of fashionable clothing was necessary,
as society women changed their gowns several times a day. 
this behavior, an author in Munsey's remarked:
"Society in Newport is always
on dress parade, and while it concerns itself little with what
the 'other half' is doing, the other half takes a great interest
in it, watching its every movement, following its every step.
This vast other half fills hotels and boarding houses, and while
it plunges into the surf or sprawls on the sands, or wheels along
the beautiful roads, it has one eye always on society. And some
of the magnates, though they pretend to have a great indifference
to its watchful gaze, cannot quite conceal the pleasure that such
attention gives them, and add a little more pomp and ostentation
to their mode of life for the benefit of hoi polloi [the