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Monday, May 9, 2011

History of Debutante Balls

In doing research for my current novel, I happened upon a bit of nostalgia worth mentioning. During the 19th century, upper class European families presented their marriageable daughters at formal events called debutante balls (from French d├ębutante, meaning “female beginner”). Such events had various names, depending on the geographic location of the ball. They were called debut balls or coming-out parties. Traditionally, the debutante invited the man (sometimes two) to escort her to the dance. She was escorted to the front of the ballroom by her father, where she was greeted by her escort(s), eligible bachelors whose social rank matched that of the debutante.

If the coming-out was at the English court, a girl would be expected to wear white or a light pastel gown. After presentation to the reigning monarch, they entered the social season by attending numerous events such as teas and more balls. In 1958, Queen Elizabeth II abolished the ceremony.

In the U.S., during the fifties in the South, it was common for even middle-class families to send their sons and daughters to Cotillions, where they learned dance steps, to be used later at debutante balls. In various parts of the U.S., debut balls have morphed into charity events, with attendees buying tickets and the money going to a designated charity.

8 comments:

Rebbie Macintyre said...

I always enjoy your posts, Joyce. Thank you for another bit of fascinating information!

Jennifer Jakes said...

The gown in that photo is GORGEOUS! Thanks for the info. Very interesting.

TessStJohn said...

Great info!!

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Hi Rebbie: I'm finding the 19th cnetury costume research fascinating, after being in the medieval world so long. Thankis for dropping by.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Jennifer: Isn't it beautiful? Looks like gold satin. Geez....

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Hi Tess: I love the collage up top of your web page. Nice! Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Your explanation of the coming-out for debs is an excellent one. I did research on the subject for TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS so I wouldn't blunder and found it a fascinating topic. I have a soft spot for 19th century romance and traditions. The gowns you chose for illustration are striking.

I love the fact that you explained how we Americanized the concept. I also didn't know that Queen Elizabeth abolished the mandatory court presentation. But it does make sense. The current royals seems to be cutting down on pomp and ceremony, modernizing.

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