The Debutante BallMarch 7, 2012
Every year across America the teenage daughters of the elite classes prepare for their special night. Fancy clothing is purchased, hors d’oeuvres and gourmet dinner entrees are prepared, bands are hired, and engraved invitations are sent to family members and friends. In every large city this is one of the highlights of the social season: the “debutante ball” or “coming out party.”
These coming out parties are often elaborate, formal affairs at which the daughters of the upper class are formally presented to society. Such parties were first introduced in Europe, and the purpose was to present the daughters of the privileged class to prospective beaus of equal wealth and status. The oldest known debutante ball in the United States was held in Savannah, Georgia in 1817. It has been held every year since that time. Such balls have remained especially popular in the South. Dallas and Atlanta, for instance, have several such coming out balls each season.
To be eligible to take part in a debutante ball, a young lady must be selected by a committee of wealthy peers or be sponsored by an established member of the upper echelons of society. Traditionally, a debutante wears a white gown with long white, satin gloves. Her father escorts her to the ball and formally presents her to society. After she has been presented, a younger escort of the debutante’s choosing accompanies her for the rest of the evening. In many ways these parties are like weddings as ushers, flower girls and pages are often part of the pageantry. After each father has officially presented his daughter, there is typically a formal dinner. Dancing usually follows dinner.
Nowadays most debutante balls support one or more charities. To participate in these affairs, the family of the debutante is expected to make a significant charitable contribution. Other family members, especially grandparents, often attend the balls. They too make a sizable donation to charity. Today, coming out parties exist in most major cities in the United States. They have become a very profitable venue for many charities.