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Thread: Debutante Balls

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Debutante Balls

    I was trying to do research on modern day Debutante Balls but I could not find anything except for the debutante balls in the Victoria Era. I was wondering does anybody have any info on modern day Debutante Balls, what are the qualifications for it?Do you need be part of certain social class?What age are you presented to society?I want incorporate this as part of my story,I had hard time finding much info. Most of the modern places that do it,they don't list the details.

  2. #2
    Takiran Code Scholar breaking_burgundy's Avatar
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    My younger sister went to private school with some girls who did the debutante ball thing. Her friends' (or acquaintances--I'm not sure) families were part of a secret society called the "Veiled Prophet." The families have to give a lot of money, and the girls have to do a community service project beforehand. The night of the ball, a society member dresses as the "Veiled Prophet" and leads the girls through the procession. But the procession isn't even the highlight of the night--in fact, many of the non-debutante attendees skip out on it and opt to go drink in the bathroom instead. The real highlight is after the procession, when all of these rich people, young and old alike, spend the night dancing and getting really, really trashed.

  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW mickeyDs4's Avatar
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    Modern day deb balls aren't that much different than in the Victorian age. They are mostly run nowadays by organizations like the Daughters of the American Revoultion or other women's leagues. Down south they are still a big deal.

    Qualifications vary for the area in which your story is set in. For the most part it's usually relegated to the more prominent members of the city. THe age you are presented hasn't changed either, it's still between sixteen and seventeen. My advice to you is to seek out the women's groups in your local area to see if they have any literature on deb balls. A good visual reference would be the Gilmore Girls episode, "Presenting Lorelai Gilmore" (season 2, episode 8).

    Debutante balls if run by the right people can be classy and very elitist in nature. Things like what the other poster talked about are the rarities. Most debs take classes in etiquette and things before the big events. There's usually several events that lead up to a big debutante ball.

    Hope that helps.
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  4. #4
    illiterate primate Bing Z's Avatar
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    How about the International Debutante Ball (Wikipedia)?

    This is what newyorksocialdiary reported for the 2006 ball:

    The 52nd International Debutante Ball and dinner dance was held at the Waldorf-Astoria on Friday, December 29th. Fifty-three young women of distinction made their debut, each accompanied by two escorts, a military cadet in full dress uniform carrying the flag of the debutante’s country or state, and a collegiate man in formal evening dress. As she walked into the spotlight, marking her formal presentation to society, the Lester Lanin Orchestra played her signature music. <more>
    Last edited by Bing Z; 01-14-2013 at 09:57 AM.

  5. #5
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    Search under the word cotillion.

  6. #6
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    Yep on the cotillion thing. The folks who do this enroll their kids (male and female) in cotillion classes as kids, in my experience. Presumably the cotillion teacher would not take you if you weren't up to snuff in that kind of society's opinion. The teacher would certainly know how to register for the balls, etc.

    In my very local area, the balls were individual and private. In close-by Charlotte, they are the big, multi-deb events.

    More recently, quinceaneras are more and more common, so a deb may do it when she's 15 if she's Latina. There's a Southern-Latina hybrid going on with 'coming out', in other words, where the same folks may call a quinceanera a 'coming out party', and vice versa (if the deb is 15).
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by AshyPrincess View Post
    I was trying to do research on modern day Debutante Balls but I could not find anything except for the debutante balls in the Victoria Era. I was wondering does anybody have any info on modern day Debutante Balls, what are the qualifications for it?Do you need be part of certain social class?What age are you presented to society?I want incorporate this as part of my story,I had hard time finding much info. Most of the modern places that do it,they don't list the details.
    You don't have to be of a certain "class". There aren't any formal qualifications like that. To attend one or have one, though, requires a lot of money. Dresses cost thousands of dollars, flowers, venue, limo, shoes, purse, jewelry. A suit for the dad, always, since there were always father-daughter dances.

    And they aren't really "balls". More like parties at a nice venue with pricey decorations. Most girls that I knew had them when they were sixteen, but a few had them when they were eighteen.

    Edit: Also, this should probable be under "Story Research".
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  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW lolabelle's Avatar
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    These could be some places to look:

    http://www.veiledprophet.org/
    http://www.nljc.com/batonrouge/scheduleandevents.htm
    http://www.balletwomenscomm.com/Poinsettia_Ball.php

    I agree with the earlier posters who said there aren't "class" requirements. However, from those I know about sometimes there are "society" requirements--in that your mother/grandmother be in the DAR or that your father belong to a particular country club. Those kinds of memberships seem to be very important. Additionally, some schools will host these kinds of things--generally rich private schools (ergo, class mattering more).

  9. #9
    Sophipygian AW Moderator Alessandra Kelley's Avatar
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    Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners, goes on at length about debutante balls in at least one of her books. I'll have to check them.

    My recalled impression is that they are not much like the nineteenth century debutante balls. Nobody "comes out" any more, for one, at least in the old sense that the girls have never socialized or gone to parties before the début.

    Nor, I gather, is their primary purpose still to introduce young ladies to the pool of young men from whom their husbands will be selected.

    As to that, I seem to recall some opining that, as the young men involved are in great demand for multiple debutante balls (as there are far fewer of them interested than young ladies (and young ladies' parents)), the young men can be rather spoilt for choice.

    I will go see if I can find the reference.

  10. #10
    Sophipygian AW Moderator Alessandra Kelley's Avatar
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    I found the references. They are a little acerbic.

    By the way, I heartily recommend all of Judith Martin's books. They are very funny and very educational.

    Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Guide for the Turn-of-the-Millennium, Pharos Books, New York, 1989 (pp. 538-539)
    ... If you want your children to find suitable mates, you must provide them with a pool of such people from whom to choose. Not only does this allow you to use your own judgment, but it saves face for the children by permitting them to deride your matchmaking instincts instead of having to acknowledge their own.

    In our time, the form of the début has become so encumbered with obsolete practices as to have pretty much outlived its usefulness. Débutantes are supposed to be eighteen and innocent, but nobody, especially not Miss Manners, checks them at the door. As the purpose of a début is to present a girl just coming of age to adult society, the event was given by her parents or other close adult relatives. It was generally a tea, or a small home or club dance, in addition to which several families might have combined to give their daughters a ball.

    Miss Manners speaks of this in the past tense because today's mass events, run by hired specialists, bear little resemblance to a début. They "present" to strangers a girl who has been running freely since she was twelve. Commercially run balls often require that the young women have one or several "escorts" (thus forcing supposedly innocent young women to dredge up young men for a party whose ostensible purpose is for them to meet young men for the first time), in order to provide extra dancing partners or to populate those sideline groups of young men who drink too much and make unpleasant comments about the débutantes. The enormous expense of all this and its association with limited groups (who even then often have difficulty mastering the traditional social practices) make it unsuitable for most people; the specified age is now wrong, because the eighteen-year-olds do have sufficient social opportunities when they are in school but are not yet ready to marry; and the ludicrous custom of presenting débutantes to people their parents don't even know, sometimes in strange cities, defeats the original purpose.

  11. #11
    Sophipygian AW Moderator Alessandra Kelley's Avatar
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    And here's another reference.

    Judith Martin, Miss Manneers' Guide to Rearing Perfect Children, Galahad Books, New York, 1994 (pp. 380-382)
    In modern times, it has become fashionable for a young woman, upon reaching the age of eighteen, to signify her membership in adult society by announcing that she refuses to make a debut. This innovation has many advantages over the old debutante system, including being a lot cheaper.

    The reason for this surprising acceptance on the part of Miss Manners, whose usual custom is to fight fiercely for the preservation of outmoded rituals, is that the surviving debutante tradition often makes a mockery of its original purpose, which was to introduce one's daughter to one's friends. If they happened to have sons with good prospects, so much the better.

    In some private dances given by close relatives of debutantes, and in some church or civic groups, where cotillions are organized by members who know one another well, this idea still prevails. Far more often, the cotillion is run by a competitive committee, more or less in business for the purpose, which allows debutantes to bow to an artificial society composed of people their parents don't know and will probably never see again. It is not uncommon to have an ambitious debutante presented to strangers in a strange city by parents who have to add their hotel bill to the already substantial costs.

    In such a determinedly organized setting, debutantes are usually required to dredge up two or three "escorts" each. Remember that these are supposed to be innocent young girls making their first appearance in the world among eligible men, and then ask yourself how they are supposed to have acquired several. Standards are necessarily lowered for this dragnet, and the young men begin to understand that they are at a premium. So, for the expense and the trouble of the debut, fond parents are able to attach a permanent date to their daughter's youth, have her scrutinized by strangers, and arrange for her to meet a lot of young men who have come to believe that the world owes them free champagne. That is why Miss Manners will not be offended if you decide to skip this particular tradition.

    ...

    [Responsibilities of the young people] include acknowledging all other invitations, flowers, presents; dressing properly (which means for the debutante, a white dress appropriate to the occasion and her age); engaging in as many duty dances as ones for pleasure; being hospitable to all guests, regardless of age; discouraging disruptive behavior in themselves and others; and especially for the debutante, remembering that her tea or small dance is but a party, that her parents are the social heads of the family, and that the occasion marks her assumption of the privileges and responsibilities of adult society. The young lady who can do all that should find adulthood to be child's play.

  12. #12
    we are the words 'i love you' kuwisdelu's Avatar
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    I went to a rich kid school in the Midwest, but no one there really had these.

    Some pretty crazy sweet sixteen parties, though. Valet parking and everything...
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  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW mickeyDs4's Avatar
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    The crazy sweet sixteen parties have sort of taken the place of the traditional debutante balls. To each his own I guess.
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  14. #14
    Simplify. frankiebrown's Avatar
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    I think Deb Balls are mostly a southern thing. Could be wrong, though...
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  15. #15
    You can't sit with us! missesdash's Avatar
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    I don't know what ethnicity you're working with, but Upper class african american families love debutante balls because it's a good way to introduce their children to other affluent families of color.

    The only debutantes I've known were rich brown girls.

  16. #16
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    One sneaky tactic still used for coming out parties (in the Uppaer South, anyway) is that the parents of the girl can ask the parents of a nice young man to be her escort for the evening. Say the boy goes to a private boarding school in Virginia and the daughter and he only see each other rarely at church. The dude still has to drive in and have a date with her, while she looks as pretty as she can (and the family flaunts its wealth and manners). They really could click. Stranger things have happened.

    If I sound like I think the wealth thing can be obnoxious, it's because I do But I've known many debs, and I loved a lot of them and even their families The poor guys who have to take ballroom dance classes growing up are often cute as buttons, too. It really can teach humility, lol.

    The parties I went to rocked. I enjoyed the hell out of dressing up, too. The only bad one was from an obvious social-climber who wouldn't allow anyone to bring a date and really skimped on the food**. But big parties with great clothes, great bands and free food and drink? I'm so there, sure!

    ** They spent all of the budget on the ballroom, for the 'label'. It would have been much better to have a well-done party at someone's house than to throw a really bad party at a frou-frou venue.
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  17. #17
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    Why are you doing research on debutante balls? What would happen at the ball which would be important to your story?

    Perhaps you could get a similar effect at a prom.

    Or maybe at a party thrown as part of a Quinceañera, Confirmation, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Sweet Sixteen ceremony.

    All of those often involve dances where lots of teens get together to celebrate something.

  18. #18
    practical experience, FTW CQuinlan's Avatar
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    Well, we have debs at the end of school. We don't have proms or dances or anything, just the debs. It's usually dinner and then dancing in a hotel ballroom. Our parents aren't there either. One thing I know from my own is that it's all about the photographs and the dress. It's a big family thing. My entire extended family turned up at my house to get photographs with me. Most important is the dress though. The dresses are usually long, formal and more like bridesmaids' dresses. Dates and dances come last. I don't know if this is what you're looking for though.


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debs_and_grads

    Here's a gallery from the hotel we went to:

    http://www.silverspringsmoranhotel.com/debs-gallery


    And the dresses:

    http://debsdress.ie/

  19. #19
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    Ah! This is in Ireland? I did not know that y'all had debs! Gorgeous dresses I do love to get to wear a formal dress!

    I wonder if the tradition of debs in the South has to do with our common Irish roots? Dunno, but a lot of our old traditions are tied to old Celtic ones we brought over I always find that fascinating.
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  20. #20
    practical experience, FTW CQuinlan's Avatar
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    Yup Ireland. Honestly, I have no idea where it came from. It might be Irish, or English or anything. When we like something, we tend to take it. XD

  21. #21
    ~~~~*~~~~ backslashbaby's Avatar
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    Us (Southerners, anyway), too
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