A debutante ball is a grand occasion wherein a girl makes her first formal appearance in society as a young woman. Like any formal event, there is a dress code that applies here as well. Fashionhance provides some tips on how to dress for a debutante ball.
A Standing Tradition
Queen Elizabeth II repealed the age-old custom of debutante balls in the United Kingdom in the 1950s. However, this event is still carried on today in many parts of the world. For example, the International Debutante Ball held every December at the Waldorf Astoria, New York, is one such distinguished and illustrious event.
The debutante ball is a concept that originated from Europe in the 1700s. The word debutante comes from the French word debuter, which means ‘to lead’. This was a grand event wherein prestigious families would launch their daughters into society. It was conducted in a certain way, and a dress code and proper decorum were expected. The following paragraphs provide a brief history of this event, and also explain what to wear for one.
The main aim of starting the tradition of a debutante ball was to formally introduce girls from upper-class families to suitors of similar societal standing, when the girls attained a marriageable age. An esteemed member of a high-class society would sponsor or recommend a deb (short for debutante) for the ball. These balls were traditionally held for a group of debs, wherein they were first presented in front of the Queen.
With the passage of time, the way this event is celebrated has also changed. Nowadays, it is more of a charity event, where the deb’s parents donate money to a cause. The invited guests have to purchase their own tickets. It is expected to be a formal occasion, where the father of the deb presents her to the society. Nowadays, a girl can have her own party, or two or three families can organize it together. These events are also called cotillions.
The debutantes are usually between the ages of 18 and 21, although younger girls can also debut; they are called junior debutantes. The deb must have an escort with her; it can be any male member of her family, or he can be assigned to her by the host committee.
✦The Dress Code✦
The traditional dress code for a debutante ball was a white dress, with pearls, white gloves, and white shoes. Shades of white or other colors were prohibited. Sometimes, the dresses had hoops as well. The headdress consisted of feathers for unmarried girls, and tiaras for married women. The deb was sponsored by her own mother or any female member of her family. A woman could also sponsor her daughter-in-law. Married women participated in these balls so that they could be formally introduced to society.
Although most of these customs have been retained today, the feathered headdress is not seen anymore. The dress styles have also evolved with the times, with some even having abolished the all-white rule. However, the dress code depends on the committee hosting the event. Some have very specific rules about what is required and what is not accepted; some require the dress to be presented before them prior to the ball so that it can be approved. Hence, before you go looking for your gown, make sure that you know the requirements and rules, if any.
✦Choosing The Gown✦
The first and most important rule while selecting any piece of clothing is to go in for one that is well-suited to your body type. Start your search well in advance, because finding the perfect gown may take time. If you find it in a day, then lucky you! But it is always better to leave a time window for any unforeseen contingencies.
Now, the most obvious place to find a beautiful white gown is the bridal store; a deb’s gown is just like a wedding dress minus the veil and train. Since this is a formal occasion, it’s better to go in for a conservative style. Preferably, avoid high slits, plunging or low necklines, and deep backs. Stick to a simple yet elegant design. Some committees do not allow strapless gowns, so inquire before you purchase your dress.
You can also surf the internet and check out the various designs available. If you know a place where you can get the dress tailor-made to suit your specifications, then you can find a style you like or design one of your own, get the fabric, and have an entirely unique gown made for yourself!
A Half-sleeved Gown
✦And The Adornments✦
The shoes must be white. They can be transparent or semi-transparent as well. There is no compulsion to wear heels; you can wear flats if that is more comfortable for you. Find shoes that look classy and elegant. There is going to be a lot of standing and walking; so if you are opting for heels, be absolutely sure that you will be able to wear them the whole time. Otherwise, choose a pair of comfortable flats.
White High Heels
Elegant White Flats
It is very important to select the shoes before having the final fitting of your gown. As your gown needs to be floor-length, its height will be determined by the height of your heels. So wear the shoes that you have selected while finalizing the gown’s fitting and length. Also make it a point to practice walking in the shoes beforehand so that there are no problems on the final day.
There are many ways to style your hair beautifully for a debutante ball, whether you are participating or attending as a guest. If you have long hair, you can style it into elegant waves and let it loose, or you can tie it up in many creative buns or braids. Short hair can be tied into a low chignon; it can also be curled or straightened and left open.
Elegant High Bun
Beautiful Braided Style
Low Braided Bun
Elegant Low Chignon
White pearls are the most common when it comes to a debutante’s jewelry. However, clear stones are also a viable option. Remember that the jewelry must be simple, not loud. There is an option not to wear any jewelry at all; it depends entirely on the debutante. Some young ladies also wear tiaras.
The gloves must be white in color. Their length depends on the sleeves of the gown. If it is sleeveless, then the gloves must go above the elbows. Otherwise, wear elbow-length gloves. If the dress is full-sleeved, then wear wrist-length gloves.
✦For The Guests✦
If you are a guest at a debutante ball or the parents of the deb, then the dress code is formal or black tie. The women can wear any cocktail dress, while the men must wear a suit and a tie. As for the escort, along with the suit, wrist-length white gloves are a must.
A debutante ball is the first formal introduction of a girl to the society; it is entirely her moment. Knowing what to wear to, and how to dress for, this event will help any girl look her beautiful best and shine like the diamond that she is.