What is a Debutante Ball?

A debutante ball is an event where a young female, or in some cultures, a young male, is formally introduced into society.  In many societies, a debutante ball is associated with wealthy and socially-influential families.  The United States, England, Ireland and Australia all have variations of the debutante ball.

 

In Australia, a debutante ball is often part of the high school system.  The Australian debutante ball is usually optional and only for those students, both male and female, who wish to take part.  Both males and females are included because the ball symbolizes the debut of the soon to graduate high school student into the young adult world.  Traditionally, the girl asks the boy to the debutante ball and dinner and speeches and ballroom dancing are all features of the evening.

 

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In Ireland, debutante balls are often quite similar to high school promos in the United States.  The debutante ball is a school function and students either go with formal dates or with an informal group of friends.  It is customary for either a boy to ask a girl to the ball or a girl to ask a boy.  Students often travel by limousine for the occasion.  Ballroom dancing is often available, but is traditionally not considered a mandatory activity at an Irish debutante ball.

 

In England, the history of the debutante ball centers around ceremonies that involved the debutante having to wear certain clothing such as a feather head dress.  Traditionally, English debutantes were introduced by former debutantes, often the mothers if they had had a coming out, or else a mother-in-law introducing her son’s new wife.  Quite often though, debutante was a young woman ready to look for a husband.  Queen Elizabeth II sanctioned court ceremonies for debutantes and began the English practice of more social introductions in the form of a debutante ball.

 

In the United States, a debutante ball is also sometimes called a cotillion.  American debutante balls may be quite elite and formal with a receiving line of debutantes all in white gowns who are introduced in turn on stage by their fathers.  The debutante also often has a date at the ball or sometimes more than one male date.  The males may also be dressed all in white or in a military uniform.  Charity donations may be a part of the American debutante ball.