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What Is a Debutante?

Young women of about 18 years of age, from wealthy, upper class families are considered to be debutantes, especially after having being presented at an official ceremony. This ceremony is referred to as a ‘coming out’ event. The ‘coming out’ ceremony generally marks the young woman’s eligibility for marriage and welcomes her into the social scene.

Queen Elizabeth II abolished the annual debutante coming out ball in 1958. So it is no longer an official event nor does it receive any royal support. Before 1958 in Britain and the United Kingdom, young women would be presented to the reigning monarch. The viceroy of Northern Ireland would represent the monarch in at a similar event in North Ireland. The debutantes would wear white gowns and long white gloves on their hands and a woman who had been presented in the past would present the debutante to court.

This has since been considered a socially divisive event and also puts young women at risk of being the prey of men. The debutantes were expected to be young women from the upper class with a sizeable inheritance. This meant that only the upper classes and the minor royalty could socialize and marry within themselves. Young women from the middle class could have little access to the debutante status unless they received favor from an upper class woman who could present them at court.

Nowadays, the debutante ceremonies are popular in the United States of America southern and eastern states, Hispanic countries and the upper class in the Philippines as a rite of passage and coming of age.

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