Friday, September 27, 2013

The Debutante Debut As A Rite Of Passage For Coming Out As An Uber~Feminine Lady



©2008-2013 The Seductive Woman

Good evening, angel! The debutantes' debut has traditionally been a rite of passage ceremony for young women and girls, and observed among certain elements of the upper classes for the purpose of introducing young women into society. 

The late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis herself was once a lovely debutante ~ as was her mother, Janet Lee ~ who was belle of her debutante season, and for her appealing femininity and Parisian elegance.  *Smile*

Jacqueline's mother was brought up in the glittering twenties ~ just like the daughters of many other well-born and affluent New York parents. She also went to Miss Spence's School and learned and perfected the 'social graces.' 

As for the young Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (her maiden name at the time  was Jacqueline Bouvier,) as a debutante she was also lovely, but Jacqueline was more down to earth than her mother was, and thought that all 'coming out' parties should be teas instead of expensive dances. 

Nevertheless, Jacqueline was deluged with floral bouquets when she was introduced as a debutante, and newspapers described her dress as "a lovely white tulle gown with an off~the~shoulder neckline and bouffant skirt."

This debutante dress had only cost Jackie fifty-nine dollars. Yet Janet ~ always so proud and supportive of her daughter ~ wanted her to have the most ravishing of all creations. That being said, the simple gown was still lovely, and despite Janet being a little disappointed.

A newspaper columnist wrote about the young Jacqueline Bouvier:

"Every year a new Queen of Debutantes is crowned. Queen Deb of the Year is Jacqueline Bouvier, a regal brunette who has classic features and the daintiness of Dresden porcelain. She has poise, is soft-spoken and intelligent, everything the leading debutante should be.

Her background is strictly 'Old Guard.' Jacqueline is now studying at Vassar. You don't have to read a batch of press clippings to be aware of her qualities."

As result of this article, Jacqueline was badgered by much un-wanted attention, dove. But being the ever elegant, ever poised and ever regal and self-possessed pedigree woman, it didn't disturb her too much. *Smile*

A New York columnist also commented about her:

"Jacqueline Bouvier, Queen Deb of the Year is being besieged with offers of all sorts and demands for interviews and pictures. But her conservative family is shying away from all publicity." 

Another columnist stated:

"Look at Bouvier's poise! What a gal! She's the beautiful daughter who's blessed with the looks of a fairy~princess.Jacqueline doesn't know the meaning of the word snob!" 



In this femininity lesson we are going to learn about:

A little about the history of the debutante's 'coming out' ritual as a rite of passage for young women and girls of upper class society

Debutante traditions and rules of conduct and character

Debutante traditions and rules of conduct and character

What makes a young woman eligible to become a debutante 

Taboos for a debutante

The final stages of 'coming out' and introduction issues

The role of the director of debutante parties and why debutantes love her

What the debutante and her parent's deem a worthy and acceptable young man

The debutante 'season' and how to best succeed in it and become a most exclusive belle

Secrets Of belle elegance and exclusiveness in dress 

The traditional debutante's secrets of poise, serenity and self~confidence

The debutante debut has always been a formal sign, dove, that a young woman has ceased to be considered a child, and is now to be considered as a young woman and lady who'll take her place elegantly in adult society, begin to assume responsibility for her own behavior and decisions, and be ready for college, a career or for marriage. 

This rite occurs, logically, when a young woman is at the age of physical and mental maturity, and when she's physically and socially fitted, to pass from girlhood into womanhood. 

Nevertheless, a 'debutante~to~be's' social group is a restricted and exclusive group. To gain admittance into this group means that she has to fulfill certain necessary requirements of membership. 

Furthermore, the formal debut is a public announcement of this accomplishment. And with the recognition, a young woman acquires all the privileges and responsibilities that are entailed in membership. 



The Traditional Introduction And Presentation Of Debutantes 

First a young woman's parents 'introduce' her to their own contemporaries in their set. They then 'present' the product of their careful rearing to their approved friends, and with the unspoken sentiment:

"This is my lovely daughter, now prepared to enter into and take part in our own social set. She's up for your inspection, and may she be acceptable."

At the turn of the twentieth century ~ before a young debutante's introduction to society ~ a young woman of the upper classes wasn't permitted to attend public social functions alone with a young man, or to mingle socially. 

A debutante's introduction marked the time at which she had completed her education, had left her socially restricted girlhood, was permitted to join adult social groups, and was eligible to be escorted and courted by a high value young man. 

Naturally, marriage to a high value and socially approved young man was a definite end goal at this particular time, doll, and at a time when marriage was almost exclusively the only career open to girls of this class, and when very few of them pursued higher education. 

In this class, and in those times, a young 'debutante~to~be' never had had a date, never went out on the street unless escorted by her elders, or in the company of an escort. 

Her introduction was a definite and exciting change for her, however, and which virtually overnight brought a drastic change in her relationships with her whole social group, and immediately gave her new privileges, responsibilities, and a new status. 

The Traditional Debut 'Season' Was About: 

Indoctrinating daughters in the ladylike and uber-feminine etiquette and techniques of social life at an upper class level.

Daughters learning lessons of elegant and refined womanhood, and imitating and assimilating these lessons while in the process of being habitually exposed to them.



The General Ritual For Becoming A Debutante:

1. Preparation. Although the training of a pre-debutante is no longer a conscious discipline of learning the skills of womanhood, cupcake, and of elegant and refined lady-hood from a governess, tutor, dancing master, and/or Mademoiselle, the ceremony of the debut is nevertheless a rite of passage for young women, and which involves useful and long preparation according to a fairly well-defined system. 

The traditional debut wasn't merely an event which parents suddenly decided to 'give' their daughters to society. The preparation for the introduction into society was a way of living, and which began almost with the birth of a daughter. 

Traditionally the pre-debutante must grow up in a debutante-producing environment. For example, if the pre-debutante's parents have assured social standing, she'll be able to form her friendships with the children of her parents' friends, and learn to do the same things that they do. 

In addition, the pre-debutante will go to the same private pre-schools and kindergartens and schools where other pre-debutantes go. Furthermore, if a pre-debutante's parents' standing is doubtful ~ but they're financially able to compete ~ she may be still be sent to the same kindergartens and schools where other pre-debutantes attend.

The establishment of early and continued friendships with socially 'accepted' children will tend to make a girl an integral part of the whole pre-debutante group, and inseparable from them when the time for their common introduction season arrives. 

Pre-debutantes grow up together, lovely, 'knowing the ropes' and being accepted together as genuine 'debutante material.' *Smile*

Moreover, a large part of the necessity for early association with the group lies in the learning of the tools, techniques, customs, and manners of that particular group, and so intimately, that they'll be worn becomingly and naturally. 


The debutante world of upper-class society is the world of:

Good breeding, conservatism and conformance

Physical attractiveness and careful attention to correct dress and grooming (even though in certain groups that may mean carefully looking a little careless) 

Ladylike elegance and familiarity with the visible forms of gentle social etiquette and custom

Being familiar with 'high society' activities such as sailing, swimming, tennis, horseback riding, ballroom dancing, pedigree animal breeding and social conversation

Having that unaffected charm of manner that the French refer to as 'savoir faire'

Being socially outgoing or able to interact well with other people when necessary

Being a good hostess 

Being a proper and elegant lady

Easy familiarity with the ways of upper-class society marked the wholly acceptable 'debutante~to~be,' and this was only acquired in a process of slow and continuous living with and socializing with other members of this set.



The Debutante Debut As A Rite Of Passage For Coming Out As An Uber~Feminine Lady ~ Debutante Eligibility

Theoretically, doll, any young woman and girl can become a debutante. This can be accomplished simply by sending in a name to be put in a book which contains the debutante list for her specific season, and by selecting a date for the introduction party and for sending out invitations. 

However, if the traditional debutante crowd wouldn't attend one's party, or extend invitations to a girl for their own parties, the girl may have 'come out,' but she'd be a debutante in name only. 

As I previously stated, being a debutante traditionally meant being a functioning member of a special and very select social group, and of a carefully guarded circle. 

 Furthermore, in regards to a pre~debutante's eligibility, family background has traditionally been of prime importance, as is financial standing, and conduct and character on the behalf of a girl are naturally very important factors. 

So a dubious social status or a bad reputation, dear one ~ and due to a young woman's own poor behavior ~ will go against her hopes of being a debutante, and she won't be able to become a debutante in the full meaning of the term. 

In addition, the girls who've gained entry to this guarded social circle have also needed to learn the successful debutante prerequisites, and fulfill them. (Just as definitely as a petitioning member of a restricted club or Country Club.)

The following things are considered as reprehensible in the case of the debutante, and should therefore be considered  as taboo:

1. Rudeness and coarseness of any kind

2. Stressing one's physical assets at the expense of good taste and good breeding

3. Loud talking

4. The mechanical smile

5. Artificial laughter and giggling

6. A bored tone of voice

7. Whispering

8. Nudging, patting or fingering others

9. Holding hands, hanging on someone for support, or walking arm about waist with another person in public

10. Touching a man with the hand ~ except when dancing or when taking his arm as an usher at christening or wedding ~ or as a dinner or supper partner

11. Walking or standing with one's hips thrown out and chest drawn in

12. Swinging one's arms when crossing a ball-room floor

13. Neglecting the courtesies due older people



The Debutante Debut As A Rite Of Passage For Coming Out As An Uber~Feminine Lady ~ The Final Stages Of Coming Out And Introduction Issues   

Traditionally, in the last years of high school there would emerge a fairly definite 'sub-deb' group of girls, ready to blossom into uber-feminine and lovely ladies . These young girls would be also be spotted by adults in the know, dove, as the potential debutantes of their graduation year. 

(In a less organized, but mimicking fashion, these sub-debs would commence their own little social whirl ~ similar to the back~and~forth entertaining of their already introduced sisters.
They would also be trying out their wings, and feeling the first flutterings of accomplishment as their names began to appear in the society columns of the local newspapers.)

As for the time of introduction, during the spring vacation from school, and in the senior year, the first formal ceremony of separation would occur for the girls about to become debutantes. 

(This was the Junior Bal Masque, to be exact, and given each year for charity, and was the symbol that a new debutante season has begun.)

The tickets for the Junior Bal Masque would be issued by invitation only, thus restricting participation to the debutantes of the new season, to those of the two past seasons, and to the young men deemed as suitable to these girls. 

Thus, those girls were now then officially set apart as a new group ~ and as an age and social~class separation.

The second pre-deb ceremony ~ one that marked the separation from girlhood ~ was an individual ceremony, and the formal introduction party. This occurred after the girls graduated from high school ~ several months after the Junior Bal Masque ~ and when the girls were about seventeen or eighteen years old. 

(A second clustering of parties would occur at Christmas vacation, and others would be scattered over weekends during the college year.)

The introduction ceremony formerly consisted of two parties ~ a tea, at which the girl's parents presented her to their friends ~ and a dance or dinner dance for presentation to the girl's contemporaries. 

But if finances were limited, dear one, it was considered better to give one successful party than two less significant ones.

As for the differences between these parties, they ranged from being a small and modest tea to being a large and magnificent tea and ball. But these differences ~ which occurred for the most part on a financial-class basis ~ were differences in degree only. 

In addition, the form of party given, the procedures and techniques for making it a success, were always set, and the same for all girls of all families.



The Debutante Debut As A Rite Of Passage For Coming Out As An Uber~Feminine Lady ~ The Role Of The Director of Debutante Parties 

The date for a girl's introduction party was selected years before her graduation or close to it. The services of a Director of Debutante Parties was needed to help choose these dates, and so there wouldn't be conflicts during the season. 

The Director's further services ~ as the party date approached ~ were indispensable. In a sense, her role in this rite of passage for girls was the closest modern counterpart of the role of the tribal elder or of a high priest in more primitive sacred ceremonies. 

(For she held the key to the ritual book of knowledge, and was the coordinator for the group!)

The Director of Debutantes (and her staff,) would also take over all the essential and rigid details of the ceremonies, and she would act as the girls' personal counselor whenever she deemed it necessary. 

Past debutantes have described the relationship between them and the Directors of their party as rather close, permeating and dependent. One of them remarked confidently, "If Mrs. X. once takes hold of you, you're made."

As for the size and form of the parties chosen, dove, they would always be a spectacular celebration of their kind. They would be announced beforehand in the society columns of the newspapers, and if worthy of such attention, would be described in the pages the day following them. 

At these parties the parents would 'receive'and introduce their daughter to the guests, and who were carefully chosen with the help of the Director. The stage would be set for the girl to appear dressed in her most formal best ~ looking her loveliest and most elegant ~ and surrounded by flowers, family, friends and young men. 

Often a debutante would be pictured in the newspapers, in her finery among the flowers. She herself would also be the center of attention during this ceremony, and which impressed on her elders and friends that she was no longer a little high school girl, but a young member of an adult, select society.




The Debutante Debut As A Rite Of Passage For Coming Out As An Uber~Feminine Lady ~ What The Debutante And Her Parents Deem A Worthy And Acceptable Young Man

One of the more important parts of the introduction balls was the selection of guests, and particularly of the young men guests. And in order for such a dance to be successful, there would be an ample excess of boys over girls invited, and two boys invited for every girl being a safe ratio. 

These young men had to:

1. Be conscientious in fulfilling their obligations. (For a successful dance was one at which every girl could enjoy herself and no girl became a wallflower. The debutante herself also had to be permitted a real show of popularity, as well.)

Understand this sort of party and assume a responsibility for its success. (Rather than merely coming to have a good time with the girls of their choice.) 

2. Be considered 'nice' young men. (If they behaved themselves unbecomingly, they reflected on their hostess at an extremely critical and public period of her social life.)

3. Be eligible young men. (For they were the prospective escorts for this season of intensive social interaction, and therefore possible suitors or husbands.) 

At some of the debutante balls, cupcake,  as many as two hundred and fifty young male guests were needed! Hence, it became impossible for a girl and her family to select them alone, for the simple reason that they weren't acquainted with so many, and of such a caliber.

Here the Director of Debutante Parties filled an extremely important need. In her office there was kept a 'boys list,' from which the girl would select her guests, and with the aid of the Director. 

To keep this list up to date, cards would also be sent out from her office each year to prospective members of it. 



The young men had to be young men who:

Went to good schools

Had good families

Were themselves respectable

**The young men who were invited to the parties had to be carefully observed, also. 

The reasons that young men would be taken off the boy's list were:

Drinking too much

Not dancing with the hostess

Accepting invitations but not coming to the party

Engaging in any 'unseemly' behavior

Shirking their normal social responsibilities

**In this matter of checking the book and talking to the Director a girl's parents could be reasonably sure that the goal of letting 'youth have its fling' in a right way was protected. The emphasis on this list and the care with which it was restricted was extremely significant as a tool in restrictive class separation.

The Debutante Debut As A Rite Of Passage For Coming Out As An Uber~Feminine Lady ~ The debutante Season And How To Best Succeed At It And Become A Most Exclusive Belle



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1 comment:

  1. Melina, Have you ever thought about forming your blog posts into a book? There is so much wonderful information here!

    ~Tabitha

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