Monday, 26 January 2009

Kensington Palace - To Deb or not to Deb?

Recently, I went to Kensington Palace to view the last debutantes exhibition.
The exhibit takes visitors on a journey into the glamorous and alluring world of the debutante with a new exhibition marking the 50th anniversary of the last court presentations. The last debutantes were presented to the Queen at Buckingham Palace in March 1958. After making their curtesies, some cheeky debs stole palace teaspoons to take home as souvenirs.

The main aim of the debutante was to acquire and secure a weathy husband.
A debutante would go out into the world and attend a series of balls and parties for a season and other high society functions to attract an affluent man for the purpose of marriage.

To Deb or not to Deb? How does being a debutante hold up in today's modern world?Have expectations of men and women changed since the 1950's? In the exhibit, their was a multimedia video interviewing young Drama students from Charles Catholic Sixth Form College. In their video they reflect on their own experiences in comparison to the young debutantes of 1958. Unlike the debutantes, most girls want to work and be independent of a man. Most of the young women in the interview, stated strongly that it was highly imperative for their success to go to college and to have careers. They feel that their role as wife and mother were secondary to that of having a career and making something of themselves. In addition, that depending on a man to provide meaning and a sense of purpose was considered old fashioned and outdated.

After many young womens parents were paying fees to pretend to be a debutante, Finally, Lord Chamberlain claimed the end of a dying and outdated tradition and that was the end of the Debutante as we know it.

For more blogs by Sabrina Bravissimo



Royal Historical Palaces

What should visitors expect?
The last debutantes exhibition will draw visitors into the world of the debutante.

Visitors experienced the bewildering rules of etiquette, dizzying schedule of presentations, cocktail parties and dances and they will have the chance to be schooled in the art of the perfect curtsey.

The glamorous gowns of some of the last ‘debs’ were displayed alongside photographs and personal memories, creating an evocative multimedia experience.

The exhibition will capture the spirit of a world in transition in which the status of the upper classes became a subject of fierce debate. With the diminishing spectre of world war, independence in the colonies and cultural revolution around the corner, the debutantes’ days were numbered.

Against a mix of ceremony and indulgence, the exhibition illustrates the social unrest, political activism and teenage culture that set the scene of change in Britain during the summer of 1958: the year of the last debutantes.

Fashionable afternoon dresses and ball gowns, including stunning examples of couture by Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain, as well as accessories worn by some of the ‘debs’ during the final Season of 1958 will be displayed in this multimedia exhibition which tells their stories against the backdrop of dramatic social change that heralded the arrival of the swinging sixties.


In the United Kingdom, until 1958 debutantes were presented at court at the start of the social season. Only ladies who had already been presented were entitled to present another lady, which ensured the social exclusivity of the privilege. Most women were presented by their own mothers, but this would not be possible if their own mother had not been presented, or was dead or absent from Court for any other reason. Hence, it was possible to be presented, instead, by another eligible woman, provided she personally knew and could vouch for the lady being presented. As well as debutantes properly so called, older women and married women who had not previously been presented could be presented at Court. A mother-in-law might, for example, present her new daughter-in-law.

The presentation, to the reigning monarch, followed an elaborate ritual, and the debutante was required to wear distinctive formal court dress. In particular, they were required either to carry feathers (usually in the form of an ostrich feather fan), or to wear feathers as part of their headdress. [1]

Queen Elizabeth II abolished the ceremony of presentation at Court of debutantes in 1958. Attempts were made to keep the tradition going by organising a series of parties for young girls who might otherwise have been presented at Court in their first season (to which suitable young men were also invited). However, the withdrawal of royal patronage made these occasions increasingly insignificant, and scarcely distinguishable from any other part of the social season.

However, the expression "debutante" or "deb" for short continues to be used, especially in the press, to refer to young girls of marriageable age who participate in a semi-public upper class social scene. The expression "deb's delight" is applied to good looking unmarried young men from similar backgrounds.



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