Debutante Season: Rules and Rituals

Debutante season is upon us: a time when young women don their white gowns and are presented to society.

The formal debutante ball is usually held right around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, when young women are home from college. These formal events call for a certain etiquette for the debutante, her escorts, her family, and guests.

Dress Code

The proper attire for a debutante is, of course, a white gown with a full skirt. Dresses must be pure white, with no other colors. Off-white or cream is not acceptable. While the dress may be adorned with a few white crystals or lace panels, most debutante ball committees prefer for the dresses to be as plain and traditional as possible.

Choose appropriate accessories to go with the dress. A young debutante should have, at the minimum, a pair of long white gloves and white satin shoes with proper heel height. Proper heel height is determined by the final length of the gown and the height of the debutante.

Guests at the debutante ball should be dressed in their finest formal attire. Women should select a formal gown for the occasion, and men should be dressed in a tuxedo. Black tie is standard.


A debutante ball begins with a grand entrance by the debs. The debutantes are assigned two male escorts who will accompany them into the main ballroom. They will then bring the girls to the front of the room or, in some cases, up onto a stage where they are introduced and must perform a special curtsy known as a Texas Dip. All other attendees are expected to watch the events and applaud when appropriate but otherwise remain silent.

Dinner and Dancing

After the entrances, a formal dinner is held. Proper manners should be used at the dinner table, such as laying the napkin on your lap and placing it on the table when you are finished eating. Take small bites, do not talk with your mouth full, and use the correct silverware for the corresponding course. Speeches may take place after dinner, at which time attendees are expected to stop eating and listen quietly. Once dinner is finished, there is usually dancing for all guests.


Guests are not expected to give gifts to the debutante. However, if guests wish to do something, sending a bouquet of flowers to the young lady’s home prior to the event is most acceptable. Parents or grandparents of the debutante may wish to present their young lady with a keepsake gift, such as a strand of pearls, diamond-stud earrings, or an engraved piece of jewelry—it should be a classic gift that the debutante may wear throughout her life and that commemorates this special event.

Stylish Southern Soirees – 2013 NC Debutante Season

What to look for in a debutante dress?

In the South, there’s a kind of dress shopping that outshines the search for the perfect prom dress: It’s the deb dress, that illustrious white gown that is the epitome of grace and class. Shopping for this dress is tricky, but not impossible. Especially when you know what you should be looking for.

2013 North Carolina Debutante SeasonDebutante balls, or “coming out” parties, began as a young lady’s introduction to society, originally announcing that the young woman was now eligible to marry. The young men that attended were traditionally upper class and part of the young lady’s parents’ approved pool of eligible bachelors.

These days, preteen girls and boys are sent to dancing classes called “cotillion,” to prepare them for the deb ball that comes between ages of 16-19. In both cases, appropriate attire is not only recommended, but expected. White ball gowns and satin or kid gloves are the standard ensemble for young ladies and black tie dress for the young men.

While the mere mention of a white ball gown might suggest wedding dress, the fact is: it can be. Debutante dresses run the gamut from family heirlooms, to custom-made gowns, to off-the-rack ensembles. Don’t let the latter fool you, though. Those off-the-rack dresses, or as we like call them, ready-to-wear-couture gowns, are a more than suitable alternative.

While you’ll want to check with your local organization about dress specifics, traditionally speaking, the gown should be full, classic cut with a slight sleeve, and floor-length. White kid gloves are the perfect pairing for sleeved-gowns, but sleeveless should certainly be accompanied by white elbow-length gloves.

At Nitsa’s, we not only have an excellent selection of gowns and gloves to fit your body type and the occasion, we also have knowledgeable sales associates there to assist you in your search. From pulling dresses to getting you the like-a-glove fit, our Winston-Salem and Charlotte shops are your perfect fit.