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.

Entrances

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.

Gifts

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.

Let’s Talk: Interview with Austin Scarlett

Austin Scarlett InterviewMissed meeting Austin Scarlett at Nitsa’s? Never fear! This past weekend, I had the pleasure of sitting down with the one and only Austin Scarlett to talk about his new collection! Not only is he super nice, he is also super talented!

Nitsa’s: What was your inspiration for this collection?

Undine Dress by Austin Scarlett

Undine Dress in Austin’s New Collection

Austin: Well, the spring collection was inspired by waterfalls, mountain streams, and rushing water. You can see it definitely reflected in the Undine gown with its waterfall-like train. Undine is actually the name of an ancient water nymph, hence why this dress is named after her. The other dresses in this collection have a lot of soft, flowing fabrics like chiffon. All of the the fabrics sort of flow over the body like water flowing over a woman’s body. We used a lot of fabrics that are really light and fresher for the spring, and we give it some more biased cuts that have a more supple quality to them.

Nitsa’s: I actually noticed the dresses soft and flowing feel when we were taking pictures of the dresses. There is one that is gorgeous, and the fit is very flowing like you said. It reminds me of 1920s and 30s Hollywood, very elegant and sophisticated.

Genvieve Dress Austin Scarlett

Genvieve Dress from Austin Scarlett’s Collection

Austin: I love vintage in fashion. I am always inspired by history of all ages, from the 1800s and the palaces of Versailles to the glamor of the Golden Age of Hollywood. I definitely collect a lot of vintage clothing. I go to the flea market and collect these old pieces—even if they are falling apart because I can still get inspiration from an interesting cut or silhouette, and even from the details.

Nitsa’s: Oh that sounds like a fun thing to do! So, out of this collection, do you have a gown that you are absolutely in love with or a favorite one that you have designed?

Austin: You know, I really honestly believe that every dress comes to life in a different way on each individual woman. For me, it is really about finding the right dress for the bride as it suits her, and then when that is a good combination—then it looks beautiful.

Nitsa’s: That is so true. Do brides and debutantes tend to pick different gowns because of where they are geographically?

Austin: This is my first time in North Carolina with the collection. I am very excited to meet the Charlotte bride and see what her taste is and what she is looking for. There definitely is a difference from region to region. In New York City, there are definitely brides that range from ultra-sophisticated who want everything very simple to the very fashion-y brides who want something very fun and whimsical. I really love designing for all of them. I love the classic gowns, too, and we have a lot of the timeless ball gowns in this collection.

Nitsa’s: Do you like designing gowns for debutantes?

Austin: I love it! Debutantes are so much fun because they are young and excited about the whole experience, and it is not as much pressure as a wedding; it is just a ball.

Nitsa’s: It is a party with no commitment!

Austin: Yeah, exactly! I was actually an escort a couple of years ago, so I just love the whole experience and tradition of it. The dancing, the bow, the white gloves—all of it.

Nitsa’s: The whole event is so extraordinary!

Hyacinth Austin Scarlett

Hyacinth Dress in Austin Scarlett’s Collection

Austin: It is just so romantic and such a big tradition in America, but if you do have the opportunity to do it, I say go for it! It is so much fun!

Nitsa’s: Last question, is there a new style that brides are choosing more often today?

Austin: Lately, the most prominent trend that I have seen around is a lot of back interest, whether it be a low backless gown or even something with a very dramatic train with a simple front.We have a lot of backless dresses in this collection as well as those with a lot of detailing on the back!

For more information about Austin Scarlett’s gowns, please contact us at either the Winston or Charlotte location.