Isobel Larken (L) and Melody Zhao, (R) Debutante of the Year, greet guests at Queen Charlotte’s Ball at Lancaster House.

Isobel Larken (L) and Melody Zhao, (R) Debutante of the Year, greet guests at Queen Charlotte’s Ball at Lancaster House.

Debutante balls have been a thing for more than 400 years. Queen Elizabeth I first introduced the practice as a way to present her ladies-in-waiting as ready for marriage.

The tradition of young ladies donning white dresses and gloves to make their “grand entrance” into society still exists in the United States. But the event’s contemporary purpose can vary — from a rite of passage into adulthood, to a true bid to nab suitors and present a girl as “marriage material.”

What value do debutante balls add to a community? And why has the practice persisted for so long?

Produced by Avery J.C. Kleinman.

Guests

  • Deryn Anaya Patin Debutante, The Original Illinois Club, New Orleans, La.
  • Kristen Richardson Author, "The Season: A Social History of the Debutante"; @butwhyevernot
  • Miya Carey Postdoctoral associate in History, Binghamton University (SUNY); @MiyaCarey1

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