Launching of the Debs

In most of the Indian communities, still arranged marriages are common. Usually, when a family is ready to marry off their children, they start taking the boy/girl to social events like weddings and get-togethers where they expect to find suitable bride or groom within their community.

Likewise, in the past there was similar culture in the western aristocratic societies as well. 17-year-old girls are called as debutantes, and they would be, launched into society where they could meet eligible bachelors, between March to August. This was called as The Season and the occasion would be referred as Coming out Dance.

The term debutante is pronounced as:

Often they are just called as debs for short. Unlike Indian communities, it was quite surprising to know the planning and preparation required to become a deb! For starters, the girls were sent to Finishing Schools in France, London or Switzerland, depending on the family's financial status. Here, they learnt to dance, how to behave in society and write courteous notes. In short, all aspects of etiquette would be taught in the finishing schools.

At the Kensington Palace, The Last Debutantes section presents a clear picture of this culture. Here, I came across a deb's comment, on how they managed to fake their waists to look smaller:

We always wore petticoats under our dresses to make our waists look smaller - Judy Johnson

They were using the dress to show off their riches. The narrow waist dress shown in the above picture is studded with precious stones and rich thread work. Moreover, see this clipping to get an idea of how frivolous they have been:

Yet again, a similarity with the Indian custom is that, like the Indian brides, the debs eagerly used to anticipate the guests. Here is a classic photo where the debs are waiting for guests to arrive.

Besides the formal coming out, they were very fashion conscious in selecting the dresses and accessories for the whole season. 

I guess they would have used these clothes to out with the chosen guys. Um, of course debs were always chaperoned.


Reno said...

In old chinese, daughter is called "debts". :P

VaishVijay said...

lol. on a serious note, even now in rural Indian communities, girls=debts and rate of female infanticide is high...

haan said...

too bad. the women in the past were just like... grow up to be married out to another family. sad. nothing more meaningful than getting married?

VaishVijay said...

Yes. Apart from finding a good wealthy catch, it looks like the girls never had any goals in their life. What a pity!

Though I have read about debs in novels, I never expected such fanfare and vanity, until I visited the Kensington Palace exhibition.

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