Coming Out to Society



The Victorian Debutante


The “coming out” of a young woman represented a change in her status from child to adult and her “introduction” to society. This became formalized in English aristocratic society in the first half of the nineteenth century through the Victorian period. Up to the point of their coming of age of seventeen or eighteen, girls did not have much of a role, other than to attend to their schooling, as social functions and contacts were fairly limited. A young lady’s introduction to society not only marked her transition to adulthood, but also her availability for marriage. Marriages were no longer being arranged by this time, so the formalization of the event helped insure that she would meet young men who were deemed suitable by her parents.

   For those in “society” with contacts to the royal family, the actual coming out was the introduction of the debutante to the king or queen. This usually occurred in June when the debutante would go to the royal palace at an appointed time. This was a big event with the debutante dressed in a long gown with a trailing court train wearing a tiara headdress. Indeed, she would practice getting in and out of a coach before the appointed day so that she could move gracefully when she arrived at the palace. The event itself was quite short, but was formal and conducted with a certain amount of “pomp and ceremony”. Once introduced, the debutante emerged as an adult and it marked the beginning of her first social season, although if she did not get married or engaged, the coming out was often repeated.








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