“Isabella having gone through the usual ceremonial of meeting her friend with the most smiling and affectionate haste, of admiring the set of her gown, and envying the curl of her hair, they followed their chaperones, arm in arm, into the ballroom, whispering to each other whenever a thought occurred, and supplying the place of many ideas by a squeeze of the hand or a smile of affection.” –Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
In Northanger Abbey we learn nothing about Catherine or Isabella coming out, but we know they are able to go to social gatherings such as balls in Bath.
How does this relate to you? Well if your family is of humbler means like the Morlands and the Thorpes, there will likely be a small country ceremony in the late spring or early summer for the girls of your village, which you may attend. However, you may have the good fortune to capture the attention of a wealthy patroness who can pave the way for you to be presented in London.
4. You haven’t given in to any wicked behavior, have you? In order to be presented at court you must have a woman of status to vouch for your moral and social character.
5. If you have made all of your preparations, then it is time to submit your application to be approved by the Lord Chamberlain. He will contact you with the date of your ball. The debutante balls at St. James Palace are held on Thursday evenings at 10pm, during the high social season in London. Expect the celebration to be sometime between Easter and the end of June.
6. Now that all of the stuffy, boring details have been accounted for, we can proceed to the entertaining pastime of planning your dress! The Lord Chamberlain has issued a strict dress code for the court debutante balls.
The court dress is expected to have a low bodice with a high waist and a train that reaches at least three feet long. The train’s end must be precisely 54 inches wide. As you are unmarried, it is vital that your dress be white. You may notice many women who are your senior wearing dresses of color. They most likely have not had the opportunity to be presented earlier in life, and, of course, white is most unsuitable for a woman of higher years.
Your gloves should be white unless you are in mourning, in which case it is permissible for them to be black or grey. However, it is never excusable to wear a black dress when coming-out, regardless of the circumstances.
If you will be coming-out at a smaller country affair, your dress should still be white, but there is much more leniency in the length, cut, and so on. Chances are, you may have an older sister or cousin who is ready to hand down the dress in which she came-out. A charming way to pass the torch, as I’m sure you will agree.
And now for the pièce de résistance (if we must quote the French): the plumes! It is absolutely necessary for your plumes to be white, regardless of age or mourning. As an unmarried young lady you shall wear three plumes whereas your married counterparts will be sporting two.
All that’s left is to keep practicing your court curtsey and you’ll be all set!
Congratulations on your debut! Once you are out, you must show yourself in society as often as possible and take full advantage of the social season either in London or in your own town. As you can abandon the reservation and demureness that propriety required of you before, you now have the opportunity to acquaint an abundance of eligible young men with all of your desirable accomplishments and family assets. It is your time to shine. Remember to ride your horse publicly as means of showing off your figure, and you are sure to snatch up a wealthy lord or duke and produce an heir in no time!