Katherine debutantes ready to dance

A group of 23 young women will take an important step in their lives as they participate in the Katherine debutante ball on June 3. 

Deb ball organiser Annette Lynch said the evening would be a memorable one for those young women.

“They practice two nights a week for two hours at a time, that goes on for eight weeks,” Ms Lynch said.  

The ball has outgrown its traditional venue at the Katherine Museum and will be held at St Joseph’s College this year. 

“Traditionally a deb ball was held when girls came of age to be presented to society,” Ms Lynch said. 

“It is driven by the fact there isn’t a lot out there for this age group, so all of them are really excited about this.”

Tickets for the ball will go on sale next week and cost $70 per person.

Débutante (French for female beginner) balls were a highlight, hosted at the grand houses of the aristocracy during the Regency and into the Victorian era.

Lord Byron referred to these galas as marriage marts, because it was the best venue for young ladies to encounter possible suitors.

Once  young ladies were “out” they were expected to “ride the parks” and show off their fine statuesque figures, while mounted on magnificent expensive horses, accompanied by a parent, a brother, or a groom.

The presentation of débutantes at court during the early period of Victoria’s reign, known as the “coming out” ceremony, coincided with the start of the London high social season.

Two or three days would be set aside for the presentations, about one to two hundred girls each day, queuing up in their carriages outside  Buckingham Palace carrying bouquets and dressed rather like it was their wedding day.

The débutantes were young ladies who had reached an age of maturity, completed an education, and were ready to be introduced into society.

This meant the girl was eligible to marry, and the purpose was to display her to bachelors and their families for suitability.

An accomplished lady spoke several languages, played piano and sang, painted in watercolours and oils, did needlepoint, memorized every member of the monarchy and learned classical history and geography.

She also needed to be an elegant hostess, poised, and beautiful, while giving birth to as many children as possible. 

If a débutante went through the “coming out” process, including a presentation to the Queen and attending all the social functions, she was expected to be married within two or three years or considered a failure.

A single woman at thirty was a hopeless spinster.

Only a handful of girls met all the criteria in any given season.