How to be a San Francisco Debutante

Who does not want to be a debutante in San Francisco? That one’s easy. The real questions is how does one become a debutante in San Francisco? Hint: it takes more than money and a white dress (although those items are included in the criteria).

The process begins with the selection of the girls by the Women’s Board of the California Pacific Medical Center Foundation. Prospective debutantes are scouted a few years leading up to the ball. They are invited at age 17 or 18.  But, for the debutantes, the ball (no pun intended) began rolling a long time before that. The criteria is a young woman who:
– is well-rounded
– noncontroversial
– charitable in her respective community
– from a family that does volunteer work in the community

Once the group of young women are identified, invitations are sent in the fall. Included within is an overview of the schedule and a requirement for a charitable contribution. The first event, called “The Mother’s Coffee,” occurs in January. The coffee serves as an opportunity for the prospective debutantes’ mothers to meet the board members. Following that, in the second week of February, is a tea for both the debutantes and their mothers, for everyone to get to know one another. Along the way, there are lunches, brunches, and a hospital tour.

In the weeks leading up to the debutante ball in June, there are many preparations and parties. Families are encouraged to host private parties for the debutantes before the ball. Two of the biggest preparations are choosing the escort and the dress. The male escort for a debutante can range in age from a senior in high school to a sophomore in college. It is encouraged that a debutante does not invite her boyfriend to be her escort in case of a break up. But, most importantly (and fun), the dress! It is not a coincidence that every girl is wearing a white gown. Guidelines for dresses include:
-it must be white (NOT ivory)
-have a full skirt (full enough for a comfortable curtsy)
-shoulder straps are mandatory

Once the escort and the dress are secured, parties and meetings attended, and the ball is just around the corner, the prospective debutante has a two day setting up period for the event. Over two days, the young women and their father’s tweak their Fox Trot for a total of seven hours, and participate in a formal rehearsal for the big night.

The ball may end the “coming out” experience, but you are then a debutante for life. It is the hope of the Women’s Board of the California Pacific Medical Center Foundation that through this experience the debutantes will take the theme of philanthropy with them throughout the rest of their lives.

Scenes from the 51st California Pacific Medical Center Debutante Ball, held at the Westin St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco on June 30, 2015:

Photos by Drew Altizer Photography

The San Francisco Debutantes of 2015: Jennifer Hannah Baylis, Julia Marley Chenette, Katarina Lina Churich,  Hailey Elizabeth Cusack, Kendall Marion Finnegan, Curry Sullivan Fisher, Elizabeth Mason Grayson, Mary Elizabeth GrinnellKatherine Hamilton Harris, Sarah Elisabeth Jackmauh, Allaire Houston Kruse, Madeleine Elizabeth Lamm, Rachael Jayne Maier, Lily Ann Ostler, Paloma Elizabeth Palmer, Brooke Emily Raabe, Jennifer Suzanne Reynolds, Camille Anne Rich, Sara Reeves Scannell,  Paige Alexandra Silverman, Diana Laura Silvestri, Solange Celeste Soward, Connolly Grace Steigerwald, Lindsey Marie Weber

— Written by Maddy Moriarty for Red Carpet Bay Area

— More Red Carpet Bay Area coverage of the San Francisco Debutante Ball: 2014 and 2013.