What is it like to be a debutante in 2017?
I interviewed my friend Sarah Seltsam who came out as a deb in San Francisco this year and I learned five things I think every young woman should consider before taking on the role:
1. Becoming a Debutante is a LOT of Work
From the intense hours of community service to the countless small events held in preparation for the Ball, you must be a dedicated and head strong young woman who is not afraid of putting the work first. Philanthropy is going to become your middle name, so get ready for the time commitment and to prioritizing your community before anything else.
Sarah Seltsam explained that after a full year of preparation, raising funds for the California Pacific Medical Center was an incredible and gratifying opportunity that she will never forget. I can imagine that any young woman would feel amazing knowing that her hard work provided a positive change in her community. All of that work could feel heavy on your shoulders while going through it, but once you are standing in a beautiful white gown amongst your closest friends, that weight is quickly lifted and clarity is found!
2. Be Prepared to Explain
The Debutante Ball is a very old fashioned tradition that many people today may not fully understand. Introducing yourself as a debutante will inevitably be followed by many questions. What is a debutante? When is the ball? You aren’t married yet, are you? Answering all of these questions is going to require a lot of patience, especially since the relevance of the Ball is frequently disputed.
However, Sarah reminds us that CPMC continues to hold this wonderful event for such an important cause and that in itself is enough to keep the tradition going. It also reminds her that the Ball serves more than simply gaining a new prestigious title. Rather, one builds character through the process and develops a stronger perception of oneself.
3. Donations, Donations, Donations
As a debutante, your community looks upon you as a social leader who gives back to the people. Donations prove to be an effective form of giving back, so be prepared to pull out the check book more than a few times during the process! You will become very familiar with social events and happenings in the city since you will be part of the collection and distribution of money to a variety of charities on a number of occasions. This is going to teach you to be more engaged in the community!
Even after the Ball, Sarah explains that holding charitable events and collecting donations is one of the main things she learned. Also, the profits from the events held prior to the ball went to CPMC, which made attending the parties and galas all the more fun and fulfilling.
4. Networking and Connections
After everything is said and done, you are going to make many connections with past debutantes and influential individuals in your community. These connections will benefit you for years to come.
For example, my close friend Fiona Fruitman from Denver was able to find an internship through the connections she made as a debutante. Debutantes across the country all share a common interest and went through similar experiences so that in itself can make a strong bond and an expanded network.
5. You’re Going to Grow Closer to Your Friends and Family
In the eyes of many debutantes, the most rewarding aspect is growing closer to your friends and family through the shared experiences. Through the events leading up to the Ball, debs find themselves with much stronger relationships with their close family and friends.
For Sarah, she was able to make long lasting memories with new friends whom she wouldn’t have met otherwise. Also, her family was alongside her throughout the entire process. Even at the Ball itself, her father presented her and her brother escorted her, while her closest friends cheered her on from the audience.
Scenes from the 53rd annual San Francisco Debutante Ball on June 17, 2017:
So, one may wonder who in San Francisco was chosen to take on the admirable opportunity this year?
Introducing San Francisco’s Debutantes 2017:
Grace Armacost, Kelsey Easton Bauer, Julia McKenzie Baylis, Elizabeth Courtney Benham, Louisa Devereux Boudreau, Christine Marie Callinan, Nicole Marie Conte, Catherine Cara Stewart Dana, Madison Lee Dempster, Cara Marie Dienst, Acacia Chiara Elder, Anna Lise Ericson, Dyllen Alexandria Ford, Josephine McRae Fried, Annabella Victoria Sarda Giannini, Jacqueline Harris, Elizabeth Kress Jack-Schimmel, Olivia Alice Lee, Madeline Margaret Moriarty, Darby Hicks Read, Sarah Margaret Seltsam, Catharine Quinn Steigerwald, Elizabeth Harley Swindells, Alexandra Elizabeth Varon, Phyllis Josephine Wattis
Written by Cassie Anderson; Photos by Drew Altizer Photography
— Related — Red Carpet Bay Area coverage of past debutante events:
- How to be a San Francisco Debutante (2015)
- The Links Cotillion Ball (2014)
- San Francisco Debutantes, Spring 2014
- Introducing San Francisco Debutantes 2013