During the 19th century, upper class European families presented their marriageable daughters at formal events called debutante balls (from French débutante, meaning “female beginner”). They were called debut balls or coming-out parties. Traditionally, the debutante invited the man (sometimes two) to escort her to the dance. She was escorted to the front of the ballroom by her father, where she was greeted by her escort(s), eligible bachelors whose social rank matched that of the debutante.
If the coming-out was at the English court, a girl would be expected to wear white or a light pastel gown. After presentation to the reigning monarch, they entered the social season by attending numerous events such as teas and more balls.
In the U.S., during the fifties in the South, it was common for even middle-class families to send their sons and daughters to Cotillions, where they learned dance steps, to be used later at debutante balls. In various parts of the U.S., debut balls have morphed into charity events, with attendees buying tickets and the money going to a designated charity.
Debutante, from the French word "debuter" meaning "to lead off," is the term for young girls who are about to be formally introduced to high society. The Queen Charlotte's Ball was the original debutante ball, introduced in 1780 by King George III in honor of his wife's birthday. Many of the current balls support a wide range of charities, as well as provide an opportunity for networking for modern debutantes beginning their chosen career.