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The Last Debutantes Exhibition at Kensington Palace

30/05/2008, By

Reader Rating: 2.8 from 1409 votes

This summer visitors to Kensington Palace will be transported back to the last sumptuous, sophisticated and glamorous debutante season of 1958 in a new exhibition marking the 50th anniversary of the last presentations of debutantes to the Queen. 'The last debutantes' exhibition will draw visitors into the world of the debutante and the detailed preparations required for 'coming out' and The Season.

Visitors will experience the bewildering rules of etiquette and dizzying schedule of presentations, cocktail parties and dances against a backdrop of original items lent by former debutantes complemented by atmospheric audiovisual material.

The exhibition will feature accessories and stunning examples of couture dresses by Christian Dior, Pierre Balmain, Jacques Heim and Worth worn by the debutantes for evening engagements and their official court presentations at Buckingham Palace. A former debutante from the famous Vacani School of Dancing will teach the art of the perfect curtsey. Other debutantes and ‘debs delights’ will share personal reminiscences of The Season alongside non-debutantes who talk about their memories of being teenagers that year.

For a select group of aristocratic and upper class families ‘coming out’ had long been a rite of passage, marking the entry of their teenage daughters into fashionable society and the marriage market. The London season began with the girls’, or debutantes’, formal presentation at court when, dressed in all their finery, they would file into Buckingham Palace and curtsey to the Queen.

The debutantes were celebrities across Britain as the newspapers and magazines at the time charted their every move. The exhibition will capture the spirit of a world in transition in which the status of the upper classes became a subject of fierce debate. With the diminishing spectre of world war, independence in the colonies and cultural revolution around the corner, the debutantes’ days were numbered.

Against a mix of ceremony and indulgence, the exhibition sets the scene for change that would see social unrest, political activism and teenage culture make headlines in Britain during the summer of 1958: the year of the last debutantes.

11th June 2008 - June 2009
Kensington Palace
Kensington Gardens
W8 4PX

Admission to the exhibition is included in the Kensington Palace ticket price, to book advanced tickets to Kensington Palace please call +44 (0)844 482 7799 or book online on their Website.

Kensington Palace admission prices: adults £12.30, students/seniors £10.75, under 16s £6.15, under 5s FREE, family ticket (up to 2 adults and 3 children) £34.00

For recorded information about visiting Kensington Palace please call +44 (0)844 482 7777

Opening Hours: Kensington Palace is open daily, except 24th - 26th December

1st March to 31st October: 10 am to 6 pm, last admission 5 pm
1st November to 28th February: 10 am to 5 pm, last admission 4 pm

Kensington Palace is part of Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity that additionally looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House and Kew Palace. They help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built.

They receive no funding from the Government or the Crown, so they depend on the support of their visitors, members, donors, volunteers and sponsors. These palaces are owned by The Queen on behalf of the nation, and they manage them for the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

Image 1 - A debutante and a ‘debs delight’ at a London ball, 1958 ©Desmond O'Neill Features
Image 2 - A debutante charms the band at a London party, 1958 ©Desmond O'Neill Features
Image 3 - Two debutantes seek some wise words at a party, 1958 ©Desmond O'Neill Features
Image 4 - Debutantes dance the night away at a party in 1958 ©Desmond O'Neill Features

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