Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 16 Cinderella and the ball

4 x 7UP collage

Another debutante in rural Victoria: Mr Cassmob's mother
Another debutante in rural Victoria: Mr Cassmob’s mother

Perhaps it’s all those children’s stories of Cinderella et al being transformed and sent off to the ball that makes formal outfits so appealing to teenage girls (well at least this one, as was). I did feel very like Cinderella at the ball in my Debut gown. I had professional photos taken but the real satisfaction came from the stunned look on my date’s face. He’d been dragooned into being my partner that evening and suddenly he looked as if it might not be such a hardship.

I’d asked a guy from uni who I’d been dating occasionally if he’d be my partner, and initially he said yes, only to renege a few days later. I suspect that when he got back to college, the other blokes told him just what was involved in being a deb’s partner: the white gloves, the formal waltz, the Archbishop presiding and the nuns with an overseeing eye. It couldn’t possibly have been that he didn’t want to go with me <wink>. The irony was that like Mr Cassmob he also came from Papua New Guinea, although nothing like him in colouring….seems I was fated to end up in PNG.

pauleen deb

There's that curtsy.
There’s that curtsy.

My mother’s dressmaking skills feature prominently as she made all of my evening wear dresses for formals and balls, but my Debut frock was her piece de resistance. I remember very clearly that we chose the white chiffon which she then took to a firm (no idea who/where) to have it permanently pleated into a concertina format.

How did she get it from a long piece of pleated fabric to this? Well, what happened was that she kept the tightness of the pleats at the top near the waist then of course the bottom spread out beautifully (perfect for waltzing and curtsying). She cleverly used a piece of the fabric, stretched out, to make the gorgeous collar. I just looooved this dress. Our bouquets for the evening were muffs (it was the Dr Zhivago era), with blue and white flowers and ribbons, the school colours. It looks as if, for once, I hadn’t gone home and washed all the teasing and hair spray out of my hair before the event which was held in the ballroom of City Hall.

Aunty Olive's deb photo circa late 1930s.
Aunty Olive’s deb photo circa late 1930s.

Heaven knows why I decided to make my debut though I don’t think it had anything to do with the “being presented to society” rigmarole. Perhaps for the sheer fun of getting all “gussied” up? The debut was hosted by our recently-departed school, and we were presented to the Archbishop. We had to make this deep curtsy –worthy of meeting the Queen. You could tell the All Hallows’ debs at uni, by the way they walked the week of our training – those curtsies killed your calf muscles, let me tell you.

I suspect that making one’s debut was not as much a social class thing in Australia as it is or was in Britain. Among our photo archives I have Deb photo for my husband’s mother and aunt, and also one of my mother’s friends.

This is the Vogue pattern for the pink dress, and also the basis of my wedding dress.
This is the Vogue pattern for the pink dress, and also the basis of my wedding dress.

Looking back at all the old photographs  it’s surprising how vividly I can feel the texture and cut of the many fabrics either Mum or I made into clothes.

Off to the UQ Science Ball with Mr PNG.
Off to the UQ Science Ball with Mr PNG.

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challengeThis post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.

6 thoughts on “Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 16 Cinderella and the ball

  1. How I’m loving this series… now that I ma catching up here and there. You’ve brought back great memories of my own debut. it was through the Kytherian Association and we were presented to the then Tourism Minister, Mr. Herbert. If you think your Mr. Cassmob had it hard learning all the niceties, think what it would have been like for all the Australian partners of the ‘Greek’ girls learning to do Greek dances… wonder if my then partner ever remembers the steps now? He’s long gone from my life. I made my debut at Cloudland in one of my rare bought gowns. I adore yours, so soft and feminine… a very talented mother indeed.


    1. How fascinating Chris, and yes I can imagine that would have presented a challenge or two to a potential dance partner. Cloudland would have been great for a debut. I’m trying to think if that’s where the Anglican Ball I went to was held…I think it might have been. Yes, I love this dress, very feminine and I felt so glamorous. BTW Eldest daughter did Greek dancing at school and for some other reason that currently eludes me. Do you have any photos of your Debut to share with us?


      1. Somewhere, but not here… when I get some time at home, I’ll have a look. I went to numerous dances and balls at Cloudland, and became very adept at changing the look of an outfit by very simple means… I always loved to dance, been far too long since I have.


      2. Look forward to seeing them when time permits. I used to love to dance but one of Mr Cassmob’s rare failings is that he doesn’t dance, other than to shuffle. I’ve now forgotten how.


  2. What a great post, Pauleen and what a fabulous dress! Your mother was a wonderful seamstress. It has to be said she had a perfect and very pretty model too ! I am so jealous of all these debuts – we didn’t have them in Ireland – well perhaps the debutantes had them , but not ordinary folk. They began in earnest here about 20 years or so ago so I missed out on all the style and glamour! Loved this post!


    1. Thanks Angela for your comments and those flattering compliments to both Mum and her model 🙂 What a shame you missed out on the fun of making your debut, and more to the point the opportunity to “glam up”. Pauleen


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