Carrie N.: The Debutante's Mother

Carrie N.: The Debutante's Mother

Mother of: Molly
Debutant Ball Venue: McBryde Hall at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina
Vibe: Traditional Southern Ball
Dress: Rickie Freeman for Teri Jon from Neiman Marcus

Carrie was born and raised in Rock Hill, South Carolina, a town oozing with Southern pride. Growing up, her family wasn’t part of the social scene. Her husband however….”He’s a true Southerner. He loves all things traditional and sees value in Southern celebrations.” Especially, Carrie says, celebrations that show off their only daughter, Molly. It took a bit of convincing, but Molly, a musical theater major at Belmont University in Nashville, agreed to participate in the Debutant Club of Rock Hill’s annual Debutant Ball last spring. Thus began months of training, prepping, and shopping.

While billed as a “coming out party” for women who’ve just completed their freshman year of college, a debutant ball is a big event for the entire family, requiring fathers to wear tuxedos with tails, and mothers in formal ballgowns. There are more rules than the typical wedding: Mothers of debutants must not wear white or ivory. Nothing floral or pattern. And gowns must be floor length. “Mothers were encouraged to wear bright, happy colors,” Carrie says. “This was a stretch for me—black is my normal uniform when it comes to special events.”

So Carrie, a 44-year-old teacher and mother of three, went shopping for her colorful, formal gown, and very quickly became “incredibly overwhelmed and frustrated,” she says.

“There are plenty of options for regular sizing, but us plus girls have our work cut out. I’m constantly shaking my head when it comes to dress shopping. I love fashion and fun, everyday looks, and it is extremely hard to find cute outfits in my size—which, by the way, is not huge. I wear a 16. That doesn’t mean i want to dress like a grandmother.”

Carrie focused in on designers that offer a wider range of sizes, like Teri Jon. A one-shoulder stretch crepe gown with side drape in caught her eye, and she decided to give it a shot, even though typically she would shy away from Barbie pink.

“Molly loves bright colors and deep down is more like Dolly Parton than me," Carrie says. "I decided to embrace Molly's larger-than-life personality and choose something she would love. It was a stretch for my confidence, but I went for it with gusto.”

A seamstress removed boning from the top of the gown, brought it in for a tighter fit and added cups so Carrie could go braless. “It was amazing! I highly recommend finding someone who is willing to make things fit just so, especially when you are large busted like myself.”

Carrie's message to fashion designers: “Give us color, give us fun silhouettes with pleating and beautiful necklines that accentuate the good parts of our bodies. I’m a fun girl who deserves clothes that show that off.”

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