Thursday 27 October 2016

How to find the perfect debs dress

Published 06/08/2015 | 02:30

Traditional: Folkster €129
Edgy: Folkster, €139
Old Hollywood: Starla - The dress is €180 for 3-day hire
Short: Coast at Arnotts, €210
Glam: Starla - €160 for 3-day hire.
Boho: French Connection at Arnotts, €325

Fashion writer Freya Drohan's little sister Naoise is preparing for her debs and desperate to find something stunning to wear. Big sister to the rescue!

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1. Traditional

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This dove grey dress is from Folkster, a vintage and contemporary boutique which has locations in Dublin and Kilkenny. Reasonably priced at €129, it has beautifully intricate embellishment on the bust and a full, pleated skirt. With Naoise's small stature, she gets lost in the dress. This would be more suited to someone with a fuller bust, or somebody who was conscious of their hips and stomach area. Thanks to the empire line and slightly elasticated waist, this dress would do a lovely job of flattering an hourglass figure.


2. Edgy

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This dress, also from Folkster and priced at €139, is a braver approach to dressing for the debs. Thanks to its sheer panel on the waist and chiffon overlay skirt, it does a better job of highlighting Naoise's best assets. Many young girls who have a 'boyish' figure can find it difficult to wear a long dress without looking like they're playing dress up in their mother's old clothes, so this is a good contemporary option to showcase a narrow or willowy frame. Plus black is a fail-safe option and you can have a lot of fun with accessories. Black is a fail safe option and here you can have a lot of fun with accessories. We kept it simple with an embellished box clutch from Folkster (€55), but you could make a statement with a jewelled ear cuff, cocktail rings and funky shoes.


3. Old Hollywood

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This sequin dress from Dublin rental boutique Starla is a timeless and classic number. On Naoise, it works because of the plunging neckline, the wrap-around detailing and the split skirt. This low-cut neckline is more suited to girls with a smaller cup size while remaining modest. We added a satin ribbon with jewels to draw attention to Naoise's slim waist and the cross-over split makes her look taller. I think this is a good example that sequins can be demure and not necessarily OTT. An elegant 1940s-style waved hairdo would compliment this look perfectly, as would any upstyle. The dress is €180 to hire for three days including the dry cleaning fee. Rental gowns are a fantastic option as they really take some of the financial pressure off parents. Other notable dress boutiques around the country offering this service include Covet, Cari's Closet, The Ivory Closet and The Dress Bar.


4. Short

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Cocktail and mid-length dresses tend to get overlooked when it comes to the debs, but if styled appropriately they can have the same wow factor. This metallic brocade number is from Coast at Arnotts (€210) and shows off the best elements of Naoise's figure.

There's something sweet and innocent about this dress and I think it's almost like an homage to classic style icons like Audrey Hepburn and Jackie O. Add a contemporary edge to a dress like this with a fluffy clutch bag from the high street, minimal sandals and a tousled up-style. Arnotts department store also houses a personal stylist team who will help you find the dress of your dreams if you're finding the whole process overwhelming.


5. Glam

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Here is a more daring look featuring another sequin gown from Starla, which comes in at €160 for three days. There's no question about it, wearing head to toe ruby-hued sparkles is a sure-fire way to get noticed, so this is not a dress for the wallflowers. A lot of confidence is required to pull off this kind of look, not to mention some supportive undergarments as fitted sequin dresses tend not to be the most forgiving. Again, you can have fun with accessories here and there's lots of scope to play around with textures - think a black suede clutch bag and stacked bangles. You could even take inspiration from Tommy Hilfiger's rock n' roll influenced Spring Summer 2015 collection and pair it with straightened hair, kohl-ringed eyeliner and a skinny neck scarf.


6. Boho

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With the dominance of 1970s-inspired trends and resurgence of folk this season, it was only fitting to include a boho look. This semi-sheer white dress by French Connection at Arnotts (€325) is ethereal enough for the free-spirited teen, but thanks to its embellished detailing it is still appropriate for a formal event. The dress also comes with an attached floor-length slip to keep modesty intact. An outfit like this would be a show stopper if paired with a plaited halo braid or fresh flowers in the hair and eclectic jewellery.

An outfit like this would be a show stopper if paired with a plaited halo braid or fresh flowers in the hair and eclectic jewellery.


Between tickets, transport and pampering, the cost of this one occassion can escalate, but remember you certainly don’t have to spend a fortune on the dress to make an impact. There are plenty of options to be found online, in second-hand stores and on the high street. My own debs dress cost an eye-watering amount at the time, but I recently took it to my local dressmaker Rosena Cuddy in Malahide who turned it into a maxi skirt - this is something to keep in mind if you have elder siblings or relations who are willing to part with their debs dresses. Upstyling businesses like the Zip Yard are exceptionally skilled at transforming pre-loved items into catwalk worthy creations, saving you money in the long run.

It’s also important to stay true to your own style and have fun with creating your outfit. The rulebook has been torn up - and if you’re more comfortable wearing trousers or a skirt then that’s what you should do. 

Top tips for Debs beauty: 

The old adage ‘less is more’ is certainly apparent when it comes to your beauty look on the Debs night. This is not a time to experiment with runway-inspired makeup trends or innovative hairstyles - you should look like the best version of you and allow your natural, youthful glow to remain a focus. For this shoot, Naoise had her hair and makeup done at hip Dublin 2 salon Sugar Cubed. Hair stylist Johanna Fogarty used a GHD to curl the hair all in one direction before styling it into Veronica Lake-inspired waves and using a setting spray to hold.

Pro artist Eilis Downey was tasked with doing the makeup. She opted for a classic feminine look, incorporating a soft pink lip, brown and copper eyeshadows and discrete contouring.

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It does take the pressure off if you enlist the help of a professional, and can limit the risk of last-minute makeup disasters on the night. However with the amount of beauty tutorials available online and some practice, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to take things into your own hands if you feel confident doing so. Here Eilis gives her top five tips for a flawless finish and maximum staying power.

1. Don't go too colourful. You want your photos to last forever. Makeup trends go in and out of fashion, so stick to neutral colours and keep the look classic. 

2. Use a good primer to absorb any oils and set with a translucent powder to make sure your makeup lasts the whole night. 

3. Don't match your makeup to your dress. Pink dress shouldn't equal pink lips or eye shadow! Too much colour is overpowering. 

4. Remember to bring a select few products with you. I would recommend bringing a lipstick and your powder to freshen up your makeup after a night on the dancefloor.

5. I would also recommend lashes individual or a soft strip of lashes to open up the eyes and give definition to the lash line. 

Follow Eilis on Instagram here.

Sugar Cubed, 1A Westbury Mall, Clarendon Street, Dublin 2. 01 6725750. 

Irish Independent

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