Laura Butler

It's the most important dress of any teenage girl's life, and her first chance to be drop-dead gorgeous in adult glamour. Thanks to recent red carpet choices by A-listers Gwyneth Paltrow, Nicole Kidman and Michelle Williams, a substantial number of this year's selection of debs dresses are in pale shades and soft colours.

Debutantes are also avoiding the bling styles of previous years, and are going for understated elegance instead, says Jane Baker, co-owner of Fran & Jane.

"Our debs dresses come from labels and designers in Los Angeles, so they're very celebrity inspired," she says.

Unlike the boom times, when girls spent a whopping €800 on a debs dress, school leavers are now opting for classic, understated frocks.

"We stock dresses which cost up to €600, yet we also have dresses priced from €250 to €300," Jane says of this year's debs' trends.

"Often girls have their own debs and a boyfriend's debs, so they might want to check out sale dresses."

Jane says that dresses in pale shades of pink and nude are popular, while white is also a top choice this year, and can, of course, be set off by fake tan.

"If you look at celebrities on the red carpet, many of them are ditching the netting and beaded look in favour of more discreet designs," Jane says. "This is reflected in debs dresses which are not as ornate as previous years, and are less fussy in shape. Girls know exactly what they want, whether that's a Grecian, one-shoulder or chiffon style."


Jane goes on: "A debs is one of the biggest events for a girl next to her wedding day -- so she has to feel confident in what she is wearing, in both style and colour. We've seen a return of the neutral tones, yet if you want something more dramatic, bold designs in coral, red and midnight blue are still popular favourites," she says.

To ensure girls don't end up with the same frock as a friend, Fran & Jane are asking customers to sign their Debs Book. "The last thing the girls want is to show up on the night in the same dress as a pal -- for that we operate a Debs Book, so that way we only sell any dress to each school once to avoid doubling up," Jane says.