Sunday 20 May 2018

Handbags and gladrags at the ready as debs season kicks off for students

Marian Gale boutique. Picture: Gerry Mooney
Marian Gale boutique. Picture: Gerry Mooney

Jane O'Faherty

Glad rags and graduations are on the minds of many Leaving Cert students after their results, as debs season continues across the country.

Taking note from style icons as varied as Blake Lively and Conor McGregor, the class of 2016 are spending more on dresses and suits, according to boutiques and menswear outlets.

Marian Gale, whose Dublin 4 boutique specialises in occasion wear, reckons the ladies are sticking to more traditional styles this year.

"Nobody is getting short dresses this year. It's all long," she said.

Ms Gale added that business in her shop was booming, and that the rise in customers is down to both social media and sentimental memories. "It's all about Snapchat these days," she said.

"Once someone puts the dress up on Snapchat and says where they got it, a lot more people come in."

"But 90pc of the girls tell me they came here to get their communion dresses," she said. "It's the boomerang effect." As for the hair, Ms Gale said ladies were choosing sophisticated styles with ornate combs, similar to 'Gossip Girl' actress Blake Lively. But while girls have always invested time and money in the ideal dress, guys are now venturing further than the traditional hired black suit.

Louis Copeland, of Louis Copeland and Sons, said economic recovery and changing attitudes to style meant more boys were seeking suits from him.

"A couple of years ago, guys would have just rented a black dress suit and a bow tie to go with the girl's dress," he said. "Now they are looking for three-piece suits, navy and blue suits and polka dot patterns."

He added that the general spend on a debs suit in his stores was €300 to €500.

While some clientele might be feeling adventurous, Louis urged them to stick to more subtle options.

"The best options would be a nice, plain navy or charcoal suit that you can wear to your graduation, or a job interview," he added.

"And if you wear it again, no one will be saying 'So you're still in the same suit?'"

Meanwhile, Cárthach Ó Faoláin, deputy president of the Irish Second-Level Students Union (ISSU), also recognised that most of the guys are making more of an effort. "Conor McGregor-style three-piece suits are fairly common, but also a slightly older suit style," he said.

"At my debs, my dad was telling me my suit was like something his father wore back in the day," he added.

But Cárthach also pointed out that the debs could be a cause for anxiety among some students.

"LGBTQI students often are very worried if they can bring a same gender partner or cross dress," he said, adding that some religious schools may not allow this.

"But my experience with friends is that they tend to bring friends anyway, not people they are going out with," he added.

"Some people buy their dress in a charity shop for under €100 and feel a bit embarrassed, but it's actually really cool," he continued.

"The debs are also something to look forward to after the tough year."

Meanwhile, a nationwide debs planning service says its schedule is getting bigger every year. Philip Geraghty, director of Big Boss Events, said: "When I started out in 2008, we had seven events that year. Now we have upwards of 150 events a year."

Mr Geraghty says debs have also changed with the times, with live Instagram feeds on screen and MAC make-up artists in the ladies bathrooms. But he admits there's always time for more traditional fun and games.

"We had a karaoke at a debs a few nights ago, and it was hilarious," he said.

"Everyone joined in."

He says students are prepared to pay anything from €80 to €120 for one debs ticket, but he normally charges no more than €80 a ticket.

Irish Independent

Style Newsletter

Stay on top of the latest fashion, beauty and celeb gossip in our Style newsletter.

Editors Choice

Also in this section