Communion Dress by cartoonist Maeve O’Keeffe


As we approach the month of May and First Communion season, some Mammy’s get carried away with the expense of the outfits, party, bouncy castle or fake tans for their Communicant’s big day.  I wrote this some years ago when my now teenage daughter was preparing for her own First Communion …….

Cartoons from

Communion dress shopping can be an expensive business!

“Mom, most of the girls in my class already have their dresses!” daughter informed me, hardly a wet week back to school after the Christmas break.

“Really?  But it’s only January. The Communion’s months away.  What’s the rush?”

“They say all the nice ones will be gone.  Can’t we go shopping soon.  Pleeease?”

“OK, maybe next Saturday then, ” I said, pushing aside all thoughts of the over-burdened credit card, and little knowing what lay in store.

Any big undertaking requires a degree of research and pre-planning.  I checked with other Communion-girl mothers, posing the tentative question “Have you done any shopping yet?”  To maters of eight-year-old First Communicants, the code ‘Shopping’ is immediately understood in white dress terms.


“We bought ours the week after Christmas,” one informed me.  “I went early, in at 9.00 a.m.  We had the shop to ourselves, with plenty of room and attention to try on lots of dresses.  Of course, at the end of it all, she settled on the first one she’d tried.”

“I’m just going to take her big sister’s dress out of its box,” another lady confessed, “And tell her that’s what she’ll wear for her First Communion.  If there’s the odd stain or two, it’s amazing what a bit of Tippex can do!”

A friend with an exceptionally tall daughter was beginning to get a bit anxious.  “My work-mates warned me that sizes for the very tall or small get snapped up first.  What if there’s nothing left that will fit?  I’ll be the one having a fit!”


With these concerns in mind, I enlisted sister’s help to accompany us on our shopping trip.  As we walked through the near-empty, early morning city streets, sister and I reminisced of old haunts in our disco and cocktail days.  Now here we were, communion dress shopping.  I was all excited, possibly more so than daughter, but determined to do business in the first emporium as I’d little inclination to traipse all over town, even for this special occasion.


Taking on board my friends’well meant advice, we were the first customers in the Communion frock shop.  The assistant adeptly selected several immaculate confections carefully encased in plastic that she deemed might suit.  Into the dressing room with daughter to begin the try out.


In a scene akin to ‘Pretty Woman’ where Julia Roberts tries outfit after outfit in a swanky Rodeo Drive boutique, my princess appeared from the changing cubicle in one glorious creation after another.  Each was as lovely as the next, with variations on a theme of pearls, pleats, petticoats, buttons, bows, sequins, satin and lace.  Nevertheless, after considerable humming and hawing on my part, we whittled it down to two.  Without hesitation, daughter decisively chose. A quick recheck of the price tag confirmed that the dress was mercifully within budget.


“And what about a headdress or veil?” the assistant helpfully enquired.  “Oh yes!” daughter clapped with glee, totally entering into the consumerist spirit.  Veils, crowns, pearl and flower-encrusted hair combs with dangling ribbons were deftly displayed.  Again, daughter was decisive.  “Would you like to see a matching bag and gloves?” the lady posed her question directly to the little girl entranced by spellbinding sequins and glittering zirconia.


Daughter retried the dress, this time complete with coordinating accessories.  A cardigan with pretty bow to match dress sash was presented in case of a chilly day.    “It’s beautiful Mom.  Can I have it, please?”  With sister concurring, I couldn’t refuse.  At least she had the sense not to look for a parasol.


Taking one last look at my beautiful white-gowned girl, I announced “Right, we’re done!”  Fearful that other paraphernalia might yet be produced, I quickly steered her from the cubicle, past bagged gowns bulging from rails and dangling frilly umbrellas, veered past proud mums and little girls posing in tiaras and swathes of satin, vying for elbow space before the full length mirrors.  The shop had now filled.  Bored fathers or partners feigned interest or stood by the door.  “Don’t touch that, Luvey!” one of the assistants exclaimed in horror as someone’s sticky-fingered toddler lurched towards spotless silk.


About to receive the bill for daughter’s ceremonial garb the lady suddenly interjected “Don’t forget the socks!”   An €10 sticker was plastered to a pack of sparkly satin-frilled ankle socks.  Jesus! (a little prayer, given the occasion), just don’t show me the matching diamante knickers!  What the hell, may as well be hung for a sheep as a sacrificial lamb.  When the total finally ‘ching-chinged’ on the cash till, the cost of accessories nearly amounted to as much as the dress itself.


Although my best intentions to stick to a ballpark budget came undone, one look at daughter’s happy face dissipated any doubts.  We might be bankrupted because of just one day, but heck, she’s worth it!

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©Maeve O’Keeffe 2014