SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL FOR GOD: Has First Communion Fashion Gone Over the Top?

Antique lace appliqués detail the silk bodice and cascade down the skirt of a tea-length dress.  Five layers of gathered tulle create a voluminous A-line silhouette.

MOMS AND DADS:  This is one of those times when I really want to know what YOU think!

I heard a story this week from a friend, a teacher at a Catholic elementary school, about current trends in First Communion fashion.  My friend made the point—correctly, it seems to me—that the significance of this holy occasion has been dwarfed in recent years by an emphasis on social trends and styles.

Here’s the situation: 

  • At the Catholic school in question, from what I’ve heard, parents no longer buy their daughters’ Communion dresses at Sears or J.C. Penney.  Today’s fashions more likely come from bridal shops, where they carry price tags up to $750.
  • One mother, who had found a “great price” on a dress for only $375, was furious because another girl in the second grade class was planning to wear the same dress.  The mom went out and bought six more dresses—but to her dismay her daughter, age seven, loved the original dress and could not be persuaded to wear a different one.
  • Although the traditional white dress has long been a symbol for purity and innocence, this year the school had permitted students to wear ivory dresses as well.  Not such a big deal, perhaps, but my friend worried that it further reduced the sacramental celebration to “just another day.”
  • And after Mass, today’s students headed home, or to the local country club or hotel ballroom, for an extravaganza with fine dining, expensive gifts, and probably a rock band.

So what do YOU think?  Does all this hoopla at a child’s First Holy Communion distort the meaning, focusing the child’s attention on superficial things while the real meaning, the reception of Jesus into one’s heart, is relegated to a distant second place?  Or do the fancy dress and shoes (or new suit and tie for the little guys), fresh haircut, and big party serve to remind young children what a singularly important event this really is?

Please share your own experiences.  Be prepared to explain WHY you made the choice you did.  Would you do it differently (one way or the other), if you could?