By Georgina Downes

My Communion dress came from the Children’s Shop in Limerick, many moons ago. Run by two elderly sisters, the place was dimly lit with varnished shelves stretching up to the ceiling, housing rows of neatly-stacked, white little shoe-boxes. The shop smelled faintly of mothballs, which I liked.  They handed dress after dress through a polyvinyl curtain, where I stood excitedly in my socks and vest. All were met with a hopeful smile from my mother and a shake of the head from me. I wanted bling. Finally, I spotted a dress with ruffles around the collar, puffed sleeves and a scalloped hem. I was in love. My mother was horrified but she allowed it, and for the first time in my life, I felt in charge. I felt 13!

I’m remembering this as I sit on the velvet couch at the back of Mods & Minis, where many-a-parent has sat before, waiting for their child to emerge and step onto the plinth. This is the viewing area, specifically for Communion Outfits.

It’s just like Say Yes to The Dress, I blurt out to Alison Lyneis, who has joined me on the couch. She has been a manager with Mods & minis for 12 years; six in Killarney and six in her home town of Tralee.

“It is,” Alison smiles. It really is!

We discuss the up and coming Communion season and Alison tells me she loves this time of year. And why wouldn’t she – it’s so joyful and Alison’s role is vital; make sure every boy and girl leaves Mods & minis with a big grin on their face and the perfect Communion outfit in the bag.

Are the girls as fussy today as I used to be, I wonder?

“Actually, the boys can be more difficult to dress.”

Hadn’t expected that. I ask her to explain.

“They have a lot more to choose from. For the boys, there are different styles of suit, two piece or three piece, or a blazer and pants or maybe even a smart jacket with good jeans or chords. Then there’s the waistcoat; whether he wants to wear one or not, and what colour shirt, although check is in this year, but plain is nice too. Buttons or cufflinks? And should they go with a tie or a dickie bow?  The tie is making a big comeback. And then there’s the shoe. Converse are also an option. Or a dress- shoe, depends on the look they are going for.”

I see what she means. Tricky.

Some customers stroll in to the shop; three generations of women in fact, a mother, daughter and grand-daughter who is asleep in a buggy. Alison greets them with a smile. They browse through the snow-white dresses and like what they see. Alison says if they want, they can make an appointment for a fitting.

Is an appointment necessary?

“Oh no, You can just turn up but if you want privacy, we can do that too.”  They say they’ll call back with the Communion girl after school.

“Sometimes, people want the place to themselves. They may have a child with special needs or who is very shy, or for whatever reason. We accommodate everyone.” Alison explains.

Alison is  a busy woman with two teenage children and a fulltime job, which she absolutely loves. “You couldn’t work in a happier place. You’re dealing with kids who are getting new clothes, usually for a special occasion, so they are generally in very good form. Every day is like Christmas. I’m always opening boxes!”

 

Her fourteen year old son, Kristan, likes to dress well, so it’s handy Mum works in kid’s fashion. “He’ll ask for one of everything when it comes in,” she laughs. “We’ve had lovely stuff recently. The Confirmation range for boys is fabulous; dressy-casual. The Diesel range is particularly good.”

There are indeed some very dapper outfits hanging up around the shop, very Peaky Blinders. Tailoring is in and the boys want to look sharp. The girls, it seems, want to look like princesses.

“The Princess style dress is always the most popular. Then we have a range of accessories, gloves tiara, bags, little umbrellas, tights, socks and veils, boleros and cardigans.”

Have you ever had a parent cry when they see the little girl in the white dress and veil?

“Oh yes. Not just for the girls, though. We get a few tears for the boys too.”

Alison talks me through the process.

“When the girl comes in, we roughly guess her dress size. She picks out everything she likes. We must all wear gloves. The more she tries on the more she knows. It does take time so you need time. Sometimes we suggest dresses, sometimes we don’t have to. We do one style of dress per school. We stock a huge range of styles, including  Linzi Jay and Little People, so we have something to suit everyone. At times, we have to come around the girls, they can be shy at the start but at the end they are very vocal. The boys usually know exactly what they want and they will tell you out straight. With a girl, you just know by the look on her face when she comes out. You’ll see her beaming. The stories people share are great, different generations, all with different experiences.”

Has the internet made a difference to business?

“Not really. There’s a huge gamble buying online because the outfit needs to be fitted and it’s such a big occasion. People know they are better off coming into the shop.”

What does an average Communion outfit cost today?

“About 195 euro for a dress, excluding bag and tights and around 149 euro for a 3 piece suit.”

I thank Alison, who has been very warm, friendly and generous with her time. The dresses are gorgeous and the suits are dashing. Any child getting their Communion Outfit here will look stunning on their special day. Quality and personality for your kids is what’s promised on the Mods & minis website. I’d have to agree. The clothes are beautiful, well-made and age-appropriate, and not a franchised movie character in sight; no logos emblazoned across anything; no questionable slogans. Just stylish, pretty outfits that allow the character of your child to shine. Plus, at Mods & minis, you get to experience your very own version of Say Yes To The Dress!

For their full range check out www.modsandminis.ie/