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16 October 2014

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Lisa Jones: The Communion Dress

The Communion Dress

By Lisa Jones
March 2003,
A digital story from Capture Wales

"As a teenager I was warned by the nuns not to go on dates wearing black patent shoes for fear of boys glimpsing a chance reflection of what they shouldn't. But back in 1974 I was the only child in my class of 7 year olds in pristine white shoes to be wearing black patent leather on the day of my First Communion. My mother, ever the pragmatist, insisted " You'll get a good year's wear out of those." I was also wearing my older's sister's dress, a hand-me-down, short, confirming my status as a fashion pariah. I remember harbouring the vain hope that any photos snapped would be taken from the waist up. Maybe I could kid myself that I really had been wearing a full white dress with dainty slip-ons, every little girl's dream. It was another twenty years before that nightmare was realised!

Now I compare pictures of my sisters and me wearing that dress. Berna: black shoes too but uncomplaining, she'll always be the queen of understated cool. Rebecca: new headdress, white shoes, blonde curls looking for all the world like an angelic apparition. After spending the afternoon with our Granny being paraded around the Falls Road, she came home with her wreath askew over wilting curls and a purse full of money, delirious with happiness and fatigue. "A drunken fairy," my mother said. More like a falling angel. And me, self-conscious, wanting to please but all the while simmering beneath the white exterior.

Same dress, different styles. Same roots, different lives."

Please tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Belfast and moved to Wales when I was 18. I'm married with two children and have lived in Wales for over 20 years now.

What's your story about?
It's about the handing down of our Communion Dress from my older sister to me and then to my younger sister. (It was given to a cousin after that and may very well still be doing the rounds). Although we all wore the same dress, it looked entirely different on each of us and to me this represents our very different personalities. I thought it would be lovely to share a strong family memory and maybe in some way pay tribute to my two amazing sisters.

What did you find most rewarding about the workshop?
Coming away from the workshop with a great sense of having achieved something very personal and very satisfying.

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