Communion dress shopping becoming a special experience at Long Island boutiques 

Alexa Ferraro, 7, of Locust Valley, models a Communion dress for her mother, Jennifer, at Buttons and Bows in St. James on March 16. Credit: Elizabeth Sagarin

When Charlotte’s Kids first opened in 1980, Communion dress-buying season was chaotic. Families would come in last-minute to shop for the big occasion and have to wait for a dressing room or someone to assist them.

But now, especially after introducing pre-scheduled appointments after the pandemic, the experience has transformed at the store in North Bellmore — and at children’s boutiques across Long Island.

Top left: Alexa Ferraro, 7, of Locust Valley models a Communion dress for her mother, Jennifer, at Buttons and Bows in St. James on March 16. Top middle: Scarlet Glennon left, 8, of Glen Cove and Giuliana Salvia, 7, of Melville. Top right: Scarlet Glennon, 8, of Glen Cove holds "Yes" pop. Bottom right: Buttons and Bows owner Deanna Chassen fixes the veil of her mini client Elizabeth Rourke, 7, of Commack. Bottom right: Daisy Salvia gives her daughter Giuliana, 7, of Melville a hug. Credit: Elizabeth Sagarin

“Now they really get waited on and get helped. They love it,” says Charlotte Lapidus, founder of Charlotte’s Kids. “We have a platform; we have a sofa for the families to watch; and we walk around and help them pick their dresses off the racks. It’s almost like buying a wedding dress.”

The Communion dress shopping experience on Long Island, for those who honor the religious milestone, has become like shopping for a young girl's first “big” gown,  complete with the most important part: the 7-year-olds saying “yes to the dress.”

Fashion designer Deanna Chassen says she helped pioneer this mini “Say Yes to the Dress” experience when she opened her shop, Buttons and Bows, in St. James about a decade ago.

Alexa Ferraro, 7, of Locust Valley, gives her father Anthony Ferraro five after selecting her communion dress at Buttons and Bows on March 16. Credit: Elizabeth Sagarin

“They show up with their whole family — mom, dad, grandma, sometimes even a dog shows up,” Chassen says. “It’s not just dress shopping; it’s a full memory.”

Communion dress-buying season can now start as early as October at some stores, but really picks up between January and March, to prepare for the big day in the spring.

Celebrated in some Christian traditions, the First Holy Communion is a religious ceremony honoring the first time one receives the Eucharist, representative of the bread of the Last Supper. It takes place during a mass and is typically celebrated when a child turns 7 or 8 years old. Some families will mark the occasion with garb passed down among generations — worn by generations prior — and others will shop for new attire.

Communion wardrobe includes a white dress or tuxedo. Boutiques also carry accessories such as rosary beads, tiaras, shoes, handbags and more.

Families spend a wide range of prices for Communion dresses, from around $85 to upward of $1,500. Different girls want different styles, too. When they enter a boutique, a team of store associates are ready to help them choose what they like and try on dresses.

Communion dresses at Buttons and Bows in St. James on...

Communion dresses at Buttons and Bows in St. James on March 15. Credit: Elizabeth Sagarin

“We know not everyone has an endless budget, while some people want to go extravagant and over the top,” says Pamela Atkinson, owner of My Darling Jean Boutique in St. James. “We’ll interject opinion when asked but we want it to be about them and what they like and what they’re choosing.”

Daisy Salvia, 46, of Melville, went dress shopping with her daughter, Giuliana, 7, and her daughter’s friend, Scarlet Glennon, 8, of Glen Cove. For both girls, it was the first dress they tried on at Buttons and Bows that made them say "yes." 

"She wanted really something that was very elegant but plain ... something that stood out," Daisy says of Giuliana. That's exactly what she found. "It's satin and it has a few little diamonds around." 

For Giuliana, finding a dress she was comfortable in -- and so quickly -- is a big deal. "My daughter and her friend are both not into dresses. So the fact that they were both able to find a dress that they really liked, and the whole experience of it, they actually really enjoyed even though they're not dress girls," Daisy says.

Giuliana makes her communion May 4 at her school, Holy Child Academy in Old Westbury. Mom spent about $412 and purchased a head piece. 

It’s almost like buying a wedding dress.

- Charlotte Lapidus, founder of Charlotte’s Kids

"From the moment we stepped in until we were done, it was such a great experience for the girls," Daisy adds. "It was almost like, I remember, picking my own wedding dress." 

Saying "yes" gives children a sense of pride, explains Linda Hill, owner of Natalia’s Children’s Boutique in Wantagh. “So many decisions are made for kids, but when they put it on and feel good it in, they’ve made that decision that feels right for them. It gives them a bit of autonomy, and I think it’s important for their self esteem and confidence.”

Charlotte’s Kids

529 Bedford Ave., Bellmore

This shop is appointment-based during Communion season, but the store can accommodate walk-ins who are willing to wait. “I said yes to the dress” sign is provided. Accessories are available, including shoes, gloves, veils, headbands, crowns, rosary beads, stockings, socks, sweaters, capes, jackets and personalized handbags. Prices range from $85-$500. The store also carries boys’ suits that average about $135.

More info 516-799-8041

Charlotte Lapidus, founder of Charlotte's Kids in Bellmore, on March...

Charlotte Lapidus, founder of Charlotte's Kids in Bellmore, on March 15. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

My Darling Jeans

556 Route 25A Suite 16, St. James

The store accepts both appointments and walk-ins. There are two fitting rooms, so two appointments can occur simultaneously. The boutique has a range of both ready-to-wear dresses and couture dresses that can be customized, as well as accessories, including rosary beads. “I said yes to the dress” sign is provided. Dresses range from $125-$1,500. Boys’ three-piece suits are around $175.

More info 631-315-3655, mydarlingjeans.com

Buttons and Bows

425 N. Country Rd., St. James

The boutique schedules private, 60-minute appointments for each girl making her Communion. Two assistants help throughout the session. “I said yes to the dress” sign is provided, and families go home with photo and video from the experience. Girls also leave with a Rice Krispie treat, cake pop or chocolate-covered Oreo that says “I said yes” on it. Accessories such as tiaras, veils, tights, shoes, rosary beads, bouquets, robes, after-party outfits, pettiskirts and bags are available. Dress prices range from $400-$1,500. The shop also has boys’ suits for $200-$300.

More info 347-267-8059

Buttons and Bows owner Deanna Chassen and her crew, Victoria...

Buttons and Bows owner Deanna Chassen and her crew, Victoria Runza, 17, left of Lake Grove and Krista Kady, 16, of East Setauket. Credit: Elizabeth Sagarin

Natalia’s Children’s Boutique

1237 Wantagh Ave., Wantagh

Appointments are recommended for a more personalized experience, but they are not required. “I said yes to the dress” sign is provided, and shop will do a photo shoot. Accessories, including veils, shoes, tiaras, pocketbooks and more are available. Dresses range from $175-$500 and suits from $90-$125.

More info 516-804-6244, nataliascb.com

With Meghan Giannotta