What to Wear to a Bar or Bat Mitzvah

V back twill dress by Lela Rose

Happy Monday, Ann! I’m jump-starting the week with great fashion advice from a new friend of mine — who is a fabulous mother, attorney and chic Washington, DC woman. As many women have been coming into my store in the past few months looking for the perfect dress or outfit for their child, grandchild or family friend’s child’s bar or bat mitzvah, I thought this would be a helpful wardrobing topic to dive into as the season is in full swing. So today we have a guest blogger who was really great to give very specific advice on what to wear. Read on–

The most important thing to keep in mind can be summed up in one word: Appropriate.  So what is appropriate?  A few things to consider when deciding what to wear to a Bar or Bat Mitzvah:

What type of Synagogue?

There are certain fashion “rules” that are dictated by where the event is happening.  Orthodox? Conservative? Reform?  If you are at an orthodox temple then arms should be covered at least to the elbows and legs to right below the knee.  For a conservative temple, short sleeves and skirt/dress length to the knee. Reformed– you can show your shoulders, but not if you are the Mother of the Bar or Bat Mitzvah.

A More conservative but elegant option: Ponti Dress by Sara Campbell

Which service are you dressing for?

Typically, there is a Saturday morning service followed by a lunch.  Then there might be a Saturday night party that is really for the kids.  In some cases the Saturday morning service is replaced by a Saturday evening service (Havdalah) that will typically roll right into the night party.  If you are a family member or close friend, you will also be invited to the Friday evening Shabbat service that kicks off the whole weekend.  Outfit opportunities abound!

If you are the guest, consider the family who is inviting you.  Is this a family that likes to dress up or are they more laid back?  Try to channel their sense of style when making your outfit choices. 

What to wear?

Mother of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah:

After all the preparations, (the religious school carpools, the happy mornings stretched out over years reminding your child of the real reason for this important day in their life) come the big decisions.  What should I wear? Remember that there will be pictures to commemorate this happy event for a lifetime.  No pressure!

Friday night starts it all off.  Think easy.  Short sleeved dress, sleeveless dress with short jacket or sweater, or skirt and blouse.  For shoes you can consider boots if the season is right.

Saturday morning service/lunch.  Ladylike.  You want to look like a more polished version of yourself, be comfortable but also chic.  The focus is on your child but this is a big moment for you too.  You can go a few ways, but good choices include a sleeveless dress with a jacket (think Chanel) or a short sleeve dress.  The dress/jacket combination is a good option if your lunch is the main party following the service and you are not having a night party.  This way you can be covered up on the bimah and then reveal another outfit for the party. For shoes – pumps.  (if your choice would also work for the office then it is not a good choice at all). 

Lela Rose Satin Seamed Twill Dress

Teal Wool suit by Sara Campbell

Havdalah service.  You are in a good outfit position with this service.  Again, consider the dress/jacket combination. But the under piece can be a little more adventurous for the night party.  (See below). 

Saturday night party.  Keep in theme with your party and also with (ahem) your age.  Leave the miniskirts and crinoline to the younger generation. This is the chance to bear your arms!  Don’t forget that whatever you choose will need to hold up on the dance floor and for the Hora. 

Roksanda Ilincic Darter wool-crepe dress

Bottega Veneta Lace Cummberbund Dress

Leopard Dress by Sara Campbell

Sunday brunch?  Cute sweater duster, skinny jeans and boots. Done. 

A few designers who make the beautiful yet appropriate “lady” chic dresses for the services include Rachel Roy, Sara Campbell and Lela Rose.  Thanks to my wonderful friend — who chose to remain helpful but anonymous — for this great and useful advice.  Call or write if you need more suggestions!


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