November 2014

Cracking the Bar Mitzvah Dress Code


dresscodeBy Sharon Rapoport


By the time you’ve opened the Bar Mitzvah invitation that showed up in the mailbox this morning, you will have already breached your teen’s privacy. See, it’s her who was invited, and she will let you know. And after sulking for a while she’ll get to the really important stuff, and undoubtedly ask: “What am I going to wear?”

It is an important question, a question that as parents, we should also be concerned about.

As a mother of teenage daughters, I have witnessed my fair share of unfortunate attire choices made by young girls at Bar/Bat Mitzvah parties, especially at the dance parties held in hotels and lounges after the religious event. Is that little Hanna from the old playgroup wearing a Kleenex size skirt? Is that Stephie from Kindergarten with the wobbly, high-heeled legs?

Choosing what to wear to a Bar/Bat Mitzvah party is trickier than it sounds. Our girls want to look good; “on point,” as they say. We don’t want them to catch a cold in their tushies. It is a question of dressing age- and event-appropriately. And that is not at odds with looking modern and gorgeous and cool. Linda Waisbord is a fashionista, Personal Stylist at Nordstrom Fashion Valley, and mother of two teens, so we asked for her insight on this matter.


On appropriate attire for a Bar Mitzvah party:

“It really depends on where the party is and if the party includes adults, which might make it a little more formal than an all-teen party. From a nice pair of pants or jeans dressed up with a nice top, to a dress or skirt, a young girl can look very modern and elegant,” Waisbord says.


On a girls tastes and choices, and our role as moms:

“I believe at this age teen girls are finding their sense of style and it’s important to respect their choices while we guide them on some do’s and don’ts of appropriateness. That being said, I always try to show by example what appropriate is, and the beauty of sticking to classic style pieces which will never go out of style.”


This season’s trends and styles for the tween and young teen set:

“Some fashion trends right now include the ‘athletic style,’ which I personally love, with a big focus on comfort clothes like sweats and athletic gear and tennis shoes of all types.

“Another big trend right now is ‘borrow from the boys’ which focuses on boyish pieces like slouchy pants or jeans, button down shirts and oversize coats or blazers. I also love the denim on denim look for teens, and plaid!”

But how can these fashion trends be integrated into party attire?

“All of these trends can be part of a smart party outfit,” Waisbord says. “It can be done by including one piece into your outfit or doing a more exaggerated look and going all out. For example, wearing a dress with tennis shoes or booties and doing a feminine skirt with a boyish slouchy sweater or button-up shirt. It’s all about balance.

“When wearing jeans or pants, go for a more formal top or nice blazer to dress it up, and nice flats. Simple jewelry is also fun to play with, and Bar/Bat Mitzvah parties are the perfect events to play with accessories and personal style!”


Recommendations regarding heel height and skirt length:

“I personally do not like heels for girls under 15 years old because I think they will have many years of foot, ankle and knee damage ahead of them, and the later they start the better. I’m a firm believer in teaching our girls the elegance of the classics, which include the old adage, ‘you can never go wrong’ with a nice ballet flat. As for skirt length, if I can see something inappropriate when you raise your arms: It’s too short!”

At Orthodox parties, kids and adults should be respectful of the traditional dress code even if you are not observant. This means, as a minimum, skirts that cover the knees and elbow-length sleeves. Take a clue from the way the host family members dress, and avoid showing more skin than they do (or don’t.)


Cracking the (dress) code

Who really knows what “party attire” means? The invitation might say “fancy shmansy,” for all I care. And the mother of all riddles: “dressy casual” might as well include a Sodoku puzzle in the envelope for me.

Rules might vary a little depending upon whether the invitation includes the religious ceremony or if it’s just a kids dance party. If your child is invited to Shul, his or her attire should definitely be more modest and formal than if it they were just asked to a dance party.

When attending a religious service, a mid-length dress is a good idea for the girls, and a light sweater to cover the shoulders—even if they shed it for the Hora afterward—is appropriate.

Jeans are not proper attire for either boys or girls.

Here is a little guide you might want to share with your teen. (Even if you’ve been telling her the same things, she might actually believe it if she reads it here. Just cross out this line so we parents can keep our credibility.)

“Party attire/ Dress to impress”

What it means: This description allows for color, bling and sparkle.

How to pull it off: Some dresses might make you feel a little fuddy-duddy, and you definitely don’t want to look like your bubbe. A great alternative is a skirt. It is also more cost effective (which might make mom happy), since you can pair it with different tops and completely change the look for another event down the line, without anyone really noticing that you’re “wearing-that-again.” A stretchy fabric that is not too tight, or a fuller skirt at the right length will allow you to dance and have fun.

“Casual Chic/ Dressy Casual/ Smart Casual”

What it means: A combination of comfort and glamour.

How to pull it off: Grab some comfortable staples, like jeans or tennis shoes, and dress them up with a satiny top and a faux letter jacket or shrug. The trick is to look pulled together, so opt for darker jeans, newer sneakers or nice ballet flats. Use accessories to dress the outfit up. If you are unsure, dress “up,” not “down.” It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed.


What it means: What this really means is “not too casual.” In other words, your host does not want you to stress over your outfit, but to relax and enjoy yourself. But if you take the “casual” too literally, you will end up feeling underdressed, and embarassed.

How to pull it off: You can be a little bit more relaxed than in the “dressy casual” category. Lighten up the accessories, but still try to look pulled together. Wear what you might for a first day of school, or a special family dinner.

Above all else, remember that even if your outfit looks good in the mirror, it should also look good while you are on the move, so choose clothes that do not require constant checking, pulling and tugging, and make you feel confident. And enjoy the celebration!




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  1. My friends invited me to her bat mitzvah but didn’t say “dressy casual” or anything like that. What should I do?

  2. Hi, Alexis!
    I´m glad you enjoyed the story on the Bar-Mitzvah dress code. As for your question, you can wear a nice dress. It should not be overly formal or stuffy, but be sure that it reaches your knees, and wear something to cover your shoulders, like a cardigan.

  3. Hi, I’m Ashley & i’m 15 {freshman}. So I was invited to my brother’s friend’s Bar Mitzvah. I know him well, but we’re not like “close friends”. So I’m only going because the family was invited. There’ll be adults there, along with kids and teens. I don’t know what i should wear, I was considering a high-low dress {spaghetti straps} with leggings and boots. But I don’t want to seem like a “punk”, as my mom says I do sometimes. My mom said I should wear a dress, but I don’t know a length I should wear. We’re going to the party the next day, in which we can’t make it to the actually ceremony the day before.

  4. Hi, I was invited to both the ceremony and the dance party part. I have never been to one before and was wondering if a jean jacket would be appropriate with a dress?

    1. It matters the dress and where they are having the party. Like for example, I’m having my bat mitzvah on march 26, and I’m having it at the saint regis New York City, so to wear that to my party would be unexceptionable.

  5. The invite is being held at the Phillies ball park, it says at the bottom…. Jeans and Jerseys, what doe” I actually wear?

  6. I’m 13 and was invited to my friend’s Bar Mitzvah, it said “stylishly comfortable”, what does that mean? I was also invited to my friends B’nai Mitzvah, it said “party chic”, what should I wear to them?x

  7. I’m invited to a bat mitzvah party that also doubles as a birthday party. My friends say that they’re gonna wear these fancy dresses and I should do the same and also sport a fancy hairstyle with braids and all that, but I have never in my life worn a dress willingly. Girly stuff makes me wanna puke 😅. I don’t wanna go too formal yet something too casual and ill feel outta place. They say that there’s a dress code and the ppl won’t let me in if I wear a hoodie and shorts. Rlly stuck as to what to wear. Pls reply before July 25th!

    Ps. If you have any present ideas for the bat mitzvah girl then that’ll be greatly appreciated. Being socially awkward and an introvert doesn’t help in situations like this 😂

    1. Btw im in 6th grade so nothing to ‘old’ pls

  8. Hey this was really helpful, but I’m going to a bar mitzvah at a belong alley and the attire is just “casual” (it’s teen only) would jeans and a nice shirt work?

  9. My plan is to wear a shirt, tie, dress pants and suit jacket. Would it be overkill to wear a tuxedo
    to the Bar Mitzvah?

  10. Thanks for sharing its very informative for me

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