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Bat Mitzvah Attire
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Bat Mitzvah Attire
Our daughter's Bat Mitzvah is coming up this fall. At
almost 12 1/2 years old, she is still quite a tomboy,
couldn't care less about fashion - actually is sort of
anti-fashion - cares mostly about comfort, and lives in
sweat pants and large tee shirts. She goes to a school
that is very casual and dress is not an issue at all. We
give her a tremendous degree of freedom in this area as we
rarely find ourselves needing to dress up for anything
given our current lifestyle, and feel it is an important
area of self-expression.
Here's the issue: It's one thing to be casual for everday
life, but from my husband's and my point of view, we
absolutely need/expect/require that she really look her
lovely best at her Bat Mitzvah. I'm just not about to
have my family fly in from all points of the globe for
this weekend only to have her look like a ragamuffin. So
I think I could really use some advice as to how to work
with her on this, how to help her find clothes that she
finds comfortable and I find appropriate, how to overrule
any inclination she has to dress like her usual self. I
rarely insist on things of this sort - in fact I can't
remember the last time I did in this way, but this series
of events (dinner Friday night, ceremony on Saturday,
Sunday brunch) are too significant to not show up in a
fully respectful, appropriately dressed matter. We
haven't actually approached the subject in great depth, so
I'm gathering insight in advance in the hopes of us both
having our needs met as fully as possible in this area.
I would also value tips on where to shop. She never ever
goes shopping, claims to have no interest in it and just
continues to wear what I bring home for her as long as she
likes it. She can never seem to find herself reflected
back in any of the usual stores my friends' daughters seem
to shop in (Limited Too, Nordstrom, Gap, Old Navy and the
like). She claims she will never wear anything with trim,
lace, pink, frills, gathers, pants with zippers, long
sleeves, tight clothes, denim, stockings, shoes that
aren't sneakers, and she hasn't worn a dress in eons.
Lastly, I suppose it's worth adding that she's really a
very lovely emerging young woman with great, distinctive
looks, and looks like a million dollars when she just puts
a little energy into looking her best.
Any words of wisdom or direction would be really
appreciated. Thanks in advance.
Your situation actually sounds like a wonderful opportunity
to move into some great discussions with your maturing
daughter. As she gets older, there will be more and more
situations where you have an opinion based on your greater
maturity and wisdom that may be different from hers, and
you'll have the right to suggest and urge, but she'll get to
make the decision in the end. I can't tell you how much
better parenting a teen can go if you get that kind of
discussion into your repertoire early. In this case, you
can lay out to her pretty much what you've written to the
newsletter, ask her what she thinks, and go from there. The
idea is to make clear to her that your goal is to figure
something out that works for both of you, ie dressy/formal
enough that you aren't worried, but something comfortable
and expressive of who she is for her. Then you get to ask
her how she sees herself, what image would she like to
project for this special growing-up occasion, etc. It
could really end up being as important a rite of passage as
all the rest of it. Try to enjoy it.
I suggest that you consider a nice pants ensemble for the
occasion since women rabbis don't always wear dresses but
look appropriate. Some nice black pants will be discreet
either a lovely blouse that's not too fem or a tank top and
some kind of casual jacket. Plain black flats or ballet
style shoes might work as well. I respect you for letting
her be who she is but remember, this is her bat mitzvah and
the meaning should come from the texts and how she deals
with them, not her clothing. There's a compromise to be had
here. I hope your relatives judge her by her words and not
her appearance. It sounds as though you have a great
Who is the motivation behind the Bat Mitzvah? A Bat
Mitzvah is a religious occasion, in the same category as a
Confirmation, and appropriate attire is expected in a
synagogue/temple situation. If the daughter wants the Bat
Mitzvah, she should be willing to dress accordingly. If
she does not wish to dress accordingly, then she doesn't
have to have a Bat Mitzvah.
If you want to participate in a sanctioned high school
football game, you cannot do so wearing a bathing suit.
I have to weigh in on on this for two reasons, 1. I have a daughter who is not
into dresses and will pretty much only wear black (which is fine with me), and
we have struggled at times about what to wear at a dressed-up occassion,
and 2. I thought a Bat Mitzvah was about HER, and her becoming a woman, so
to speak? I think you should be a little grateful that you have a daughter who
is not consumed with fashion and appearences! Aren't you somewhat glad
that she isn't buying into the whole image/peer-pressure thing? Sounds like
you are also saving some money on clothes for her too! She is an
independent spirit and is finding herself, image has a lot to do with that now.
You ought to let her make this decision on her own and stand by her. She will
laugh at it when she sees the pictures later in her life and will thank you for
letting her do what she wanted! The other people will have to accept her as
she is too. My daughter showed up to her very conservative relatives in
Kansas with green hair one summer, they loved it and even invited her back
on her own when she was ready.
Anyway, my daughter agreed to wear some dress pants, pinstripes, with a
white button-down shirt when we were going to a special play, and she was a
knockout! You can get dress pants at Macy's or Nordstroms and they will also
tailor them to fit. It was actually kind of fun and a new experience for us
both. If on the other hand, she won't go to Macy's why not take her to Buffalo
Exchange or Crossroads Trading. You could even just give her some money
and say buy something fancy to wear. At both of those places she will find
odd clothes that might strike her fancy. We always find good stuff there.
Good luck and don't let the clothes get in the way!
Our temple had specific dress standards for the kids for
their service attire. Maybe you can have her tutor,
teacher, rabbi talk to her so it's not all your battle.
It helped me to have others set those limits/perameters
before we went shopping. I think it's important that your
daughter be allowed to show ''her'' style but still show
some respect for the ceremony and the congregants.
Shopping is a toughie...we were successful in the petite
dept at Nordstrom and Macy's and shoes at Piedmont's Step
Forward (?)near Piedmont Grocery. I didn't fight about
stockings but insisted on a closed toe shoe..but that's
me! Good luck.
Teenage girls don't particularly like taking fashion
advise from their mothers or fathers, no matter how hip or
well-meaning. Why not ask a young adult or older teen
(cousin, friend of the family, etc.) to take your daughter
shopping, or at least get her looking at appropriate
clothes for her Bat Mitzvah? This person could also help
your daughter fix her hair, which relieves you of what
could be a struggle. As for shopping, you might check out
consignment shops like Crossroads which have nice, gently
worn junior fashions, or stores like H & M or Delia
(online) which also offer stylish, but not so ''girly-girl''
Mom of 2 teenage not-so-girly girls
She will be working very hard towards the big day, lay
off. If she wears a tuxedo, who cares, really. You may
want to discuss this with her Rabbi. My daughter who
hadn't worn a dress since she was 3 decided on an elegant
grey suit with a pink shirt, it cost more than I would
spend on clothes for me, but she wore it. We let her put
sneakers in the party room and she wore a tee shirt under
so she could be comfortable at the party. THe friends and
family come to celebrate her and her accomplishment, that
is enough for you to show off. Let her decide, she will
see what people wear to the twelve bar and bat mitzvahs
she gets to go to. She knows what to wear to Synagogue, I
Let it go and it will be okay is my advice.
Let it go in Oakland.
This is a tough one. You might find that she already knows
that your expectations for attire are dressier than her
usual. Maybe you could compromise a little bit - let her be
a lot more casual (but nothing with slogans, etc. on it) on
Friday night and the party, and find something suitable (but
not frilly) for the service. My daughter wasn't quite a
picky as your's seems, but at that age she wore almost
exclusively baggy pants, sweatshirts, and sneakers - though
she wasn't totally opposed to all dresses. She surprised me
by picking out a fun, slightly quirky dress (at Macy's!),
which she wore for both the service and party. I let her
buy some brightly colored Converse sneakers for her party
(it's a celebration for HER after all), but she agreed to
regular shoes at the service.
Unless your synagogue is very conservative, I don't think it
should be a problem to avoid long sleeves.
If she's attending Bat Mitzvahs of other kids, I'm sure
she's aware of the the range of acceptable dress, so don't
assume she'll fight it. I'd say you should let her know you
expect her to dress appropriately for the occassion, but be
prepared to accept an ''appropriate'' outfit that may not be
as dressy as you envisioned. And be sure to stand up for
your daughter and her ''own style'' if you have relatives
who'll make a fuss. Remember - it's HER coming-of-age, held
in a community with some expectations about appropiateness.
Quite simply I would say some of what you did in your post
to her. There is nothing wrong with the way we dress 99% of
the time, but there are a few special occasions that we want
to be extra special and the way we dress expresses this. I
would however, leave out the part about you not wanting her
to look like a ragamuffin for your family. As long as she is
looking forward to her Bat Mitzvah I’m sure she will be easy
I have an 11-year-old daughter who is very particular about
what she wears. This fall we were to attend a formal
wedding and she insisted that she was going to wear jeans
and a t-shirt because anything else would make her look like
a “dork”. We went out one day without any expectations and
she found a nice dark blue and silver Chinese style shirt
that she loved. It was not really what I had in mind but it
looked great on her. She ended up wearing it with silver
pants and beaded flats. She even found a great silver purse
to go with it. It is certainly 180 degrees from how I
thought she would look at this wedding when we sent our rsvp
but she really looked quite fancy and grown up and I didn’t
have to fight to get her into it the day of the event.
You will most likely have to compromise on color and even
may have to change your expectations of what an appropriate
outfit is. Take her shopping and tell her that you are just
looking and that she is must try on things that you pick
out. In turn you will look with an open eye at things that
she picks out and that she must pick things out. This is her
day (or days) and you want her to wear clothes she is not
only comfortable in but also proud of. Do not buy anything
that day. Stores will be glad to hold things for you. The
point is to take the pressure off. Try looking in the
Juniors sections of department stores if you don’t already
shop there. We’ve found good stuff at Macy’s. Some times
they need to be hemmed but unless she is really small the
clothes there should fit and give a more grown up feel.
To the mom who is worried about her daughter's Bat Mitzvah
attire - pick another topic to worry about! This one is not
worth a fight.
My daughter gave me the same ''no dresses/skirts/etc''
ultimatum in advance of her Bat Mitzvah. For the service,
she ended up wearing a pair of black slacks, a petite sized
black blazer, and a cotton short sleeved t-shirt ($9) that
happened to match her tallit. The cobalt blue Converse High
Tops were the finishing touch on the outfit. She looked
darling! And best of all she was completely comfortably and
had a huge smile on her face all day long. We bought the
clothes in one day at Macy's, with the rule that I could ask
her to try anything on and she got 3 ''free'' vetoes - no
questions asked. She used them too!
For the party she wore the same black slacks and a tank top
with an overshirt from the Limited. Same sneakers too. For
Sunday brunch (at our house) she wore pajama bottoms and a
dirty t-shirt...with uncombed hair!
The other thing I did was warn my mom and other relatives
who have very fixed ideas of what girls should wear to
synagogue. This kid has her very own style. And in the end,
they all thought she looked great!
Figure out what your bottom line is, and then work it out
with your daughter. And look on the bright side...at least
you are not fighting about the amount of midriff or cleavage
that will be showing. Good luck.
Since I am a 55-year-old computer programmer whose own
daughter is 30, I may not be a great fashion consultant.
However, I admire your daughter's independent-mindedness and
think it will work well for her in her life to continue to
focus on clothes that are functional rather than ''cute.'' I
relate to her problem in dressing for the relatives as
similar to the problem I have in dressing for work, where I
am looking for something comfortable that I can get away
with as professional. I also hate shopping, and have solved
the problem by getting my clothes almost exclusively by
ordering on the web and getting them through the mail. LL
Beans and Land's End knit pants, knit tops and cardigans are
mainstays; Travelsmith is also good for easy-care clothes
with comfortable waists; my daughter likes J.Jill, which has
a younger style, though some of their stuff seems a little
frilly and silly for your daughter's tastes as you describe
them. I assume at 12-1/2 your daughter is large enough to
wear the smaller sizes in these catalogues. Your relatives
are probably harder to please than my colleagues at work (Is
a dress required to please your relatives? Nylons? Ugh!
Heels? Shudder...) but I hope you can find something with a
classic simple style that you and your daughter will both
enjoy. Best wishes for the celebration! (P.S For comfortable
shoes that aren't sneakers, Ecco brand, which I buy at
Elmwood Shoes, can't be beat.)
Also likes comfortable clothes
We had a similar dilemma, exacerbated by the fact that our
synagogue is very informal and the kids wear jeans and
t-shirts and sneakers or flipflops all the time. We settled
on a handkerchief-hem (uneven hemline) black skirt with a
pretty knit top (nicer than a t-shirt but not really very
dressy), plus nice black sandals with low-moderate heels.
It was not as formal as I would have liked, but it wasn't
jeans or flipflops! And she looked and felt pretty. (She
continued to wear that identical outfit to every event that
required something nicer than jeans for about a year - and
then suddenly the urge to dress up hit - but that's another
As to where to purchase things: we got the skirt at an
out-of -town department store, but you could try Macy's or
somewhere with a decent junior's department. My daughter
and her friends like Forever 21, but you have to watch out -
a lot of the stuff there is a little on the not-for-shul
side! The shirt was actually from a resale shop. Shoes
from DSW Shoe Warehouse or Shoe Pavilion.
this page was last updated: Feb 24, 2008
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