The dress is an important and memorable part of the bat mitzvah experience. And while the main emphasis is, of course, on the coming- of-age milestone, for girls (and their moms), fashion plays a huge role in the day as well.
Gone are solid-color bat mitzvah suits from decades past. Bat mitzvah fashion reflects the time, and photos serve as a time capsule for the current trends.
Today, most girls opt for colorful and trendy party dresses — some even going for two-piece styles with a bit of midriff showing.
“Every kid wants to be an individual, so they dress like their friends,” said Karen Mazer, owner/CEO at Synchronicity Boutique in Pikesville. Girls’ friends and classmates are their main fashion influencers.
For shul, the bat mitzvah girls often wear a dress with little sleeves, as most synagogues require shoulders to be covered.
For the party, pastel dresses are popular, often with jewels, beading or sparkles at the top. Many dresses have corset tops, sweetheart necklines and no straps and cupcake bottoms with tulle underneath. Popular designers include Sherri Hill, Mori Lee, Jovani, Clarisse and Alyce.
Since the guests often wear more understated dresses, the bat mitzvah girl stands out in her beads and bling. She wants to celebrate in style and be the star of her show — with a little sparkle.
“Lace and embroidery have been trending big. Anything soft and flowing,” said Paul Virilli, owner of Jan’s Boutique in Cherry Hill, N.J. “Our customers want a short dress that’s puffy and flowing, a dress they can dance in and have fun.”
For Caitlin Huber, who became a bat mitzvah at Temple Oheb Shalom earlier this month, she let the colors of her party dictate her dress options. At Synchronicity Boutique, she found a dress that was white and beaded at the top and mint green with beads at the bottom. The dress was long, but Caitlin got it altered to be above the knee. For shul, she wore a coral dress with a white shawl.
“I didn’t think we’d buy the dress the day she tried it on. She looked like a princess and loved it, and we bought it that day,” Caitlin’s mom, Risa Huber, said of Caitlin’s party dress.
Moms too want party dresses, often in navy, metallic, wine, ivory or black.
Synchronicity Boutique suggests that moms and daughters to do their dress shopping on different days, so the mom doesn’t take her daughter’s limelight during the shopping trip.
In fact, the boutique advises moms not to be too excited about her daughter’s dress, as that often makes the daughter less interested in it.
And if there’s one trend that not everyone likes, it’s 12- and 13-year-old girls in heels, which has become increasingly popular. Often it’s their first time wearing them.
“Rabbis say to me, ‘Please, please tell the girls not to wear heels,’” Mazer said.
Nobody wants a girl to trip and fall while carrying the Torah.
Anna Lippe is a local freelance writer.