A bar or bat mitzvah is an important social event for young Jewish boys and girls. It is a coming of age ceremony that is celebrated in the 12th year of girls and the 13th year of boys. It is a time of great celebration because it signals the start of religious responsibility for the child, and is often marked with a big party.
If you’re invited to a bar mitzvah, it is a great honor. You will be there to witness this important event and rite of religious passage. As a guest, you want to show respect and deference to the occasion by dressing appropriately. Here’s what you need to know on how to dress for a bar mitzvah.
- Find out the details of the event. You need to know where the event will be. A bar mitzvah is comprised of both the Shabbat and the reception. The Shabbat is the actual religious ceremony and is held at the place of worship or synagogue. If you are invited to witness the Shabbat, this means you have to dress according to the dress code of the venue. Some synagogues allow for more flexibility in fashion, such as if it is under the Reform denomination. However, if the celebrant belongs to the Orthodox denomination, then you need to follow a stricter dress code. If you are invited to the reception only, you will still need to be mindful of what you wear because it is still a religious celebration.
- Keep it conservative. This means no low necklines, short mini skirts or exposure of bare arms. Shorts, flip-flops and other beach and casual attire are not appropriate for a bar mitzvah. Do not wear tank tops, strapless tube tops, spaghetti straps or other skin bearing attire. If this is what you have to wear, make sure you layer it with a cardigan, shawl or jacket that covers the arms. Avoid skin tight clothing, such as bare leggings and other body hugging clothes. Even if you are not Jewish, you must show respect for the religion and the event that you are celebrating.
- Dress semi formal. Most bar mitzvahs are held in the morning to be followed by a luncheon reception. Regardless of the time of day, you must dress up for the occasion. Generally, women and young girls are encouraged to wear dresses. For the men, wear a long sleeved shirt with a tie. A sports coat or jacket is optional, although you will look more presentable this way. Don’t wear sneakers and keep heels to an appropriate height.
- Use the kippah or tallit. Jewish men wear a kippah or yarmulke on their heads. This skull cap is worn when in the synagogue and during religious rites and prayer. If you are not of the Jewish faith, there’s no need to wear one. For the women, a tallit or prayer shawl is given when you enter the synagogue.
Remember to dress appropriately for a bar mitzvah. Although it is a time of celebration, you need to keep it decent and presentable. Just as with other formal invitational events, you need to take the time to properly groom yourself and put on a bit of makeup to look your best.