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Bar/Bat mitzvah attire that inspires

As the style standards of teens evolve, so do the fashions they choose for their big day


by Elyse Glickman

May 16, 2014 | 12:05 pm


Un Deux Trois features looks for girls designed by Beverly Shorkend.

Back in the day, b’nai mitzvah fashion was oh-so-simple. Boys often dressed as their dad’s mini-me, while girls either donned something frilly or severe (many moms, no doubt, remember the omnipresent Gunne Sax and Jessica McClintock dresses). 

Today’s tweens and teens, though, would rather express themselves, dressing as the adult they eventually would like to become, according to Brett Bastello, consumer sales analyst for the San Diego-based jewelry website emitations.com. 

“Kids today are more expressive in how they present themselves,” he said. “As the culture surrounding bar and bat mitzvah celebrations continues to evolve, so, too, does the range of what is considered acceptable. As time passes, what was once considered edgy will ultimately be considered acceptable.”

He said modern b’nai mitzvah attire is adapting everyday fashion trends, which can be seen in the styles in stock at national chains.  

Closer to home, Marty Rudnick of Rudnick’s, an Encino mainstay since 1946 that sells boys’ and young men’s fashions, couldn’t agree more. He said he’s seeing more form-fitting skinny pants, fitted dress shirts, men’s neckties and bow ties scaled for teens, and increasingly liberal uses of color. 

While the store does a good business with its own labels, Rudnick’s also offers trendy brands Elie Tahari, John Varvatos and Donna Karan.  

“If you don’t stock that kind of stuff or alter it to how these young customers want their final outfit to look, forget it,” Rudnick said. “Kids today know what they want. Even the Orthodox Jewish kids who come in here want their pants narrow and skinny.”

Rudnick also has noticed more upscale-casual looks for boys, a departure from the suits that their fathers wore decades ago.  

“In the ’60s and ’70s, kids dressed up more for special occasions, and the big brand was Pierre Cardin,” Rudnick said. “We sold many more suits back then, and other than the popular Pierre Cardin velvet suits, the overall look was more conservative. A lot of people wore turtlenecks with their suits, and the pants were bell-bottoms.

“Also, as a lot of kids are now staging their bar mitzvahs in parks, beaches and other outdoor settings, we have to carry everything to stay relevant.” 

For girls, Un Deux Trois has become “bat mitzvah central,” according to Melissa Mayon, a stylist at its Tarzana location. While the brand, designed by Beverly Shorkend, has had dresses on the racks of Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue, the Los Angeles stand-alone boutiques offer a more personalized shopping experience.

“Beverly pulls her ideas for young girls’ dresses from so many sources, from runways to pop culture, which is why our stores appeal to so many different types of girls and their parents,” Mayon said. “We have something age-appropriate for everybody, from a sweet prom dress look to laser-cut pleather dresses. 

“Most girls come to us with their bat mitzvah party theme, party color scheme or personal favorite designers in mind. We style them from head to toe, putting together a look that makes them feel their best and have the best bat mitzvah day possible.”

The dresses in Tarzana feature current and timeless looks inspired by Betsey Johnson, Calvin Klein, Halston, Valentino, Sue Wong and Jessica McClintock. Tailoring services, such as hemline lengthening, are available to make runway-fresh looks appropriate for girls from more religious families.

“Because all of our L.A. locations are so heavily used by local Jewish families, we even go as far as having a registry for the dresses for the girls, which comes in handy when you have girls going as guests to several of their classmates’ bat mitzvahs,” Mayon said. “This ensures each girl having a bat mitzvah has that special day and nobody else will be wearing her dress on that special day.”


A Donna Karan suit is a fashionable, classy choice for a bar mitzvah. Photo courtesy of Rudnick’s

While Radiant Orchid — a mix of fuchsia, purple and pink that was named 2014 Color of the Year by the Pantone Color Institute — will be big in the late summer and early fall, Mayon said coral and mint green are extremely popular this season. 

Accessories can help make even more of a statement. Mayon noted that bling is still a big thing, from bib-style necklaces and crystal bracelets to headbands and bows of crystal.     

LF, another L.A.-based boutique chain focused on teen girls, offers dresses from brands such as Paper Heart, Emma & Sam, and Carmar, which cost on average between $120 and $160. Larchmont store stylist Rachel Posner said her customers have taken an interest in asymmetrical swing dresses, peasant-style dresses and feminine strap treatments (made more conservative with cardigans, kimono wraps and jean jackets). Pastels and multicolor prints are in demand, too. 

“When I had my bat mitzvah 10 years ago, I wore a very formal black-and-white dress,” Posner recalled. “It was almost as if I was getting married. While I wore slightly more casual things to other people’s bar and bat mitzvahs, the look back then was pretty conservative. Today, as long as you’re age appropriate, there are so many more possibilities for how you can express yourself on the big day.”

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