The 40 Year Old Bat Mitzvah

What Do YOU Wear to Church or Synagogue?

Posted in Uncategorized by Juliet on November 12, 2010

[First, catch up here and here.]

In Agatha Christie’s At Bertram’s Hotel, an aging Miss Marple returns to a hotel she remembers from her younger days. (Bertram’s, the hotel in the novel, was modeled after Brown’s in London, where Agatha Christie wrote many of her mysteries.)

Reflecting on her life, Miss Marple realizes that feeling like a relic is part of the greater cycle of things. She remembers going to Bertram’s Hotel as a young woman with an elderly relative who looks around and realizes she’s the only woman in a bonnet.

It’s a little like that.

And it’s not even like I’m looking for “rules” per se so much as guidelines for being appropriate in any given situation. What, for example, about heels at a swimming pool? Stripper/hooker? Or suburban thirtysomething/fortysomething moms who found a great way to elongate short legs?

I have never had any type of actual, real dress code imposed on me. I went to high school in Santa Cruz, after all. Anything goes.

I guess you could say I’m looking for the unwritten dress code, not anything official. Official dress codes are usually ineffective anyway. You wind up with a situation like a middle schooler I recently saw at Eva’s orthodontist’s office. This girl has a sporty, tomboyish look. She told me the biggest difference between elementary school and middle school is that she regularly gets “dress coded” now for things like her fingertips stretching beyond the bottom hem of her shorts or her tank top straps being too narrow.

Now to me, this girl is more in the spirit of what an 11 year old should look like, vs a girl decked out in head to toe Forever 21 who is within the confines of the code but just looks inappropriate for the age (junior high) and occasion (school.)

People say things like, “Anything goes!” or “Be creative!” or “The sky’s the limit!” and that freaks me out because I just want it to be easy. I dont’ want to have to think about it too much. I want to know this is a “skirt suit and heels” occasion then find the particular skirt suit and heels that looks best on me. I don’t want swingy A-line dresses or miniskirts or jeans or leggings/jeggings thrown into the mix to bedevil me.

So what do YOU have to say? I threw the question, “What do YOU wear to church or synagogue?” out to a random assortment of friends, and here is what I heard:

Andrea, a San Diegan who recently moved from Temecula back to Orange County, where she went to college, said:

Hats, pantyhose, no way. My church is a come-as-you-are church. However, people that I have met (outside of the church) refer to it as a foo foo church. It is casual, but in a high fashion sort of way. There are a lot of high heels, a lot of accessories, a split of 50/50 pants to skirts, and a lot of flashy labels….but of course, I live in Orange County now. That being said, there are people who are not high fashion, of course (myself included). Probably an 80/20, accurate stereotype of the foo foo, casual, high fashion, at 80 percent.

Freda, who lives on the East Coast, writes:

My children attend a Modern Orthodox Jewish day school which also boasts the largest modern Orthodox congregation in the US. When I attend the preschool services with my kids, I usually wear either a skirt and jacket or a dressy suit. I am 40 and grew up Orthodox, so I tend to wear more modest dress, my skirts will cover my knees, my shirts/tops will cover my collar bones, etc.. I do wear hose, and tend to wear black, navy, gray, tan when I go to shul. No open toe shoes either.

When Freda saw the words St John on Facebook she added:

St John suits are too matronly for you! I have an amazingly beautiful Kay Unger suit I wore to my nephew’ bar mitzvah that I can lend you!

Ann, who lives in Riverside and grew up in Orange County, begs to differ:

Maybe it is because I am older than you, (closer to 80), but I get the St. John thing. St. John is so elegant and classy.

And Mom, who I can’t even imagine in St John OR pantyhose, reminded me:

Aunt Lee also loves St. John, & she always looks pretty snazzy & young in whatever she wears.

Anne, who lives here in town, writes:

People at our church wear whatever they want. Jeans, tshirts, dresses, skirts… you see it all. Hats are sometimes worn by the occasional older woman, as are panty hose! 🙂

Stacy joined the conversation via Facebook, specifically about work dress:

A decade ago my workplace decided to make nylons mandatory dress code. I went out that day and bought myself a wardrobe of pant suits. The rules are what you make them… shoot I even wear white after labor day if the mood strikes. If you walk with dignity and pride, most any outfit blends in.

She added:

Dress codes have changed dramatically. We went to a Sunday matinée of Phantom of the Opera at the Pantages so we wore dresses and heels and you’d be surprised at how many people came in jeans! There are no SoCal dress codes any more.

Shelly, a Sacramento-area lawyer, writes:

I still wear pantyhose to court… No way I’d show up at the 9th circuit bare legged!

Lisa, a law school friend and former Riverside Public Defender’s Office colleague who now lives in Orange County and is an attorney in private practice, agrees:

I am that attorney… I always wear stockings, unless I’m wearing a pantsuit. I usually buy at least 20 pairs at a time. The closet place I can find them is a 45 minute drive from my house. If I’m lucky, if I can wear a pair twice!

Also, …no open-toed shoes for me. I won’t wear them with stockings, so they are a (personal) no-no for court. I guess I’m just old school…

She adds:

I wear matched suits, never separates. Suit with stockings every day, unless I wear a pantsuit. I used to rarely wear pantsuits, but usuallly wear one 2-3 days per week now.

What do YOU wear?


One Response

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  1. Binky said, on November 25, 2010 at 9:04 AM

    Pantyhose are sexy ladies. You’re kidding yourself if you think bare legs are the way to go all the time. I’m horrified with the new bare legged look that swept through the USA like an evil plague.
    Heels with a skirt and no hose is like oil and water.
    Boo to bare legs and the new reptile look.

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