“Will there be alcohol?”

That’s the question we all ask when that giant, foil-lined envelope comes in the mail, inviting you, at your great age, to the bat mitzvah of a girl you don’t know very well, whose parents you may or may not know very well (which, if you’re not a parent yourself at this point, is pretty much all other parents). Will there be alcohol? 

Then, a second question: What am I going to wear? 

After all, the bat mitzvah party dress code changes when you’re, say, not in the 7th grade anymore. You can’t just go to the prom section at Bloomingdale’s with your grandmother, who buys you some kind of knockoff bandage dress your mother won’t let you leave the house in. So you wind up going to the bat mitzvah in a some little top and skirt that looks like what you wore to synagogue that morning, which makes you feel so underdressed that you spend most of the time in the bathroom, staring at yourself with dissatisfaction in the mirror, hoping one of the naughty boys who don’t talk to you much will let you have a puff of a cigarette (or e-cigarette, because this is the 21st century. Or hit a of molly? I don’t know what the kids are doing these days on the bat mitzvah circuit.)

No, you are a grown-up now, and you are expected to dress like it. To our mother’s generation, the uniform for “bat Mitzvah, black tie optional” was clear: some sort of sequined and/or bejeweled top or jacket with a matching crepe skirt of a sensible length. No cleavage, no sex appeal of any kind—mustn’t, after all, give all those adolescent little boys anything to look at, even if you are biologically old enough to be their grandmother—just a shapeless, immovable wall of twinkling embellishment, like the Christmas tree that none of you admit to wanting to have. Or, if you saw yourself as a more understated, tailored type of woman, you could wear one of those cocktail dresses from Ann Taylor with and wide and desperately unflattering satin band around the waist and or hips, to hint that this was the formal version of whatever nondescript sheath dress you might wear to work. If you work.

But they don’t sell dresses like that anymore, not even at Dillard’s, which was once their ancestral homeland. And people in their 30s and 40s today don’t seem in any hurry to lacquer themselves into the shellacked and hairspray-ed vision of a “grown up” that was ascendant during their own childhoods. So let us all turn our gaze to style-icon Mariah Carey, who showed us how it’s done at the recent bat mitzvah of her manager’s daughter, Mishka, who got a 500-pound chocolate and red velvet cake and Bentley golf cart to ring in her once-in-a-lifetime rite. It was a bat mitzvah at which, by all accounts, Mariah had a great time dancing, DJ-ing, and drinking candy-colored cocktails out of glasses so large they look like props in the hands of recalled Bratz dolls.

Mariah showed up in a see-through mesh gown, worn over a very snug leotard-and-tights ensemble that revealed every inch of her musculoskeletal system, proving once and for all that yes, it is possible to have camel toe in a full length gown. She was serving Morticia-Addams-doing-the-Jane-Fonda-workout realness, and it was glorious, particularly because her hand was accessorized by a 35-carat (that’s not a typo) diamond engagement ring. Ladies, that’s what to wear to a bat mitzvah party. Today, we are all women.





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