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January 22, 2014

Have a little faith in fashion

Experts share dos and don’ts on how to dress for religious school celebrations

By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer

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Have a little faith in fashion
According to Julie Grippo, owner of the clothing store bec & sam’s, there’s a lot to be said for balancing tradition and reverence with current style. Grippo added that there’s pressure on young people to stay current with their clothing.

Forget the red carpets of Hollywood. In metro Detroit, the real fashions are on full display in the pews.

There’s plenty of pressure on young people today to stay on trend with their clothing. But when it comes to religious ceremonies, such as First Communions, bar and bat mitzvahs and confirmations, there’s a lot to be said for balancing tradition and reverence with current style.

That’s the task that Julie Grippo helps her customers with each spring at her store, bec & sam’s in downtown Birmingham. Every year, bec & sam’s is home to a popular Communion dress trunk show, where moms, grandmothers, aunts and friends gather around their girl and help her choose the perfect gown for her big ceremony.

“They’re really looking for that unique, special dress. They want something they’re not going to see elsewhere,” said Grippo. “The trends are really a lot of sparkles, and almost like a bridal dress, a lot of applique. They’re poufy, ballerina dresses. They’ve become a lot more dramatic since I’ve been doing this, which is at least 11 years.”

Customers are so concerned with originality, in fact, that Grippo actually has a registry during the trunk sale. Once a girl purchases a dress, Grippo makes a note and won’t sell that dress again to another girl that season.

“We sell somewhere between 80 and 100 dresses (a season). People want something they know they’re not going to see 10 times because it came from a department store. They want a dramatic dress that’s going to make a statement, and they want to know they’re going to be the only one in that dress,” she said.

But the dress shouldn’t take away from the occasion, she added. Little girls should feel pretty, but the sanctity of the ceremony should be preserved.

Rabbi Jonathan Berger, of Hillel Day School, agrees. He said that when students have their bar or bat mitzvah celebration, dressing up is an exciting part of the occasion when Jewish children are officially honored as adults in their faith. But the students — and their guests — need to be respectful of the religious traditions.

“For many of these boys, for example, they’re wearing a suit, which is something grownups do. It does sort of symbolize becoming more responsible,” said Berger. “I think, for a long time, dressing up for a bar or bat mitzvah has been a big deal. But we do talk about the value of modesty, and our clothing should reflect our values.”

Berger, over the years, has seen fashions — particularly women’s and girl’s styles — stretch the boundaries of what’s appropriate for formal and even everyday occasions. A place of worship, he said, is a place to consider what’s appropriate for that particular faith community, for both the student and their family.

“For girls, it seems, there’s an expectation that, to dress up, they wear less. It’s much more revealing than what they’d wear every day,” he said, adding that when in doubt, families can always contact the religious center.

“I would recommend that guests consult with the synagogue or temple or church. It’s always nice to make that contact, and I would welcome that kind of a phone call.”

The 11th annual Communion Dress Trunk Show at bec & sam’s will take place Feb. 6-9. For more information, call (248) 593-8650.

For more information on Hillel Day School, visit www.hillelday.org.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.