Myth: Anything outside the box is inappropriate.
Truth: Outside-the-box clothing ideas can be appropriate if done right.
When I was growing up, I was always different from my peers. I thought and did things differently. A big part of that difference was that I didn’t dress like everyone else. Either my peers were wearing things that didn’t appeal to me, or the clothes did appeal but they made me feel all wrong when I wore them. Only as an adult, and even more so after I got married, did I realize that I had my own style and that going with that was the right thing to do.
Unfortunately, there are still those who think that anything “outside the box” is inappropriate. I’m here to tell you to think again.
From me, you get the truth.
There was a time when you had to dress just a certain way for certain special events such as weddings or bar/bat mitzvahs, and that any deviation from those modes of dressing was considered inappropriate. For example, a fancy suit or dress used to be the only way to go if you were a guest at a wedding. And a full-length gown used to be the only way to go for a secular wedding. But thanks in part to celebrities who aren’t afraid to push the envelope, those aren’t the only options anymore.
There are those who say that the outfit formula of fancy skirt plus shell and cardigan is not appropriate for weddings. It’s true that in our circles weddings are dressy affairs and it’s important to respect the event and get dressed up fancy. So if this formula doesn’t make you look or feel dressed-up enough, then you’re under no obligation to wear it. But if this formula does appeal to you, it can work. I’ve used this formula many times for weddings ranging from secular black-tie to chasidic fancy (such as with the outfit shown here), and I’ve never felt wrong or underdressed in it.
The key to an outside-the-box look for any special event is to start with refined fabrics. By that I mean fabrics with a smooth and/or satiny texture. A slight sheen is fine, but shine can be tricky. The skirt I’m wearing here is velvet. Cardigans are knitted so they won’t have either, but they need to be lightweight and feel smooth against the skin. A chunky knit will come off too casual.
Do you need embellishment? Not necessarily. There are those who feel that the only way to wear a cardigan is if it’s embellished, but while that’s an option, it’s not the only one. No embellishment means that it’s easier to add showstopper jewelry.
Aside from refined fabrics, the other requirement is fit and flattery. If the skirt, shell, and cardigan do not fit perfectly and flatter you, then it will come off sloppy, and that’s inappropriate pretty much anywhere.
There are those who say that hair, either your own or a sheitel, is the only way to go for a special event, and that anything else is not appropriate. I say that if you wear your own hair it does have to be clean, neat, and in a flattering style and color. If you cover your hair and you’re comfortable in a sheitel, the same rules apply. While I don’t wear a sheitel for my own reasons, I do think that a pretty, flattering sheitel is fail-safe for those women who are comfortable in it. However, there are a lot of beautiful non-sheitel options nowadays for those of us who don’t want to wear a sheitel for whatever reason. Dressy hats, berets, and mitpachot can look wonderful and appropriate.
The point of all of this is that there’s nothing wrong or inappropriate with thinking and dressing a little outside the box. If any clothing idea appeals to you, try it. If it doesn’t make you look and feel your best, then you shouldn’t wear it. But if you do like it, then take that step out of your comfort zone and enjoy it.