Myth: On Tishah B’Av we need to be comfortable and not worry about how we look.
Truth: We do still need to look and feel healthy.
Tishah B’Av is not the fast that I dread the most; that dubious honor goes to Shivah Asar B’Tamuz. But I still don’t like Tishah B’Av. It’s a sad day for us. We use it to remember not only the destructions of both Batei Mikdash, but all the tragedies of our history. I agree that remembering all of that is important, but by nature I’m a more positive type. However, the fact that the aveilus period ends after Tishah B’Av is one of the reasons that I don’t dread it quite so much.
That said, we still have Tishah B’Av and, yes, we still have to dress for it.
From me, you get the truth.
On this day things have to be more muted and subdued. It’s a sad time and you need to acknowledge that with your appearance.
One good thing about Tishah B’Av is that because it’s considered a major fast day, most Jewish workplaces, schools, and camps are closed and that means you can stay home. However, if you do have to go to work, you must wear professional clothing. Since it’s likely to be hot outside, it’s best to keep things as simple as possible. Instead of a jacket plus shell, you may prefer to wear a button-down shirt, no shell, and structured skirt. That’s fine. Stick with neutrals or secondary neutrals, but with the former, make sure you add a small pop of color near your face. On most days I say it’s fine to wear colored shoes or a colored belt, but on Tishah B’Av those are too much. Plus, you have to wear cloth shoes anyway.
Since most of us will be staying home that day, it’s okay to dress casual and comfortable, but sloppy is still not okay. It’s disrespectful. We’re all in mourning on that day and we need to show respect for ourselves and others. So stick with your items that fit and flatter you.
A fitted A-line skirt is best because it gives you room to move, but a straight skirt is fine if you’re comfortable in that. It works fine with a fitted (but not skin-tight) T-shirt or button-down. Normally I love bright colors, but on this day it’s best to stick with classic neutrals on the bottom and secondary neutrals on top. Secondary neutrals make more of a color statement and you do need something to energize you and make you look healthy.
Shoes are a non-issue because you’ll be wearing your cloth shoes. It’s also best to keep other accessories to a minimum. I admit that I feel naked without earrings, so I wear a pair of tiny huggy earrings I inherited from my bubby. Dramatic jewelry is a bit much. If you’re wearing hair, whether your own or a sheitel, keep it simple and neat. If it’s long enough, pull it back. If you’re wearing a non-sheitel covering, keep it simple and coordinated with your base outfit.
Good news: Ysou won’t be wearing makeup. It’s better that way because you may want to cry and you need to be able to do that without worrying about makeup smears. But do try to wash your face and apply your lotions and potions before the ta’anis starts (check with your rav about when is best to do that).
Now for the most important part: your health. It’s rare for the weather in this part of the world to be anything other than hot and uncomfortable on Tishah B’Av, so you must be careful. Do not strain yourself unnecessarily. Try to stay indoors in air-conditioning. Watch out for any signs of dehydration. If you have a medical condition that might make fasting difficult, talk to your doctor and your rav and come up with a plan.
May these Nine Days be the last ones observed before the geulah shleimah.
Dedicated to the aliyas neshamah of my bubby, Miriam Bryna bat Meir Shraga HaLevi, who used to let me play with her clothes and jewelry and who made me feel special and loved.