High Holidays serve as a runway for fall fashion

The runway shows in New York, London and Milan aren’t the only places to preview fall fashions. It’s much easier to go to High Holiday services at your nearest synagogue. There you’ll discover what’s really hot, aside from the eternal flame burning at the ark.

Think about it. Jews are born trendsetters, and our culture remains influential in so many ways. The clothing industry is no exception. For example, Jewish fashionistas have worn scarves since the days of Moses, and just recently this modern versatile wrap is getting rave reviews in exotic animal prints, geometric patterns, gorgeous textures, luscious colors, and tie dies with fringe.

New Mt. Sinai Cemetery advertisement

Jewish designers dominate the fashion world as well. Despite the fact that Ralph Lifschitz changed his name to Ralph Lauren and became the symbol of the W.A.S.P. wardrobe, this handsome Bronx native is still a Jew. Other Jewish fashion icons include Donna Karan, Calvin (Richard) Klein, Kenneth Cole, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Zac Posen, Max Azria, Isaac Mizrahi, Kara Janx, Elie Tahari, Sonia Rykiel, Judith Leiber and Diane von F ürstenberg (born Diane Simone Michelle Halfin).

In the Jewish calendar, it’s the season of teshuvah, a time of renewal and return, which also describes many of the looks for fall 2009. Just when you thought it was safe to either burn or donate your old clothes to charity, the ’80s are back. In fact, the hottest trends feature shoulder pads, print leggings, metallic handbags, plaid and argyle, exposed zipper jackets, ripped denim, neon, and one shoulder tops–think Flashdance, the movie. In other words, what’s old is new.

The fall season is a tricky time of year, especially in St Louis where the weather changes more frequently than a menopausal woman. Fortunately, this town has plenty of fashion experts to help you dress like a million bucks without breaking the bank.

“September is not exactly sweater weather, so the key to transition dressing is finding lightweight materials in more somber colors and styles that give a few hints of the fall trends to come,” advises Nancy Lehtman, owner of Distinctions in Fashion in Westgate Shopping Center in Creve Coeur. “People aren’t dressing up for temple services like they used to, and many women prefer the casual look of trousers, whether boot leg or straight pants. The days of coming into the store and buying a new suit for the high holidays we don’t see as much. Instead, women are picking up a novelty jacket in an exciting color or with an interesting sleeve or leopard print and putting it with something they already have in their closet to freshen it up.”

Besides, it’s not so much about what you wear, but how you wear it, whether you wrap a belt around a cashmere boyfriend cardigan, don a cable vest with a faux fur collar, or slip into a great tailored jacket that shows off your feminine curves and pairs with everything from cuffed trousers to skinny jeans. Also making a big statement are the tissue- weight leather motorcycle jacket and bold-shouldered coat, while ruffles rule everywhere on shirts, sleeves, and dresses to convey your playful side. For some added funk, dress up a cozy knit with chunky chain and mixed metal necklaces and stacks of bangles.

Boots, of course, are a wardrobe staple, and high heels are pointy enough to tenderize a brisket. For looks that kill, (literally, because you may fall and break your neck), choose from knee-high boots adorned with buckles to slouched leather ankle booties.

If you’re looking for something different, such as a dress with dazzling embellishments, embroidery or beads, check out Vie (pronounced VEE) in Ladue. “I think it’s a really pretty season this year, nothing too extreme or risky. Designers are bringing in more body conscious, fuller silhouettes that don’t lose their shape and yet are so comfortable and easy to wear,” says Melodie Taubin, owner of the upscale boutique that carries merchandise you won’t find in any department store. “People are looking to get a lot of wear out of their purchases in a lot of different ways as opposed to just one single outfit.”

When it comes to color, fall has it all. Super-neutral heathery grays and warms shades of brown and beige are just as popular as jewel tones of teal and gold, depending on your skin tone. Other delicious hues include hunter-green, rust, deep eggplant, honey yellow, raspberry, and blue. When layering bundles of clothing, by the way, keep it monochromatic, say the couture connoisseurs. Bottom line, when it comes to fashion, the key is to create your own style that you’re comfortable with, says Colleen O’Neill, director of marketing for Saks Fifth Avenue.

“It takes a while to interpret fashion from New York into a Midwest mind. There are some women who can wear a cutting edge piece but our look is more conservative in St. Louis. You may not wear trends head to toe, but there are ways to integrate one or two looks into your wardrobe. You might not be into vests, but there’s nothing wrong with getting a rocker boot that you can pair with a skirt,” O’Neill says.

For those of us who plan to treat ourselves to an extra matzah ball, thank goodness there’s a new super soft undergarment with spandex in the middle to suck it all in called “Yummy Tummie.” This comfortable, sexy shape wear is available at the newest hangout for discriminating shoppers called PURE by Jen, located in Wildwood. PURE, by the way, stands for “Princess, Unique, Rowdy, and Elegant,” explains owner Jeniffer Rubenstein, and that’s exactly how customers feel when they walk through the door for a Ladies Night Out.

I knew I liked this place when I spotted a black long sleeve tshirt with the words “Kosher Diva” spelled out in crystals and a beautiful star of David necklace mixed in with all the other hip wear, including velvet cocktail dresses, military jackets, and origami pleated tuxedo tops.

“We’re always searching for new, refreshing looks for women. Realizing our customers are individuals, we offer fashion inspired by today’s lifestyles. You can bring your best gal pal shopping, and won’t come out looking alike,” Rubenstein says.

Finally, there’s actually a Jewish blessing on wearing a new garment for the first time: Baruch Atah Adonia Eloheinu Melech HaOlam Malbish Arumim, which means “Blessed Are You, Eternal Our God, Ruler of the Universe, who clothes the naked.”


“Mishegas of Motherhood” is the creation of Ellie S. Grossman, a St. Louis freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom who never stays home. Send any comments to [email protected]

way for fall fashion