At the beginning of the month, a photo of the Netanyahus showed the first lady in a new light: in an elegant black cocktail dress, with cap sleeves that barely covered her shoulders. Sara Netanyahu appeared soft, comfortable, just formal enough and trendier than she has ever looked before.
Over the last weekend, in contrast, during her visit to New York, Netanyahu reverted to her usual look during her husband's term - the exemplary, cautious wife. Wearing a black T-shirt with a wide, rounded neckline, loose black slacks and a dark gray jacket with a large lapel and padded shoulders, she once again looked proper and distant.
Exactly six months ago, Benjamin Netanyahu was appointed prime minister for a second time, and his wife, Sara, received a chance to present a new image. During her husband's previous term, she employed a personal tailor to alter suits and dresses from elite fashion houses abroad. Now, she told Yedioth Ahronoth in May, she buys most of her clothes from Merav Yohanan, "a young, talented designer who has a store in South Tel Aviv," (Haaretz could not find this designer or store). Sometimes, Netanyahu said, she buys off the rack, and sometimes she commissions custom pieces. She also frequents popular clothing stores and "hops over to Zara."
"Everyone thinks I have an army of stylists and seamstresses, but how is that possible? I don't have time for that," she told Yedioth.
Really? It is doubtful whether anyone could erroneously imagine that this woman is overseen by a battery of stylists or designers. Apart from Ofira Navon and Leah Rabin, the wives of Israeli prime ministers and presidents never really acquired a status as fashion icons, perhaps because of the relatively limited local fashion options, or perhaps because of fashion's image as an esoteric and superficial endeavor.
What, then, does Netanyahu wish to convey to the public through her appearance? In light of a history of media upheavals, it seems she prefers not to say anything at all. Her choice of clothes is safe and cautious, even when she seeks to hint at a highly developed fashion consciousness. For example, during a visit to the Western Wall, she wore a purple silk scarf bearing the Louis Vuitton logo, an international catch phrase for those aspiring to be trendy.
Most of the changes in Netanyahu's wardrobe indicate a shift toward the formal. The rich colors that marked her husband's first term have been replaced with dark tones. Naturally, both she and her wardrobe have matured, and it better suits her status: pant suits or knee length skirts, usually in blacks, dark grays or blues; short jackets that fit too snugly; sharp oversized lapels with contrasting highlights; and metallic accents that mimic brocade or taffeta. Her choices indicate a slightly outdated perception of prestige and festivity. She generally chooses form-fitting shapes that highlight her waist and are cinched with a belt, or cropped jackets and V-necks that draw the eye upward.
It seems that Netanyahu is trying to correct her image troubles from her previous term, even going as far as changing her hairstyle: the carefully tended, stiff 'do that made headlines several times during her husband's last term, in part because she had hired a personal hairstylist and because she and her husband therefore were late to several important events, has been replaced with a longer, more natural and accessible look, with the ends flipped outward.
Her makeup has become more refined, and also appears more natural. She is even wearing less jewelry - the large strand of pearls from the last term has been replaced with a thin gold chain, with a round pendant or set with stones.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy's wife, Carla Bruni, embraces her country's long-standing tradition of luxury tailoring, and the American first lady, Michelle Obama, also known for her good taste, tends to combine items by top designers with big brands such as J. Crew or Gap.
In comparison, Netanyahu dresses properly. Perhaps even too properly: Her cautious and safe interpretation of the first lady's dress code may suit the proper image she is cultivating, but she would do well to get rid of the stiff, standard pants suits in favor of dresses made of natural and softer fabrics, in more up-to-date and comfortable cuts, such as what she wore for her meeting with Madonna. Within the many limitations she has imposed on her wardrobe, she can shape an elegant and well-tended look, if she would only occasionally drop the harsh pants suits and include more classic feminine pieces.
In general, says stylist Reuven Cohen, Sara Netanyahu dresses okay.
"I would avoid dressing her in gold tones because it does not flatter her skin and hair color. Apart from that, she is rather careful and solid," he said.
Cohen says her staid appearance stems from her monotone outfits, usually black, topped with a patterned or textured jacket as a nod to the thousands of eyes watching her.
"The staid dress leaves her in a place where no one can say anything about her, and all in all, it is hard to say anything bad about her. She could try to wear more dresses, but she prefers to play it safe in slacks, and it seems she is aware of her physical dimensions and knows how to dress in a way that flatters her form," he said.
Nevertheless, he recommends she wear shorter jackets that highlight her waist, as opposed to longer jackets, which add bulk. "I would avoid accessories because her jackets cover her arms - there is no room for bracelets and her neck is not long enough for necklaces."
Her lips are nice, he says, and recommends she highlight them with lipstick, as she usually does.
"She knows what suits her and refrains from attracting attention. She doesn't go overboard, and watches herself very carefully," said Cohen.
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