Sara Netanyahu’s Extreme Makeover

A year after her famous wardrobe disaster, the prime minister’s wife has been looking good - and the local press has taken notice. As well they should.

We shouldn’t live in a world where it really matters what the wives of world leaders and political leaders wear and how it affects their image.

It shouldn’t make a difference that Kate Middleton is ridiculously flawless when it comes to choosing a conservative yet chic wardrobe, or that Michelle Obama keeps herself in fighting good shape with upper arms to die for, which she shows off in a variety of sleeveless outfits, and their look shouldn’t affect how we view them or their spouses.

If we are paying attention to the significant others of leaders at all, it should be about what they do and how they comport themselves, not their body size or their wardrobe choices.

But we don’t live in that world.

Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister’s wife certainly doesn’t, as she learned all too well a year ago when she was raked over the coals after dressing inappropriately and unflatteringly for the swearing-in ceremony of the Knesset.

I plead guilty to being one of those who weighed in on the issue, asking “what in the world was Sara Netanyahu thinking when she got dressed?” and recounted the merciless critiques of the Israeli fashion police at the time that “if, like Sara, you aren’t built like a model, you cannot wear skin-tight clothes that show your stomach, or appear to show your stomach (one presumes that there was flesh-colored material under the lace) and you must particularly take care never to do so if you are going to be in a situation that forces you to sit in a soft, low chair, where anything that can bulge, will bulge.”

So it should come as a shock to none of us that over the past year, as the Israeli press is now trumpeting, Sara has been undergoing what appears to be an extreme makeover - adjusting everything to her hair and makeup to her clothing choices and, it appears, applying restraint at state dinners and doing some time on the treadmill and weight machines with a trainer.

The result is a thinner, chic-er look, first remarked upon by a blogger and now in the Hebrew press. It doesn’t appear to be something that the Prime Minister’s office seems to be making a big deal of - photos of the ‘new’ Sara aren’t exactly red carpet shots, they are not professionally taken and a little fuzzy.

Who can really blame her for doing this? For the good part of two decades, Sara has been a target of nastiness in what Haaretz columnist Asher Schechter describes as a “love-hate-hate-hate-hate-hate relationship with the Israeli public” with an image of being controlling, obsessive, a clean freak and addicted to the good life - despite evidence of Bibi being a luxury-loving kind of guy even before they were married.

The dress incident, wrote Schecter, "was akin to drawing a huge bull’s-eye on her back." Was she taunting the media? Was she making a political statement against the ultra-Orthodox, forcing them to come to terms with the female body and a woman's right to choose? Or is her taste in clothes really that hideous? (during a televised interview in 2011, she wore a leopard jacket. Seriously, look it up.)

Whatever the case may be, the whole thing caused an uproar that was both appallingly misogynistic and somewhat just, with internet memes popping up like fresh daisies and satire shows having a field day. The dress seemingly caused more uproar and public anger than political staffers had been able to drum up in years of trying.”

So while Sara couldn’t do much anymore about the public perception of her personality - she’s tried and failed - and certainly can’t do anything about her husband’s political image, she could hit the gym, get a new stylist and do some shopping.

As many of us women of a certain age know, so many things are out of our control (like when your son reportedly dates a Norwegian girl and the whole world piles on… ) grabbing control of the superficial things can make you feel better. So good for you, Sara.

While again - your looks shouldn’t be an issue, it is only fitting that those who dragged you through the mud a year ago when you looked like a middle-aged Mom trying – and failing - to pull off a Britney Spears outfit, should respectfully acknowledge when you look fabulous.

GPO
Olivier Fitoussi