I'm a junkie for wardrobe-improvement shows like What Not To Wear, in which fashionably superior women or gay men take people with poor fashion sense and teach them how to dress with class and age-appropriateness. Yet I have come to understand that Trinny and Susana's fashion choices simply don't apply in Israel.
For one thing, "age-appropriate" here seems to be defined like this: the older you are, the harder you have to work to flaunt your sex appeal. Otherwise how will anyone notice you?
The picture on the left is of Tsipi Shavit, a beloved Israeli performer for whom I have huge respect. I saw her as part of a three-woman show in Kiryat Chaim recently, and at 62 years old she sparked with energy-- doing high kicks, singing show tunes, running around the stage, cracking jokes about her sex life. My husband remembers Tsipi from his childhood when she became famous for her kids shows (and Hebrew translations of songs like "Somewhere Over the Rainbow). From an American perspective, this picture would land her on a worst-dressed list. In Israel, this would be appropriate wedding attire (and reminds me of what some Israelis wore to my wedding).
Israel is a country of schizophrenic dichotomies. In certain neighborhoods of Jerusalem and Bet Shemesh, a woman can get beaten for wearing pants or (gasp!) jogging in the wrong neighborhood. After all, nothing is more provocative than a smelly, sweaty woman in a sports bra and a baggy t-shirt. In secular areas, on the other hand, it seems like the more (spotty, sun-damaged) skin you show, the better. "Proper work attire" might involve skin-tight, cleavage-bearing purple spandex. I'm only slightly exaggerating when I say that what slutty college girls wear to frat parties in the US is average attire for 50-year-old bank tellers here.
And the thing is that it's all about context-- while you might look sad and desperate in America wearing the same clothing, you'll look snazzy to your friends in Israel. If a middle-aged woman wears silver mesh over a black bra, tight embroidered jeans, and silver platform shoes in the US, she'll look like an aging hooker-- in Israel, she'll look like she really keeps herself up. If she, on the other hand, wears loose-fitting button-down shirts with a cardigan and straight-legged linen pants, she will probably look boring to her Israeli friends. (She's really let herself go.) Also, Israelis don't let a few fat folds keep them from wearing a bikini or spandex top-- and if you're male, certainly don't stop wearing your Speedo just because you can't see your toes.
I'm curious about what "What Not to Wear" would look like if it came to Israel. It would either involve a total reformation of Israeli fashion sense (Israelis love to critique each other and believe most things are done better outside Israel) or it would embrace Israeli sensibilities. I can see "Trinny and Shoshana" now: "No, no, you must wear POLYESTER to bring out your eyes!"
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