Mikheil Saakashvili was never much like other post-Soviet presidents, and the Georgian leader’s wife is equally different to the region’s other first ladies. A confident, stylish polyglot, Dutch-born Sandra Roelofs is the perfect foil for her husband’s drive to westernise Georgia.
The pair are very much an international couple, having met in Strasbourg and lived together in New York. Besides Dutch and English, Roelofs also speaks fluent Georgian, French and German. Before her husband took over the presidency she worked as a translator and business consultant but has since taken on more traditional first lady roles, spearheading a number of health and charitable initiatives.
Her dress sense has evolved during her time as first lady, as she has swapped outfits that were often a little frumpy for elegant long overcoats, fitted dresses and high heels. Women in Georgia are traditionally supposed to be glamorous and homely at the same time, a balancing act that she has recently got the hang of.
“She is a great hit with the western diplomatic corps,” says one diplomat formerly posted in Tbilisi. “Saakashvili’s whole shtick is that he is a civilised westerner who is going to make Georgia a European country. It might sound patronising, but having a real European wife reinforces that image."
Despite constant rumours about the state of her marriage, Roelofs exudes a breezy cheerfulness in public situations, and her body language is always positive.
Roelofs’ jewellery isn’t tasteless, but neither is it that subtle. Like with much of her attire, she exudes a certain level of bling and raciness without going over the top.
Her husband has been known to wear a Swatch watch depicting frolicking rabbits but Roelofs goes for functionality and style over chunky ostentation.
Knee-length lace skirt:
Roelofs can dress to impress, and the frumpy outfits of the drab wives of many post-Soviet leaders (just look at Ludmila Putin) are not for her.
Roelofs’ Dutch blood ensures a healthy stature, but she can still wear heels without worrying too much. Her husband is a bear of a man and almost two metres tall, so she needn’t fret about an embarrassing Sarkozyesque height discrepancy.
Date: 6 March
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