Nadia Sawalha (Photo: Rex Features)
Nadia Sawalha (Photo: Rex Features)


What happens when a woman wears the same top twice?

TV presenter Nadia Sawalha was asked if she was pregnant when she wore her snake-print shirt eight days in a row. Of course, this wouldn't happen to a man, says Laura Craik

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By Laura Craik on

I know there’s a lot going on in the world right now, and that your mind is probably overloaded. But you might want to make a little brain-space for this, for truly, it’s revelatory. Apparently, there’s a clever new way to tell if a woman is pregnant: one so failsafe that it’s a miracle nobody has thought of it before. Here goes: a woman is pregnant if she wears the same top all the time. I know! Told you it was revelatory! And there was you checking to see whether she’s tipping her wine away!

This, at least, is what Nadia Sawalha was accused of being, solely on the basis that she wore the same snake-print blouse eight times in a row on a TV panel show. I don’t watch Loose Women, but 1.2 million people do, many of whom were moved to debate the topic of Sawalha’s blouse on social media, because that’s what happens when there’s a slow news week *giant sideways eyeroll*. “Some of them got really cross… some DM’d me and asked if I was expecting,” Sawalha said, adding that it was the pregnancy rumours that finally made her decide to come clean. In fact, she wasn’t hiding a bump: she was trying to expose the hypocrisy whereby women are shamed for wearing the same clothes while men aren’t. Sawalha had struck upon the idea, she explained, after speaking to TV host and former Strictly contestant Judge Rinder. “He was telling me he’s worn exactly the same outfit for every interview and nobody’s noticed, and I said ‘that wouldn’t happen here, we always have people notice’. 

And it’s true: women always have people notice. Whether they’re a TV presenter, a teacher or the future Queen, women’s clothes, shoes, hair, make-up, weight, teeth, skin tone and general demeanour will be picked over with a forensic attention to detail that their male counterparts largely escape. It’s why the Duchess of Cambridge makes headline news every time she wears the same dress twice, while her husband evades all comment despite appearing to spend all his downtime dressed in the same jumper. It’s why Hillary Clinton is pulled up for wearing too many pantsuits, but it’s fine for Donald Trump to wear the exact same navy Brioni suit every day of life with a ghastly, dangling, way-too-long tie. 

A man who wears the same thing every day = practical, serious, no time for distractions, while a woman who wears the same thing every day = lazy, unstylish, pregnant

Sure, Donald’s ties are the least of our problems, but the point stands. When Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg was questioned about his love of grey T shirts (he owns multiple versions of the same one), he answered with: “I really want to clear my life so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community. I feel like I’m not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on things that are silly or frivolous about my life.” Well, lucky him. How very excellent that he can aid and abet the world’s posting of specious political arguments and cat memes without having to worry about anything as “frivolous” as his clothes. 

Maybe Zuckerberg could share his wisdom with the employers of the many women still being forced to wear high heels, short skirts and make-up on the basis that their jobs allegedly demand them to look a certain way. I wholly agree with the principle that less time spent getting ready = more time to do things that matter. Unfortunately, when it comes to cutting sartorial corners, my gender dictates that I’m not really let off the hook. It’s why Nadia Sawalha recently told a newspaper that on Loose Women, there is a general rule that nothing is worn twice “because people start to notice”. Notice what? The decline of Western civilisation because a woman didn’t rotate her top? “Quite a lot of people on Twitter were saying, ‘I feel the pressure in my job to keep wearing something different,” she added. Although it’s worth pointing out here that the worst kind of fashion police are just as often other women as men. 

It isn’t right that a man who wears the same thing every day = practical, serious, no time for distractions, while a woman who wears the same thing every day = lazy, unstylish, pregnant. Which is why I propose that we should all have a National Grey T Shirt Day – or better still, a month – in the interests of equality. Who’s in?


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Nadia Sawalha (Photo: Rex Features)
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Laura Craik
fashion news
women in the media

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