Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of things about the color “nude” on Twitter after BuzzFeed posted an article & video on the topic. This color controversy is something that I once debated about and I wrote a story on it:
When Michelle Obama wore a sleeveless dress to a state dinner in 2010 and Naeem Khan, the designer of the dress, described it as a “sterling-silver sequin, abstract floral, nude strapless gown,” controversy on the color/word “nude” began.
Nude is defined as naked. It doesn’t necessarily mean invisible but it’s supposed to blend into a person’s skin color in order to make them appear “nude” without them actually being fully naked.
The lingerie, fashion, and make up industry each have their own definition of “nude.”
“Nude is a neutral color,” said Elizabeth Rivera, the category manager at the Victoria Secret store in Main Street, Miami Lakes. “It goes well with everything and it’s not meant to match anyone’s skin tone.”
In the lingerie world, nude isn’t supposed to be a color to match or blend with anyone’s skin tone. It’s meant to be a neutral color that won’t show through clothes, such as a white t-shirt.
However, in fashion, nude isn’t neutral. It’s a shade of color meant to be a fashion statement. “Nude heels,” “nude flats,” and “nude tops” all resemble a champagne/beige color.
“Based off of what I’ve seen in the fashion industry, nude is typically flesh-toned but of a very fair person. It’s not dark or ‘olive’ or ‘pale’,” said Lily Bencome from Bebe at Pembroke Gardens, who majored in Fashion Design at the Miami International University of Art & Design.
Make-up companies name the color of their products (foundations, concealers, liquid powders, etc.) using the spectrum of skin tones. But, when it comes to the actual definition of the color, they consider it to be more like beige/champagne and they describe it as “nude beige” and “creamy natural.”
Why is that specific color labeled “natural” or “nude” if all skin colors are natural?
“The definition is interpretive,” said Kiki Robinson, a sales consultant at Sephora, a beauty shop in Pembroke Gardens. “It depends on who you’re asking. It can range from something that’s really brown to something that’s really fair. You have to compliment it to your skin tone.”
Although make up brands label nude and natural as one specific shade, make-up artists see it as the color that is most natural to their clients skin tone.
“Nude is only nude if you’re white, not black,” said Paula Cocozza, a fashion writer for The Guardian.
If racism is brought into the discussion, it makes sense as to why certain people tend to tie nude with a lighter color instead of a darker. To this day, it’s hard for a person of a darker skin tone to become a model as opposed to a person with fair skin.
“I don’t really think about the racist aspect of it. It doesn’t make me pause to say ‘Oh that really bothers me [how they interpret] it,” said Robinson. “A lot of these companies aren’t U.S. based. Most of them are European. So, they’re not appealing to our masses but to the people in their area,” said Robinson, “The labels apply to them more than they do to us.”
To an extent, that may be true but companies in the make-up, fashion, and lingerie industry, regardless of location, know what they mean when they say “nude” or describe one color more natural than the other. They don’t seem to be trying to give nude its true neutral and naked meaning. Labeling those terms to one shade can give off an offensive approach.
One example of a store that takes all skin colors into consideration when using the label “nude” is-Nordstrom but that doesn’t excuse all the other places that don’t. Maybe one day we’ll look at the word “nude” as a color for everyone but, as of right now, the answer still remains in the situation of inequality in these industries.
For more, check out this article from BuzzFeed.
*Note: I wrote this my first year of my journalism classes (December 2014).