In the Nude : One Shade Actually Does Not Fit All

(Photo: The Oklahoma Daily)

From Sierra…

Consumers today are presented with a plethora of options when it comes down to the details like size, style and color; but, what about when a “skin-toned” item is desired?

The question arises: “Skin-toned for whom?”

The Guardian reminds us of the commotion that arose in 2010 when The First Lady wore a dress that the Associated Press described as “flesh-colored.” The agency later revised the description of Mrs. Obama’s dress to “champagne,” prompting deliberation by various publications about the use of the term “nude” in the fashion world.

Traditionally, nude refers to hues of white, pale, beige, tan and gold. This standard is exclusionary to individuals with darker skin.


Motivation for Writing this Article:

Several weeks ago, this article appeared in my Facebook news feed. The title naturally peaked my interest because of its daring claim, so I decided to check it out.

The above article was a misinterpretation of an editorial piece by The Oklahoma Daily in September.

The goal of the original piece was to “encourage our readers to actively redefine ‘nude’ and consider the subtle examples of racism they encounter every day.”

However, many publications, such as Young Conservatives and, viewed the statement as saying products that are labeled “nude” are inherently racist.

After discussing the topic with fellow Her Campus member, Dianna, we decided that the word “nude” is not, in fact, all-inclusive, and only hinders the shopping process when it comes to items such as makeup, lingerie, clothing, and shoes.



When you google “nude makeup,” images of palettes for people with pale skin appear. Some web results lead to earthier tones, but the majority of shades are beige and rosy pink, which only caters to a certain demographic.

(Photo: Women's Health)

I was able to find representation of more than one skin tone in some articles online, like this one from Women’s Health, which provides tips on which brands to use and how to apply the makeup.


From Dianna…



Whenever you wear a white T-shirt, you often hear about how you should wear a white or nude bra underneath. But since my skin color isn’t close to white or traditional nude, these colors make the bra more noticeable under a white T shirt. In result of this, I have to wear a black bra under a white T shirt.

This problem has been discussed abundantly in the community of African American women. It seems as though this issue shouldn’t even be occurring since so many lingerie lines have nude versions of underwear. The problem arises when nude becomes only one particular shade meant for one particular skin tone.

(Photo: Young Conservatives)

When you go to a store looking for underwear, you may come across an occasional brown, but it often is patterned (usually cheetah print), or there is only one shade of it. The chances are slim that it matches a darker skin tone, and these are never labeled under the category of nude.

A similar problem happens with women who are more pale. White underwear is extremely popular, but why can’t that color be called nude, as well? The word “nude” is only associated with one specific color.

Fortunately, there is some noteworthy development when it comes to designing lingerie with a more inclusive mindset. Nubian Skin, a lingerie line specifically for women of color, has many different shades of nude under names like “berry,” “caramel,” and “cinnamon.”



One staple who has been reported wearing plenty of nude this season is Kim Kardashian. Unsurprisingly, her olive skin is the ideal shade most of us think of when we hear the word nude. This could be because the definition of nude means, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “of the color of a white person’s flesh.”

This brings up the question: what is the word describing “the color of a brown person’s flesh?” The answer could be brown, but wouldn’t that make the word describing “a white person’s flesh” white?

(Photo: Christian Louboutin)

Christian Louboutin has recently extended his line of shoes to include more shades of brown--a collection called “Les Nudes.” There are five different shades available in this line, and with it being Louboutin, the prices are not cheap. We can all hope for a more budget-friendly designer to launch a similar campaign.


Final Thoughts.

So, it’s clear that not all of us fit the fashion world’s traditional definition of "nude." What we need to see is a broader spectrum of products that match all skin-tones, and do not, either intentionally or accidentally, exclude certain individuals.

What do you think?