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When Will the Fashion Industry Realize ‘Nude’ Isn’t Just One Color?

How many times have you gone into a department store’s lingerie section on the hunt for the perfect nude bra to wear under a slightly sheer top, and were only able to find a few shades that were all about 50 shades too light for you? Or you heard a commercial about a new Neutrogena or Almay foundation that has all these amazing benefits but when you get to Target, they’re only available in four shades, none of which are even beyond “sand.” Or maybe you tried on some “nude” tights and they made your legs look like you haven’t put lotion on in years.

Now before we go any further, let me give you the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of nude: “Wearing no clothes; naked.” Now, either the fashion industry didn’t know that is the technical definition of nude, or they didn’t realize that people of all colors take their clothing off from time to time. And yet, they still use it to mean “approximately the color of a Caucasian lady.” Don’t believe me? Let me show you. I just Googled “nude shoes” and screenshot the results. See for yourself:

To anyone that hasn’t picked up a fashion magazine in the past year or so, you might not know that nude was dominating the fashion scene in the later part of 2016 and Instyle magazine even went so far as to say “nude is the new black.” I mean, that’s literally the easiest way to exclude darker-skinned women from the trend. And even when the fashion industry attempts to find words that are synonymous with nude, they use descriptors like champagne, blush, ivory and rose, words still equate to a light blush-toned color and don’t factor in that for some women, nude equals brown. If “nude” were conceivably a color, it would be the color of the person wearing it, at least based on the definition I gave above. Thus, the shoes above could be called “Caucasian nude,” even though I honestly haven’t seen too many Caucasian people with a pink-toned complexion. But okay.

I get it, the fashion industry is just that, an industry. It’s supposed to make people money by marketing to the seemingly broadest population and for years that has meant that most designers are white, most models are white, most magazines are white, and therefore most marketing efforts are targeted towards white people. I mean for some reason French Vogue saw the necessity of shooting Lara Stone in blackface because apparently there just aren’t enough black models in the industry.

How do they still think this is okay?

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that the industry is making a little bit of an effort to, every now and then, feature a person of color on its catwalks, but is that really enough? I think the change starts with banishing the idea of this “typical nude” color that excludes so many people. Every time “nude” is defined as “Caucasian,” you’re telling someone else that their nude is wrong.

You’re telling Rihanna that her flawless skin color is wrong because in case you didn’t notice, those shoes definitely don’t match her skin.

Not only is that rude, but I’m pretty sure it’s probably costing the fashion industry money when a woman has to give up her search for the perfect, skin tone, leg-lengthening shoe. I mean, even if they’re not thinking of it in terms of social advancement and integration, at least think of the bottom line. Besides, there are literally so many other names they could give that color: eggshell, toasted coconut (ooh sexy), taupe, beige, oatmeal, fawn, sand, buff…you get the picture. And guess what: people will still buy it!

Now, there are some brands out there that are re-imagining nude beyond just the typical pale blush color that should be celebrated for the change they’re bringing to the fashion and beauty industries:

1. Christian Louboutin, a French footwear designer, introduced his “Les Nudes” collection in 2013—a shoe line that offers a spectrum of nudes from “pale blush” to “rich chestnut.” The company even designed an app called Louboutin Shades that allows shoppers to take pictures of their feet and find their perfect nude shade.

2.  Nubian Skin’s founder Ade Hussan was frustrated by the lack of diverse options when it came to nude underwear-shopping as many women understandably are. The brand offers four distinct shades called Cafe Au Lait, Cinnamon, Berry and Caramel in various sizes, bra and underwear styles and hosiery options.

3. Sephora has introduced 35 shades of this powder foundation! If they can do it, so can you drugstore brands that are more in my price range!

With the success and positive feedback that these brands have received on these wider color ranges, it kind of makes you wonder, what took so long in the first place?

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Briana Thornton is a fashion merchandising major at VCU (although she certainly doesn't always dress like it). You can catch her if you can running between her job at the gym, soccer practice, and the many other activities she has chosen to overwhelm herself with this semester. She lives with the motto "Try everything once" because why not? She hopes to graduate in 2018, move to London, and run a fashion magazine, Miranda Priestly style.
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