Never Nude?


Posted on June 23rd, by Birdie in Beauty Blogs, Fashion and Style. 33 comments January 10, 2014

There has been so much heated talk about ‘nude’ in fashion lately that seeing this article from Elle blogs about the runway nails trend was a breath of fresh air.  It seems to me that nude is not necessarily a good name for color, but it’s worth noting that nude is a great look concept – for example, “mannequin hands”.  OPI has developed several shades with a nude palette in mind, like a color story instead of one catch-all color.

Using “nude” as more of a color theory and a set of “tones”, rather than a color description means more matching things to your own skin tone (like foundation, girls).  It means that a nude shoe is totally your unique experience because you want something that blends to make your leg look longer.  You’re looking for something within a range of colors that suits you – it could be sand, it could be tawny, it could be porcelain, it could be honey or toffee.   Calling things a “nude trend” indicates that what’s “in” is your skin tone – where the model it’s on (you) dictates what “nude” is.

Once more for the ladies:  to wear the nude tones means picking things that complement your own skin.

Maybe to change this whole concept of “nude” and the angry debates over skin tones that follow, we need to just realize that the wide consensus is this: there’s no specific color for the term nude, much like the term “chocolate” could be indicative of a variety of shades.

Ashe Mischief asks, “Are you going to be mad that a shade of brown is described as chocolate and it doesn’t match your skin if you’re African American? That you’re dark chocolate colored and not milk chocolate colored? Or not amaretto caramel fudge colored?  I am damn disappointed my flesh is not named after yummy candy, and I get disappointing words like beige and taupe (which are too yellow for me).  What do I get?  Peach? Fuck that shit.  You can call me Petit Four White, please.”

Nude tones are as varied as the people on this planet.  Use a nude palette as your color theory instead of a considering the color like a Pantone swatch.  “‘Nude’ covers an array of shades like whites, pinks, yellows, beiges, ivories and browns, so why get bogged down by terminology?”

Manufacturers and designers know that nude is a palette – using names like chai, wheat, and flax within the group of nude tones.   It only seems to be reporters and mags who are still in the dark.  In thinking about the underlying semantics, we have the ability to shed a conscious light on a wide palette of colors and make nude tones more accessible.  As Michelle from Wicked Whimsy reminds us, “fashion magazines have a tendency to use the narrowest selection of models possible.”  So when Marie Claire does that mag shoot for “nude”, we expect it might all be “porcelain”, which is a nude tone on the ONE white model they used (why were there not other models? Budget cuts maybe?  That’s a different problem in itself).  We all know damn well, those models aren’t representative of a wide majority of people in any way, shape or form.

Image from Jezebel.com

Image from Jezebel.com

Hell, even I know that most nude tones (including that Marie Claire photo) would never match my skin tone with its ruddy pink here, brown there and delicious freckles.  It’s worth noting though, that the term nude is not that big a deal since it’s consistently considered a palette rather than one specific color (Pantone?  You hear me?  Nude isn’t a color, dudes.  Even CRAYOLA says so).   Picking a nude tone is like picking a foundation off a rack of different tones.  Brush off that anger because the world is ignorant (yes, darling.  It’s true, but as Ashe mentioned, “you’re making mountains out of molehills”.  Anger gets us nowhere.) … and maybe send Marie Claire a *nice* note about using more variety in their models instead of being angry at the fashion world for the name of one of it’s color palettes.

 





33 Responses to “Never Nude?”

  1. Lindsay says:

    The idea is not that the word “nude” does not encompass every skin tone… It’s that the USE of the word nude in the media only incorporates Caucasian skin tones. Of course the word “nude” doesn’t represent only white people, it represents “[insert color of your skin here]“. But when it’s used to promote a “fashion trend” and only lighter colors are used, that’s ridiculous. If they want to promote the idea that “your skin tone looks great against your skin tone”, they should use something other than peachy-beige dresses to display that concept. Excluding darker skin tones from their spreads makes it seem like only lighter tones are acceptable as “nude” and are thusly the trend being promoted, indicating that “nude” is a lighter color. I hardly think that it’s “making mountains out of molehills” when entire races are being excluded from what should be a universally applicable idea.
    .-= Lindsay´s last blog ..The Allure =-.

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by The Demoiselles, Lindsay and Birdie, Jennifer Nicole. Jennifer Nicole said: RT @TheDemoiselles: This article says that the "nude" debate is "making mountains out of molehills", what do you think? http://bit.ly/coJXjJ [...]

  3. Birdie says:

    @Lindsay, I’ll just go ahead and point out this paragraph again:

    Manufacturers and designers know that nude is a palette – using names like chai, wheat, and flax within the group of nude tones. It only seems to be reporters and mags who are still in the dark. In thinking about the underlying semantics, we can shed a conscious light on a wide palette of colors and make nude tones more accessible. As Michelle from Wicked Whimsy reminds us, “fashion magazines have a tendency to use the narrowest selection of models possible.” So when Marie Claire does that mag shoot for “nude”, realize that it might all be porcelain, which is a nude tone on the ONE model they used (why were there not other models? Budget cuts maybe? That’s a different problem in itself). We all know damn well, those models aren’t representative of a wide majority of people in any way, shape or form.

  4. Ellie Di says:

    Very well said! I get exhausted from all the cries of skin/racial bias in fashion anyway, and when it’s getting down to arguing about a single name for a shade, I start to tune out. I love the idea that “nude” is a whole range of colours depending on what colour YOU are when you’re nekkid. Well done.
    .-= Ellie Di´s last blog ..Strut Your Stuff in a Swimsuit =-.

  5. I think this whole debate is kind of ridiculous (as if people couldn’t guess from my quote). Do people REALIZE the place of PRIVILEGE they are coming from because they can debate what the word nude means in fashion?

    Frankly, I also think it’s really funny that a bunch of white chicks are the ones getting up in arms about it. So it’s like, “I have this privilege, that fashion is catered to me, and I’m going to bitch about it.” I have yet to see a marginalized by the color nude blogger write about the issue and how it makes her (or him) feel.

    In case you can’t tell, but quite obviously I have issues with people reacting so strongly to a word with multiple definitions. Look, radalicious even says its about underrepresentation: http://www.racialicious.com/2010/04/23/where-my-sistas-at-the-underrepresentation-of-black-plus-size-models-in-mainstream-fashion/

    Words ONLY have power if you give it to them. Africa notoriously has black bandaids as their “nude” color.

    For the record, I will also state that I said the whole issue is making a mountain out of a molehill. Do I care if I buy a pair of tan shoes and they are nude or beige? No. Do I care if I buy a pair of brown shoes and they are chocolate or cocoa? No. Because frankly, I don’t think arguing online about it is going to solve a problem– I’d rather spend my time making sure at risk students are getting access to the arts and volunteering at my community garden.
    .-= Ashe Mischief´s last blog ..Urban Decay’s Smoke Out Kit =-.

  6. Lindsay says:

    @Birdie I read the paragraph, thank you. Though it is inconclusive as far as your views on whether or not you found it acceptable to use a white model for the shoot, I understand how that would be a convenient way to excuse the magazines from having to address this issue. I don’t think that saying “o sry, we have a limited number of models” is any excuse to only promote one skin tone as “nude.” Sorry. If you want to solely use the Marie Claire example (as if it’s the only instance of this issue), then sure – they used one model (who happens to be blonde and fair – noteworthy, if you ask me), but when it comes to spreads in magazines promoting “nude shoes”, “nude dresses”, “NUDE IS THE NEW BLACK”… It’s not an issue of limited model availability or budget exceptions, it’s a matter of applying the word to one skin tone, and that’s what I’m referring to.

    When I start seeing a wider range of “nude” represented in the spreads where shoes and dresses are featured (models don’t need to be involved for magazines to write about “nude trends”), then I will have no place to talk, but as of now I’m seeing off-white to beige-pink. Any Portuguese, Filipino, or Senegalese woman if they consider those spreads an accurate depiction of their “nude”, and I’m pretty sure they’re going to say no. They’re excluded, just like everyone else who is not light-skinned.

    http://www.whowhatwear.com/website/full-article/trend-report-new-nudes/
    http://www.collegefashion.net/trends/spring-2009-trend-nude/
    http://www.cosmopolitan.com/celebrity/fashion/nude-fashion-trend
    http://www.fabsugar.com/tag/nude
    http://www.glamourmagazine.co.uk/celebrity/celebrity-fashion/2010/03/08/everybodys-wearing-new-nudes
    .-= Lindsay´s last blog ..The Allure =-.

  7. Also, on a serious note, I want to share this post from the Seventeen Magazine Project: http://www.theseventeenmagazineproject.com/2010/05/seventeen-and-race.html

    Even though it’s geared towards issues of Seventeen, I think its really interesting to see race broken down by the magazine vs. the US census. I imagine that some more progressive magazines like Glamour are probably pushing closer and closer to being equal.

    To a certain degree, the underrepresentation sucks. There ARE people doing things about it. But when it comes from an advertising and marketing standpoint, why spend effort and money catering to an audience that statistically and demographically isn’t there?
    .-= Ashe Mischief´s last blog ..Urban Decay’s Smoke Out Kit =-.

  8. Birdie says:

    @Lindsay, and I quote, AGAIN: “That’s a different problem in itself.”

    Thank you for your point of view, as it is relevant, but not entirely what I was talking about (nude as a range of color tones instead of an argument about racial underrepresentation).

  9. Lindsay says:

    @Birdie
    I’m sorry, but stating that “it’s a different problem entirely” does not give me an idea of what you think that problem is, so how am I supposed to know your meaning?

    Other commenters seem to be talking about racial under-representation, so it seems I’m not alone in my confusion on your post’s topical direction. My most sincere apologies for taking your post off its intended topic.
    .-= Lindsay´s last blog ..The Allure =-.

  10. Kristy says:

    I’m again at a point in the middle here. I think you are right in that everyone knows that there are different skin colors out there, so if people really thought about it the simple term nude does encompass them all.

    However, I have to agree with Lindsay’s point that a lot of what gets naturalized in the world is what the media puts out there without commentary. With only one or two examples it’s easy to say “let the magazine do what they want — they can’t realistically cover everything!” but if you actually start to conglomerate ALL of the articles showcasing the “nude” trend, you begin to see that lighter colors are the *vast* majority of the representations. It’s only when you form the bigger picture like that that you see this belief/myth (that nude = white) is systemic, hegemonic and does silently creep into how many people think about culture.

    Simply, it does affect things and it does matter.

    It’s great that there are people being reflexive about it — obviously all four of us here have been — and realize that nude encompasses a heck of a lot more than white. But we’re also the type of people (for many reasons, including our education, our whiteness, privilege in other ways, but also just our personalities) to think that way. Almost no one really thinks deeper into this stuff, and they should, even if just for a second, and even if in the end they aren’t on “my side.”

    And that’s why the issue needs to be raised. There is a group of people being effectively silenced because of the representation of “nude” — the scary part is that because it is so “natural” (read: hegemonic) people don’t even know to speak up. I’m glad, at the very least, that the issue is being discussed, even if people are coming down on different sides of it.
    .-= Kristy´s last blog ..One thousand toppings at Portage Bay Cafe =-.

  11. Birdie says:

    @Lindsay It seems like quite a few people understood what I was talking about. For example:

    “Very well said! I get exhausted from all the cries of skin/racial bias in fashion anyway, and when it’s getting down to arguing about a single name for a shade, I start to tune out. I love the idea that “nude” is a whole range of colours depending on what colour YOU are when you’re nekkid. Well done.”

    @Kristy Haha – stoked as always to read your comments! I really tried to emphasize that nude is a palette – the entire point of my post lies in that. Nude is not one color, regardless of whether media is able to represent that. Consider it a call to arms: In thinking about the underlying semantics, we can shed a conscious light on a wide palette of colors and make nude tones more accessible.

  12. Kristy says:

    @Birdie I agree with your point that nude is a palate. And I’m totally for a call to arms! :D However, I think that it’s hard to keep this issue from being a political one and there were some political comments in your post which is what probably spawned all the comments.
    .-= Kristy´s last blog ..One thousand toppings at Portage Bay Cafe =-.

  13. Birdie says:

    @Kristy – It definitely seems to be a challenge – and as we’ve agreed before, any discussion is better than no discussion. :)

  14. Ellie Di says:

    After reading all these comments, I have a couple of points I’d like to get out there:

    The trouble I’m seeing in most activist writing is that the author can never address every single point that’s relevant to the issue being written about. Unless you’re writing a book, and even that’s not exempt, it’s nigh impossible to cover EVERYTHING that could be related to the issue at hand in one piece of writing. And that will ALWAYS be the focal point of tons of people’s comments: what’s been missed or “overlooked”. It would be more helpful to conversations on activist issues if we could acknowledge in a helpful, productive way that not everything can be touched on at once.

    @Birdie and @Lindsay: You guys are running at parallel ends. In your posts on this issue, you both tackle the use of the word “nude”, but what you really mean and want to get across is that there should be a broader use because of the nature of diversity. It seems like there’s a crossing of wires here. Both articles are upholding the same idea, you’re just getting bogged down in some of the wording used.
    .-= Ellie Di´s last blog ..Strut Your Stuff in a Swimsuit =-.

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  18. WendyB says:

    This has always bothered me. http://wendybrandes.com/blog/2008/12/just-call-it-beige/

    Why is it different than saying “flesh” for crayons? People stopped doing that a long time ago. “Nude” sounds sexy, yeah, but it’s just not accurate.
    .-= WendyB´s last blog ..WendyB Talks With the Washington Post =-.

  19. Bella Q says:

    Fantastic post on an interesting subject. As color palette the term totally makes sense. As a beige choice of bra or shoe that never matches my high-yellow toned ecru skin, it’s is a limited use of word. Congrats of making Links ala Mode. This is a great post.
    .-= Bella Q´s last blog ..See Emily Play: An interview with Emily Roche =-.

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  24. Excellent observations here! A thought-provoking and well-written post.

    ♥ V

    http://www.gritandglamour.com
    .-= Grit and Glamour´s last blog ..Links à la Mode- IFB Weekly Roundup- June 24 =-.

  25. Eboni Ife' says:

    Fabulous post! I completely agree with you. Really, what is this argument about? It has no merit. Perhaps because I am black and the “nude” in the mags has NEVER been my “nude,” (same goes for chocolate since I am not brown skinned) I have always thought of nude as a concept rather than color. It kind of goes without saying in my opinion. I know that finding the perfect nude shoe, bra, or nail polish means that finding a shade that matches my olive complexion. I may not know exactly what shade that is, but I do know that it is encompassed under the “nude” umbrella and that is the term that I will use to describe what I’m looking for.
    .-= Eboni Ife’´s last blog ..When All Else Fails- Black Denimand Stripper Shoes =-.

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  27. Birdie says:

    @Eboni Ife’ Thank you so much for your insight and perspective. For a second here I felt awkward because a lot of the debate is being held by 3-4 girls with approximately the same complexions. And really, how representative can that debate be with such a small sample?

  28. Wow, I had no idea there was such a huge debate surrounding the term “nude” – aside from its other definition, that is ;-)

    To me it seems like a no-brainer that “nude” is not just one color or hue, but that it varies with the color of the skin. After all, a nude bra won’t be the same color for a white girl and a black girl, right? That would defeat the purpose.

    Great post!
    .-= Elisa @ Globetrotting in Heels´s last blog ..OOTW- Think Tank =-.

  29. Birdie says:

    I so prefer the “other” definition – @Elisa @ Globetrotting in Heels. :)

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  31. lorrwill says:

    Well I have been around too long to be pissed. I find it disappointing when a retailers only has a small range of colors – okay – only basically 1 color and it matched a Barbie doll – but I am mixed race so I know I am in the 2% outside the 98th percentile that most retailers market to and have been since I was old enough to shop.

    There has always been the concept of “flesh-toned” that had nothing to do with one specific race. Sure, some of us had to hunt more and have our foundation custom blended, but it could be found. Heck I bet a lot of the nude tones that do fall under the bell curve are way different in the winter than in the summer.

    So I am no more ‘pale flesh’ (Crayola), ivory or bisque than I am ebony, toffee or caramel, etc. So what?

    Except that I fell in love the nude shoes concept even before it was a huge hit and have yet to find a pair that begin to match me – which I would love to do!

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