Open Letter to the Fashion Industry: "Nude" Is Not Actually a Color

Dear Fashion Industry,


I’ve been meaning to write ever since that big wedding that took place in London this past spring, and then as various bits and bobs of fashion flotsam and jetsam have wandered across my heat-blurred summer vision, but, well, events overcame me. Life, and your whatnot. But finally, here we are, tete-a-tete. Did you miss me, Fashion Industry? I hope so!

Now, I’m sure this isn’t usually done, but I want to open my missive with a little snippet from the American Heritage Dictionary, unabridged – to wit:

nude adj. – Having no clothing; naked.

I bring this to your attention, Fashion Industry, because I have begun to suspect that you don’t possess this important linguistic nugget of information. “Nude” means “no clothes on” — and evidence suggests that either you don’t know that, or you don’t know that people of all colors take their clothes off now and then.

No, it’s true! All over the globe, at any given time, black people, brown people, amber people (or “yellow,” if those people prefer), red people, tawny people, cafe-au-lait people, cinnamon people — all manner of people who are not pasty, pink, or beige in shade are taking off their clothes. Wandering about in the nude. Even if only between pairs of underwear.

I mention this because in the course of reading about last April’s big event, and the various flotsam and jetsam, etc, I discovered that you, the Fashion Industry, still use the word “nude” incorrectly. You still use it to mean “approximately the color of a white lady’s bum.”

Let me demonstrate, by means of that handiest of internet tools: Links.

This pair of genuinely lovely Jimmy Choo crisscross platform sandals — perfect for all of one’s summer affairs (and, you Fashion Industry, may feel free to understand the word “affairs” any old way you like!) and not exactly inexpensive at $636?

In spite of the designer’s insistence — not nude.

This mini-hat, aka: “fascinator”? (Note to non-Fashion Industry readers: Yes, that really is a thing).

In spite of the website copy — not nude.

This ensemble (the little number on the right)?

While so daring as to be charming in my books (though, I understand, not necessarily in yours) — also: not nude.

I happen to be of Caucasian extraction, and thus have some experience with the color of a white lady’s bum, and let me first note that, in fact, none of the above actually resembles the skin of any white lady I know. Just, you know, for starters.

Next: To the extent that “nude” could conceivably be a color, it would (by inference) be “the color of the person wearing it.” Thus, if you’d like to call all of the above “Caucasian nude,” I’d be willing to roll with it, though, as I say, I don’t know any Caucasians the color of that hat (except my mother, after an afternoon of vigorous gardening, who really does get a bit pink, but really, should we base an entire color scheme on one white lady’s tendency to overheat?).

I understand: The Fashion Industry is an industry. It was constructed and conceived to make people money, and there is a tendency to market industries to the broadest possible swath of humans with money, and the understanding of nearly everyone in positions of power in all of the image-heavy industries has long been that this can only mean using white people to do the marketing.

Most models are white. Most designers are white. Most magazine editors are white. That’s the way it goes, I suppose, until someone figures out that white people are, in fact, just smart enough to be sold things worn, designed, and/or described by non-white people. That day will come. I appreciate the occasional spasmodic efforts to bring more models of color to catwalks, but I don’t expect real integration until the rest of society has gotten rather more integrated itself.

But we could make a small start with “nude.”

As a lady who enjoys shopping for Fashion Items, I can tell you: Ladies who enjoy shopping for Fashion Items will buy any freakishly-named color under the sun. You don’t need to make us feel that we’re buying something white-lady-skin-colored to get us to do so. We’ll buy ecru, toasted coconut, buff, chamois, palest rose, taupe, beige, palest pink, biscuit, mushroom, fawn (ooh, I particularly like fawn), oatmeal, sand, on and on.

Really. I promise.

But, on the other hand, every time you define nude as “Caucasian,” you’re telling a whole lot of people that their naked skin is mistaken. Is wrong.<

And not only does that suck, it’s probably costing you some dollars, son. If you don’t want to consider social advancement, you could at least consider your own bottom line.

Anyhoo, thanks for all the details on the frocks and hats at William’s and Kate’s big day, not to mention all the lovely stuff that’s comes out in the meantime! Man, that satellite thing on that one lady’s head — whew! Something else.

Hugs and kisses,

Emily

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