The dress was pale peach with a hint of champagne. Michelle Obama is African-American.
Even worse, the Associated Press called it "flesh-coloured". This sparked a debate about fashion's use of the word "nude". Bras, unmentionables, shapewear still predominately come in pre-World War II colours, famously known in fashion as “nude”.
We all remember Carrie Bradshaw’s “naked dress”, the one she wore on her first date with Mr. Big. And the “nude” trend a la the Kardashians that have single-handedly monopolised fashion in recent years: beige bandage dresses painted on your skin to within an inch of your life and “nude” platform heels that elongate (white) pins.
So, we can all agree that “nude” essentially aims to make women appear as naked as possible. But “nude” is only “nude” if you’re white.
The UG Times wrote a brilliant article highlighting microaggressions. Using the term “nude” to refer to a garment so obviously meant exclusively for white woman is a subtle insult that has taken most of us years to recognise as racist. “Nude” has been unconsciously assumed as part of our everyday colour wheel, yet because it only applies to one set of people, it tells women of colour that they are in fact unnatural. That white skin is the norm and that brown or darker skin is somehow meant for the periphery. Thus, a black woman’s need for something like a flesh-coloured bra to wear underneath a white tee is simply not considered by mass fashion.
There have been a few notable strides in the fashion world of late, with renowned shoe-maker Christian Louboutin launching a range of flats earlier this year in all shades of "nude". Last year American brand, Nubian Skin, launched a new collection of undies and hosiery made specifically for women of colour. And the most recent brand to launch a “nudes for all” range is Naja offering lingerie in 7 different shades.
But the “nude” tyranny extends to various spheres. Major makeup brands still dare to launch their products in South Africa with “limited” foundation shades, i.e. Snow WHITE, Princess WHITE and Steve Hofmeyer WHITE - when locals clearly represent a much more ebony than ivory demographic. And in a recent article by Man Repeller, Amelia Diamond compares the “nude” fashion trend to plasters. Something as simple as a plaster has for years blatantly disregarded skin tones other than Caucasians, exclusively manufacturing products in beige.
Luckily, local trailblazing company, Plasta, is making waves by manufacturing bandages for all skin tones.
So, subtle as many might think, the lack of racial inclusivity is still shockingly dire. Beige undies for all? C’mon guys this is the bare essentials here. Literally.