The word “nude” has two main connotations: one being the state of being naked, and the other being a blanket term for “skin-coloured” cosmetics and clothing. You can buy everything from foundation, nail polish and lipstick to stockings, underwear and high heels in this ubiquitous colour.
However, while the classic nude shade is an accurate representation of some people’s complexions, it certainly doesn’t account for the array of skin tones that exist in the real world — and this can be extremely isolating for women of colour.
Scandal star Kerry Washington says the lack of diverse nude shades in makeup and fashion has always troubled her, even when she was a child.
“I remember being a little girl at the drugstore with my mother, looking at stockings, and having a realisation that when a package says ‘nude,’ they’re not talking about me,” the 39-year-old tells Elle.
“That was traumatising for me as a little girl. Like, ‘Oh, they’re talking about someone else’s nude body, they’re not talking about women of colour.”
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Thanks to pressure from consumers, the narrow definition of ‘nude’ is gradually changing. Last year, fashion designer Christian Louboutin updated his beloved collection of nude heels to include five different skin tones — and announced plans for further expansion.
Similarly, 2014 saw the launch of Nubian Skin, a lingerie company selling an inclusive range of nude underwear and hosiery.
“Despite the reality that women of colour have the same needs as all women when it comes to lingerie and hosiery … the industry simply doesn’t cater to us. So, I thought, it’s time to rethink the definition of nude,” the company’s founder explained at the time.
Kerry Washington is also playing her part.