A black girl’s perspective on ‘nude’

How do you define ‘nude’?

Let’s face it. No matter what skin tone you have, finding the perfect shade of nude is always such a hassle.

It’s either too light, too orangey or too dark.

However, for someone like me, a melanin-rich dark skinned girl, it almost seemed impossible.

I grew up as a black girl in a predominantly Caucasian community in Scandinavia, where nude was known as being just one colour: beige. Or as my peers also called it ‘skin tone colour’.

As a result of this, I fully convinced myself that nude was just one specific colour and that it was a shade that did not match my dark complexion. At the time, this never really bothered me on a high level.

Fast forward a few years, my frustration for the concept of nude along with tights arose.

Although I’m not the biggest tights wearer, they were what led me to my first encounter with the colour ‘nude’.

Seeing my Caucasian friends in mini-skirts and dresses flaunting their seemingly perfect long legs (thanks to sheer nude tights) made me realise that there was no such thing as nude for me.

Therefore, the only thing I could do, was to resolve to my twenty denier tights, because as a friend told me: “Those look exactly like your skin tone, it looks like you’re not wearing any tights at all!” This was like receiving a backhanded compliment.

My annoyance level for nude kept growing from there. Not only did I find it challenging to find ‘nude’ tights, but even the underwear, which was available to me at the time was not made to fit my skin tone.

It was equally bad when it came to beauty products, if not worse. My hunt to find a nude lipstick that would enhance my already rather voluminous lips became the nightmare of my life.

I was either handed over a black vampy lippie or a beige tint lipstick, which obviously looked nothing like the colour of my lips.

None of these worked and the latter always left me looking like I had smudged chalk all over my lips.

This made me certain of one thing. At this point in time, after all these countless experiences, I came to a conclusion.

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Felicia Brown. Photography by Carolina Rapezzi

Me not being able to find my shade of nude, had nothing to do with the colour of my skin but with the fashion industry.

I know that I’m not the darkest of dark – so why was it so impossible for me to find anything that would complement my skin tone, which I could also call nude?

These experiences, although they may not seem traumatising at a first glance, affected the way I felt about my skin tone.

To me, nude in the fashion industry meant an exclusion of women of colour. A colour that is repeatedly seen in Spring/Summer collections, nude only seems to be one specific shade.

Think of the nude pink and khaki-ish shades in Chanel’s Spring/Summer 18 resort collection and those in Hermès, Jill Sander and Ulla Johnson in their Spring/Summer 17 collections.

This was until recently, where brands including Nubian Skin, Shades of Mia Mina and Nude Barre were founded.

All aiming to be inclusive and create nude garments for women of colour, these brands were created out of the same frustration I faced and by black women like myself.

Ultimately, this seemed like the wake-up call that the industry needed.

With a mission to redefine ‘nude’ entrepreneur and founder of Nubian Skin Ade Hassan told in an interview with TheHuffingtonpost.co.uk:“The fashion industry has come a long way – if you compare it to the lack of diversity in the 1960s then we have come forward leaps and bounds – but there is still a long way to go and there’s always room for improvement.”

Yes, the fashion industry has been exclusive of providing women of colour with nude shades to fit their skin but as Hassan rightly puts it, we have come a long way.

As I’m now also able to flaunt my legs in nude tights that fit my skin tone, I have come to realise that I can wear nude shades that are not necessarily designed for my complexion.

For me, the trick lies in the way I style and put together different ‘nude’/beige/peachy/khaki shades in different textures, which when styled properly looks good on any skin tone, regardless of how fair or dark you are.

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