Is the fashion colour ‘nude’ racist?

21 May 2010

michelle obama khan

Be careful how you describe the off-white palette that is so ‘in’ this season.  Your choice of adjective could get you in hot water – as a journalist from the Associated Press found out, when he described Michelle Obama’s dress as ‘flesh coloured’  and the next thing, had been labelled a racist.

The dress the First Lady wore, to a dinner to honour the Indian Prime Minister, was described as a ‘'sterling-silver sequin, abstract floral, nude strapless gown' by the designer, Naeem Khan. However, after the Associated Press news agency described the hue as ‘flesh’ there was a barrage of retorts. 'Whose flesh? Not hers [Michelle Obama's],' asked one newspaper editor.

Fashion designers have waded in on the subject, saying the terms ‘nude’ and ‘flesh’ can no longer be tied to one colour.  

‘We talk of nude now and there is no one colour. It’s politically incorrect,’ said Gale Epstein, creative director of US lingerie brand Hanky Panky, ‘There is a wide range for skin-tone colours. Human skin tones are a whole colour palette unto themselves.’

‘Nudes are a group of elegant shades but there are a lot of specific shades,’ said designer Pamella Roland, ‘I can’t describe a single specific colour for nude.’

In the end, Associated Press went for the safe option, swapping ‘flesh’ for the less contentious term ‘champagne.’

This is sure to have fashion commentators walking on egg shells, as they scramble for non-offensive adjectives to describe the skin tone section of the colour spectrum. Do you think it’s the PC brigade gone mad? Or agree the use of ‘flesh’ and ‘nude’ is discriminative?

By Amy Molloy


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