I was at my favourite undergarment store today and decided to make a few purchases of the BEST BRA EVA and as usual I chose the colour black. The lady at the counter asked me if I wanted any other colours to which I replied that black was the only colour that was versatile and low key for me. I had tried on a “nude” bra earlier just to compare sizes. I hadn’t planned to buy it. It was a light beige colour.
A thought occurred to me at the counter. Wouldn’t it be great if I could actually buy a real nude bra for my skin tone at my favourite store? I know these bra’s exist because I just did an internet search and found this website and this article -but wouldn’t it be great if I didn’t have to order online and guess if it would fit? Wouldn’t it be great if I could just go into my favourite store that I’ve been shopping at for years and find the colour that matched my skin.
I made mention of my thought to the sales lady who was not white or black but definitely a woman of colour. She mentioned that the store sometimes carried brown bras. I’ve never seen them but I said they should make it permanent since it would actually be nude for people of colour. She made an innocent comment that they are probably doing what’s practical. I thought…practical? You can’t get more practical then marketing to millions of women of colour and it’s pretty practical to have more than one “skin tone” colour in a store that specializes in bras and underwear. I smiled and nicely asked her to put in a word to head office and tell them how appreciated different colour bras would be.
This interesting conversation with the sales lady reminded me of my other struggles with the colour “nude”. I have been in two family weddings where I was required to find shoes in “nude”. Each time, I made sure to clarify if the brides wanted me to find shoes to “look nude” on me or if they wanted me to purchase pinkish shoes. Each time, it was to purchase pink coloured shoes. One of the brides at one point commented that the colour wasn’t actually “nude” for me. This was a simple funny observation but it is my daily reality. For most “nude” is a colour people where on their feet and nails and sometimes underwear. Most people who are not of colour don’t think about what calling that colour “nude” really means to other people daily. For me it just complicates what colour people are referring to. I didn’t want to show up in brown shoes and mess up the uniformity of the wedding.
I was on the phone with one of my friends during the whole “nude” search for the most recent wedding and she asked me if I was talking about the colour pink/ beige. She told me she considers it offensive if people refer to pink/beige as nude. Her stories were amusing. All jokes aside though, I agree with her. It is very presumptuous to refer to that colour as nude if other colours are not included. I vowed to her I would never refer to the colour as nude again but It will take some time to retrain my thinking and get other people to know what the heck colour I’m talking about….
While I’m waiting for the world to realize that there are many shades of nude I will try and do my part in getting the practicality of this need recognized. Ordering online and using twitter to contact stores to politely ask for more selection are all good options. What will you do?
Nana Abraham is a speaker, youth activist and author of For Black Girls: The Shaping of a Young Woman– a handbook for life that discusses relevant issues for young women today.