Why ‘Nude’ Lingerie For Women of Color Matters

Some of you may have this memory: it’s your first time bra shopping, and Mom has dragged you to the big department store where—horror of seventh-grade horrors!—women will measure your meager bust and stuff you into lacy things. The only consolation for this humiliating trek is the promise of picking out something “flesh-toned,” something that will theoretically blend into your pre-teen skin and escape the notice of the bra-strap pulling boys on the bus. Only, you are dark brown, and the “nude” or “flesh tones” on purview at the store run the gamut from pale pink to tan. So now, on top of the insult of having to wearing embarrassing lingerie, rests the insult that lingerie designers don’t seem to believe your skin is the color of “flesh.”

But thank bejesus, today’s women of color no longer have to worry about the constant nuisance of finding nude undergarments that are not-so-nude–thanks to Nubian Skin, a new lingerie company that plans to increase the span of colors available for flesh-toned bras. So, ladies from everywhere? You can go ahead and say yes to that racerback tee now. No more will we need to worry about odd beige lines running below our tank tops! And more importantly? An important part of the fashion world is taking notice of a subtle injustice.

On their website, Nubian Skin references the market struggles of other products engineered for women of color—like makeup. It wasn’t until 1973 that makeup for darker faces even became a thing, care of Eunice W. Johnson and her Fashion Fair Cosmetics. It’s thrilling and promising to consider our cultural progress in this sense: 30 years ago, foundation for dark skin was scarce; nowadays, Lupita Nyong’o is poised to become the face of Lancome Cosmetics. With these small victories, we begin to correct a long-skewed beauty standard.

And sure, to some, cosmetics and brassieres for dark-toned ladies might seem like small potatoes, but products like Nubian Skin bras are especially important because they begin to shape our culture’s reflection of itself. As our magazines and models slowly but surely diversify, the fashion world opens up to acknowledge those women who have been overlooked for so many years, beauty-wise (and, err. . .everything-wise).

Little girls today, growing up with women of all skin tones as the faces of beauty and fashion brands, will theoretically have to wrestle less often with the notion that they must be blonde and fair to fit in. Likewise, dark-toned bras that are marketed as “flesh-toned” telegraph the message that, no matter what our color, we are all “flesh-toned.” It’s a small but important step in the right direction.

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