Let’s get nude!

- - Color Theory

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Have you ever stopped to think about the color nude?

Have you ever stood nude in front of a mirror and tried to describe the color of your skin?

And do you think your descriptors would be the same as if your neighbors, coworkers or classmates tried the same exercise?

Most likely not.

However, for a long time in the fashion industry, the color “nude” or “flesh” referred to a medium range color of caucasian skin. Do a google search for “nude bras” and you would probably end up with results similar to this:

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Full transparency: This is a screenshot of a google search from yesterday. To some, nude still means the color you see above.

The other day I made an appointment to try on wedding dresses (Eeee! Finally found the one!) and was advised to bring nude undergarments in my appointment reminder email. While I am sure any bride-to-be can figure out that if you don’t want your undergarments to show, they should match the color of your skin, I had a moment of pause when I read the word “nude” as a color descriptor. There really is no one nude color. However, I did find one article that lists all kinds of bra options for those who aren’t beige!

Fortunately, we have all kinds of opportunity to explore color in fashion (and to realize that “nude” really is a state of undress and “flesh-toned” depends on which of the 7.7 billion people on earth you are referring to). Speaking of people around the world, we aren’t the only ones thinking about color as it relates skin tone. Meet Angélica Dass and her change-the-way-you-think photography project, Humanae:


Dass simply takes a sample of the color on the tip of a subject’s nose, matches it to a Pantone color and places that color as a backdrop to the subject. If you needed any extra convincing that there is no one nude color, just take a look at the variation in the pictures of the nude people featured above.

Thinking about the variety of skin tones and their corresponding Pantone colors is a great starting point for taking a look at the complexity of color. In fact, try to create the color of your own skin. You may be surprised by the amount of red, yellow or blue needed to create your nude.

A solid understanding of color theory can be a very valuable tool for designers. While the shape of the body can limit the types of garments we can create, there are infinite possibilities when it comes to the color combinations we can use for a basic shirt or pant—making your design as unique as your skin tone.

Whether this is the first time you are thinking about the complexity of color or you need a fresh dose of color inspiration, take a look at the U of F’s lesson on Color Basics. This lesson is your introduction to Color Theory. Many people think color is a mysterious intuitive force that they can never be understood, but there are color rules and color relationships, and these are tools that you can use to help you make color decisions when designing.

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You will learn the two systems of color – the subtractive system, which involves using pigments and the additive system, which is color produced by sunlight. Moving on to the human component of seeing color, you will learn the three factors that allow us to see: rods and cones in our eyes, our psychological ability to perceive and comprehend color and lighting. Finally, you will learn about the three elements of color: hue, value and intensity.

And for those of you who are interested in the scientific, historical or geographical side of color and skin tone, watch Nina Jablonski break down the illusion of skin color around the world:


We recently blogged about the exciting future ahead for diversity in fashion. There has never been a better time to make sure each gorgeous face in fashion is represented by his or her unique shade of nude. Here’s to the beauty of celebrating all skin tones! Let us know how it goes when you attempt to mix your own brand of nude…we’d love to hear how it goes!

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Kara Laricks is a regular contributor to the University of Fashion. She’s also a New York based women's wear and accessories designer. As the first winner of NBC's Fashion Star, Kara has designed collections for H&M, Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue. Her masculine meets feminine line, Kara Laricks, debuted at New York Fashion Week in 2012 and her S/S 2013 collection sold exclusively at Saks Fifth Avenue. Kara's designs have been featured on the Today Show and HBO's True Blood as well as covered in Women's Wear Daily and on Style.com. Kara holds Master's degrees in both Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Kansas and in Fashion Design from the Academy of Art in San Francisco. An educator turned designer, Kara is dedicated to supporting emerging designers and inspiring others to follow where dreams lead.