Woman wearing orange sweater and brown fishnet tights

How One Brand Is Redefining the Shade 'Nude' in the Fashion Space

One writer reflects on what this means for the fashion industry.

The word "nude" has always been a word that I, as well as others with darker complexions, have struggled with. It's a word that seems so simple in theory, yet has often left me with complex feelings after an average visit to the nail salon or a stroll through the mall. Until 2015, even America's most trusted online dictionary, Merriam-Webster, defined the term as "having the color of a white person's skin," which left a great number of consumers, myself included, at a complete loss in the past when searching for the perfect skin-toned product

Even though there's been a major shift towards brands becoming more conscious of shade-inclusivity, the term "nude" still somehow feels obsolete. However, for people like Erin Carpenter, founder and CEO of Nude Barre, this has been a standard she's been challenging since 2009. "We were one of the early movers in the [shade-inclusive] space," Carpenter told Travel + Leisure. The 36-year-old said back then and even now Nude Barre continues to have the largest range of skin tone intimates and undergarment shades available. 

Swatches of different nude colored tights
Credit: Courtesy of Nude Barre

To shop: nudebarre.com

"What we see on the market now, is even though there are other players coming into the category, they're still kind of focusing on the four to six shade range. What we hear from our customers is it's still not enough and it's still not representing everyone," Carpenter said. Carrying 12 unique shades, the brand understands the difficulty of finding the perfect color match, especially online. This is why they offer customers the choice of taking a true match quiz or purchasing a full set of swatches, retailing for $6. Not only is the brand shade-inclusive but it's also size-inclusive as well. Items such as tights (also available in children's sizing), underwear, bralettes, and more can be bought in sizes ranging from XS to XXL. 

Woman wearing nude-toned bralette and fishnet tights
Credit: Courtesy of Nude Barre

To shop: nudebarre.com

Carpenter, who's also a former Knicks City dancer, first started her company creating products like fishnet tights (nudebarre.com, $33) and convertible opaque tights (nudebarre.com, $22) to cater to the everyday needs of artists and performers like herself. It then translated to a product she knew would be valued by others. Aiming for a product that looked visibly nude and felt like it too, Carpenter wanted to "make something that people felt really comfortable in" as well as appear as if "they weren't wearing anything" at all. 

One person who can probably attest to this is television talk show host Wendy Williams, who wears Carpenter's garments almost everyday on air. Being one of Nude Barre's earliest celebrity supporters, Williams shared with Carpenter that as a woman who had access to any and everything, this was the only product that worked for her body type and skin tone. 

"For me that means so much," Carpenter said. "[Williams] can have everything, she can source any product and the fact that this newer brand at that time was something that was exciting for her, made her happy, and made her feel her best when she was on her show just meant a lot."

This is just one of the many reasons why Carpenter believes skin tone-inclusive products in the fashion world are vital. She stresses that everyone, regardless of age should feel represented and as though they belong. "When you say the word nude or ask for a nude product, a lot of people think of one color," Carpenter said. "I'm really hoping that through this brand, we'll change that and people will actually think that nude is a reflection of the individual person they're talking to."

In many ways Carpenter, along with the rest of the Nude Barre team, is doing just that.

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