Little did American First Lady Michelle Obama know that a gown she wore to a state dinner in November would spark off a debate over the political correctness of the terms ‘nude’ and ‘flesh’.
The colour ‘nude’ is traditionally associated with a shade lighter than sand, with a hue of peach or skin, the implication being that it’s identical to the colour of the wearer’s skin. However, when the news agency Associated Press wrote about Michelle’s gown , designed by Indian designer Naeem Khan, and used the term ‘flesh’ to describe its colour, an editor questioned it, asking, "Whose flesh?...not hers." The term was changed to ‘champagne’.
Lifestyle website dimewars.com said, "Does Michelle’s ‘flesh-coloured dress controversy exposes the media’s innate white supremacy?", while Gale Epstein, founder of a leading undergarment brand felt, "We talk of nude now, and there’s no one colour. It’s politically incorrect."
As the debate rages internationally, HT City asked Indian designers to decode the colour. "Unfortunately, it’s the Euro-centric vocabulary that needs an instant revision. Nude is pale pink, according to European standards that stands out on Indo-Asian skin tones, which is pale brown. So pale brown is nude to us and not pale pink," said designer Ritu Kumar.
However, designer Vijay Arora said, "Nude covers array of shades like whites, pinks, yellows, beiges, ivories and browns. So why get bogged down by terminology." Designer Anjana Bhargava felt there’s "nothing politically incorrect" about the term. "Every word can be used differently and in fashion, it’s the colour of your skin," said model Krishna Somani.
"I have always loved the term nude. Using ‘Asian skin colour’ or ‘earth/wheat colour’ is highly boring," says actress Sherlyn Chopra.