Nude Wedding Shoes*

*When You’re Biracial

I really wanted to wear nude shoes on my wedding day. I was initially torn between nude and leopard, but I decided on nude. Specifically closed-toe, not-patent, actually comfortable nude shoes. I also knew that finding them was going to be a challenge. When you’re not white, your definition of nude (or the medical-sounding flesh-colored), is not the same as everyone else’s.

Several different times last year, I searched online for hours, or went shopping, with no luck. I found dozens of gorgeous silhouettes that I loved… but none in the right color. I did have good luck finding beautiful ivory shoes that would work in a pinch (wearing a color that isn’t even trying to match my skin tone makes more sense to me than trying to fool everyone into thinking peach shoes were actually nude shoes on me), but they weren’t what I wanted. I was even willing to spend a lot of money—I figured if I found my mythical nude shoes at this point, I would be wise to make the investment—but I couldn’t find what I was looking for at any price point.

One day last summer, Eric and I went shopping. I told him I wanted to find my wedding shoes. They would be nude, closed-toe, preferably pointy. Not patent leather. Actually comfortable—Jessica Simpson would be ideal, as those are the heels that were so comfortable I was able to run in them when I was a fashion intern. We went to a Dillard’s I had never been to, and there I saw them: Jessica Simpson heels. Pointy toe. Not patent leather. Without contrasting wooden heels. In a shade that many would call brown, but that I would call nude. 

It’s hard to explain why I was so excited about this. They’re just shoes, right? Well, no, they’re not. When you have spent months saying to the designers of the world, “Here, take my money!” and essentially heard them say, “Er…no thanks, we’d rather not,” then they are more than just shoes. They are validation that you exist. We’ve all looked for those unicorn-esque clothes or accessories that just don’t seem to exist outside of our heads or at our price point, but it’s different when you know that the reason you cannot find them is because you’re “Other.”

It wasn’t just about the shoes; it was about the multiple “nude” fashion and beauty items that I’ve wanted throughout my life. Nude bras. Nude nail polish. Nude lip gloss. Concealer. Goddamn Band-Aids. Most companies have just one color of “nude,” a color that certainly won’t work perfectly for every white woman, but that will likely not work for any black or brown woman. Only recently have a few companies started producing products in multiple shades of “nude,” and they aren’t common. (Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for the day when beauty editors stop raving about products that “makeup artists swear by!” that only come in one color, and that color is “white girl.”)

I held my breath as we waited to find out if they had the shoes in my size. When I slipped them on and they disappeared against my skin, “creating the illusion of long legs”—a phrase that I’ve been seeing in fashion magazine articles about nude shoes (for white girls) for the past five years—I was thrilled. I bought them immediately and I love putting them on (though I sadly don’t do it often, because what if something happens to them?).

When we talk about “white privilege,” this is what we’re talking about. Shoes. Bras. Hair stylists when you’re having a morning wedding three hours from the only person you let touch your hair. Foundation. Goddamn Band-Aids. “Privilege” is something complicated enough for miles of academic essays, but also as simple as this: nude shoes. Flesh color. Feeling like the capitalists out there know you exist.

Or, in a surprising turn of events, God bless Jessica Simpson.

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  • Moe

    Yes. To every single sentence here. Also, it applies to the plus-size non-white girl too.

    (I’m slightly jealous you found your mythical nude shoe. I’m still searching for my perfect cappucino, latte, taupe-ish shoe.)

  • Meigh McPants

    Yay, I’m so glad you found your unicorn of shoes! I’ve never understood why “nude” and “flesh colored” are still acceptable terms when there are so many shades of “flesh”. Could we not find other things to compare these colors to that don’t effectively erase part of the population?

    • Kestrel

      I was thinking about this too, and honestly I cannot think of another name for the color I know as ‘nude’. Peach doesn’t quite work – that’s too pink. We really need to get on that! What does crayola call it now?

      • ItsyBit

        Sand? I think I saw a crayon called “sand” that used to be something skin related.

      • stella

        I’ve always called it beige.

      • Moe

        Crayola describes the colors as: black, sepia, peach, apricot, white, tan, mahogany and burnt sienna.

        A little simplistic, but it’s better than just one crayon.

    • KC

      “Light beige”?

      I’m wondering if woods would be the way to go (pine; maple, cherry; mahogany; oak), but I’m not sure how many people know the natural colors of those woods (and they also vary a fair bit; but so do the things that colors are currently named after).

      Or you can wander into foods, like “butterscotch pudding”, “oatmeal”, “corn tortilla”, “saltine”, “wheat thin”, “peanut butter”. But I’m not totally sure anyone would want to be oatmeal. :-)

      • Alyssa M

        I’m kind of loving the foods idea. There are plenty of Jewel bright colors they name after fruit, after all. I’m sort of oatmeal colored… I could go for it.

      • lady brett

        oatmeal’s a little grey…but i could go with “grits” as my skin color ;)

        also, this use of “flesh” as a color reminds me of an instance of stupidity a few years ago when a major news outlet captioned a photo of michelle obama in a light beige dress as her wearing a “skin colored” dress. they changed it to “cream” once their stupidity was pointed out in public.

        • KC

          Wow, that’s… blindingly stupid. (I mean, it would still be bad, but I could grasp someone using “flesh” or “nude”, because for fabrics, etc., the usage-for-specific-colors has been substantively divorced from the meaning of the word (like “seafoam green” is not the color of any sea foam I’ve ever seen), but “skin-colored” isn’t even a typical descriptor)

          True on the oatmeal being a bit grey. Grits ahoy?

          • Kay Lee

            Agree on “flesh” and “nude” being typical descriptors. As an artist, I see the word “flesh” or “nude” the same way I see “cerulean” or “burnt sienna”- not as “this is what flesh looks like” but “this is what the color ‘flesh’ is”. I haven’t seen anyone in real life that actually matched “flesh” or “nude” anyway. My marker which is labeled “pale flesh” is more of a brownish peach in a way that’s not anything like my skin or anyone else’s that I have personally encountered, though it would be used along with other colors to render a realistic skin tone. In and of itself it’s not realistic and not pretending to be.

      • I think people would know the colors of those woods if we actually consistently used them to describe colors? Like, actual mint is not really mint green, but everyone knows what color mint green is. So I think the more you use a word to describe something, the more people would connect it.

        I do tend to default to coffee colors like Addie above. :)

        • KC

          That’s true; if we used them consistently for the same colors, then we’d know what they mean even without forestry classes. :-) [“nude” and “flesh” are used for a fairly wide bucket of things from champagne-ish to some slightly-orange-fake-tan colors], so there isn’t really A Color for them, which makes using them as clothing/makeup color names even more stupid]

          I think mint green is “the color chocolate-chip-mint ice cream is”, which, yeah, bears no relation to the green the actual plant is. But absolutely, I know what color that is!

          Or we could maybe all go with a selection of Pantone colors or hexadecimal values? That would be pretty awesome. :-)

          • Kay Lee

            I agree on the mint green! And also flavors…like “watermelon” tastes a thing like watermelons but we all recognize it as “watermelon”. Ditto “banana” (that one is way off!), “green apple”, “blue raspberry”…these are all pretty much universal industry wide flavors that are instantly recognized by most people but they’re NOTHING like the real thing.

      • Kayjayoh

        I know a few WoC who hate that they are always being compared to food/beverages. Like, “can we please stop calling me caramel/coffee/cinnamon/latte/mocha/chocolate? I am not a food object.” And I imagine that could indeed get super tiresome. I don’t think I’ve ever been compared to food…I’m neither peachy or creamy, so I don’t get compared to those.

        • KC

          Yeah. I think I’ve been compared to food items before, but not with *nearly* the pervasiveness. (I think I’ve been “cream”, “porcelain”, or, when sick, “watered-down skim milk” or “ghost” or “death warmed over”, which isn’t a color so much)

          I can’t think of many things that are reasonably consistent and widely known, though, for color-matching skin tones, so I see where the food thing comes from. (It might be possible to go for birds/animals, but that could also get insulting really fast, and also be fairly complicated – the wing feather color of the fully-grown common English sparrow in the summer…)

          (The food thing probably also gets a boost from the sexualization/commoditization of both food and WoC. Augh. On that side at least, if *everyone* got a makeup or bra color name based on food, at least it’d be evened out somewhat? [especially because, frankly, many darker brown foods taste better than many of the pasty ones… see: oatmeal vs. chocolate] :-) )

        • Jess

          I was JUST thinking about the conversation regarding food descriptors for WoC. Glad you brought it up too.

          I have never been compared to food. Maybe it’s because I have yellowish-pale skin and there’s no food that looks like that (or make-up colors that match it, unfortunately).

    • I have always described my skin in Starbucks coffee flavors. In the winter I am a salted caramel mocha frappuccino. During the summer it’s more iced caffe mocha. Then I get all angry that the only colors that describe me are overpriced coffee drinks.

      • Moe

        The only acceptable “nude” nail polish shades I wear are “cappucino” and “toast”. Makes me hungry.

  • anon
    • LOL at “winter whiteys”!!

      • Kestrel

        Oh god. If that fabric was a bit less pink, that would totally be my skin color. In the middle of summer.

    • Anne Schwartz

      Love it.

  • Emma Klues

    “Or, in a surprising turn of events, God bless Jessica Simpson.” Hah! #quoteIneversawcomingfromAPW

    Really great, simple example that’s accessible to most people to understand privilege. Especially Band-Aids. I feel like this is great go-to language when speaking to someone who has never thought about race privileges or lack thereof before without hitting them over the head.

    • Meg Keene

      Maddie and I (and I think Rachel) are big fans of both her line, and what a savvy high powered business woman she is. The fact that people don’t take her seriously makes us love her work all the more fiercely.

      • Emma Klues

        I fully admit I know nothing about her, she’s not even on my radar. That’s awesome to hear!

      • I agree! I don’t know why people are so hard on her. Yeah, she wasn’t the best singer or pop star, but it wasn’t her calling. Everything she designs is absolutely amazing. I love her shoes and I even have some of her luggage. When I moved to the other side of the planet, her luggage was the most functional I found (and incredibly beautiful as well). I have gotten tons of compliments on how easy-to-use my luggage is. She really found her calling as a designer.

  • Kelly

    Rachel, I’m so glad you’re here. Everytime I read a piece I LOVE, I scroll down and there’s your face again. Thanks for writing :)

    • Anne Schwartz


    • afdp

      Yes! Favorite contributor!

  • Kestrel

    The makeup thing is something I truly don’t understand for those with darker skin tones. It’s EASY for makeup to be made that covers and is the correct color. There are thousands of things that can easily make those colors and will even out skin tone. It’s not something that’s difficult for makeup companies to do, so why don’t they?!

    I’m the kind of extreme pale that looks someone spilled iodine on something pure white and attempted to clean it up. You can see all my veins and I look like I’m jaundiced most of the time. There aren’t makeups that actually cover my ridiculously red acne because when you’re not terribly pigmented yourself, it’s hard to create a pigment that matches while covering stuff up. It’s a limitation of science. For those darker skin tones, it’s not a limitation of science. It’s just a limitation of stupidity.

    • “For those darker skin tones, it’s not a limitation of science. It’s just a limitation of stupidity.”

      Like x 1,000

    • laddibugg

      IME, the color isn’t so much a problem anymore, BUT the composition IS. Some make up (and sunscreen) contains titanium dioxide, which can make dark skin look ashy.

      • Kestrel

        Titanium dioxide is the main active ingredient in most sunscreens unfortunately. It’s what makes it work.

        As someone with pale, pale, pale skin that has always lived in pretty homogenous WASP-y places, what is ashy looking skin? I seriously have no clue.

        • laddibugg

          well, there is ash, which is just dry skin, and everyone can get that regardless of skin color, it’s just more noticeable on darker people:

          With regards to makeup…um….i guess the best way to describe it is that there is sort of a grey-ish cast to the skin. IT looks fine going on, but once it’s been worn for a while, it starts to turn. I’ve only experienced that with cheaper drugstore brands, though. I can’t find a picture of a dark woman, but you might have seen red carpet pictures where the makeup artist used too much finishing powder like this:

          Imagine that on a dark woman. (sorry for the big pic!)

          • pumpkinpicker

            All of it, from beginning to end.
            Even if I do find things the right depth they’re always glaringly pink or orange. It took me literally 35 years to find out that there were NEUTRAL skin tones in addition to cools and warms, and that I am one. You would think this would make it easier to find things that match, but no. I almost gave a MAC saleswoman an aneurism trying to match me for foundation! I did recently find an Indian woman at a Clinique counter and by the end I nearly hugged her. Functional makeup!

            What am I supposed to match “nude” lipstick to anyway? The coffee colour of the edge of my lips or the shell pink colour in the middle? “Exotic” girl problems.

          • pumpkinpicker

            Argh, that was SUPPOSED to post to the main discussion and now I can’t delete to move. Sorry :(

    • KC

      And not just stupidity, but “we don’t think you’re a large enough market for us to bother with”, which is really saying something when a country substantively defines “people” as “consumers” and minimizes the visibility of non-consumers in media, etc.

    • Glen

      Exactly. “Flesh-colored” is way too dark on me. Even the lightest shade of pantyhose makes me look tan. And a lot of makeups make me look like I’ve got a light layer of dirt on my face (maybe the opposite of “ashy” for the pale-skinned folk?).

      Yet another reason the world needs more women and especially women of color to be engineers, chemists, physicists….

  • Lauren from NH

    I find this all rather incredible, which is part of what makes it so clearly intentional. We have Hot Topic, nothing against their style, but it probably only appeals to way less than 10% of the population. Oh wait, just wait! what?! Black Americans are at 13% and Latino Americans are at a climbing 17%. No way! But clearly there is no market there! You wouldn’t think the powers that be care so deeply about the color of the hand that is passing over money to buy their product but they do, they so clearly do!

    • Sonny

      Yes, from a pure money-making standpoint it makes no sense. I used to buy for a lingerie store and we would get double amounts of anything that came in tan or brown because it would sell so well. (And bra size ranges are a whole ‘nother level of throwing money away because you view some customers as undesirable…)

      • oakland femme

        Oh man, bra sizes. Don’t even get me started. I swear bra manufacturers constantly forget that cup sizes are a RATIO, and not an absolute measurement.

  • Katelyn

    As much as I love this piece, I cringe every time I read “flesh” blleeerrrgghh!!!

    • Jennifer

      Am I the only nerd on here who thinks of Doctor Who when I read or hear the word “flesh”?

      • Nope. ;)

        • Also, nope. And I also loved this piece.

  • Fiona

    Brava! I’m so glad you found them, or that would have been a really disappointing end to the story. But seriously, going to the drug store to get makeup is like 50 shades of white.

  • Seriously, that’s an amazing story. Definitely an enlightening morning piece, thanks Rachel! And seriously, God bless Jessica Simpson – my nude shoes are also JS and they are super comfortable, though admittedly they were not nearly as difficult to find as your own.

  • kt

    I agree! As a redhead with white (blue-red undertones) skin, finding a nude shoe would be a joyful experience!

    • KC

      As a “Hm, we could use either P4 Ultra-Fair or Ghost, but you’re really somewhere in between” with theatre makeup… many ivory shoes on the darker side can get pretty close (nearly as close as anything “solid” is going to match a skin tone). :-) (bandaids always look ridiculous on me, but *I don’t have to deal with the rest of it* and a little “wow, you’re so pasty, bandaids look like they’re brown against your skin!” mockery doesn’t make a dent, because while being pale instead of Perfectly Tan wasn’t considered ideal, it didn’t have anywhere near the same weight as race does)

      • KC

        (I also go for ivory bras and nylons, where I can find them, because “nude” contrasts with my skin to a highly-visible level. Ivory doesn’t totally match either, but it’s at least a bit closer?)

  • Granola

    I’m sort of ashamed to admit it, but until relatively recently in my life, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to see the term “flesh-colored” as problematic. Which, well = privilege. So just a hurrah for growth and understanding.

    And I am SO GLAD you found your shoes. My wedding shoes are languishing in my closet b/c they now aren’t that comfortable for whatever reason. Also, can we have a fashion open thread on beautiful flat shoes and boots? 98 percent of the time I don’t wear heels, but I really want to look good.

    • Lauren from NH

      If we’re making requests, I don’t mean to interrupt the discussion on Rachel’s awesome piece, but this is burning a hole in my brain. Can we sometime, maybe tomorrow’s open thread talk about dealing with racism on Facebook? The recent focus on the Richard Sherman interview has prompted some people to share their racist interpretations of his post game interview and other than starting a fight with them via the comments I don’t know how to address how totally not okay it is.

      • BreckW

        Or people sharing Sarah Palin’s post from Martin Luther King Day? My only response so far is to spasm in my desk chair then unfriend.

        • Lauren from NH

          Yeah….momentarily hope it is a critique when you know it’s not….
          I know you can’t correct, argue with, challenge everyone’s thinking, it’s just sucking extra because it’s my brother in-law and I am pre-engaged to an Ethiopian American guy….awkward, in an angry what the hell is wrong with you kind of way…

          • BreckW

            Man, I’m sorry. That is so, so shitty. It blows my mind how many “not racist” people say racist things.

      • belleamie209

        it doesn’t always work, but sometimes i point them to a post or two by Tim Wise that refutes their main assertion. i know some people don’t like Tim Wise, but i think racist white people often respond better to reading something by another white person, whereas sending them to a blog written by a person of color will a) not change their mind and b) possibly lead to them making racist comments on that blog, which some bloggers don’t appreciate. See number 9 on this list:

        • lady brett

          that list is great.

          and tim wise is a *great* resource for pushing back against racist crap, in large part for the same reasons he’s awful (at least that’s my take – he’s really accessible for white folks learning privilege 101 *because* he still wields his white male privilege really heavily). plus, he cusses and rants about things, so he never sounds academic or like he’s “lecturing” you, which are two things that turn people off of being corrected really fast (his writing reads to me like drunken political conversations with my brother, which, even if you don’t agree, is a really accessible way to talk about difficult topics).

      • Granola

        I’m way late here, but if it’s on my wall, I often delete things I find objectionable. I’ve talked about it a lot with my journalist friends, and my take is that you have a right to you opinion, but I have no obligation to host it on my space. In general, I’m pretty unsuccessful at using Facebook for dialogue unless a person is already open to it, in which case they’re generally not making dumb comments. So I either delete the terrible ones or I leave them and usually the rest of the commenters shut them down. In which case I figure I’ll just let them keep the rope they used to hang themselves with…

  • Therese

    I saw Peggy McIntosh speak about white privilege once when I was in college. She was telling us about writing “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”, where one of the last items on her list of examples of white privilege was “I can chose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color
    and have them more or less match my skin.” Apparently her colleagues tried to convince her to cut that line from the essay because it supposedly trivialized all of the more important issues that she referred to. The essay was published in 1988 and I’m pretty sure it hasn’t lost any of its relevancy in the last 25 years…
    But those are definitely some nice looking shoes.

    • laddibugg

      When you’re giving a speech, and have a cut on say your arm, a nude bandage is a big deal! I have bandages in dark brown but they are pretty hard to find. I like that you can buy band aids now in clear–a little less conspicuous than the ‘flesh’ tone of the past.

      • KEA1

        Indeed. And, on matters of foundation and concealer, we’ve all acknowledged and addressed the various ways in which we’re expected to look magazine-photo-level flawless, including the whole flawless-skin issue. So that’s an added layer of, “we will make it even more impossible for you to conform to an already-impossible standard of beauty…” when the appropriate colors even to *attempt* to even out skin tone/conceal blemishes just aren’t made.

    • M.

      That line in that essay is actually where the idea of privilege really clicked for me. Rather than trivializing, I found it revealed me how insidious and omnipresent the issue is, and gave me a really understandable touchstone for starting/having those conversations around all types of privilege. Glad she didn’t cut it, to say the least.

  • laddibugg

    Oh…now I think I want leopard shoes!

    Some designer (I forgot who, but it’s a high end brand…Louboutin? Jimmy Choo? Manolo?) has started making a basic pump in almost every skin tone. They are like $900, though.

    I usually end up with chocolate brown when I look for a ‘nude’, but those can be hard to find as well, and I’d honestly like something more, well, nude.

    • KC

      I’ve always been a little eye-rolling at the “dye to match your dress!” shoes, but now wondering if that could be a way to get something decently close to someone’s actual skin tone. (I have never worn them. They are decently likely to be terrible and torturous as shoes. But if you could find a fabric swatch that matches your skin tone, it might be worth investigating.)

      • KEA1

        it is done with ballroom dance shoes, for sure…and ballroom shoes are actually comfortable.

        • KC

          I didn’t know that ballroom dance shoes could be dyed! That’s fantastic! Do you have a link/recommendation? (I’ve been thinking of going ballroom for my next pair of “fancy” shoes for the “they actually have the goal that the person wearing them *not* be in pain” reason)

          • KEA1

            I haven’t danced in forever and so am not 100% certain of good online sources, but if you have a dance supply store in town, talk with them. I think pretty much any of the online outlets would likely have options available for dyeing, and might be able either to send you swatches or dye from a swatch you sent. When I was still dancing, I danced in Supadance shoes, and their pre-dyed “nude” shade for Standard shoes was a few shades darker than my pale skin, but overall a sortof bronze-y gold…and very pretty. I think that International’s pre-dyed shade for their Latin shoes is actually pretty dark, because most Latin competitors who aren’t naturally dark will Pro-tan the heck outta their skin…

            Be warned, in case you haven’t worn ballroom shoes before: the soles are suede, not regular leather. So if you’re likely to wear these as dress shoes, you might want to have a cobbler attach a cover of sturdier material. But yeah…most comfortable heels I’ve ever worn!

          • morphingball

            Most of the girls at my studio who dyed their shoes had them done by a cobbler. There’s usually good recommendations to be had by word of mouth if you ask the ballroom competitors in your area. One gal, who’s Indian, had to regularly dye her shoes (each time she got a fresh pair) to get the ‘nude’ look that’s so desired. One time they even screwed it up…and made the shoes this gorgeous reddish-brown that we all coveted.

            (So note: it’s not a precise science!)

  • KC

    Until this morning, the limitations provided by retailers in the range of “nude” items has never crossed my mind. I’ve never thought of “white privilege” in these terms and at this scope. I suppose that because I do fall into one of those “50 shades of white girl,” I’ve never been forced to notice. What an eye opening article this is! I love how well it is written – a general frustration with the unfairness of the world we live in, without feeling the need to be ugly or point fingers. Well done Rachel! Thanks for opening my eyes and making me take a step back to see the world a little differently this morning.

    • Lian

      Yes, this is pretty much exactly what I wanted to say. Just want to add that the comments here are also amazing!

    • Kay Lee

      This!!! I never thought about it, and in a lot of the discussions I see on ‘privilege’ I can’t get it, because I have no experience from either side of the argument to tie it to. But bra color, THAT I get! (Having worn a wrong colored bra under a wrong colored shirt with wrong results.) Being incapable of fitting a dress code and singled out for it (Never experienced it, but I can well imagine the anger and humiliation!)…these are things this fair skinned girl understands. And all without the general tone of finger pointing in either direction that so many of these discussions take which just leave everyone feeling angry and slighted regardless of color and without really opening any minds. I love this article.

  • laddibugg

    And Jessica Simpson is something else–who wudda thunk it? I LOVE, LOVE her shoes, and have two pairs of jeans by her that I adore. I love her style way more than her singing!

    • Meg Keene

      Dude. Her singing is history. She is a HIGH POWERED and smart as shit business woman. Her company is huge, and girlfriend is hands on.

      • dbthompson

        I love that people underestimate the shit out of her as she quietly makes clothes that come in big girl sizes (HUZZAH!) and makes BANK. Her company is valued at a BILLION dollars. WIth a B.

    • Brittany

      An embarrassing portion of my maternity clothes are Jessica Simpson. I found them and breathed a sigh of relief at the idea that they were like regular clothes, only for pregnant people, rather than frumpy and horrible, or wildly over-priced!

  • Courtney

    Now that you know the brand and style, buy multiple pairs! These sound like the holy grail of shoes.

  • BreckW

    I absolutely loved this. This is a great, simple example of privilege that everyone can understand.

    Alsoooo, could we get a link to the shoes? I’m multiracial, and all my brown seems to stay in my legs, so I’ve also never found my mythical nude pumps.

    • Oh I’m so glad you linked to them! I didn’t link because I couldn’t find it, but I was looking on shoe websites…which, duh. I will probably buy another pair now!

      • Jules

        Rachel! I finally decided that I can get these shoes (which are $60 and free shipping on Amazon right now)…super important question…did these run the same size as the rest of the Jessica shoes? I have 2 pairs of pumps by her in 7.5 and am wondering what size to order. Some of the reviews say they run small.

        • Yay! I wouldn’t say that they run small…I am always a 9 in shoes so I ordered a 9 and they were fine. However, I’d say that the pointy toe means they can feel a little tight/snug after several hours of wear. By the end of our wedding, my feet were pretty sore, as I think they had swollen…but I’d also been in the shoes for 8 hours, so I’d say that’s fair. I’m not sure if ordering up a size would have helped with that or if they would have felt too big in that case!

          • Jules

            Thanks! They have free returns, so I ordered up due to the pinchy-toe and because my left foot a half size bigger than my right (sigh….). At worst, I’ll have to send them back and wait a few more days before wearing them.

  • THIS. I have been looking for a “nude” bra for nearly twenty years to no avail. Also have been only buying foundation from MAC since I was 17 because they seem to be the only ones who have all the shades.

    I clearly remember crying in a store in eighth grade because I needed to buy flesh colored panty hose for an orchestra concert and they didn’t have any that were remotely close. My mom wrote a note to my teacher that until they made flesh colored hose for black people I would be wearing pants.

    • Lauren from NH

      Your mom is officially awesome!

    • laddibugg

      I am pretty dark so I just rock black bras under white tops and they don’t show. However, Lane Bryant (I’m big and busty, too) has the perfect brown for my skin so I”ve started buying those for summer.

    • Karen

      Brilliant response from your mother. Love it!

    • One time, my mom went to buy me shampoo from a drugstore and was told they didn’t carry “ethnic” hair care. My mom said, “Oh, so you don’t think black girls need to wash their hair then?” and walked out.

      Good moms, man. <3

      • Black Hair Don’t Care

        That reminds me, a few years back all the shampoo companies started making color-specific blends. Pantene had it for blonde, brunette, red… and silver. I couldn’t believe it. No one was making a formula for black hair (I’m Asian), which I’m pretty sure the majority of the world rocks. I don’t know if it exists now, but I’ve never seen it in stores where I live. It’s sad how minorities are ignored by the beauty industry, and the message that sends to girls and women.

        • KC

          I could be wrong, but I think those shampoos were for color-tweaking to more closely match the “ideal” (so, mousey blond becomes more golden blond; silver has its yellowing overtones reduced; red and brown have the red-gold color saturation pushed up). I again could be wrong, but I think black hair doesn’t have way it can be “off” color-shade-wise like there are culturally-wrong blonde, brunette, red, and silver hair tones.

          (I know there are a range of black hair colors and highlights; I just don’t know of any culturally-disapproved color tones in black hair – but again, I could totally be wrong!)

          • Black Hair Don’t Care

            I see what you’re saying, but in an industry that creates all kinds of insecurities and needs where they didn’t exist before, I have a hard time believing they couldn’t create a product if they felt this market was valuable/worth appealing to.

    • ferrous

      Blasian here. The only actually-nude-on-me bra I’ve ever found is Calvin Klein, check them out if you haven’t already.

      Even MAC concealers are horrible on me, I have to go higher end most of the time. But surprisingly, Revlon makes one that’s kind of close.

      • I mostly like MAC because they have both yellow and red hued shades at the same level. I live in Miami so I don’t really get “darker” in the summer but I do tan the yellow out of my skin. MAC is the only brand that has subtle differences in shade that work for me. And their eyeshadows have enough pigment that they actually show up on my eyelids.

        • ferrous

          Their eyeshadows are little pots of gold! I don’t wear anything else… ok, that’s a lie, Bobbi Brown makes a good pot of shadow but she’s the only one I’ll step out on MAC for. Her eyeliners are bomb too.

    • Ijumaa Jordan

      Hi Addie, I totally feel you on the flesh colored panty hose (required for choir). My Mom dyed them with tea. I still do that or if I luck up and find my color I buy fifty million of them.

  • Alyssa M

    Maybe one of the easiest to understand examples of white privilege. I remember seeing the bandaid issue in elementary school with my friends. I believe it was the first time I understood racial inequality.

    On a slightly shallower note, I can picture those shoes with the dress you’ve described making, and you are going to look AMAZING!

  • Moe

    Meanwhile, I was encouraged when I noticed that I was indeed wearing a Hispanic-colored bandaid this morning.

    • Kay Lee

      I think that’s the best bandaid-to-skin match I’ve ever seen. Bandaids don’t usually match ANYONE, regardless of color. I always thought of the “nude” bandaids as “neutral”- as in, not really matching, but not lime green either.

  • Chloe

    Dear Rachel. Yes. That is all.

  • pumpkinpicker

    All of it, from beginning to end.
    Even if I do find things the right depth they’re always glaringly pink or orange. It took me literally 35 years to find out that there were NEUTRAL skin tones in addition to cools and warms, and that I am one. You would think this would make it easier to find things that match, but no. I almost gave a MAC saleswoman an aneurism trying to match me for foundation! I did recently find an Indian woman at a Clinique counter and by the end I nearly hugged her. Functional makeup!

    What am I supposed to match “nude” lipstick to anyway? The coffee colour of the edge of my lips or the shell pink colour in the middle? “Exotic” girl problems.

    (sorry about the double post, didn’t realize it was posting tot he wrong place before)

    • Kestrel

      I feel you! I’m on the super pale spectrum, and everyone assumes that super pale people are all the really cool toned pale. I am not. I am neutral leaning towards yellow. Realizing undertones were something important was a great day for my makeup options.

      I still tend to have to go online, but something encouraging about that is a good majority of the companies I buy from (like alima pure) comes in a lot of darker shades as well! I just wish it would be mainstream, even if I understand market-wise why it’s not.

      • pumpkinpicker

        Oh for serious! Everyone assumes I should be a warm based on brown hair & eyes and tan skin but I’ve always had a much easier time wearing cool tones. it makes makeup really fussy, but luckily the limits I have in matching my skin tone are balanced by
        looking good in pretty much ALL THE RAINBOW COLOURS except sickly yellow based tones (yellowy-orange, pea
        soup, and brownish-yellow) and a specific range of lilacy-mauve. I’ve been
        playing with warm a bit more lately and that’s been a lot of fun.

        I apparently have strong pink undertones AND yellow overtones so all the usual rules go out the window. I look at the usual ways of determining what will look best on me and they’re all “do you look better in this or this? and I’m always like “um… yes?”. I have blue AND green veins, I look awesome in gold AND silver, and both white AND cream backgrounds are flattering to me.

        This was actually so revelatory for me it was part of the impetus for starting a blog about the weirdnesses of styling a me –

  • KM

    Yes to all of this.

  • Kayjayoh

    “When we talk about ‘white privilege,’ this is what we’re talking about. Shoes. Bras. Hair stylists when you’re having a morning wedding three hours from the only person you let touch your hair. Foundation. Goddamn Band-Aids. ‘Privilege’ is something complicated enough for miles of academic essays, but also as simple as this: nude shoes. Flesh color. Feeling like the capitalists out there know you exist.”

    I don’t usually link APW posts on FaceBook, but this is one that I did, for this quote in particular. There has been an on-going discussion of privilege on FB lately, and I think this illustrates the point for some who might not have been getting it.

    • laddibugg

      Hair is DEFINITELY a huge issue. But really, any hairstylist should be able to manipulate 90% of the heads of hair out there (I think the big exception is probably ‘natural’ unrelaxed hair–that really does require a special stylist IMO) for a basic wash and set. When I worked in NYC there was a salon on the first floor of my building that EVERYONE–white, black, asian–went to. A wash, set, and blowout transcends race.

      • KC

        I think a single salon in NYC that can cope with many different kinds of hair might be a bit of a special case. NYC can be nice like that. :-)

        I have a friend with naturally thick, curly hair, and I think 16 out of 17 of the local (non NYC) stylists she’s tried have really *no clue* what to do, to varying degrees of haircut catastrophe. (hint: if your customer wants her hair to at least hit her shoulders when it’s dry and curling, and she has naturally almost-Shirley-Temple-curly hair, don’t soak it wet, pull it straight to her shoulders and cut it exactly there. This will not work.)

        I personally had longer-than-waist-length hair at my sister’s wedding, but my sister wanted us to all get our hair “done” at the same place, and the salon seriously had no clue at all what to do with long hair (cue a gasp from the stylist when I took it out of its bun and the ends hit the floor of the salon, followed by her grabbing everyone else in the salon to look at it, with just-barely-audible and not-very-reassuring whispered “have you ever done anything with hair that long?” “me neither” consultations). They did not know how to put it up, how to detangle it after they trashed it the first time (with long hair: start at the bottom, work your way up the length of the hair – if you just try to shove a comb down from the very top when it’s already tangled, you just make a bigger mess. Yes, they were hair stylists and they tried that!), and *then*, once they put it up and sprayed me all the way to crunchy, their solution for all the bits of hair they failed to include in the updo? They. Just. Cut. Them. Off. (hint: when someone asks for a plain updo, no cut/layering, then in my opinion, no part of their hair should have over a foot cut off it – I mean, if there’s one or two errant hairs, sure, but seriously folks?) From the bridesmaid outcomes, it looks like they really only knew what to do with thin to medium, shoulder-or-shorter-length white-girl non-curly hair – which they did fine with.

        I would expect that anyone who has “different” hair, either in texture or in length or in thickness, would have similar results at a salon that is in the habit of doing mostly one thing. Hair with a lot of natural body simply shouldn’t be cut the same way naturally-limp hair is, etc.

        • pumpkinpicker

          I haven’t had hair longer than my ears (much less my butt) in at least six years and I still kind of want to cry and/or punch someone reading this.

          I’m so sorry.

          • KC

            The makeup people also had nothing anywhere near my skin tone and had some strange ideas about eyeshadow, so I was 80’s-blue-racoon-eyed-plasticky-pruned-conehead by the time all the “professionals” were done with me. The result was fortunately over-the-top enough to be hilarious rather than just demoralizing. (although I was still pissed off at the hairstylist cutting the bits of my hair that they had somehow missed putting in the updo instead of tucking them in somewhere – people, do you realize that doesn’t just grow in a week?)

            Anyway, my sister looks *incomparably* better than all the bridesmaids in the group photos, so, bonus? :-) Also, no bride has made me get my hair done at the salon since; I just show them the photo, and bam, I get to do my own hair. :-)

        • Jess

          Honest conversation when I was a friend’s bridesmaid-
          Me: do you know how to do a french twist with longish hair, which is very flat and fine and will need some teasing to get it to stay. (Mid-back).
          Her: yes.
          Me: ok, do that.
          Her, 20min later: Um… I’m going to get some help.
          Me, 30min later You know what? Just put it in a bun.

          • KC

            Seriously, people need to just admit “I’m not sure how to do that” or at least “you’re the expert on your hair; do you have suggestions before I start?”.

            (I don’t know how long my hair took. Other than “long enough for my mom to go to a nearby garage sale, browse, acquire things, and return to the salon, and both the time before that and the time after that both felt vaguely like forever”.)

          • Jess


        • Kay Lee

          Oh. My. Goodness. As a longhair myself (waist length, currently) that is just horrifying!!! When I get married, if I even HAVE bridesmaids, I have absolutely no intention of telling them what they have to do with their hair. I have no intention of making them get updos at a salon (after all, I’m not even planning to do that myself! And I would be horrified with most of the salon updos that I’ve seen, not very hair friendly if you value healthy natural hair (not that there’s anything wrong with styled, processed, whatever if that’s what makes you happy!)) Heck, I’d be perfectly happy if they showed up with dip dyed spiked mohawks because I love diversity and think dip dyed spiked mohawks are awesome!

      • Kayjayoh

        “But really, any hairstylist should be able to manipulate 90% of the heads of hair out there”

        Should, and yet…

        • Jess

          Blowout, yes. Style/updo/cut in a way that looks decent? Hell no. Especially style for an event (half-up or up). I’ve had some bad looks.

      • A basic wash and set isn’t going to look as good if they don’t have shampoo for black hair though. Any stylist SHOULD be able to do relaxed hair, but I’m pretty skeptical. I recently got a blowout from a non-specifically-black salon, and my hair just didn’t feel silky afterward. It still looked bangin’ (the huge curls I had them do made up for the less-than-smooth texture) but had I wanted a sleek blowout I probably would have been disappointed. And I’ve been in a lot of white salons and looked at the lines they carried and…yeah, nothing “ethnic.” So unless a salon has a black stylist on staff or advertises as being multicultural, I’m probably going to assume they don’t have the right products for me.

      • Superfantastic

        When I called to make my first appointment at the salon I went to in the DC area, since I didn’t have a stylist in mind, the guy asked me what type of hair I have. Then they matched me based on which stylist was best with my hair type. That’s the only place I ever had that experience, but it makes so much sense. Of course, you have to have stylists who can deal with a range of different hair types for the question to even matter.

  • stella

    I’ve always wondered this about plaster (band aids) and why they don’t have more shades. Rachel, if you need more shoes in that colour I’d look for ‘camel’ as that’s what I’d call that hue. They look hot on you. My friends and I had a joke for a while that if any of us liked a bag or shoes in a shop and pointed it out, it was always a Jessica Simpson product.

    • I love Jessica Simpson’s products :)

  • jhs

    Can you tell us which shoes you finally got? I love those, and they look to be my skin tone! I had a pair of “nude” shoes I wore once or twice, but had to give them away because they just looked ivory against my skin.

  • morphingball

    “Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for the day when beauty editors stop raving about products that “makeup artists swear by!” that only come in one color, and that color is ‘white girl.'”

    So much this. I just had an argument with a friend the other day who insisted that in the ten years he’s lived here in the San Francisco Bay Area (in the South Bay, at that), he’s seen nothing but diversity and doesn’t understand why I think race is still an issue. It took ten minutes of strenuous arguing and pointing out the fact that I grew up in an America — even in SF! — where every magazine, billboard, and television ad featured people who looked nothing like me and grooming tips didn’t apply to me. I was well into my 20s before I realized I was just different, and not stupid, and that’s why beauty advice often didn’t work for me.

    I remember another time, when I read an article in the Sacramento Bee, when they stated that of all the hair types, red hair is the thickest. I remember eyeing the factoid and wondering: “Do they mean among Euro-Americans? Or really the *entire* world population?” (Really, if someone has the answer to this question, I’d love to know.)

  • MC

    Just came across this article that brings up a lot of the same issues and references the Believer piece that was posted a couple happy hours ago:

    (Also how great would a figure skating program set to to “Partition” be?? SO GREAT.)

  • Elisabeth S.

    Rachel, I love this piece and am really glad for the conversation. And I’m so excited to see the pictures of your wedding day.

  • “We’ve all looked for those unicorn-esque clothes or accessories that just don’t seem to exist outside of our heads or at our price point, but it’s different when you know that the reason you cannot find them is because you’re “Other”

    This feeling doesn’t just apply to race but all the ways that our bodies don’t fit with the fashion industry’s standards for beauty. For example, it really resonated with me because i’m flat chested and never find bras or dresses that fit me. When I was younger it really made my feel like there was something wrong with me. Now I prefer to think there’s something wrong with companies that they can’t make things in a range of sizes (and colors) to reflect the diversity of actual people.

    • Nicki Osborn

      100%. As a 4’10”, <100# female…I am literally child-size. Talk about finding professional work-appropriate clothing due to being one of, well, not many women (in America!) who are very petite as opposed to other countries around the world! I can relate to Rachel's post in so many ways, even as a white girl.

    • Kay Lee

      I feel this way every time I walk into Old Navy. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Old Navy. I love their style, their prices, and their quality. I love their cute sundresses- but why do they all have to be spaghetti straps!!!! I’m busty, not so much as some, but spaghetti straps just do not work for me unless I want to fuss with strapless bras and general discomfort, and I wish they’d make something awesome that has wide straps or sleeves other than their T-shirts.

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  • Winny the Elephant

    Ok this is a bit off topic but I have a question for APW’ers regarding “skin” tones. I’m a teacher in what is probably the most multicultural city in world where mixed kids are the norm. And we have these crayons. Now while I definitely think they are better than having one specific “skin” colour (also known as peach) I’d also like to get a perspective from women of colour if they see these as a positive or a negative because they still don’t include all of the varieties of skin colour. Does this encourage kids to draw people of all colours or is it weird to give kids “multicultural” crayons instead of just letting them mix regular crayons together? I’m just not really sure how to feel about them and I don’t feel like I come from a place where I can determine how this would impact children of colour.

    • Guest

      As one WoC, I think this is a great step in the right direction. When I was a kid, if you wanted to specify someone was not white, you might just pick either pick black, brown, or yellow. I like that this shows people have a spectrum of skin colors, not discreet, narrowly defined buckets according to race!

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  • Jules

    I’m Asian (half Vietnamese, half Japanese), but my skin tone is…brown…like, way browner than I’ve ever seen on any of my 100% Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese, or Korean friends. I get Hawaiian and Filipino a lot. I bought the exact Jessica Simpson shoes you’re talking about in “nude” a few years ago. When I brought them back to my apartment, one of my three (white) roommates mentioned that “isn’t the point of nude shoes to lengthen your legs and blend into your skin? So they don’t really work for you.”

    I don’t think she even has a clue how much that comment was hurtful. (Sidenote: Can’t a woman buy shoes because she likes how they look?)

    As someone who’s a minority and also adopted, I wish, wish, wish I could get people to understand what it’s like. Because it can be hard.

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