Thursday, April 29, 2010

In the Buff Round 2


Earlier Drafts: 
I sported nude suede heels.

cropped cargo pants (Target)
white sheer top (thrifted, from forever ago)
nude suede heels (Seychelles via Piperlime)

Yesterday I wrote about my newest fashion interest, the flesh-toned shoe.  In the post's Prompts, I struck with a mere glancing blow at the concept of what I'm calling "dressing nude."  Here's what I asked:

I'm also wondering how the nude shoe trend acts as an extension of the nude makeup trend, which Katie alludes to here.  Does our collective fashion conscience think nude equals most beautiful?  If so, why?  Do we feel an impulse to down-play our assets or do we simply like our au naturale selves enough to gesture at them in our dressing habits?

Liz requested an elaboration on the subject, so here it goes.

I suspect that the nude shoe trend is merely an extension of a larger "dressing nude" trend.  Make-up fashionistas recommend substituting the painted red lip for a barely-glossed one, for example.  This season's awards events showcased several actors boasting flesh-toned frocks, like Diane Kruger in this Herve Leger number.  It's early in swimsuit season, but we've already seen photos of Kim Kardashian in a skin-toned suit.  And, lest you think I've forgotten that flesh-toned everythings generally coincide with warmer weather, I present as a rebuttal Garance Dore's photo of three women in full-on, cool weather beige.

The trend isn't a new one, of course.  Before there was Bo Derek, there was the nude bather of the classic art frieze. So, to answer my own question: yes, our collective fashion conscience seems to appreciate a bare or bare looking body.  That's no surprise.  I'm wondering, what does the trend signify now?

Here are some conclusions I'm considering:
1. Perhaps, as I suggested in the comments section of Katie's makeup post, we "dress nude" in defiance of marketing messages that state makeup and clothing are necessary correctives for our numerous flaws.  We quite like our flaws, so we combat the 'done-up-ness' with the suggestion of minimality.

2. We feel slightly guilty about our assets and therefore shy away from full-on glamor.  If this is the case, why?

3. Maybe we subconsciously consider those who require less effort in dressing - those who can go 'bare' - the most beautiful, so we emulate that notion of beauty.

Here's a tangent for you.  As I've thought about this nude trend, it has occurred to me that most often the terms "flesh-toned" and "nude" refer to whiteness.  This article describes how one Associated Press writer referred to Michelle Obama's beige gown as "flesh-colored."

Generally, what's your take on my observations?

  • To which cultural phenomena do you think the "dressing nude" trend responds or speaks?
  • What's going on with our terminology?  How do you assess the "flesh-toned" family of labels in regard to race?
  • Any other insights to offer?  Please share!


Scholar Style Guide said...

First, I'll point out that this is also a current trend in nail polish-- the polish bloggers call it "mannequin hands" and suggest that wearing polish which matches the color of your skin makes your fingers look longer and more attractive. This trend baffles me, I guess because I don't see the point in making fingers look longer (and I prefer short nails to long ones). When you said in your last post that nude shoes can make our legs look longer, that made more sense.

For me, your post encourages me to interrogate how I perceive of of "beauty" and "sex appeal" as very different from one another- perhaps more distinct than they really are. For example, I think most skin-toned ensembles are meant to increase the wearer's sex appeal by gesturing toward nakedness. (I'm thinking also of one of the earliest episodes of SATC, in which Carrie Bradshaw intentionally wears what she and Samantha call "the naked dress" to dinner with Big to make herself sexually desirable.)

Whereas, for me, "nude" makeup is beautiful because it celebrates the un-altered look of one's face. The 'face' does not seem to have the same sexual connotation as the 'legs' or 'hips' or 'breasts' that women often accentuate through 'nude' dressing.

So I guess I see these as two reasons we are drawn to wearing "nude" shades as very different from one another. I'm interested in your suggestions about how they might come from the same source, though, and am really interested to hear what others might say about that intersection.

(And I'm glad you raised the issue of 'nude' meaning 'like-white-skin.' If a woman with a darker complexion is wearing a dress that matches her skin tone, I have seen fashion critics describe it as 'nude,' but I wonder if that same dress would be described as 'nude' on a hanger. I tend to think not.)