A recent post on the etsy blog, The problem with nude got me to thinking about the colour occasionally termed "nude". Back in 2010 Michelle Obama wore a frock which some journalists unthinkingly described as "nude", later hastily switching to "champagne" when they were taken up on it ("skintone? Whose skintone?").
"Nude" and all its pals apply to a tone that's loosely defined (it can be peachy, a cream shade, beige or pale taupe), but roughly equivalent to caucasian skin. As such the terms are are inherently racially exclusive, so perhaps they should be relegated to the scrapheap along with the once-acceptable "nigger brown"? The latter was formerly in common use - I've seen it crop up a good half dozen times and I don't even have an especially large collection of 1910s-20s fashion ephemera.
To be honest I've never much liked the sound of most of these colour names anyway - nude (too prim), skintone (too clinical) or flesh (too carnivorous). I rather prefer prettier-sounding terms like peach, champagne and taupe. In fact I think it seems like the perfect opportunity to reintroduce some of the evocative shade names I've found on vintage stockings - names like Spark O' Spice (my favourite!), Shellblush, Persian Glow, Myst Cuban, Allure, Copper Beech, Calypso and Amber Fox. They paint a spectrum of neutrals from Peach Petal and Alabaster through Sugar Beige, Bamboo, Desert Gold and Cafe Glace to Auburn, Brandy, Sienna and Wild Mink. I say we bring back colour names like Sundream, Sahara, Rosedew, Russette, and Honey Beige. Some might wonder how you would assign a specific colour to Whisper or Romance, but surely it's no more arbitrary than assigning a colour to "nude".