I thought Samatha Critchell’s description of Michelle Obama’s light tan or “champagne” dress as “flesh colored” might get her fired.  If nothing else, I figured it’d be warning to all other journalists out there to, for gawd’s sake!, watch your racist language.

But, alas, the parade of “champagne”-colored gowns at this year’s Grammy’s had led a flood of fashion writers talking about the color “nude.”  Here are just a handful of examples from the first three pages of my google search

Los Angeles Times:

Katy Perry and her dress:

Elsewhere in the Los Angeles Times:

Beyonce and her dress:


Keri Hilson and her dress:

Associated Content:


Heidi Klum and her dress:


Of course (almost) no one is actually “nude”-colored, but the term still manages to naturalize whiteness insofar as white people’s skin color tends to match colors described as “nude” moreso than the skin color of non-white people (though there are always exceptions).  I’m really surprised that journalists are still managing to get this language past their editors.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a Visiting Scholar at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming Introduction to Sociology text. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.