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The term skin tone might be open to interpretation after a campaign titled “What’s Your Nude?” hits Facebook on Feb. 1.
Tara Raines, a 31-year-old African-American psychologist in Los Angeles, said she spent years searching stores for her shade of nude undergarments, which she describes as “between [traditional] nude and black.”
She decided to launch the online campaign after she recently learned that for more than 30 years, her mother, family members and friends have been dyeing store-bought bras brown that were originally purchased in blush and buff-tone shades.
Raines explained the online campaign was created to “mobilize women who are fed up over the lack of diversity in bra manufacturing.”
“Women of color have tremendous spending power in the U.S. and it’s absurd to think that in 2012 we are essentially disenfranchised when we shop for lingerie. It’s my hope that this campaign will drive not only awareness, but swift action by bra makers,” said Raines.
Indeed, the spending power of African-American consumers is hefty.
A study in September 2011 by Nielsen Co. in collaboration with the National Newspaper Publishers Association reported the number of African-American households earning $75,000 or more grew by 64 percent between 2000 and 2009 — approximately 12 percent faster than the overall population’s earning growth. The report, titled “The State of the African-American Consumer,” estimated the annual spending power of African-Americans will be $1.1 trillion by 2015.
Raines, who said black bras are her only option, noted that select bras in brown are available but are too expensive for her pocketbook.
“I’m a grad student so spending $100 or even $80 or $90 for an everyday bra in my skin tone is not in my budget.…I’m not sure if it’s because brown bras are not being stocked or if stores just carry a few styles and then are sold out,” said Raines.
She added, “I was horrified when I found out my mother had been dyeing bras all those years. It’s very disappointing this extra step has to be taken by women of color, and it also compromises the integrity of the product.…Now I understand why my mother was so good at dyeing my tights when I was growing up because there were no brown tights.”
To participate in the campaign, Raines said women should click the “like” tab at Facebook.com/morebrownbras, and contact their preferred bra manufacturer or retailer on Feb. 1 by mail, phone, e-mail or social media. The campaign can also be followed on Twitter.com/whatsyournude and by using the #What’sYourNude hashtag.
In the early Nineties, a smattering of national brands such as Vanity Fair and Bali tested the idea of bras in a variety of skin tones ranging from lighter shades of cafe latte to deeper hues of mahogany. The idea was to address the burgeoning African-American and Latin markets on the U.S. But company officials at the time said the lines were discontinued due to lack of retail interest.
Meanwhile, since Raines began tweeting and e-mailing friends and professional associates about the campaign last Tuesday, more than 260 women have signed up in advance of the online event. Several have championed Target and Kmart for merchandising brown-colored bras and related undergarments.
“I don’t think it’s too much to ask that bra makers include darker hues when manufacturing their collections,” said Raines. “Women of color deserve to look and feel sexy, and a big part of that is looking like ourselves.”
Raines chose February to launch the campaign to commemorate African-American History Month.