Fashion is the essence of everything that’s going on at any time,” says Paola Antonelli, a senior curator at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, MoMA. “Because what people wear is the immediate expression of the moods, the feelings and the ideas of a moment.
The exhibition, Items: Is Fashion Modern? explores the fascinating factors and characteristics that make certain pieces of clothing timeless or symbolic, and takes an in-depth look at what our clothes can tell us about our past, our present and our future.
For anyone familiar with fashion magazines, the term ‘nude’ – referring to a colour rather than a state of undress – is often part of the established vocabulary. Used synonymously with ‘flesh-toned’, it is an adjective liberally applied to anything off-white to champagne, blush and rose. When Beyoncé came to the Met Ball in a peach Givenchy gown, when Michelle Obama wore beige to meet the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and when Kim Kardashian wore a pale-pink bodysuit, style publications repeatedly described their outfits as ‘nude’ or ‘flesh-coloured’. The problem? The tone of flesh in question clearly referenced pale-white skin, rather than the skin of the women wearing the clothes.
Nude is often a blind spot for fashion writers, perhaps in part because it is given credence by respected organisations. Pantone, the world-renowned authority on colour, has a ‘nude’ shade (a pale pink), which adds an acceptable gloss to the term’s use. Up until 2015, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defined the word ‘nude’ as relating to nakedness or "having the colour of a white person's skin."