By CLOE CABRERA | The Tampa Tribune
Published: March 17, 2012 Updated: March 17, 2012 – 11:15 AM
Tara Raines launched a campaign to get bra retailers to create more shades of nude for women of color.
Tara Raines believes lingerie retailers aren’t offering women equal support.
The Florida native has spent years hunting online and in stores for a bra that matches her skin tone, without much luck.
When she told African-American friends and relatives about her bra dilemma, many confessed to dying nude and blush-colored bras a darker hue themselves.
"It speaks to the ingenuity of black women," says Raines, 31, a psychologist who now lives in Los Angeles. "Nevertheless, they shouldn’t have to do that. To me, feeling pretty, put together, sexy and feminine is having foundation garments that look like me. We shouldn’t have to settle for something that’s completely darker or lighter than our skin."
Raines says it’s time bra manufacturers embraced a more diverse definition of nude. So she launched a new Facebook campaign called "What’s Your Nude?" with the simple plea, "More brown bras, please." She’s urging women to contact bra makers to demand greater representation in the lingerie department.
The campaign has more than 3,500 supporters, including celebrities such as actress Holly Robinson Peete, singer Chrisette Michelle, comic Sheryl Underwood and Food Network’ chef Sunny Anderson. And more are joining the cause.
"Often, it seems brown bras are delegated to "Seasonal" collections instead of being core "Essentials," which in my opinion, should be available all the time!" wrote one Facebook fan. "Please wake up, Manufacturers!"
"Thank you for bringing this issue to light," wrote another. "I certainly hope all bra makers will take the hint."
Most retailers carry bras in an assortment of colors, including nude shades that include cream, tan and blush tones tailored to Caucasian skin tones, Raines says. Women with darker skin tones have far fewer alternatives, and mostly opt for black.
Online retailers such as Victoria’s Secret, Macy’s and Nordstrom are short on options for brown-skinned women, while Dillard’s carries a few selections from Wacoal and Cabernet, starting at $38.
The brown bra debate isn’t a trivial matter for Char McPherson.
"When you’re in a business environment and wear a lighter top, you can see right through it when you’re wearing a black bra," the Tampa real estate agent says. "Wearing a bra in your skin tone just makes you feel more comfortable."
And with spring and summer’s sheerer fabrics, and more revealing styles, the right color bra is even more important.
"Nude (bras) looks white on me," McPherson says. "It shows up much more under my clothing. All women want that seamless look, as if you’re wearing nothing, but you know it’s there. Whatever you wear, it’s about feeling comfortable. It would be nice to have more (color) options available."
Tom Oertel, owner of Figure Fair Lingerie in St. Petersburg says the "What’s Your Nude?" campaign won’t have an effect on bra manufacturers because not enough customers buy brown.
"We carried (brown bras) in our store a few years ago, and it didn’t go well. They just didn’t sell," Oertel says. "And if they don’t sell, (manufacturers) aren’t going to make them."
Besides, Oertel says, nude bras are appropriate for women or all skin tones. He says his African-American customers prefer black or nude bras.
"Women should wear a nude bra (under their clothes), because it won’t show," he adds. "If you’re wearing a white T-shirt, you wear a nude bra. It just looks better under clothes."
Rhonda Shear, owner of Rhonda Shear Intimates, disagrees.
"For any woman, if she wants to wear something sheer and wants it to disappear on her skin, darker is better," says the creator of the best-selling Ahh Bra!
Shear says a basic nude is the most popular bra color in her line, but she believes nudes should encompass a wider range of shades.
"The colors of nude need to be updated and expanded," says Shear, whose Ahh Bra comes in hundreds of colors from mocha to golden suntan to ebony. "If you take a nude (bra) from each department store, you’re going to get all sorts of pasty colors. But until you start talking about bra colors, you don’t realize nude doesn’t encompass all women."
Raines says she’s grateful for the support the brown bra campaign is generating, and notes that even Caucasian women have joined the cause. Still, the feedback from retailers so far hasn’t been very uplifting.
"(Our supporters) have contacted various retailers, and they’re told they’ll forward it to marketing, but no one is saying they are going to take action," she says.
Still, she’s encouraging supporters to find brown bras and take a picture or video and load it online with the retailer and brand name. That way, they can help other women find a bra that matches their skin tone, and they can show support for retailers who support women of color.
"The beauty industry has come a long way in creating makeup shades for women of color," she says. "Now it’s time for lingerie companies to do the same."
To support Raines’ efforts to get lingerie manufacturers to include more shades of nude, go to "What’s Your Nude?" on Facebook and click the "like" tab, or go to Facebook.com/morebrownbras and click "like." You can follow the campaign on Twitter at hashtag #whatsyournude.