I'm not talking about describing someone as 'brown-skinned' or 'having brown skin' or even specific phrases like 'brown people', I should expect the former two to be acceptable and the I know the last one to be complicated enough to avoid if you don't know what you're talking about; rather I am talking about simply introducing a character or referring to an unimportant character with a phrase like 'the brown girl'. The dilemma that I am having is that this sounds specifically like a racial modifier, but the intent is more to mirror the effect of saying something like 'the green girl', as in, the color of her appearance in general, not just her skin. In the case of green, people's skin is normally assumed not to be green, so the reader can infer that green is in reference to her clothing specifically, and her skin is some more reasonable color. However, in the case of brown, while the reader correctly infers that since people's skin is often brown, that the girl has brown skin, I then expect that they are inclined to go too far and assume that this is only in reference to her skin, and perhaps her overall appearance is of some other color. I think this probably does not work at all considering something like "the black girl" seems like a completely unambiguous racial description, albeit inaccurately casual for the tone I am writing in.
The problem is that I struggle to come up with a way to resolve it without doing something else entirely - which is fine, it's certainly not important, but it's the kind of language issue that feels like it should have a cleaner solution. To clarify, I do NOT want the answer "just describe her more specifically" because the point is the rhetoric of a clear image with almost no verbiage. It is however a fair answer to say not to bother with trying to do so at all.
The best I can think of is to use a more specific shade of brown, but that doesn't really completely sidestep the problem and introduces some new ones - it isn't weird for someone with brown skin to wear a brown shirt, but it would be pretty remarkable for someone to wear a shirt the same specific shade of their skin. "What's the problem" you might be asking, "isn't that very vivid with a short description like you're wanting?" But unfortunately the image is so bizarre that it doesn't even want to come to mind. "The green girl" is not a crazy image, it's just "whoa, she's wearing all green, that's the first thing i notice when looking at this person". This doesn't really translate well at all to natural body hues I think, so I'm hoping that either I'm just wrong and people do get the right interpretation, or that there is a simple alternative that's evading me at the moment.