FACE MASKS: FASHION STATEMENT VS SURVIVAL STATEMENT

Fashion vs Survival. (Photo credit: The New York Times)

Express yourself. Protect yourself. And look fashionable while you’re at it!

As states across America and countries around the world slowly begin to re-open after being closed for months due to COVID-19, we all still need to be reminded to follow safety guidelines. One of the easiest ways we can protect ourselves, besides washing our hands constantly is to wear a face mask, especially when we are closer than 6 feet from another person. Show respect to others…wear a mask!

Living in an apocalyptic world that more resembles a sci-fi thriller than real life, we need to protect each other. Right now, the best way to do that is to wear a face mask and social distance. And, if you are lucky enough to have Covid & antibody testing in your area, then you should also get tested!

By now, everyone that owns a sewing machine has watched YouTube mask tutorials, including the one the UoF produced on Facebook. However, since March 15th, there have been many changes to non-surgical mask-making and we thought we’d start this blog post by sharing what we’ve learned so far. After all, we are a fashion education website!

It didn’t take long for fashion designers across the globe to get into the face mask act, after all, it’s an accessory, right? But are designer face masks really safe? Will these designer masks really protect from COVID-19?

We all know that the coveted N95 is the gold standard, however, we still need to reserve those for hospitals. 

Here’s a handy graphic that compares the N95 with the common surgical mask used in hospitals. The latest buzz about that little valve button on the N95 illustration below left, is that it is not ideal. The valve will protect YOU, but does not protect the people around you from YOUR breath. Some cities have actually banned them, like California’s Bay Area. One way around the valve issue is to wear a cloth mask over this mask, but then it makes it harder to breathe. Not ideal.

The blue and white surgical masks on the right are currently the most accessible personal protective equipment and available in most pharmacies. Inexpensive, effective and disposable.

Face mask protection efficiency infographic. (Photo credit: Vector illustration)

If you are making your own non-surgical masks, here are some tips to consider:

  • 100% cotton  is preferred
  • 2 or 3 ply, dense weave is best so you can’t blow out a candle while wearing the mask
  • pre-wash your fabric
  • you could add a pocket or opening on the bottom to insert a removable coffee filter, AC filter or paper towel for added protection
  • you could sew a layer of chiffon for added protection
  • it’s best to hand wash your mask in antibacterial soap & let air dry

Mask History

In East Asia, citizens have been wearing surgical masks outdoors for years. In a recent article in Slate magazine, journalist Jeff Yang explained that following the influenza bout in the 1900s, “[T]he predilection toward using face-coverings to prevent exposure to bad air is something that predates the germ theory of disease, and extends into the very foundations of East Asian culture.” Yang predicted the multiple rationalizations for using them could lead to global “face mask fashion.” And, now they are!

The New York Post knighted masks, the “must-have accessory” in February at London Fashion Week, where some ‘early-adopters’ wore creatively decorated surgical masks. It will of course be the biggest fashion trend for 2020/2021.

Fashion to the Rescue

Marc Jacobs and Richard Princes Nurse series for Louis Vuitton’s spring 2008 collection. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

In early April, brands such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada and Brooks Brothers announced that they would be re-purposing parts of their factories to make masks and hospital gowns. Instantly the memes and comments went wild.

One Twitter user joked and sent out the following tweet:  “Breaking News from the world of haute couture: Since humans on Earth will be wearing face protection masks against Covid-19 pretty much EVERYWHERE over the next year, they’re bound to become the hottest new fashion accessory. Ready for the Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Armani and ….”?

Miley Cyrus in a Gucci face mask. (Photo credit: Page Six)

Katie May disco ball mask. (Photo credit: Katie May)

And, now brands at every price point are offering non-surgical masks to the public; even Vogue posted a story on their website “Masks To Shop Now.” People are choosing masks based on their outfit and whether they are suitable for day or evening, casual or dressy. They have definitely become a personal style item!

One of the best retail deals out there are 3-ply 100% cotton masks sold by Old Navy at 5 for $12.50 available in kids & adult sizing. As part of its efforts, Old Navy will donate 50,000 masks to the Boys & Girls Club of America.

While many brands are now selling their masks, many are  donating a portion of their mask sales to various charities dedicated to helping those effected by COVID-19.

A mask created by designer Collina Strada. (Photo Credit: Collina Strada)

According to Edited, the digital retail tracking service, there has been an almost 40 percent increase in the number of masks offered by companies in the first quarter of 2020, compared to the end of 2019. In a blog post earlier this month, Josh Silverman, chief executive of Etsy, reported that in a single weekend, buyers searched for face masks on the site an average of nine times per second and the number of face mask sellers had grown five times, to almost 20,000.

Experts are increasingly suggesting that masks may need to be worn for at least a year, until a vaccine is developed. And trend forecasters are predicting that, as a result, they may become a fact of daily life, donned by all of us with the same unthinking passivity as a coat and sunglasses when we leave the house, according to an article in  The New York Times, published on April 22, 2020.

Flames face mask by Guy Fieri flames. (Photo credit: Claudio Lavenia for Getty Images)

Off-White face masks. (Photo credit: Hyperbeast)

In a recent WWD article, Christian Siriano, (one of the first designers to start making masks when Governor Cuomo asked for help), told the publication that he made “this fully encrusted pearl mask because I just needed a breakIt’s actually pretty fabulous.”

Christian Siriano’s pearl encrusted mask (Photo credit: Christian Siriano)

Maskies, Selfie Masks & the Reactivated PPE Portrait Project

The Maskie

Selfies are now passé. The new hot Instagram trend is the #maskie. Posting pics of yourself wearing your mask ‘du jour.’

Photo credit: Olsonmask

Check out #Olsonmask to see how many people are getting in on the action. Whether you choose the pleated or the molded version, who says you can’t still be fashionable?

The  Selfie Mask

OR….How about a ‘selfie mask,’ a mask that shows the part of your face that is usually covered by a mask? Since one of the negatives of  wearing a traditional mask is that you can’t tell if someone is smiling or frowning, you can now create your own selfie mask (click to find out how) by taking a selfie of the lower portion of your face, printing it on computer printable fabric and sewing it into a mask. Viola!

Rachel Maddow showing her selfie mask (Photo credit MSNBC)

PPE Portrait Project

Face coverings can be intimidating and downright scary, especially if you are being treated in a hospital. But, Mary Beth Heffernan’s PPE Portrait Project, initiated during the Ebola crisis, whereby the face of that particular doctor or nurse is affixed to their hospital gown, is offering some relief. Accordingly to Heffernan, “At a moment when patients are already experiencing abject physical suffering, the isolation, facelessness, and lack of touch make them feel abandoned by humanity.”

Stanford research scientist Dr. Cati Brown-Johnson was moved to replicate the project for the Covid-19 pandemic and is expanding to non-COVID wards, including inpatient palliative care.

 

University of Fashion Face Mask Contest

Calling all Mask Makers! Are you making masks to donate, or making and selling them with a portion of the proceeds donated to charity? Or, are you just crazy bored and are making outrageous masks just to keep up your creative edge?

At UoF, we’re still making non-surgical face masks for our local nursing homes and are so happy to apply are sewing skills to a good cause.

If you are in mask production, we want to hear from you. Send images of your masks to CS@UniversityofFashion.com. Tell us what they’re made of and where you’re from. We’re offering 5, full access one-year subscriptions to the UoF website. With over 500 fashion educational videos all taught by fashion profs and industry pros, it’s worth $189! Offer ends July 1, 2020

 

Introducing our 1st Face Mask Winner: Jennifer Coffman 

                                                                           
Jennifer Coffman and her daughters (Photo credit Jennifer Coffman)

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are proud to award our 1st face mask prize to Jennifer Coffman.

“My name is Jennifer. Ive been making masks since March and donating them my local organizations in Pulaski, TN, and Huntsville AL. I’ve donated to local  nursing homes, hospitals, health care facilities, shopping centers and friends. I’ve donated 225 mask between March and April. I’ve used cotton fabrics from my own collection of fabric and I’ve purchased some cotton from a local quilting shop to help support her business. I would love  to win the contest to work towards perfecting my dressmaking skills and my goals of being a professional dress maker. I’m really excited to study the classes. I can sew from patterns but I’m  excited to learn to drape and draft my own designs and learn to draw my ideas on the croquis! Huge Thank you!! I will be happy to share the skills I’ve learned from the courses and promote University of Fashion!!” – Jennifer Coffman

Face masks made by Emily Coffman and donated to Huntesville Hospital, Huntsville, Alabama and therapists at BenchMark Physical Therapy, Pulaski, Tennessee

 

Be sure to send your face mask images and your story to us at CS@universityoffashion.com !

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Antonia Sardone

Antonia Sardone

Antonia Sardone is a new contributor to the University of Fashion. She is also a freelance fashion consultant, stylist and writer. Antonia Sardone graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a degree in Advertising Communications, Marketing and Fashion Journalism. She is an industry veteran having worked for WWD for over fifteen years and has strong relationships with designers worldwide. Today, Antonia Sardone continues to write reviews for WWD as well as work with many contemporary designers on a variety of projects from helping to re-launch their websites to writing their brand books. She enjoys raising her children to be creative individuals, as well as styling, writing and traveling.