These days, going outside requires more than social distancing, it means wearing a face mask. Despite President Donald Trump’s promise at a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing that we wouldn’t be wearing masks forever, they don’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon. Which has led to… Face masks becoming a new fashion statement.
While facial coverings are a way of preventing the spread of COVID-19, they’ve also begun to reflect our personalities and fashion choices. Medical-grade masks are making way for designer coverings.
Turns out, masks have a history of being used during times of crisis.
History of Masks
Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, told Fast Company face masks have always been used as statement pieces.
Over 400 years ago, doctors wore face masks shaped like beaks with incense inside because people believed plagues were transmitted through foul smells.
“They clearly didn’t work,” Steele said. “But they were terrifying to look at and expressed the horror that society was experiencing.”
Again in the 19th century, masks made a comeback. Scientists found germs on dust particles so the upper-class women in Paris covered themselves in lace veils. During the Spanish flu, Americans wore facial coverings as a patriotic symbol and as an effort to stop the spread of the disease.
Walking the Runway
Before the quarantine, fashion face masks were becoming a thing. At Paris Fashion Week in March 2020, as the coronavirus outbreak kept many people away from the festivities, some guests showed up wearing their own CC-branded face masks. American fashion designers The Blonds featured models wearing high-end, super-studded face masks at their New York Fashion Week show in February 2020 (top image).
And now, every day Americans are embracing unique masks in order to protect themselves and others from the coronavirus — while looking good that the same time. Though long beaks and lace veils aren’t going to cut in the 21st century, people are opting for embellished, patterned pieces, some homemade and others purchased.
Companies like Muse Beauty are selling versions featuring favorite designer labels, like Chanel, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton. It’s unknown if they have the license to sell those branded products, but if more and more people wear them it’s a safe bet that mainstream companies will start making versions of their own.
Ultimately, these masks are becoming ways for people to express themselves during the pandemic.
“These are people saying, ‘We’re not going to let this pandemic destroy our love of fashion’” Steele told Fast Company.