PINE BLUFF, Ark. – As more people across the world put on face masks to protect themselves and others in the midst of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, designer masks are increasingly becoming a fashion statement, Yunru Shen, instructor for the Merchandising, Textiles and Design (MTD) program at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), said. The protective face mask is “in” and here to stay – at least for the next six months or year, that is.

“The face mask is the symbol of the 2020 fashion year,” she said. “The mask not only represents the events surrounding the outbreak, but also reflects our desire to protect ourselves, our families and others.”

Shen said independent fashion designers across the world have been busy making designer face masks and selling them online. Designs vary in color, pattern and material, ranging from the more practical to the more extravagant. Some popular designs imitate the shape and look of the N95 respirator mask.

Social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook have been filled with photos of individuals practicing social distancing in unique masks meant to showcase the wearer’s personality or individuality. YouTube users are publishing videos on how to make fashionable do-it-yourself masks at home.

Prices vary too, Shen said. While cotton masks generally cost around $10 to $20, some masks such as the French lace mask by Maison Modulare cost around $60.

Shen predicts designer face masks will remain a fad until around the time vaccines for COVID-19 are produced and widely available.

“This isn’t the first time a world event has shaped fashion,” she said. “During World War II, due to limited resources, people changed their fashion shopping behavior from buying regularly to ‘make do and mend.’ Some big fashion brands started selling luxury items at half-price. And instead of producing evening gowns from traditional silk or lace, they started making them from cotton.”

Shen said individuals can follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to make homemade cloth face coverings. For instructions on making both sew and no-sew masks and other COVID-19 resources, visit the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/.

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