The President of the United States refuses to wear a face mask, but another authority will. Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue, has dubbed masks spring’s most crucial trend. “I hope you’re discovered what it feels like to wear a face mask when you go out,” she wrote on Monday. “As we are learning from health officials, this is one of the most important steps we can take to slow the spread of this virus.”
Styles often trickle up to Vogue; the past weeks have seen designers and hobbyists alike creating their own face masks. There are plenty of sewing patterns available online, dumbed down to the easiest instructions so more people can make their own. Bandanas, scarves, and even coffee filters are becoming makeshift veils. Baby blue surgical masks are a ubiquitous sight on the streets of New York, though the CDC has recommended those be saved for medical workers.
Out of this chaos comes creativity, and a cottage industry. Check social media and you’ll see it. Masks are being made from cut-up Louis Vuitton logos, or blazoned with messages to Trump. Influencers like Julie Eigenmann, used to sharing tips for home organization, are now promoting another DIY project: creating an ad hoc covering that can latch onto the ears, with only one bandana and two hair ties.
The actor Emerson Collins made a TikTok demonstrating how a rainbow jock strap can be turned into a face mask. “I’m discovering that my friends knit and do all these fascinating things,” Collins told The Daily Beast. “I don’t have other talents. I do not have other gifts. My gifts are being mildly amusing and mildly annoying.”
After reading about the shortage of masks and bandanas, Collins said he thought, “Somewhere, some gay is like, ‘Fine, I’ll wear a jockstrap on my face.’” So he went into his closet and pulled out his collection. “It only took 30 seconds how to figure out [making a jockstrap into a mask], and I was mortified,” he said. “It’s entirely too easy to do this. As an entertainment, I’m definitely not an essential person. I have the time and it’s making me giggle, so if this amuses a few people, it’s great.”
Collins reiterated that his jock strap visage “should be considered the worst, last option” for use. His TikTok was later taken down from the app “for violating community guidelines.”
Bra cups can also be fastened into protective coverings, maybe, depending on the cup size. As some on social media have noted, larger sizes can take up the entire face.
Tatiana Soglin, 23, is currently in quarantine in San Luis Obispo with her boyfriend. She only has one bandana. It’s white and bedazzled, a copy of the one Jennifer Lopez wore to the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards. Soglin wore it last Halloween, when she and her boyfriend dressed up as J.Lo and Alex Rodriquez.
“Basically, I feel like J.Lo everyday now,” Soglin said. “It’s fun that I get to reuse something from that costume, every day now. It’s not exactly something I expected, but I’m making the most of it.”
Kat Fleischman, 35, also didn’t expect the coronavirus to impact her family, but her mother fell ill with the virus, luckily making a full recovery. “It’s been a really hard time for me,” the Miami native, who works in PR, said. “My clients all dropped me, so I quarantined with my friend, Andrea Rubio, who’s a designer.”
Bored out of their minds, in a studio full of fabric, the women had an idea. “We saw that people are still biking around outside and Miami is a very active place,” Fleischman said. “People need to be sane but also safe. We looked at the fabric that was lying on her table, the sequins you put your hand across and it changes color. We wanted to make masks out of that.”
So the pair, who attend Burning Man together, began adorning jersey masks with sparkles, launching what they call Glitterati Masks. “Maybe if we make them flashy, people will say, ‘I want to get this mask,’’ she said. “We’re going to have to wear masks for a while, so why not add a bit of fun to it? Make it a happy thing. We’re protecting ourselves, helping each other, it doesn’t have to be depressing.”
Last week, the actor Harvey Fierstein tweeted photos of his “mask factory,” which included homemade options, including one in leopard print. “The pattern I have found is best is from a company called Kitmade,” he told The Daily Beast. “A friend’s daughter is the CEO. It allows you to use a removable filter inside. It has great coverage and is easy to make.”
Fierstein’s are made of quilting cotton. “Lots of us in the quilting community are making masks,” he went on. “My next door neighbor is an EMS worker. When I asked if he wanted some he said, ‘Sure. Can you make me 100,000?’”
On Friday, Trump said that he would not wear a face mask. “He now has blood on his hands,” Fierstein wrote to The Daily Beast, and later tweeted. “If there is an American who thinks this is the right behavior for an American President, they need to be hospitalized, preferably in a Covid 19 ward with NO FACE MASK.”
But the hope is to supply all hospitals with enough masks; some designers are stepping up to do just that. Hillary Taymour runs Collina Strada, a New York-based brand known for its social messaging. Dresses are made out of reused fabrics and models go down the runway carrying reusable water bottles to make a statement against plastic. So it was no question she’d start to make masks, too.
“I think the only brands who are going to survive this are people who are on the frontlines keeping the community safe and having a voice,” Taymour told The Daily Beast. “If you’re silent, why are people going to buy $2000 worth of clothes from you? Fashion is such an unnecessary thing right now, but people still need art to be happy.”
So, every morning Taymour walks her dog, Powwow, from her home in Brooklyn to her studio in Downtown Manhattan, where she can make about 30 to 40 masks a day. (She has assistants pitching in from home.)
Right now, masks are free with any Collina Strada purchase, and the tie-dyed ones will soon be available to buy for $30. Any time someone buys one mask, doctors receive five. She’s also donating to Masks4Medicine, a campaign started by New York doctors.
Taymour says she’s getting emails from emergency room doctors “across the country” asking for donations. “Every person in the world needs a mask to go outside,” she said. “Think about how much random demand I’m going to get with my small following.”
Kelsey Garner runs K.S. Garner, a made-to-order clothing line out of Phoenix, Arizona, which has earned a very online fan base thanks to its use of psychedelic prints and bright colors. She’s applied the same aesthetics to the cotton face masks she now sells.
“During a time like this you feel helpless,” Garner told The Daily Beast. “Making and donating masks is a task that we are able to achieve as a brand, so it was a no-brainer for us. Although it can feel discouraging that you can’t provide entire frontline workers with what your company can provide, it gives you a sense of peace that you can help some, and that so many other brands and people are out there doing the same.”
Lia Kes spent her childhood living on a kibbutz in Israel. “I grew up into this idea that you serve your community, and you come up with a solution,” she said. “That is something that stayed in my system.”
She now runs KES, another New York-based label selling reusable masks to customers, and giving bulk orders to medical professionals. Hers are silk, cost $17, and were developed working with her friend, Dr. Galit Sacajiu. Like Collina Strada, Kes will donate one mask for each one purchased.
“It’s funny, because now if I’m about to leave my door and I don’t have the mask on, I feel that I’m naked,” Kes said. “It’s amazing how quickly we get used to things. Once we embrace the fact that we have to be a little more cautious and a little more considerate, then I think it’s not going to be a shocker or such a big sacrifice to wear a mask.”