< How the Fashionable Face the New Coronavirus
By Caty Weaver
15 May 2020

Many people around the world now wear masks, covers for their nose and mouth, when they go out in public. You see masks on people walking their dogs, buying food, riding bicycles and working at their jobs.

FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a protective mask rides her bicycle during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Brussels, Belgium April 16, 2020. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a protective mask rides her bicycle during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Brussels, Belgium April 16, 2020. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

In many places the masks are required by law as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But commercial masks are in short supply. Most people agree that those rare objects should go to health care professionals and others on the so-called front lines of the fight against coronavirus.

So, mask-making has gotten more personal for the rest of us and more creative in design, as a result. It seems masks are becoming the fashion statement of 2020.

The online news media site Insider recently published photos of 17 of the most creative masks it found around the world. Many of the mask makers are artists, but not all. The photos include a knitted piece of pink and red from Icelandic-based cloth artist, Yrúrarí. It is a large mask made to look like a big mouth with a long pink tongue hanging out.

The report also shows a smart design from leather worker Anissa Mekrabech of France. She created a mask with see-through material over the mouth. It permits people who read lips, because they can not hear, to continue to communicate during the pandemic

Some of the masks among the photos are beautiful. Some artists made masks covered in shiny, colorful jewels or mirror-like material. Another uses paint to create bright pictures on paper masks. A few of the masks are made of plastic and other waste material found on the street. One clothing designer even made a special mask to go with wedding clothes.

Masks could be new little black dress

We might be covering our faces and mouths for quite a while. And not just for COVID-19. There are lots of possible viruses ahead. And there is air pollution and toxic dust, allergies and bad smells. So, are masks our fashion forward look?

Fashion bible Vogue seems to think it might. On May 5, it published 92 Cloth Masks To Shop Now. Writer Sarah Spelling notes that that mask cover a large part of the face. So, she writes, it is not surprising people are looking for masks that look good. And the story directs readers how and where to buy them.

And, in Lithuania this week, Reuters reported on a special fashion show held in the capital, Vilnius. There were no live models or crowds around a runway. Instead, the city celebrated creative face covers in photographs on 21 huge signs around town. The billboards show men, women and children wearing masks as part of a so-called "Mask Fashion Week."

Those shown in the photos include local artists, musicians, and other townspeople chosen at random. Even the mayor of the city is captured on a Mask Fashion Week sign.

Members of a local Facebook group called Mask Your Fashion chose the masks for the signs. Designer Julija Janus established the group to share new designs for masks and advice on how to make them at home.

"A mask is a good way to display your creativity, to express yourself. And it's a good activity to do when you're sitting at home with the kids", said Janus.

Mask or no mask

Masks can also be used, or not used, to make political or cultural statements. President Trump does not wear one, so far. He has said he does not think a mask would send the right message when he meets with world leaders. He also suggested his wearing one might cause unease among the American public.

But some people have criticized his lack of mask use in public. They argue the decision belittles the seriousness of the pandemic. And last month, Trump's vice-president Mike Pence was denounced by many for not wearing a mask when he visited with a COVID-19 patient at the Mayo Clinic, a famous medical center in the American state of Minnesota.

Pence later said he should have worn a mask at Mayo. And he put on a mask two days after for a visit to an American automobile factory.

I'm Caty Weaver.

Caty Weaver wrote this story for VOA Learning English, with reports from Associated Press, Reuters and others sources. Hai Do was the editor.


Words in This Story

fashion -n. a popular way of dressing during a particular time or among a particular group of people

photo -n. a picture made by a camera

knit -v. to make (a piece of clothing) from yarn or thread by using long needles or a special machine

leather -n. animal skin that is chemically treated to preserve it and that is used in making clothes, shoes, furniture, etc.

wedding -n. a ceremony held to marry people

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