The fashion question de nos jours would have been unimaginable four months ago. Namely: how do I quickly find a face mask that does not scare my children or make me look like Bane in the Dark Knight Rises?
Clearly the use of face masks is primarily a public health issue, and not a style one. But it would be better if your face mask – your mandatory first impression for the next who-knows-how-long – did not make you feel any weirder than you already do.
Some of the most stylish face masks Ive seen tend towards cheerfulness in their design – for obvious reasons – but without feeling incongruously, saccharinely, upbeat.
Nautical stripes have become the Breton top of the face-mask world. Dark florals, which are pretty but not cloyingly so, are also a trend. The Vampires Wife Heidi face mask – a £30 cotton mask in the brands signature gothically beautiful fabric, trimmed with scallop cut ruffles – has already sold out (the fashion status of the face mask is confirmed by the fact that this one comes in its own matching drawstring bag, like a posh pair of pyjamas). You can find similar at Pearl Lowe, where Liberty print masks come in crepe de chine silk. On a similar place in the cheerfulness spectrum are the patchwork versions made by Farewell Frances, a brand that specialises in creating beautiful coats from vintage quilts.
Fit issues abound with face masks. Some masks with tight elastic ear straps push the ears forwards, lending the face a Noddy-like silhouette. Thats better than the masks with fabric ear straps, which simply do not work properly, and droop down under the nose, or require lots of unhygienic fiddling. Those that contour the face, and are held in place by elastic, tend to be more robust.
The best Ive found are Plumos organic linen versions, with elastic ear loops, in a range of soft, desaturated colours – rosebud, Finnish blue, hibiscus, oat and saffron – and Paisies, which do a similar job and come in nautical stripes. Both look slightly dog muzzle-ish, which is a shame, but come with the unexpected bonus of hiding the double chin youve spent so long becoming aware of these past few months, thanks to Zoom.
In the spirit of finding joy where you can get it, it is possible to have fun with this plot twist in our wardrobes. For some, matching ones mask to ones dress has become the new twin set. Nancy Pelosi is a virtuoso here. Lizzo, too, is a purveyor of matchy-matchy antiviral fashion, recently pairing her bikini with her face mask and gloves.
One of the upsides to the sudden rise of face masks is that so many companies have chosen to produce them ethically and donate all or some profits to charity. Maison Bent, for example, is producing face masks made from samples used in the brands autumn/winter collection for £20, in dove grey and azure, with 20% of profits donated to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Few of us wanted to wear this strange new accessory. But in an age where we can no longer smile at strangers, a cheerful-looking face mask may be the next best thing.