How to Get a High Fashion Face Mask, Or Make A Mask Yourself
Wearing a mask is now mandatory in New York state. Essential businesses can refuse you service in Los Angeles if you don’t have a mask on, and Sonoma County also declared you need to be wearing a mask if you leave the house. Pressure is building on SF and Mayor London Breed may bring down a mandatory mask rule down any day now. This creates an instant demand for homemade face masks created from random and suddenly valuable resources like bandanas, pillow cases, or vacuum bags — and the skills of crafty creators who can make you a totally kick-ass high fashion coronavirus mask, and even have it delivered to your home.
These fashion masks are safe and protective for normal going-out-in-public. These are not the medical grade masks that hospitals so desperately need. You won’t take scarce, precious stock away from the medical protective equipment supply experiencing a terrifying shortage. Volunteer groups like Make Me PPE Bay Area and Crowdsourced COVID Response Project are addressing that shortage (and could use volunteers or donations!)
Wearing a mask is not just a personal decision, you need to do it to protect other people. “The main reason why you’re wearing a mask, if you must venture out, is to protect others more than to protect you the wearer,” Wake Forest chairman of anesthesiology Dr. Scott Segal told KCRW. “It is to keep respiratory droplet particles such as might leave your nose if you cough or sneeze or even breathe heavily from leaving your body and getting near someone else in case you’re infected and don’t know it.”
While the above graphic is indeed from a fucking Reddit thread, its numbers are from the excellent New York Times study What’s the Best Material for a Mask? “Anything is probably better than nothing, including a bandana or a scarf,” according to Dr. Segal.
And the more effective materials are also more restrictive, and might have the unintended effect of you having to take the mask off too frequently for a breath of fresh air. “No mask is any good if you can’t breathe through it,” he says. “If you’re going to venture out to a grocery store, you need to make sure that you can wear it for the 30 minutes or an hour it’s going to take to run that errand.”
There are a lot of great people stepping up and making masks for the masses. One of these is Brand Marinade, the folks who make all the Broke-Ass Stuart t-shirts. They’ve converted their apparel operation into a mask making one, and getting these upcycled t-shirt masks the people via TMasks.com.
Next week they’ll be teaming up with Marshawn Lynch and hand delivering 40k masks throughout the Bay Area to homeless encampments, restaurants, grocery stores, and liquor stores. The masks will be a combination of surgical masks imported from China and ones made from upcycled shirts from Lynch’s Beast Mode clothing line.
Have we reached the point yet where hipsters are competing to see who has the coolest face mask?
— (((BrokeAssStuart))) (@BrokeAssStuart) April 15, 2020
Yes we have, Broke-Ass Stuart, and it is perfectly fine to compete to see who has the coolest face mask. “It gives somebody peace of mind and a sense of style,” says Dazey LaRue, who is selling very fabulous novelty print masks at Dazey LaRue Designs. “I will have a mask that matches my dress for the day. People enjoy that, they like color. Win-win.”
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Dazey’s masks are generally in the very affordable $10-12 range, so if your money is very tight right now, that’s a fuckin’ plus. “So many people are struggling and laid off, including myself,” she tells us. She also finds these are desperately being ordered by restaurant workers who still have to shlep in to work under dangerous conditions. “Working in food service, it’s full of germs,” she says. “These were considered essential workers and we need to be open to provide food for the neighborhoods. We need to be protected.”
If you need that higher level of protection, designer and performer Sarah Al-Kassab can send you a variety of hand made face masks and covers that deliver the higher range of filtration. “My masks are two layers of 100% cotton with a third layer for a filter pocket,” she tells BrokeAssStuart.com. “As a performer and an artist, I cannot wait for the system to look out for me. I’ll keep folks safe by pre-shrinking 100% cotton and deconstructing good HVAC filters for as long as it’s needed.”
“I’m really losing time and money making the filters,” Sarah says. “But who else is gonna take the time to do it?”
Many very crafty individuals do have time to do have the time, and more importantly materials they’ve been hoarding with no idea that these would become useful in an apocalypse. “It was about five years ago when my fabric addiction became next-level,” says Dazey LaRue. “I’ve got one of those giant Ikea cube shelves just stacked full.”
HOW TO MAKE A MASK OUT OF A BRA
Speaking of big racks, you can make a protective mask out of a bra, which DJ Justin Credible is making available via her Instagram where she can also do you a tutorial. “They make sense as a mask. They have the perfect amount of this foam padding in each cup. And you can take the underwire and just fit it right onto your nose,” she tells us. “When you really look at the structure of a bra, they’re almost masks instantly. They’re all finished on the edges.”
DJ Justin starts talking bra masks at the 8:30 mark of this Kinky Salon Live video that’s part of the Kinky Salon presents: LOVE in the time of CORONA Kickstarter campaign (which also offers custom face masks and mask making tutorials). “It’s such an intimate piece of apparel because of people’s bosoms,” DJ Justin says. “The initial giggle that I had was the fact that it was something on my breast and now it’s on my face. Are people are going to be looking at my face and saying, ‘Is she wearing a bra on her face?’
“If you take the bra itself and look at it, you can see how it fits over most faces pretty easily. Each bra is different because we all have different breasts and different cup sizes, so it does seem to be better face coverage with the larger breast. Thinner bras don’t work as well in my experience.”
These mask makers have had their lives turned upside down by COVID-19 even more than we have. “In the beginning it was an average of 20 [per day],” says Dazey LaRue. “After about Day Three or Four, it bumped up to about 40. Yesterday I did 49 masks. I try to keep myself under 50. That’s the max load for each day.
“After I do my day full of sewing, I then draft up the delivery route and go do my ‘doomsday delivery’ drive to drop my masks in mailboxes or gated areas. That way it’s contactless. Then shoot ‘em a message and let them know it’s there. We don’t even need to see each other.”
East Bay artist Bella Sims is making masks available in her Etsy CostumeEclectic shop, and she points out these “are comfortable to wear, even with glasses.” (Which tend to fog up with some masks out there.) “I make each mask to delight and also protect and last,” she adds. “So far I’ve made 54 masks and 44 of them are out in the world being used.”
These non-medical masks will not eliminate 100% of the risk inherent to going into filthy-ass Safeway or riding a crowded 14-Mission. “There is no mask that is as good as staying home or social distancing.,” Dr. Scott Segal says. “Nothing will ever work as well as that. So you should still try and practice social distancing and good hand hygiene, no matter what you decide to wear.”