The COVID-19 pandemic has brought on many changes to campus life and culture. One dramatic change is the campus-wide mask mandate which states that students are required to wear masks in any public space, inside or out. Masks have become an avenue for self-expression as their usage has been normalized across social settings.
Thesis student Annabelle Wilson described her clothing style as “basic and comfortable.” She favors flowered prints and light colors that fit into her more understated wardrobe.
“I have one mask that has little flowers on it and I always get complimented on it when I wear it, but it is honestly a bit too small for my face,” Wilson said. “Still, I wear this mask when I am going to be out for a short period of time, because it’s super cute!”
Thesis student Phoebe Sernaker has a slightly different approach. Her style is a bit more eclectic, so finding masks to fit into it is not exactly an option.
“How do I define my style?” Sernaker said. “If I look in the mirror and think, ‘Yes, that woman looks bisexual,’ then it’s a good outfit. I’ve accepted at this point that I won’t really be able to work masks into my sense of style. Today for instance, I wore a gray mask because my shirt was the same shade.”
Thesis student Jenna Courtade focuses more on the effectivity of her masks.
“I just try to wear cute things that make me happy,” Courtade said. “Masks make me happy because they can help protect other people! I do not have enough masks to have one that is constantly matching my outfit, however I do have one mask that I like to consider my excited mask—It has peppers on it.”
Recent graduate B Van Aken (’16) currently runs a small mask-making business through social media.
Van Aken has been sewing ever since they were a child, citing watching their father and grandmother sew while growing up. When the mandatory mask mandate took effect, Van Aken sewed masks for themself and their family out of necessity before initially advertising their services on Facebook.
“The amount of love, support, and appreciation I got from so many people was amazing,” Van Aken said. “Within the first week of my post I made and shipped out at least 50 masks. I’ve made myself about 20 masks now, which is probably overkill, but I’m the one making them. It’s fun to wear the different patterns and have different ones for different outfits or moods I’m in. It’s also fun because I often get the question, ‘Where did you get your mask?!’ And then I’m able to proudly say that I made it myself!”
“At this point I’ve sewn over 300 masks, including ones for my family members and me, and I probably won’t be stopping anytime soon,” Van Aken said.
Van Aken’s mask making process is a careful one in order to ensure functionality and practicality.
“All of my masks are double-layered, usually with a pattern on the outside and a solid color on the inside,” Van Aken said. “However, I make my masks so they can be reversible. Some people ask for two patterns or enjoy that they can flip it to the solid color side if they want or need to. They are also machine washable!”
Van Aken placed a seam going down the center of every mask to help with structure and to give the mask-wearer some space to breathe so the mask is not directly on their face.
“I honestly try my best to make it as comfortable as possible for the person wearing the mask, because that’s the most important thing,” Van Aken said.
Van Aken plans to sell masks until the pandemic ends and even recently bought holiday-themed fabric for the coming months.
“I just found out that one of my masks made it all the way out to the Grand Canyon on vacation with a customer, which is silly but I thought it was so cool!”