OPINION

Balancing Act: Face masks fabricate new fashion obsession

Pat Snyder
Guest columnist

As someone who always has valued comfort over style, it’s only twice a decade or so that I become fashion-obsessed.

Until now, the most recent obsession was travel clothes. What were the best picks for no ironing, no bulk, mix and match, capable of hand-washing and overnight drying?

Pat Snyder

Now, with quite the collection and no place to go, I’ve made a compulsive detour into face masks.

At first, I thought it would be simple: Buy splashy, multicolored masks that would go with any number of solid tops. On those rare occasions when I didn’t need to wear one (in my car, waiting for curbside pickup), I could let it fall gracefully around my neck and let it do double duty as a striking scarf that also would hide the wrinkles on my neck.

The problem is fit. “One size fits all” has turned out to be the fake news of both commercial and handmade masks.

My seamstress grandmother used to disapprove of tops and skirts that “fit like the paper on the wall.” I thought it was about modesty, but now I suspect it was because getting anything to fit perfectly is nearly impossible.

Thus far, the only cloth mask that really fits me is one I had received in the mail for free from my insurance provider. Unfortunately, it’s chartreuse. Some like to say that’s the new black, but, sadly, it doesn’t go with everything.

Others I have tried have gaps that refuse to be closed by safety pins or needle and thread. These gaps are a no-no, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says they should “fit snugly against the sides of your face and don’t have gaps.”

Good luck.

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Knowing I’ll need to be masked even post-vaccination, I’m now on an all-out quest to find the splashy equivalent of the chartreuse mask that would not only fit me but also would fit over the now recommended second mask for extra protection.

This is not easy. I squint at the Etsy photographs, but it’s hard to get a good look.

And there are so many options to weigh through: Nose wires, filters, replacement filters.

I’ve also been lured by the pop-up ads for commercially made executive face masks in Oxford cloth and masks laced with copper, which I still don’t understand but did try.  They were large enough to protect a 6-foot-4 man with jowls and available only in blue and black.

I’ve even checked online boutiques where Google tells me the most famous mask wearers get theirs. They are – surprise – on backorder and – no surprise – overpriced.

Still available, though, are the gentle and alluring “100% mulberry silk“ face masks offered as an alternative to “normal cloth and DIY “masks. Made by a company that specializes in silk pillow cases and sleep masks, they are shown by models worthy of Victoria’s Secret.

Along the way, I’ve discovered entrepreneurs have churned out related products I hadn't even realized I had needed to go with my ill-fitting masks – for example, those molded plastic inserts that fit over your entire mouth and nose and claim to let you breathe more comfortably and keep your glasses from fogging up. I can barely keep up with the mask, much less an insert. And I can only imagine trying to top it with two masks.

But wait. Maybe there’s a way you can attach the insert to the “mask lanyard,” which lets you keep track of your mask by hanging it around your neck like an eyeglass holder.

Or maybe I should go for the gaiter, now that the CDC approves it with a double layer of cloth. It seems made for fashion and 15-degree weather, with its ring of cloth encircling the neck and just waiting to be pulled up over the nose at the first sign of another human.

The problem, I hear, is in keeping it up there. But voila! Someone is now selling gaiters with nose wires.

So that could be it: work my way through winter with gaiters and give myself time to find the perfect mask. Something cool, comfortable, splashy that – sorry, grandma – fits like the paper on the wall.

Hopefully, I’ll score one by spring.

Or at least a week or two before scientists announce that we no longer need to wear them.

Balancing Act author Pat Snyder is a Beechwold resident and life-balance speaker and coach. Read her work at patsnyderonline.com.