Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College
I spent a lot of hours of my COVID-19 summer working a job in retail. Following New Jersey state guidelines, the small women’s boutique was able to open on June 15 after a three-month closure. We sold the expected summer clothing items, but quickly received an unexpected item to add to the floor: face masks. We received everything from camo print to bedazzled masks. By July 4, we received masks and dresses in the same fabrics and patterns for coordination purposes. I was surprised to see these sets sell out over and over again. As I rang customers up at the register, the one thing that they always said when purchasing a mask was: “Who would’ve thought these would’ve become a fashion statement?”
All of my customers were right. If you look around the Bates campus, this is abundantly clear. Masks have become an expression of style. This only makes sense, as we do have to wear them all the time. I’ve seen everything from casual solid colored masks to masks with slogans on them, encouraging people to vote. I’ve also seen masks advertising sports teams and masks that are color-coordinated to match clothing. Students really seem to be making the most of an unfortunate situation and getting creative.
I know that my daily morning routine has changed. Once I pick out my outfit of the day, I pull a mask out of my drawer, walk over to the mirror, and hold it up to see if it “works.” I have had conversations with friends about the “bathroom mask”: a mask that is reserved for the journey between a dorm room and a shower. Times have certainly changed as it is now normal to complement a classmate’s mask in class. It is safe to say that these small but essential items are becoming a regular part of our wardrobes. And, we’re putting as just as much thought into our mask choices as we might put into which t-shirt to wear.