By Kathryn Shaw, Manager, Collection Development Programs
Though I’m admittedly a bit of a clothes horse, I’m not one to follow the fashion industry. Nor have I ever enjoyed shopping for clothes. Loathe it, in fact. My response to the question, what would you do if you won the lottery? Hire my own personal shopper, for one.
There must be other people who love this idea, as well, and who can appreciate its potential. Our own personal shoppers, people of our respective shapes and sizes, would (unlike us) thrive on the thrill of the chase at the boutique or clothing store. They’d know our taste and how we like our clothes to fit. They’d be the ones who drive or walk from store to store, search through one rack after another, and dance around small, dreary fitting rooms under fluorescent lights, to try on each garment. Then they’d wait in line to pay for them. And, thanks to their patience, we would never have to suffer the hassle of clothes shopping again! One can only dream.
Yet, even we reluctant shoppers aren’t oblivious to an unexpected fashion trend that has emerged and surged only in the past year: face masks. Last summer, a visit to a local Latin marketplace/entertainment center, one I do enjoy on occasion, was the first evidence of how the global demand for masks has created concurrent mass and niche markets. Among the traditional Mexican dresses, shirts, jewelry, and cookware, merchants now displayed pandemic face coverings. Hundreds of them -- in different sizes, styles, and patterns -- all with a unique Latin-inspired flair.
One with a big sunflower embroidered with bold colors grabbed my eye. It seemed sturdier than a few others in my small collection, and sunflowers are one of my favorite things, so I bought it. After wearing it only a few times in the Tennessee summer heat and humidity, though, I realized it constricts breathing, but from a purely esthetic standpoint, it was a good choice. Because, anywhere I go, be it the grocery store, the local Asian take-out, or even the gas station, people compliment it.
I recently mentioned this to my coworker, Wils Smithwick. Who would have ever thought, I asked, that face masks would become a fashion statement? Face masks. Wils nodded. “I can see the face mask fashion shows now,” he said. “The models would all wear black, so as not to distract from the masks. RuPaul would be the emcee, and she’d stand onstage beside the runway, singing, with the models strutting by. Celebrities and all the big-time fashion editors would be there. Hordes of photographers would flash their cameras. And the designers would come onstage at the finale to wave and smile at the packed, cheering audience.”
Wils’ vision cracked me up, but the reality is that even pandemic fashion won’t have a show during a pandemic. Recent news stories report that safety concerns around Covid affected the biggest Fall fashion shows that ordinarily take place every February in New York, London, Paris, and Milan. This year, all 4 shows were primarily virtual.
But, ordinarily, those glitzy affairs are for the elite of the fashion world. The clothes are exclusive and sometimes even unwearable. Face masks, on the other hand, are the everyperson’s vogue: Simple, functional, and easy to shop for. And as long as public health officials and the CDC recommend we wear them, we might as well have some fun with them.
The favorite masks of our Collection Development team takes us from vibrant botanicals to Broadway to superheroes and beyond! What are the favorite masks for your library team? Share them with us on social at @TheLibraryLife!