Masks and fashion intersect during COVID-19 pandemic

Eau Claire locals discuss how they integrate masks in everyday fashion

More stories from Samantha Morrell

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Samantha Morrell

English student Abbey Jones said that masks make her feel more comfortable in public.

As the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wisconsin has come and gone, some people have embraced the mask mandate more than others.

For some, masks have become more than just a medical necessity and have been transformed into a fashionable accessory.

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Junior student Olivia Sharp has embraced masked wearing with around 25 in her collection. One of Sharp’s favorite outfits is a red and black flannel, with ripped jeans and a black mask. Out of all of her masks, Sharp handmade two of her masks, and she purchased the rest from Old Navy.

“There was one girl at work that had Pikachus on her mask. I liked that,” Sharp said when asked about what her favorite mask she had seen.

Sharp isn’t the only UW-Eau Claire student who enjoys matching her mask to her outfit of the day. English student Abbey Jones said that masks make her feel more comfortable in public.

“As a person who likes clothes and fashion, I like to wear things that match,” Jones said.

Jones’ favorite mask used to be a bright yellow mask; however, she has since lost track of it and tends to stick to a plain black mask.

One of Jones’ masks was handmade by her mother, one was purchased from Target and the rest came from small businesses on the website Etsy.

“I like wearing a mask because it covers half your face of makeup,” said Jones.

Public health student Avrey Bergum said she doesn’t feel the same need to match her mask to her outfit, simply because it is easier to grab one and go.

Bergum has a collection of about twelve masks, mostly purchased from Target. However, Bergum still enjoys wearing a mask

Avrey Bergum posed for pictures of her with her mask. ©SamanthaMorrell2021

“I like wearing a mask because then I don’t have to put on makeup, and then people don’t know what I look like,” Bergum said.

Bergum is not the only Eau Claire resident who has the same sentiment toward masks. Sam Zahms, who works at Bed Bath and Drapery, does not feel the need to match his mask with his outfit.

“I don’t really take matching into consideration. I really just have two colors — gray and blue — and just kind of wear them whenever they’re clean,” Zahms said.

Despite having different attitudes toward mask fashion, Sharp, Jones, Bergum and Zahms can all agree on one thing: continuing to wear masks even after mandates have been removed.

Sharp, Jones and Bergum all agree that mask wearing should continue until the number of COVID-19 cases is significantly lower. Zahms said he will continue to wear his mask until the end of the year or when the pandemic is over — whichever comes first.