Laini Burton (Griffith University, Australia). Fashion Masks: The Return of a 400-year-Old Tradition?
The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the donning of masks for protection against pestilence and witnessing the rise of the ‘fashion mask’ being widely adopted by the public. Design houses and global fashion chains are capitalizing on the opportunity to expand their accessory lines to include production of the fashion mask. However, quite apart from those worn for health-related reasons, masks had been a feature of social life from the 16 th through to the 18 th centuries. This presentation will briefly trace the fashion mask from its earliest uses through to its presence in contemporary life where its symbolic potential is being embraced. Further, I will demonstrate how fashion masks have served as an instrument of fantasy and empowerment for fashion designers and celebrities alike. In doing so, I propose that wearing a mask—a practice that previously lasted close to two centuries—may find its enduring revival in the unlikeliest of circumstances; a global pandemic.