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What to Wear to Work in the Time of Plague

It’s a dress!  Tunic!  Apron!  Whatever.  It has huge pockets.

Some of us go to work in a suit and tie, others in a nice shirt and pressed pants.  Or we did before COVID-19.  Now, quite a few folks are going pants-optional while working from home.

Before the onset of the apocalypse, I’d actually dress up in full pseudo-Victorian glory for work, like this fun number:

Pseudo-Victorian

For those who don’t know me from a potato, this isn’t even a joke.  This really is the sort of thing you wear at work when your job is making and selling Steampunk-inspired fashion at conventions (yes, I made a matching face mask because it’s 2020 and I can’t be arsed to put on make-up). Now, of course, conventions are just a distant memory. 

Now, of course, conventions are just a distant memory.  True, we still have a website for all the fancy clothes, and I do sew the occasional corset or waistcoat for the discerning lady or gentleman (I like to imagine that they hold Plague-time masquerades in their basement, a la “The Masque of the Red Death”). 

But on the whole, the world isn’t exactly clamouring for shiny party wear right now.  Like lots of other people, I needed to find something else to do with my time.

What do people do when the world goes pear-shaped?

Me, I turned to gardening.  Or rather, farming, given how enormous the whole thing has become.  You may have gone with baking, or woodworking, or crochet.  Maybe juggling baby geese, for all I know.  Possibly you’re just being run off your feet chasing several children who are suddenly underfoot ALL THE TIME.

Musing on all this made me want to make something radically different from the beautiful, but fundamentally frivolous, confections which are my normal fare.  Something that everyone needs, whether their new hobby or life conditions involve toddlers, vegetables, or waterfowl.  Something utilitarian, yet not totally divorced from my usual design aesthetic. 

Yes, I know I’ve been making face masks both for sale and donation, but I wanted to indulge in something not quite so ruthlessly pragmatic as that.  A touch of whimsy, not just practicality, is what I was after.

So what is something everyone needs?

Pockets.  Capacious, voluminous pockets. 

No one ever said “You know, these pockets really needs to be a bit more cramped.”  But good luck trying to jam all your daily needs (your child’s spare shirt, favourite stuffy, baggy of snacks, your keys, wallet, tissues, phone, and — times being what they are — a couple of spare face masks and a few wet wipes) into your jeans pocket. 

Maybe you don’t mind lugging a giant purse around; then you’re a better woman than I.  My neck and shoulders ache enough due to my bountiful bosom without adding the weight of a loaded purse.  Plus I’d leave my head in a bus stop if it weren’t sewn on, never mind a purse.  Also, it’s kind of hard to throw a purse into your washer and dryer once it’s become contaminated by, say, a used face mask.

For my part, I need pruning shears, pens and plant labels, gloves, seed packets, garden stakes, weed knives, and about forty-two other things every time I set foot into my backyard food forest.  And now summer’s finally started here in BC, I need to haul in armfuls of zucchini.  But I’d also like to have my hands free to swat that cabbage moth off my broccoli.

So yeah, I need great honkin’ cavernous pockets.

The dress/pinafore/tunic/apron thingie (Attempt #1)

This was my first attempt at the new design:

First Attempt

It has a crossover back with a generous overlap which gives you about as much coverage as a normal dress, but you can just slide it on or off like an apron, no closure or ties required:

Back View – No Closures Required

The pockets are very, very roomy; I can fit almost anything I need into them, including a bottle of wine and a loaf of bread.  I really can wear this to shield myself from garden dirt, or while I’m flinging around flour in the kitchen.  The full wrap-around protection is fabulous against pets’ and children’s messes as well as hot stove spatters.  Importantly, unlike traditional halter-neck aprons, this dress doesn’t put ANY pressure on the back of my neck and give me tension headaches, even when the pockets are fully loaded.

Very Roomy Pockets

I could also just throw it over a T-shirt and jeans or leggings, and stroll out for some groceries while looking deceptively on-trend and put-together, as if I’d actually made an effort.  I could take along my wallet, phone, keys, water bottle, lip balm — no purse needed! — and still have my hands free to haul that watermelon into my shopping cart (or recapture a 3-year-old, if I had one of those).

The crossed back means the straps never slide off the shoulders (it drives me NUTS when purse straps do that!).  And I love not needing to tie any waist ties behind me, since I’m made up entirely of thumbs.

The back overlap makes the fit unbelievably forgiving.  I wouldn’t say one size fits all, but I’d be willing to say that three sizes might.  See how much it can expand if needed?

Tweaking the design

My rather flamboyant red flocking version did, admittedly, have some issues. 

Firstly, I think the pockets sit way too low.  I wanted them to be situated well below the point where they would add too much bulk over my tummy, but I ended up going too far down.  I can only get my hands into my pockets by extending my arms all the way, and even then, I can’t touch bottom:

Pockets Sitting Too Low

Secondly, while the fit is supposed to be loose and easy, I think it’s a bit TOO loose around my lower body, which only highlights my sad lack of hips. 

Thirdly, I decided I’m not keen on the contrast pockets and edge binding.  I intend this to be an everyday garment, and I don’t need these details to call so much attention to themselves.

Finally, while I love this fabric, it’s not exactly what I’d wear to go spread fertilizer around my tomatoes.  This isn’t a problem per se, just me already deciding that I want more than one version.

The next version (Attempt #2)

For my garden cover-up tunic/apron, I used a nice sturdy machine-washable cotton-linen blend. 

Garden Ready

Yes, the pale colour will show all of the dirt I intend to be rolling in, but I actually quite like the idea — an earth-stained, dirt-digging Kitty is a fun novelty compared to corset-wearing, fashion-designer Kitty.  Plus this fabric can bleach beautifully, and I love its breathability in the summer heat.

I moved the pockets up in the front.  It was just an inch or two, but the proportions look a lot better.  I also took in the sides a fair bit.  It still looks like a relaxed fit (it always will, since the back is technically open), but now, I don’t feel like I need a hoop-skirt to support the extra material.

Here’s what it looks like with the pockets nicely loaded up:

These pockets are seriously deep and wide; you actually can’t see most of what’s in there.  Under the lettuce and assorted garden tools are pounds of peas, bunches of radishes, a hand towel, and a few other things  which I couldn’t get to show up in the photos.  I swear, they’re bigger on the inside.

And a unisex version (but this one’s just an apron)

I even made Felix (aka Mr. Kitty) a unisex/men’s version.  This one is definitely more of a work apron and not a tunic dress, and he probably won’t wear it out of the house, partly because I made it out of neon-green giraffe print.  But he does use it all the time to hold assorted screws, hammers, nails, rulers, and bits of wood or leather during his shoemaking and carpentry adventures, and also to keep the rubber cement off his clothes (BTW, the matching mask isn’t just for viruses; it’s also quite useful for sawdust and glue fumes): 

I don’t know what it is about this apron-dress I like so much.  It just makes me weirdly happy to wander about in the garden in it, filling my pockets with lettuces and munching peas — happier than being all coiffed and laced into my full Victorian regalia.  I do know I can stuff more veg in these pockets than I can fit down my cleavage, even in my most uplifting corset.  And during this turbulent moment in time, perhaps that’s the really important thing.

P.S.: If you’re wondering about the masks, yes, I made them as well.  You can find them here and here. All the elements in the Victorian outfit are also available somewhere on our web store (except for the hat). The pinafore/apron/dress may be made available on the website as well, so look out for that in the future if you like the idea. (update 2020-07-15: yes it’s here)

Come over to the Mask Side

We have the good people (and also the enlightened self-interested)

You know, Good People with capital letters.  The sort of people who actually care about other humans.  People who do the right thing even if it doesn’t benefit themselves, who give anonymously to orphans and pick up plastic at the beach.

People who wear face masks, even if they’re fit, healthy, and personally unconcerned about catching COVID-19.

Because the word is in, folks.  Up to 45% of us may be asymptomatic coronavirus carriers.  Granted, the science seems to get updated day by day.  But at the time of writing, experts say that some of us can carry and spread the novel coronavirus without showing any symptoms — maybe nearly half of us (though percentages vary quite a bit depending on whom you ask).

That’s enough for me: I’m officially coming down on the Mask Side of the Force.  Join me, and we can rule the universe together.  Or at least Forcefully prod things in the right direction.

Come Over to the Mask Side

Who Do Masks Protect?

Here’s the thing that confuses the issue: non-medical fabric masks don’t necessarily protect you from catching the virus if, say, someone sneezes in your face.  But they are pretty darn effective at protecting other people from you.

To the selfish and short-sighted, this makes mask-wearing pointless.  To the aforementioned Good People, it’s all the reason they need to wear masks every single time they set foot outside.  But what does this mean to everybody in between?

Now, I’m a misanthropic old bag and a terrible, awful human being who likes dogs and Daleks more than other people.  Social distancing is a blessing and self-isolation is just for days ending in “y”.  I am not Good People. 

But I am a reasonable person from a science background.  And as such, enlightened self-interest tells me that I should wear face masks wherever I go, and strongly encourage everyone in the world to do the same, at least until such time as we have a cure or a vaccine in adequate supply.

The Alien Hatchling Analogy

Allow me to explain myself using an absurd, gruesome, and oversimplified analogy.  Let’s say aliens abduct a thousand of us, impregnate a few hundred with their parasitic eggs, and release us into a nature reserve.  None of us know if we’re egged or not until the moment the hatching alien bursts through our nose.  It will then burrow into the nearest uninfected person’s belly, hatch its own eggs through his or her nose, and so forth, until no one’s left alive.

Luckily, we find some helmets lying around.  Wearing the helmets won’t stop the egg from hatching if you’re already infected, and they won’t prevent any roaming hatchlings from burrowing into your abdomen.  BUT (here’s the important bit) when when the hatchling emerges through someone’s nose, they will get trapped in the helmet and die, meaning they won’t be able to attack anyone else.

So, should we all wear the helmets?   Let’s take a vote.

If you’re already infected, the helmet won’t save you.  But what if you’re not infected?   Then if, and ONLY if, everyone wears one, it will absolutely save your life.  Not only that; every single uninfected person will survive.  

However, if someone refuses to wear the helmet, that person becomes an active danger to every other person, because if s/he hatches an alien, it can infect anyone, helmeted or not.  We can only save everyone if everyone wears the helmet.  Remember, the helmet does NOT take away the aliens’ power to infect you — it just imprisons them away from you. 

To my mind, it then makes all kind of sense to vote for helmets for everyone, even if I don’t know whether I’m infected or not.  I’m doing it to create an environment where the infection is contained within the infected, not because it renders me immune to wandering aliens.

Back To the Present Situation

In the real world, if we can create a scenario where everyone keeps their alien hatchlings (aka virus-laden droplets) contained in a helmet (aka face mask), the lives saved could be yours or mine.  Or your child’s, your 93-year-old granny’s, or your immune-compromised cousin’s.

This, friends and others, is why I now wear a mask every time I show my face in public.  Not because it will protect me from catching COVID-19 (statistically, there’s a decent chance that I already have and don’t know it), but because it’s the best I can do to promote a practice that means nobody will infect anybody. 

Next time you’re in line at the grocery store, take a good look around you, and imagine that nearly half of everyone you see might be carrying alien hatchlings just waiting to burst out and start burrowing.  Then imagine that  face masks could stop that happening, if only they’d all wear one.  Kinda puts things in perspective.  I guess we really are all in this together, though maybe not for the usual reasons people say that.

So next time you step outside, put on that mask, set an example, and spread the message far and wide.  Until we have a cure and/or vaccine, and even some time after that, it really is our only hope.

R2 Always Wore a Mask

P.S.: If you want a custom-designed or themed mask, email us and we can discuss it.  I made some of these one-offs because they inject a bit of fun into a grim subject matter, but they’re just too fiddly to mass-produce.  I’m still trying to figure out how to do a Dalek-themed one.

NOTE: As always, please remember that correct use is everything when it comes to face masks; improper care and sanitation practices can actually endanger you or others.  The wrong fit can make masks ineffective, or just too uncomfortable to wear.  Ditto for the wrong style for your facial anatomy.  (Read more about proper fit and mask styles for your face here). 

Care and Feeding of Your Fantastic Beasts…er, Masks

The proper way to put on, wear, remove, and tolerate your face masks

Most of the world now agrees that face masks are a Good Thing, but like many good things, they can do more harm than good if used the wrong way.   

Masks aren’t magic talismans that automatically protect people who wear them; they’re a tool for a particular job.  And like all important life tools (hand sanitizer, hand weights, hand blenders, condoms, etc.), you need to learn to use them properly if you want them to do their job. 

I’ve seen all the mistakes mentioned below more times than I can count, where people end up turning masks into actual health hazards.  So here is a succinct summary of how to safely use face masks to protect yourself and others. 

NOTE: I’ve written a slew of blogs concerning face masks in the last couple of months (covering assorted mask styles, fitting different faces, cultural attitudes toward mask wearing, even Harry Potter-inspired masks), so I won’t repeat huge tracts of the same info here.  If you want more detailed discussion, you can read those, and/or the FAQs on the website.

Pick the right fit for your face shape. 

If your masks doesn’t fit you correctly, you’ll be touching and adjusting it constantly.  That’s the biggest safety no-no!  Also, big gaps severely reduce a mask’s effectiveness.  If you’re not sure what constitutes “right fit,” get details here.  Just know that as with shirts and shoes, one size does NOT fit all. 

For instance, you do NOT want your mask to fit like this:

Bad Mask Fit – Huge Gaps

Some people (like Kitty) love contoured masks and others (like Felix) can’t stand them.  On the other hand, Kitty thinks pleated masks are awful and Felix thinks they’re the bee’s knees, which I’m told is a good thing. 

Pick the right style for you.

It may be down to your breathing, nose shape, or just personal preference, but make sure you get the one that feels comfortable for you, because you should NEVER be touching or pulling down your mask during wear.  If you want to figure out which of the two main mask styles suits you best, you can find out more.

Don’t touch your mask

That’s right, no touchy.  Once you’ve been out in public, you should consider the outside of your mask a contaminated surface like any other.  If you must adjust the mask, try to do it by the straps or elastic, and do NOT touch the face area.  If you absolutely must do it, wash your hands thoroughly before, then again after.

Obviously, this is only doable if your mask is reasonably comfortable and fits well.  So keep trying until you find the one for you, and adjust the fit if necessary.  Any mask you need to touch a lot is a bad mask (for you, at least).  Speaking of which….

Don’t be afraid to alter the fit

Yes, I’m repeating myself, but the biggest problem with face masks is that some people keep touching their faces because the fit is off or uncomfortable in some way.  If you can’t more or less forget about the mask for long period of time, look into altering the fit so it feels better for you. 

You can lengthen the elastics to reduce tightness or digging-in, or tighten them to help with slippage.  Try a different style or fabric if your mask is impeding your breathing, catching on your beard, or clouding up your glasses (some people find that a wire nose-piece like the ones in an accordion mask helps with this).

Put on and take off masks with clean hands only. 

Seriously.  Wash your hands before putting on your mask, before taking it off, and even after taking it off.  Once your mask has been worn, it’s safest to treat it as a contaminated object.  If you keep removing and replacing your mask with dirty hands, you’re potentially introducing pathogens to your face, which rather defeats the purpose.

Launder your mask between each and every wearing.

Technically, you should put your mask in the laundry every single time you take it off your face, even if you go through three or four a day.  If that’s not feasible, at least remember to only handle the mask with clean hands each time, and put it directly into the washer when you’re done for the day. 

It’s perfectly fine to just wash your mask as part of your regular wash and dry cycle.  You don’t need to bleach or boil it; in fact, boiling is possibly less effective than just washing with soap and water.  Unless you do laundry every day, this means you do need more than one mask for each family member.  If you have cold-like symptoms, you may need lots more.

Have a spare mask/s and change it if it gets wet or soiled.

If you do have any cold-like symptoms, or hay fever for that matter, you may be a bit drippy or sneezy.  If your mask becomes damp, you should change it for a clean, dry one immediately.  I sound like a broken record, but do remember to only do this with freshly washed, clean hands!

Remove your mask by the straps or elastics, not by the fabric part.

It might seem like common sense, but don’t touch the part that goes over your nose or mouth.

Wear masks the right way up.

With contoured masks, “up” is side with the sharper peak in the middle (for going over the bridge of your nose).  But honestly, if it feels more comfy upside down, you do you, and no harm done.

Right Side Up – Note the Curvature from Rear Ties up Over the Nose

With pleated Accordion-style masks, there’s definitely a right way and a wrong way up. The fold of the pleats should always point downward, so they do not create a pocket that potentially collects particles. The following show a mask the wrong way up (and a pair of scissors acting as a large “particle”):

Wrong Side Up – Catches Crumbs

Here’s the same mask right side up:

Right Side Up

Consider special masks for special needs.

For example, if you have a largish beard or abrasive stubble, the pleats of an Accordion mask would give you better coverage than a contoured style.

If you wear glasses, a wire nose-piece (which you can form over the bridge of your nose) may create a better seal and prevent your mask from steaming up your lenses.

If you suffer from some kind of breathing disorder, you obviously need to exercise caution with masks, and must keep a close eye on yourself.  Anything with a heavy filter is right out for you.  You could request an extra-breathable fabric and lining material by emailing us directly; more breathable is NOT the same thing as more permeable to particles!  Also, a pleated style that keeps the lining away from your nostrils may work best (you can read more about how this works).

If you have some special need/s that makes it hard to find a masks that works for you, email us, and maybe we can help.

Be extra-careful if you want to put face masks on dependents.

If you want to put a mask on people other than yourself (such as a child or elderly person with advanced dementia), be very sure that they understand how masks work and how to wear them safely.  If they can’t be made to understand all of the above points, mask-wearing might not be for them. 

And of course, you need to be certain that you can trust them to communicate to you if they run into any kind of breathing or other difficulties, and that they’re old enough and competent enough that choking is not a danger.  If you’re in any doubt, always consult a health care professional.

Stay safe and well-informed, and remember that your mask is a service to your community during the apocalypse.

T-shirts for Trying Times

How to find fit, style, and comfort in loungewear

By Kitty

If you’re one of those people that work from home in impeccable business casual outfits, I applaud you. 

If you’re everybody else stuck at home during the pandemic, you’re most likely reading this while lounging in a T-shirt, and maybe pants if you’re feeling dressy.  Either that, or my standards are really going the way of handshakes in the time of COVID-19. 

Though my day job is pretty much in suspension right now (not a lot of people are shopping for Steampunk-inspired fancy clothes right at this moment), and though most of my day consists of spreading alpaca poo in the miniature farm we’re building in the backyard, my brain never stops spinning design thoughts.

So, here’s my thought of the day:

Have you ever noticed that most T-shirts really, really don’t fit right?

At least they don’t if you, like me, are the proud owner of a massive bosom. 

The idea behind a T-shirt (and other stretchy clothes) is that the elastic material can expand to accommodate everybody’s figure variations.  Within reason, this works.  For example, if you’re a moderate D cup, a super-stretchy T-shirt might cover you acceptably.  You might notice the fabric gets a bit thin and see-through where it’s straining over your assets, but at least there aren’t any buttons to pop.

However, if you’re say, DDD cup or larger, things really can get dicey in T-shirt land.  For example, look at this photo of Kitty in a garden-variety T-shirt with no bust shaping:

Standard Shapeless Tee

Note that while this T-shirt is plenty big enough to go around me, there are major fit issues.  For example, the front hem rides up, and making the shirt shorter in the front than in the back.  This is because my chest is much bigger than the B-cup size that generic T-shirts are designed for.

To make this make sense, think of it like walking over a hill that’s 50 metres high, versus one that’s 100 metres high.  One walk is much longer than the other.  In the same way. The distance over a large bust is much longer than the distance over a smaller bust, so it takes more length of fabric to cover.  The front length of a T-shirt meant to cover a B-cup bust is just too short for a DDD-cup size, resulting in the short-looking front hem.

Fabric in Front Has More Ground to Cover

Maybe you didn’t see it at first, but look at the height difference between front and back.

A Substantial Difference in Height

Also, there’s some major wrinkling around the armhole area:

This is the result of trying to cover something round with something flat.  I already explored this problem in my previous blogs about why dress shirts don’t fit women with generous busts, and even why some face masks have terrible gaps while others don’t.  But here’s an even simpler illustration, in which I throw a flat piece of fabric (which is that the front part of a generic T-shirt really is) over a three-dimensional object:

Flat 2D Fabric Doesn’t Work on a 3D Shape…

The fabric is never going to conform to the curved object without some kind of shaping.  So say I pin out some triangles of fabric here and there to make a nice dome shape to cup around it, like so:

…Until We Add Some Darts

This is essentially what we have to do to the front piece of a T-shirt if we want it to accommodate a larger cup size.  Those little triangles I pinned out in order to make a 3D shape out of the flat fabric are called “darts.”  And if your bust is above, say, a D cup or so, you absolutely need darts in your clothes if you want them to play nicely with your chest.

Apart from looking unsightly, those armhole wrinkles are very uncomfortable!  They’re bulky and they bunch up.  If you’re being active with your arms (say, while raking alpaca poo), the bunched fabric can even chafe, and they definitely cause the shirt to ride up and dig into your armpits.  Many of us have stopped noticing it because we’ve been forced to get used to bad fit, but once you try a shirt that fits smoothly in this area, you’ll never be able to go back.

So in order to make a T-shirt that fits me perfectly, I had to lengthen the front, but not the back, and still make the front and back side seams match up in length.  I needed to add darts to create space for my bountiful bosom.  While I’m at it, I added longer sleeves (because no one with large breasts needs sleeves that end RIGHT at bust level).  This is how it came out:

I also added a forward-shoulder adjustment just like I did for my perfect dress shirt; this is because most of us now have shoulders that are rounded a bit forward as a result of hunching over our desks or keyboards for hours every day.  If you’ve ever wondered why any of your high-necked shirts kept crawling up your throat trying to choke you, now you know how to stop it.

Finally, I added a seam going down the centre back of the shirt, so I could shape it to follow the in-and-out curve of my spine and bum.  Look, no matter what the rest of your figure might be like, ALL women have an in-and-out curve over the back and buttocks.  The normal flat single-panel back of the generic T-shirt truly does a disservice to this most enticing part of the female anatomy.  Look, compare the flat back profile to the shaped back profile, even for me and my nearly-nonexistent butt:

By the way, if you’re better blessed in the buttock department than I, you might find that off-the-rack shirts “catch” and ride up over the fullest part of your bum, making horizontal folds.  The centre back seam would stop that from happening, because you could add fabric just where you needed it, without making the whole shirt bigger and drowning your waist.

In summary, here are the two shirts, flat and 3D-shaped, side by side:

Your generic T-shirts probably fit better than my off-the-rack shirts because there are stretchier fabrics and more shaping than my version available out there (I chose this one because I wanted the clearest illustration of the principles I was covering).  Still, I’m willing to bet that some of you have never found one that fits just the way you wanted it, especially if you’re exceptionally gifted in either the bust or buns. 

If that’s you, keep an eye out for my next project, which will be T-shirts made for different cup sizes and hip/buttock shapes.  I’m hoping to have the prototype available on the website fairly soon (in the Tops & Shirts section).  Far be it from me to dissuade you from weathering the lockdown in your corset and Victorian finery, but us mere mortals could do with a few super-comfy T-shirts that look as fabulous as they feel….

A Tale of Two Masks

(Why Felix loves the face mask Kitty hates)

By Kitty

In my previous blog, I talked about several types of fabric face masks and their pros and cons.  It was weirdly timely; only a few days afterwards, we were officially informed that masks will be mandatory in some situations to slow community spread, which means we had best get on with finding the best one for us (or at least one we can tolerate!).

For me, the classic pleated rectangle mask is the facial equivalent of an awful underwire bra — it squeezes, pinches, and gaps in all the wrong places.  It looked like this, which is not the kind of glove-like fit you want from a mask: 

Unacceptable Gapping

Personally, I thought the contoured mask style (made with the pattern I tweaked within an inch of its life) is the way to go.  Note the way it lovingly cups my face all the way around. 

Proper Contoured Fit

It’s comfy, at least as comfy as a mask can be.  It doesn’t move around on my face, meaning I don’t need to adjust it with my possibly contaminated hands.  It’s a great mask, for me.

But then there’s Felix, the other half of Felix & Kitty, my partner, CEO, event planner, logistics expert, tech guy, light of my life and golden were-lab by the full moon.  He has declared that:

  1. The contoured mask made him feel like he was inhaling its free-floating lining whenever he exerted himself, and,
  2. The stubble on his chinny-chin-chin dragged  the mask down his face every time he moved his jaws to talk.

Blergh.

On reflection, it makes total sense that Felix and Kitty wouldn’t necessarily share a mask style.  After all, our faces are about as opposite in structure as it’s possible for two human faces to be.  Mine is wide and round with super-broad and high cheekbones, pug nose, and very flat mid-face.  His is narrow and long with a seriously aquiline nose, forward mid-face, and swept-back cheekbones.  Then there’s that stubble issue, which I thankfully don’t have just yet.

Then I had a moment of inspiration, which went something along the lines of “If Felix’s face is the opposite shape from mine, maybe he’ll love the mask style I loathed.”

My reasoning: those pleats (which really bugged me!) would be able to open and close vertically when his beard stubble snagged on the fabric, therefore preventing the mask from riding up or down when he talks.  Since he wouldn’t give up talking, it was the best I could manage.

Also, because his cheekbones were not so up front and wide, the straight top edge might not dig into his face the way it did into mine.  Finally, the pleating, if done correctly, somewhat locks the lining against the outer fabric (think of folding two sheets of paper together to keep them together), keeping the lining from being sucked up against his nostrils when he inhales.  I don’t know why this is never a problem for me.  Perhaps it’s just because of the different angle or orientation of our nostrils.  Or for all I know, it’s because my sluggish metabolism barely needs any oxygen to run, whereas Felix burns calories like they’re rocket fuel and therefore needs a lot more air. 

Whatever the reasons, I got busy, and made him a version of my hated rectangular mask with the accordion pleats.  I only adjusted the pattern slightly, mainly because he, like every other human on Earth, needs a narrower mask than I do.  If I hadn’t narrowed it, the sides would probably have met at the back of his head.  Other than that, it’s pretty much the same shape.

Immediately, it was obvious that on Felix’s narrow, elongated face, NONE of that huge side gap showed up.  It conformed pretty darn well to his face around the sides and chin area, and importantly, the pleats performed exactly as I’d hoped; they opened and closed with his jaw movements, stubble and all, instead of being pulled downward. 

Better fit for me, but…

The only issue I could see was that the top edge, being cut on the straight grain of the fabric, lacked the ability to mould  around the (very sharp and tall) bridge of his nose, leaving an unacceptable gap.

This will *not* do!

I really felt that if he had one of his explosive sneezes, droplets would erupt into the world through that space. This might not be a problem for someone with a wider, lower nose bridge, but on him, it was.

Now, the other thing I’ve been doing (when I’m not sewing masks, I mean) is discovering a passion for gardening.  Or planting a smallish subsistence farmstead.  Anyhow, this gave me an idea. 

I trotted out to the shed and cut some of that soft bendy covered wire you’re supposed to use for tying tomato vines to your trellis, then sewed that into the top edge of the next mask. 

Voila!  A concealed, flexible nose-piece, which can be moulded around even the most impressive nose bridge.  It was a bit fiddly to sew and added a good deal of construction time, but to my mind, totally worth it.  Look how much better the top hugs his nose. 

<PHOTOS (#5s) of gold mask with shaped nose-piece — show one full face view with the least visible puffing of the sides, plus a couple of close-ups of the nose wire>

In Summary

If you have a narrower or longer face, are sensitive to the feeling that you’re inhaling fabric when you breathe in, and/or find that talking makes masks ride down over your chin, it might be worth your while to switch to a pleated style mask.  If you’re a man with a beard, the pleats might provide it with better coverage.  Remember, the best face mask for you is the one you need to touch least often. 

On the other hand, if you have a flatter plane to your face and noticeably wide or high cheekbones, you’ll likely find the contoured mask more comfortable.  Especially if you don’t own any stubble.

But hey, if you’re not sure, why not try out one of each?  In the interests of people who are more Felix-shaped than Kitty-shaped in the face department, we will be adding the Accordion mask to our mask website.  As with the original contoured style, we’ll match every mask purchase with a mask donated to someone in need.

A thought:  the authorities have FINALLY come around to the idea that we should really wear masks for the sake of slowing the community spread of COVID-19.   As of time of writing, they’re even telling us we MUST wear them in situations where we can’t maintain social distancing, such as in some airport scenarios (or, I imagine, in overcrowded shelters, though I haven’t heard anyone mention this specifically).  So if you find you love one mask style and hate the other, you too can sterilize the one you don’t like and donate it to someone in need.  Someone with a different face shape from you….

Important Note

If you’re not absolutely sure of the safe way to wear, remove, sanitize, and adjust the fit of a mask, please familiarize yourself with all of these before you try mask wearing (we have face mask FAQs, wearing and sanitizing instructions, a guide for choosing masks for different face shapes, and a tutorial for fit adjustments, if you need them).