By Angelica Bottaro

Form and function have met once again to take the fashion industry by storm with a new item—the face mask. The hype surrounding the stylistic versions of the COVID coverings started with a need to protect ourselves from the global virus, but they have become more than just an extra layer of defence against the outbreak.

It was only a matter of time before clothing companies jumped at the opportunity to profit during a pandemic that hit everyone’s bottom line like a falling anvil. We need masks, and there just aren’t enough of those medical ones to go around. From sellers on Etsy to luxury brands such as Kate Spade and Burberry, no clothing brand sat on the sidelines to watch the trend unfold.

The prices for these protective face coverings range from a couple of dollars all the way up to a few hundred dollars. But one thing remains the same, they are no longer just there to curb the spread of the virus. They come in different patterns and fabrics, and they are the hot new accessory that everyone must have. Literally. 

Trending Now

The pretty and stylish face masks everyone is wearing out of sheer mandate are not the only hot fads in town, though. Other types of face coverings have been adorned by the rich and famous and the not-so-rich and not-so-famous. But one new trend is making waves all over social media because of its almost over-the-top look. And we can all thank Kate Moss’ sister, Lottie Moss, for popularising the latest fashion must-have.

The piece in question—a bodycon turtleneck dress by Pretty Little Thing has a little extra fabric and ear loops for easy access to a face mask at all times. It’s the end of the “oh, no! I left my face mask at home!” problem. Well, while wearing this dress, anyway. But is it cool, or is the fashion industry capitalising a little too much on the global tragedy we’re all enduring?  

Capitalising On COVID

The economy has taken a huge hit this year, especially in the fashion industry. In Europe alone, $1.5 billion worth of orders from factories in Bangladesh were cancelled. The trade also saw a 40% drop in market capitalisation because people were rightfully focused on the essentials. This huge decline in sales and orders has given the fashion industry reason to scramble towards making innovative clothing that fits our new post-COVID world.

It would be a massive missed opportunity for any player in the fashion industry to not jump aboard the COVID-clothes bandwagon at this point, especially with so many retailers seeing significant declines in sales. It’s downright scary out there for any business, and the fashion industry has done what they can to help keep themselves afloat, while also helping keep its loyal customers safe and cutely accessorised. 

When Politics And Fashion Meet  

The world has a way of taking what we put on our bodies and making it into so much more than just fabric and carefully sewn threads. Politics have long been a part of the fashion industry discussion. Think back to Lady Gaga’s infamous meat dress or the stab-proof vest Stormzy wore during a set in 2019, and you’ll see just how quickly clothing can turn into a way of getting a point across. Especially when it comes to a sensitive political matter. Remember Melania Trump’s fashion faux pas jacket?

These outfits were perfectly curated to help evoke a response in people, and they were done so in a not-so-subtle way. The two issues that Gaga and Stormzy were supporting were extremely different, but their way of getting attention was entirely the same. 

Clothes are a statement, whether we want to admit it or not. Every graphic tee, every single dress, and every pair of shoes you choose gives the world a picture of who you are as a person and sometimes, even what you support when it comes to real-world issues. 

The Good, The Bad, And The Not-So-Ugly

Personally, I am so here for this dress. I want it and in more than one colour. That could stem from my personal love for all things turtlenecked when the weather dips. But even with that love aside, I still think it’s a cleverly designed piece of women’s fashion. The long sleeves, the bodycon fit, it’s all pretty good.

Would I feel stupid wearing it after the pandemic is over? Probably. But we can cross that bridge when we get to it. It does make me slightly uncomfortable, though. I don’t love the idea of supporting a piece of permanent fashion such as the COVID dress for the simple fact that I don’t want COVID to be permanent. But in an accepting-reality kind of way, I need to go order myself one. Like, right now.