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by Lola Christina Alao

From transparent masks to oversized hats, here's how we can stay fun with fashion.

A trend? A necessity? Whatever you want to call it, socially distanced dressing is just one of the quirky concepts swimming around the post-covid fashion pool at the moment. With no word of a vaccine being ready, and social distancing set to last at least until October 2021 in the UK, it seems right that we would seek new styles and fashion developments to fit into our new lives. Social distanced fashion is not new, in fact back in the day maintaining a distance was seen as respectable. The Victorian era ‘crinoline’ was an oversized and voluminous skirt used to create barriers between genders in the 19th century, but the skirt also helped protect the public against the dangers of small pox and cholera. Large hats were also used around this time to offer women protection from harassers – wonder if Victorian women got told to smile more too?

In more modern times, masks have been widely worn in Japan, yet the reasons for doing so can be traced back centuries. Japan is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, so the risk of the spread of diseases is much more likely, and masks are also worn for defence against dust and pollen. Now, social distanced fashion has become more advanced, and many designers have tapped into the trend: from Veronica Toppino to Marc Jacobs to Off-White.

Mira Mikati – a designer known for her DIY and crafts-inspired aesthetic – recently launched a collection of brightly coloured masks with floral designs, a refreshing change from the hospital blue often seen. Countless other designers have created masks made from silk, camo, and even see-through masks. One recent report on The Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests that companies like Apple and Nike are also tapping into the trend and are in the process of designing their own ranges. Maybe an iMask or Siri-controlled face shield is on the way to our shelves soon…

Joe Doucet has designed a shield with integrated sunglass lenses that should feel “less alien” and intrusive on the wearer than a typical face mask would, with the aim of helping everyone adjust to the ‘new normal’ in a natural way. He is said to be working to deliver them at a low price point so that they are accessible to as many people as possible.

Other slightly more Avant Garde ideas include bubble suits for commuters à la Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips, and, perhaps the most bizarre so far, size 75 shoes. The latter concept was created by Romanian shoemaker who noticed people were not respecting social distancing rules. “If two people wearing these shoes were facing each other, there would be almost one-and-a-half metres between them,” he said.

Area and Puppets and Puppets are two design studios who have played around with basket dresses and other oddly shaped pieces, all with the purpose of encouraging social distancing in a stylish way. Shoulder pads have even made a comeback too with the Japanese label Comme des Garçons experimenting with the ’80s trend.

If there’s one good thing to come from 2020 it’s this experimentation of styles, patterns and sizes by fashion designers, especially those tapping into the absurdism of it all. Stay tuned.

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