Masks – Necessity Or Fashion Statement?

Masks – Necessity…?

Or Fashion Statement?

Elizabeth Raphelson models one of the leopard-print masks she has for sale at her Underground Attic shop in Oneonta. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

If you must wear a mask, it might as well express your personality, as is happening in Oneonta, Cooperstown and places in between.

“I have made masks from fabric with emojis, Care Bears, My Little Pony and patriotic prints, and I just ordered some baseball fabric,” said Sarah Vandomelen, a supervisor at the Cooperstown Price Chopper.

She started by making a few masks for her co-workers at Price Chopper, but when more were needed, the store bought 95 of them to distribute. “I saw people needed masks and I thought, I’ve got fabric, I’ve got elastic, I might as well use it!”

On Friday, April 17, Governor Cuomo ordered all New York residents to wear masks in public. With disposable masks in short supply, many turned to making or buying washable fabric masks to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Since Vandomelen started, she’s made over 200 masks, which she has distributed to customers and friends. “One of my co-workers sent some to her sister in the city,” she said. “If people come up to me and I have them, I’ll give them one.”

Other people, like David Marvel, Oneonta, use masks to mark special occasions that might otherwise go uncelebrated.

“My birthday is on Cinco de Mayo,” he said of the fiesta-themed mask his mother, Laura Davis, made for him. “This is the first year I won’t be able to go to Fiesta for my birthday dinner,” referring to the restaurant in Clinton Plaza.

For those who aren’t as handy with a needle and thread – or want to support local business – stores are working to keep up with the demand.

“I wanted a fun printed mask for myself,” said Elizabeth Raphelson, proprietor of Underground Attic in downtown Oneonta. “And I wanted to support other small businesses.”

Enter Facemasks L.A., now on sale on her Underground Attic website.

The masks are machine washable and come with 10 disposable filters. Most popular are the blue bandana print – Raphelson said they sold out first.

But the masks also come in a red bandana and, for all the cool cats and kittens out there, a saucy leopard print.

“We’re restocking this week, and I’ve got a floral and a cool geometric print coming in too,” she said.
The masks, for sale on her website, are also a way for her to help out her fellow small business owners. “I wanted to find a way to donate to the Wise Guys Sammy’s Pay it Forward fund,” she said. “With these masks, 20 percent of each purchase is donated to them.”

In Cooperstown, Lori Fink had already stocked her Tin Bin Alley with fashionable face coverings before the pandemic. “We’ve been carrying Boho Bandeaus for a while,” she said. “You can use them as a headband, or a scarf – and they’re perfect for use as a mask!”

The stock sold out quickly, and Fink ordered more, setting up a “sidewalk sale” with a discounted price.
“They sold out in 20 minutes,” she said.

Spartan Carry proprietor Doug Reilly, Oneonta, saw the need for masks as a way to help bolster his fellow fabric workers who were out of work.

“We mostly do tool bags, but when COVID-19 hit, I switched to making masks,” he said. “And when the CDC recommended everyone wear masks, the demand was so high that I looked for local seamstresses to help me out.”

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