It’s a sign of these strange times we’re living in that the only new clothes I’ve purchased in the past several months haven’t been clothes at all, but the ubiquitous accessory of 2020: The face mask.
With a growing mountain of evidence that homemade face coverings or DiY cloth masks can help significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19, more and more jurisdictions are now requiring them to be worn at all times in public spaces. Quebec’s mask law came into effect just a week ago, but I’ve been wearing a mask at all times whenever leaving home for several months now.
Since masks take up so much real estate on our faces, it’s only natural to want them to not only feel comfortable, but look good. Like a sleek handbag or a sexy pair of shoes, the right face mask will not only provide public health benefits, but coordinate with your outfit and make a statement about your personal style. After all, who said something functional can’t also be fashionable, right?
But what if you’re petite with a particularly small, narrow face, like me? So many masks are made in only one size, and getting a comfortable fit can be tricky for petites. Are face masks just going to be one more fashion item that is frustratingly not sized for people like us in mind?
The good news is, nope. It doesn’t have to be like that. I’ve found that there are plenty of mask patterns, styles and designs — both ones you can sew at home, and ones you can buy — that offer a good fit for petite or small faces. Here are just a few:
Obligatory disclaimer: None of the styles on here are medical masks, and none claim to offer protection from catching the virus. Instead, these face coverings are meant to protect those around you from potentially being exposed if you’re asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic. and to reduce community transmission. So you should totally wear one anytime you might be around people, whether or not your home jurisdiction says you have to by law. It might save lives. And it’s just good manners. But anyway.
Homemade DiY options
When public health authorities started encouraging people to wear masks, the internet filled with tutorials of how to sew your own at home. At first, a few popular patterns started circulating. Now there are thousands. If you have home sewing skills and access to fabric and simple supplies, you can make your own homemade masks.
I own a sewing machine and can handle basic alterations, but I’m not very skilled beyond that. Luckily, a good friend of mine is a home sewing guru, and kindly offered to make some masks for myself and my partner early on in the pandemic.
Her masks use this DiY free pattern from Instructables (the mask #1 pattern). I’ve found that this pattern seems to provide a magical near-universal fit that works well on my absurdly tiny petite face, but also somehow fits my partner’s larger face. And they’re great looking, too!
After the first few masks our friend made for us, we found ourselves doing laundry way too often. So we went online to buy some cute fabric and had it delivered to her, and she kindly made us a dozen or so more:
Ain’t they cute?
The keys to getting a good fit on a homemade mask are:
- Opt for behind-the-head ties, not earloops. You’ll get a much more secure fit that stays in place and prevents you from constantly being tempted to adjust the mask (which is a big no-no, by the way). Our masks have elastic that ties securely behind the head, so I like to tie the elastics around my ponytail to secure them in place. If you don’t have long hair, you can use my partner’s method and tie one elastic over the top of your head and the other behind your neck.
- Adjust the nose piece around your nose and cheeks. This helps create a secure fit, no matter the size of your face and nose. It also prevents your glasses from fogging up, too. For the nose piece, our friend was using a kitchen twist-tie at first, but we found through experimentation that the plastic-covered tabs from coffee bags actually work even better. Luckily we had lots of ’em since we’ve been drinking so much coffee during the pandemic. Just don’t put them in the dryer!
- Use a style with a chin cup. The rounder, multi-part mask patterns that contour your face and chin tend to provide a much more comfortable and secure fit than flatter designs.
- Look for adjustability. Designs that provide adjustable nose bridge pieces, elastics and ties will fit better on a variety of face shapes and sizes. Remember that even a smaller mask size doesn’t guarantee a good fit on a petite face; there are many other variables, including your nose size, bridge width, cheekbone height, and more.
- Choose your fabrics wisely. Our first masks were made with whatever scrap fabric my friend had lying around. We found that the inner layer is much cooler and more comfortable if made out of a cotton or mostly-cotton fabric. One mask has a corduroy fabric as the inner layer, which is a bit harder to breathe in, and tends to cause more face itching and discomfort. The outer layer isn’t quite as important, but flannel or heavier fabrics are warmer and more suitable for winter, while cotton is better for summer.
I’m thrilled with these masks, and so grateful that we have a friend who has volunteered her time and skill to make them for us. If you don’t have a similarly awesome friend with sewing skills, you can order similar masks off of sites like Etsy or from community groups. Or, you can always view this as your fashion splurge and go shopping. Which brings me to…
In the past three months, every retail brand has come out with their own mask designs, seemingly overnight. There are no shortage of options, from cheap to luxury, from hypoallergenic to BoHo to sexy chic to masks with superheros to masks with funny slogans. Chances are, whatever your favourite retailer is, they’re selling their own mask variety.
But which ones are a good fit on petite faces? Should you order a kids’ size? Which ones come in multiple sizes? Which one-size options fit well?
I haven’t had a chance to personally test most of these options, because, well, I have my own masks already (see above). But here are a few I’ve seen recommended around the internet by other petites that you might want to try:
Available in Canada:
- A local option: MtlMasque makes non-medical masks that are designed by doctors. They’re ethical, sustainable, and meant to be quite comfortable. While they only come in one size and in basic black, I’ve anecdotally heard good things about the fit.
- Stanfield’s Reusable Cotton Face Masks – another Reddit recommendation for a Canadian company making masks in cute patterns. They only come in one size, but reviewers say that they are a good fit on most petite faces or even kids’ faces.
- Ontario-based Vetmed Solutions makes three-layer 100% organic cotton face masks in three sizes and with options for either ear loops or behind-the-head ties. The size Small should be a good fit on most petite faces.
For my American readers:
- Matrushka’s surprise pattern face masks are available in five sizes: Child, petite, regular, large, and extra-large. The petite size is meant to fit smaller women’s faces well. The fun twist with these masks is that they’ll surprise you with a random fabric or print.
- The kids’ sized masks from Target are an inexpensive option that gets good reviews from petites.
- Oregon-based Circle Creations makes natural-fiber petite-friendly masks in a variety of colours and patterns.
- Butterbags makes Petite Adult Face Masks of the earloop variety that promise a better fit for smaller, narrower faces.
Adjusting existing masks for petite faces
What if you have cloth masks already, but they’re just too big? What if you’re a healthcare professional who needs to wear medical or surgical masks for work? Is there any way to make them fit better?
- Here’s a popular 60-second Instagram video tutorial that’s been getting a lot of attention lately on how to make a disposable surgical mask fit better and more securely on smaller faces. Quick and ingenious.
- This YouTube tutorial has 3 different ways to adjust a cloth mask to fit better on smaller faces. It’s meant for the masks with ear loops, and the hacks are pretty easy.
- Prevent your glasses from fogging by applying some surgical tape at the nose and top of the cheeks, to tape it to your skin.
Face masks look like they’ll be our primary fashion accessory for the foreseeable future. So whatever method you choose, make sure to stock up on your favourite styles and wear them every time you head out in public.
Stay safe out there, folks!
Petite readers: What are your favourite face mask styles, brands or DiY patterns that fit well on small faces? Tell me in the comments!