Five months ago, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln's textiles, merchandising and fashion design department was readying student-designed styles for the runway at Omaha Fashion Week.
Today, the department has pivoted its focus to a much different statement-maker — the face mask.
Textiles, merchandising and fashion design faculty and staff have come together to form the Face Covering Task Force, an unofficial group that will share information on best practices when it comes to making and wearing face coverings.
The task force is composed of Claire Nicholas, Sandra Starkey, Surin Kim and Michael Burton, assistant professors of textiles, merchandising and fashion design; Yiqi Yang, professor and interim chair of the department; and Melisia Bieber, office associate for the department. Madalyn Brandt, a media studies student at St. Olaf College, is assisting with the group's social media efforts.
“We just really have a concern for getting accurate information out there about masks and mask-making," Starkey said. "There’s so much information circulating that I think it's hard to look through it all and make good decisions.”
Members of the task force kicked off their work in late June, firing up sewing machines to test out the fit, sizing and construction process of do-it-yourself cloth patterns found online. The results were then shared via the department’s Instagram page. Nicholas hopes that the posts help educate those looking to incorporate mask wearing into their daily lives.
“Everyone has a different face, and they differ in the need to wear it for different lengths of time or in different contexts,” Nicholas said. “We're taking patterns for cloth coverings and designs that are out there and seeing, ‘What does this entail to put it together? What are some strategies for tying it differently, or maybe adding in an extra layer of protection?’”
The task force is also partnering with Nebraska Extension to share face-covering information with rural communities throughout the state.
“There are hundreds of extension educators and staff in Nebraska who face and serve communities directly, so we will distribute this information using various extension channels — including the Neb Guide, which is an extension publication,” Kim said.
Like so many other departments and units of the university, Nicholas has been happy to see faculty and staff collaborating for the common good during the ongoing spread of the novel coronavirus.
“We have a lot of interdisciplinary backgrounds represented on the team, and it's great to have people from very different areas of expertise helping out,” she said.