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COVID-19 Couture

Are clothing companies profiting off of COVID-19? Is this ethical?

Brett Richter, Staff Reporter
Originally published May 9th, 2020

The “Mask Skull Hooded Pullover Vest,” being sold on the Dresslily site

Clothes. We all know ‘em, we all wear ‘em (most of us), and it’s completely normal to see different clothes for different occasions. There are specific clothes for super-formal, formal, casual, and even semi-formal occasions; there are garments made specifically for walking the red carpet to going on a nice jog. 

Speaking of jogging, despite the COVID-19 keeping many Seattleites indoors, there are still many people getting out and stretching their legs by going on a relaxing run around the neighborhood. Soaking up the spring sun in sweats or leggings and a sleeveless hoodie with a built-in skeletal facemask.

Maybe a sleeveless-skeleton-facemask hoodie isn’t as common, but it’s a real product being sold on the Dresslily site, though officially called the “Mask Skull Hooded Pullover Vest.”

If skeletons aren’t your thing, that’s totally fine. Dresslily also offers the “Bandana Mask Front Pocket Hooded Drawstring Tank Top.” It’s the same thing, but this time in solid colors. Dresslily really has thought of it all. 

To be clear, the product doesn’t seem to have been made specifically for the COVID-19 outbreak. The top (and only review) on the “Mask Skull Hooded Pullover Vest” is from September 3, 2019, well before the COVID-19 quarantine. The company, however, has marked the hoodie down 46%, and the timing seems rather suspicious.

Many other sellers are marking down or advertising items like facemasks and bandannas as well. I’m sure many people have seen ads on Snapchat, Instagram, and other social media sites. 

A lot of these ads have a purpose, like “for every mask bought, a mask will be donated to a hospital,” and with the shortage of masks around the country, this product seems like a helpful way to help both yourself and all of the doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers tirelessly working to keep us safe (I haven’t personally ordered anything from these sites and I don’t personally know how serious the companies are about making sure hospitals receive these masks, I am merely an observant consumer).

Not including masks, is it moral to sell COVID-19 specific clothing during the outbreak?

There seems to be two ways of thinking about this question. Again, we’re not talking about facemasks here (or anything else recommended by doctors) but the extra stuff: such as masked hoodies and turtlenecks such as the “TSLA Men’s Thermal Wintergear Compression Baselayer Mock Long Sleeve Shirt” (this piece of clothing was made for cold weather but has been marked down from $89.98 to $15.98).

On the one hand, companies such as Dresslily, who sold these products before COVID-19, seem to be profiting off of COVID-19. By advertising these hoodies at a reduced price during these times, it suggests that they’re using the fear of citizens during this time to sell more stock. 

On the other hand, clothing items like this could actually be useful for some people. Now that everyday people are supposed to wear masks outside of the house, maybe clothing items like these are just filling a new gap in the market. Joggers can now just slip into this stylish hoodie without having to also worry about a facemask, something that seems like many would enjoy. 

In my personal opinion, it just seems too soon. The world is so uncertain right now– no one really knows how long COVID-19 will remain a threat. People are still trying to figure out daily life and how to go about the most basic things, it seems like it’s just a little early to start filling a niche that may or may not be created. 

Just a little reminder: the world is still testing out what the COVID-19 outbreak means, doctors and scientists included. Because of lack of time, it seems like said doctors and scientists are entirely sure of how long the virus remains on clothing. However, the World Health Organization states, “studies have shown that the COVID-19 virus can survive for up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel, less than 4 hours on copper and less than 24 hours on cardboard.”

So be safe and wash your clothes and hands often, because those little aglets could be causing more harm than help, even if they are tying the world together. 

Oh, and please say “thank you” to all the healthcare workers out there– without their dedication, we would be a lot worse off, to say the least. 

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