When wearing face masks inside became a mandatory part of daily life in Virginia, Ashley Maughan—a senior stylist at Arlington-based The Smitten Salon, who is hard of hearing—was immediately overcome with anxiety, as she relies on reading lips to communicate with other people.
“Some people were kind at places like the grocery store and would pull their mask down for me to be able to communicate with them, and some just stood there with their masks on staring at me like I was an idiot,” explains Maughan. “I was surprised at how much the latter happened, and it made me feel unimportant and disrespected.”
So, when it was time for Maughan to return to her salon chair a few weeks ago, she turned to her friend and owner of The Smitten Salon, Melanie St. Clair, for help. St. Clair then reached out to fellow fashion merchandising alumna of Marymount University, Kristin Montalbano, for her sewing expertise.
“I did a lot of research and found some YouTube tutorials as a starting point,” says Montalbano. “From there it was just trial and error until I had a mask with a big enough window for lip-reading, a comfortable, secure fit to keep out the germs and something that could be easily replicated in order to make as many as possible.”
The result? A full-functioning face mask with a clear interior made of extra large vinyl tablecloth, giving Maughan the ability to interact with customers as easily as she had prior to the pandemic.
“I traced my final pattern on a piece of cardboard from my son’s Eggo waffle box and got to work!” says Montalbano.
Now, as The Smitten Salon has welcomed back customers with new safety measures in place, including mandatory mask-wearing for clients and staff, the installation of protective shields at the front desk and more frequent sanitization habits, Maughan is able to don her custom mask, and also provide her clients with their own too.
“I really have the best clients, so when a lot of them saw the clear masks they were right on board with wearing them! I think a lot of my clients found it heartwarming that my boss’s friend, Kristin, would take the time and energy in making clear masks for them to be able to communicate with me better,” says Maughan. “I am so grateful that God answered my prayers in providing for me and I think this just goes to show that kindness always wins.”
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