Trend Alert! Kooky, Pretty, or Just Plain Scary, Luxe Masks are the Next Big Thing

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Ever since we spotted those delicate, lacey masks and headpieces at Valentino couture, we've been on the lookout for a glam-yet-affordable, masquerade-ready disguise of our own. California-based artist Tom Banwell fulfills our Midsummer Night's Dreams with his hand-crafted leather masks in sworls, snowflakes, and vines. Our fave is the Art Nouveau-esque Cut Out Fan mask, $39 —it can sexily swing Cat Woman, She-Ra, or woodland nymph, and effortlessly channels Valentino's creation at a very not-Couture price.
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But there is no light without the dark, and Banwell also makes masks more suited for Halloween (or an S&M parlor) than a sultry night out. Less Shakespearean sonnet, more Kubrick film, these apocalyptic gas masks and helmets are what we imagine everyone will be wearing in some distant dsytopian future. Banwell calls them steampunk (we really wish that term would go away already), but we call them nightmarish. We'll stick with his prettier pieces so we can keep batting our lashes and stealing glances, but click through to see the full gallery of the delicate and the grotesque. (LikeCool, What's Wrong With the Zoo)
Above: A runway look from Valentino fall '09 couture (via Style.com); Tom Banwell's wallet-friendly version.
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