Wedding gown creator Jill Andrews is an old pal of mine. We both worked in Baltimore theater back in the day, and often found ourselves at the thrilling and terrifying intersection of Creativity and Insanity.
When it comes to clothes, Jill has seen it all.
So it did not entirely surprise me when I heard that Jill was part of a team assembled by Johns Hopkins University, seeking ways to improve the functionality of medical workers' protective clothing, particularly in the context of the current ebola crisis.
One of the great challenges facing medical staff working in proximity to the ebola virus is that of avoiding contaminating one's self when one removes one's protective gear. Protective suits may work perfectly, only to fail when they are taken off. Imagine wearing a coverall or jumpsuit in your kitchen. Imagine putting on a face mask, rubber gloves, and shoe covers. Now imagine covering the entire outside of your clothing with peanut butter. The peanut butter represents the ebola virus. How would you remove your soiled clothing, without getting any trace of peanut butter on yourself? How would you avoid getting peanut butter on the floor, or the counters, or on anyone other person. Do you see the problem?
Jill's experience in creating garments -- and particularly her background in theater where elaborate costumes have to be donned and removed in the blink of an eye -- must have been a boon to those studying the issues around making safety-clothing more workable.
Public Radio International's program The World did a segment on Jill's participation in this project. Click here to hear the interview.
And click here for an article on this collaboration at Johns Hopkins University.
And just for some context into why theater artists know a lot about getting people in and out of clothes, here's a video about what it takes to manage costume quick-changes. The image goes black near the end, but by the time it does, I'll think you'll have seen more than enough.