community, women

Wrapped in light

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” American author Mark Twain

If the dictates of fashion and inter-cultural politics ever allow women of no color to go about wearing full-body Indian saris, I’m in. Not only are they insanely pretty, they beat the yoga pants off the competition when it comes to comfort.

How do I know this? I spent the entirety of yesterday swishing around in a “miracle skirt.” This unusual garment, purchased in a college-town shop where one can also buy beads made of paper and chocolate made by growers the storekeeper actually knows, was plain girly fun.

The construction is deceptively simple — two layers of silk held together by a long sash with a single button hole in the middle. But, various ways of arranging the layers and sash yield a long skirt, a mini, a halter dress and a shirt. (Other ways, I learned the hard way, tend to more closely resemble a super-hero cape. One must keep the little instruction paper handy.)

As interesting as the pattern may be, it is the story behind the skirt that is impressive. In a production technique that mirrors traditional quilt making, Indian and Bangladeshi women make the skirts by harvesting the best parts of vintage saris, using four colors and patterns to produce something breathtaking out of something deemed worn beyond usefulness.

If that is not enough, there is an unusual added benefit. Should you ever find yourself in need of clean water, a truly vintage miracle skirt can also be folded into a filter that will remove 99 percent of cholera bacteria. Yes,  you read that right.

According to the U.S. National Institutes for Health, four layers of vintage sari cloth can significantly clean pond and river water. This is a big deal as, according to the World Health Organization, more than 1 billion people globally do not have safe drinking water and more than 5 million die each year from waterborne illness.

“The filter is unique and useful,” said Dr. Anwar Huq in a NIH bulletin. He collaborated on the project with Dr. Rita Colwell of University of Maryland. “It doesn’t require any money or sophisticated training and the women bringing water to the house enthusiastically used the filtration, once the benefit was explained to them.”

Can you imagine? A fabric so wonderfully made that it can grace one woman with its original beauty, provide income for another woman who sews remnants of that beauty into a miracle, save another woman and her family from dying, and eventually give an Appalachian woman on the other side of the world an extra swish in her step!

The miracle skirt is more than a skirt. It’s a model for manufacturing and corporate greatness, a model for living. A model that is wrapped in light.



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