Duct tape prom

Columbia River classmates use household goods for dresses

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter



Rather than satin and silk, they’re using material constructed of duct tape and plastic grocery bags.

Instead of sewing machines and thread, they’re fastening pieces together with strips of duct tape.

And rather than purchasing pumps and jewelry, they’re covering old high heels with duct tape and crafting necklaces from the same sticky stuff.

For Columbia River High School seniors Liz Nelson and Liz Leong, next month’s prom is all about duct tape.

The 18-year-old classmates are crafting their entire look for the June 5 formal event out of black, blue and purple duct tape.

“It’s weird. It’s different. It’s unusual,” Nelson said. “We don’t really fall into the normal crowd at school.

“And some people take prom way too seriously at our school,” she added.

The pair came up with the idea last year but didn’t have enough time to pull off the project before the dance. They made a mental note to skip dress shopping their senior year and construct outfits with tape.

“We forgot about it until ‘Project Runway’ came back on,” Nelson said.

When the girls realized Vancouver designer SethAaron Henderson was on the reality show — he later won the competition — they had all the inspiration they needed.

And like Henderson, the high schoolers are also competing for a prize. They’re entering their outfits in the Duck Tape “Stuck on Prom” contest. Promgoers across the country are submitting photos of their duct-tape-constructed outfits for a chance to win 20 college scholarships, ranging from $500 to $3,000. The company will also award the winners’ high schools cash prizes.

Nelson’s outfit includes a black corset that will be laced with strings of blue duct tape, a black skirt with blue ruffles and blue and black ankle boots. She’ll also carry a blue masquerade mask and wear a small hat, made from a cardboard duct tape roll.

Leong’s outfit also includes a black corset with a purple bird design on one side, a blue and purple ruffled skirt with a black birdcage — constructed with a hula hoop, wire and duct tape — hanging over it, and black high heels. She’ll also wear a hat and mask and plans to make a bird-shaped purse.

So far, Nelson and Leong are nine rolls of tape and more than 50 hours into their outfits and will likely need several more rolls and hours before they’re finished.

“A lot of it’s failed attempts,” Nelson said.

Nelson had to tear apart a section of her corset when she realized she had pieces of tape going in opposite directions. The pair also experimented quite a bit with ruffles before coming up with the time-consuming pleated design they’re both using.

“It’s a lot heavier of a material and it doesn’t necessarily work the same way cotton would,” Nelson said.

Just a hobby

Leong and Nelson consider their clothes designing a hobby but have experimented in the past.

“We’ve both made costumes to go to anime conventions in,” Leong said, referring to the popular Japanese style of animation.

“So we have experience with a sewing machine,” Nelson said.

“Which you can’t use with duct tape,” Leong added.

Leong and Nelson will attend the dance with a group of friends and said they may create a few duct tape bow ties for the boys in the party.

The girls are unsure how well the dresses will hold up throughout the night — such as during the before-prom trip to the ice-skating rink — but they’re pretty confident they’ll be able to sit, or at least kneel, in the two-piece dresses. But, in case of an emergency, they plan to carry a couple of extra rolls of tape throughout the night.

While the outfits are sure to make a statement, the teens are quick to admit that the outfits are not the most comfortable prom attire.

“You kind of look forward to prom because you get to wear this out,” Nelson said. “But then you think, ‘I’m wearing plastic against my body.’ But at least there will definitely not be somebody wearing the same dress.”

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546 or marissa.harshman@columbian.com.