2 more uses for duct tape: prom wear and scholarships

As a crafter, I've always been fascinated with anyone who can take non-traditional materials and turn them into a fashion-forward look. Izzy Bristow (pictured, in dress) is one of the creative individuals making duct tape known for more than fixing everything.

Bristow, now a fine arts major with a focus on costume design at Western Oregon University, was no stranger to duct tape fashion while attending high school in Colorado. While Bristow admits she would've made her prom dress out of duck tape anyway, her skills would earn her, her prom date, and her high school $3,000 each through the Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest from Duct Tape.

Now in its 10th year, the contest began in response to the large number of unsolicited duck tape creations being sent to the company, said Lisa Schwan, spokeswoman for the Stuck at Prom Contest.
"The Stuck at Prom contest really came about as a way to connect with the younger generation that was using the product and gives them a way to demonstrate their creativity and win scholarship money," said Schwan in an interview with Money College.

Thus far, the contest has awarded more than $80,000 to 5,500 students. The competition has seen participants from all 50 U.S. states and five Canadian provinces.

Duck is a brand of duct tape. The company sponsors the competition directly and many competitors use Duck tape over other duct tape brands because they offer more than 20 colors and patterns according to Schwan.

The competition gives students a time period, March 1-June 7, to submit a photo of their duct tape crafted prom look. After the deadline passes, the judges select ten finalists and the vote goes public.

This year the voting period extends from June 18-July 25 and two couples will be voted off every week, American Idol style, with the lowest number of overall online votes. The winner is announced July 27.

Bristow remembers being out of town in New York City on the day the winner was announced. With her mom, she waited until midnight to connect to the website to learn that she had won.

While Bristow had crafted with the medium before, she said she had struggled with the weight of the garment. Her look became easier to manage when she decided to back it with paper towels.

Bristow and her date, John Dyer (pictured, in top hat), crafted a peacock themed-look. Bristow did more than create a simple dress and suit. She describes the detail of the dress saying, "There is also a detachable layered skirt that follows behind like a train; it is purple, blue, teal and green with copper detailing." And the suit matches in blue with peacock feathers down the back. Bristow paid close attention to detail with copper tuxedo stripe down the side of the pants. She also made a mask and top hat.

Over the past ten years, Schwan says she's seen an increase in the quality of the outfits and creativity that makes the judges take notice. Schwan cites a couple in the 2009 who twisted duct tape into yarn and knitted their entire outfit.

The judges look at workmanship, originality, use of color, accessories and quality of duct tape, according to Schwan.

The win between Bristow and Dyer was a collaborative effort putting both their skills to work. Bristow created the whole pattern for the look, but says Dyer cut most of the duct tape pieces for his suit, vest, and pants. Although he aided in the actual garment construction, his main role was publicity. Bristow says he contacted local media and was really good at networking. " If he could take what I had designed and put it out there in a favorable light, he would deserve what he got just as much as I had but through his own talent," she says.

Since the scholarship is based on a public vote, Schwan says these efforts contributed to their success. "A lot of the time what it comes down to when it gets to our top ten is how much people go out and campaign for themselves," says Schwan. "They were very active in their community to really get everyone to go out and vote everyday."

Each member of the team as well as their corresponding school receives a prize, $3,000 for first place, $2,000 for second and $1,000 for third. This year, the competition is also awarding everyone in the top ten with $500.

Students aren't the only ones getting behind this competition. Schwan says a school in Georgia hosted their own duct tape prom based on the contest with more than 100 students sporting tape-crafted looks.

"A lot of scholarships require you to write an essay, get letters of recommendation and you're kind of one against thousands of others very similar to you," says Schwan. "This is something that allows you to demonstrate your creativity, your imagination, and it really makes you stand out not only for the scholarship but also at prom as well."

Bristow says the scholarship helped her not only financially but also professionally. She says, "Getting the scholarship itself help me get another scholarship with the theater here and also helped me get into the degree program I am pursuing." She put some her construction skills to work in the costume work for her school's production of Reefer Madness.

No word yet on whether Bristow and Dyer wound up feeling stuck with each other, or decided to stick it out.

Clothes to Free, appearing Thursdays, is a weekly fashion-on-a-budget column by Money College blogger Alysse Dalessandro. Send Alysse column tips at MoneyCollege@walletpop.com.
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