These Ontario students crafted intricate prom outfits entirely out of duct tape
3 Canadians are among the finalists for a $10K US scholarship in the Stuck at Prom contest
Whether or not she wins a scholarship for her elaborate duct-tape prom dress, Meihuan Yu says she's thrilled to share her art and culture with the world.
The Markham, Ont., student, who turns 15 on Wednesday, is one of three Canadian finalists in the Stuck at Prom scholarship contest, in which Canadian and American high school students compete to create the best prom dress and tuxedo for a chance to win $10,000 US.
"They told me the good news and I was super excited because that meant people in my community and outside can see my art, and I was really happy for that," Yu told As It Happens guest host Duncan McCue.
Erika Avellaneda of Ottawa and Ryan Bekic of LaSalle, Ont., are also among the finalists.
Listen: Meihuan Yu describes her Chinese-inspired duct-tape dress:
Yu, who will start Grade 10 in the fall, says this is her second time making her own prom dress. She first made a non-tape-based gown to wear to her Grade 8 prom in 2020.
"But then, you know, COVID kind of cancelled grad, and I wasn't able to wear that dress anymore. And then I found out about this competition and I was inspired to give it another shot," she said.
Rather than a single gown, her creation is made up of several distinct pieces, including a skirt, top, corset, collar, purse, headdress and boots, all decked out with detailed patterns and imagery in yellow, gold, blue, red, green and pink.
It took her 186 Hours and 23 rolls of tape to complete.
The style and design, she said, were inspired by Chinese performance art and opera, something she became interested in exploring during the pandemic.
"My design process was totally inspired by my culture," she said.
Her dress also incorporates elements of armour, like a duct-tape chest plate and shoulder pieces, to showcase the bravery of front-line workers during the pandemic.
"I wanted to dedicate my dress to them," she said.
Avellaneda, an Ottawa Grade 9 student, says it took her 143 hours and 17 rolls of duct tape to create her detailed, two-piece dress, which features gold, blue and black patterns, an open front, and a long, elegant trailing skirt, plus matching accessories.
"I just thought this would be really interesting to enter and I just wanted to see what I could make," she told CBC Ottawa.
She says it's "probably the heaviest" dress she's ever worn, and while it's mostly comfy, she can't really sit down while wearing it with risking a rip.
Making it was no easy feat, either.
"Definitely I had a bunch of hairs stick to my dress along the way," she said.
When she's proud of her creation, she admitted that when she's finally able to attend an in-person prom, she'll probably go the traditional route.
"If I don't find anything I like, last resort maybe I might make it out of duct tape. But besides that, probably not," she said.
Watch: Erika Avellaneda on her duct-tape prom gown:
Bekic, a Grade 12 student in LaSalle, Ont., is a finalist in the tuxedo category.
From the front, Bekic's tux is a black and red gothic ensemble, complete with a top hat and removable black angel wings. From behind, it's all white and decked out with gold roses and a matching bowtie, topped off with a white mask.
It took 160 hours and 27 rolls of tape.
In a video application to the contest, Bekic cites high-fashion runways as a major inspiration.
"My suit tells a story, and it's almost a play on the angel and devil motif," Bekic, who is heading off to university next year, said.
"My costumes displays that no matter how harsh an exterior somebody has, there's always something of peace and love and light in every single person. Like an onion, you just have to be willing to peel back some layers."
The Stuck at Prom contest is run by the makers of Duck-brand duct tape.
Anyone can vote online for their favourite finalist online until July 14. The winners in the dress and tux categories will each receive a $10,000 US prize, while the runners up get $500 US.
Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from CBC Ottawa. Interview with Meihuan Yu produced by Sarah Jackson.