As It Happens

These Ontario students crafted intricate prom outfits entirely out of duct tape

Three Canadian finalists are vying for a $10,000 US scholarship in the Stuck at Prom scholarship contest, in high school students create prom dresses and tuxedos entirely out of duct tape.

3 Canadians are among the finalists for a $10K US scholarship in the Stuck at Prom contest

From left to right, these students show off their duct-tape formal wear: Erika Avellaneda of Ottawa, Ryan Bekic of LaSalle, Ont., and Meihuan Yu of Markham, Ont. (duckbrand.com)

Read Story Transcript

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:

Meihuan Yu of Markham, Ont., told As It Happens guest host Duncan McCue that her duct-tape ensemble is inspired by her Chinese culture and dedicated to front-line workers. 6:35

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. 

Meihuan Yu of Markham, Ont., shows off her duct-tape prom dress from the front and the back. (Submitted by Meihuan Yu )

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:

Ottawa student pieces together duct tape gown for scholarship contest

2 months ago
1:27
Grade 9 student Erika Avellaneda says it took 143 hours and 17 rolls of duct tape to create her detailed, two-piece dress. She’s now one of ten finalists in the Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest, which offers high school students the chance to win just over $12,000. 1:27

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."

Ryan Bekic of LaSalle, Ont., models a duct-tape tuxedo that's black and red in the front, and white and covered in roses in the back. (duckbrand.com)

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.


MORE FROM THIS EPISODE

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now