When 17-year-old Sarah Scott was in the sixth grade, she envisioned one day making a dress out of duct tape. That's the kind of kid she was. Artsy and a little out there. Fast forward to May 15, and she lived her dream, with her dress, at the Pavilion Central School's prom.
The best thing is "what it's worth in memories," Sarah said. "It was a lot of fun."
James Kutter, her date, wore a tuxedo make out of duct tape, too, of course. This silliness took a great deal of work but had a solid purpose -- competing for scholarship money.
So it was thrilling when they learned last week that they are among 10 finalists in the annual "Stuck at the Prom" scholarship contest sponsored by Duck Tape brand, a manufacturer of duct tape. There were 240 entries nationwide, including some from Canada.
The weird but wildly creative competition is 10 years old this year.
Sarah says she didn't know about the contest but had joked about making a prom dress out of duct tape with her friends. She had long forgotten about her sixth-grade ambition and the Victorian design she drew and put away some place.
Then a student at school mentioned the contest. She Googled it and decided to take part. But she admits procrastinating on the project. Nothing like a little self-induced stress to get the creativity flowing.
She went to the thrift shop and bought the clothes she would alter and blanket with duct tape. She miraculously came across the old design she drew in elementary school and plunged in.
The finished products were Victorian in style, with a floor-length skirt -- cut away in front to reveal a ruffled under-skirt -- a ruffled bustle in back, and a bodice featuring a large cameo design on the back.
The basis of the ruffled under-skirt was a denim skirt that was two sizes too big. Turns out that was not an issue.
"That's the thing about duct tape, it's easy to work with. It sticks to itself. It's perfect."
She also had little lace-up ankle boots, a purse, chocker and a fancy eye-mask on a hand-held wand, in keeping with the prom night's theme "Masquerade." All duct taped. James, also 17, did his part by covering his suit in black duct tape, leaving it to Sarah to embellish and finish. His outfit also included a ruffled shirt front, walking stick and black shoes.
"He was uncertain about the whole thing at first, but trusting. He said 'It's your prom, you can do what you want to.'"
The design features large, colorful vines, leaves, rosettes and the giant, rimmed cameo featuring a butterfly and purple flower. (Think Porter Waggoner and Patsy Montana in the late 19th Century.)
All of this took Sarah about $150, 86 solid hours of "spare" time and 26 rolls of duct tape, purchased one or two at a time so as not to waste anything.
Duct tape has come a long way. Sure, there's black, gray, white and clear. Had no idea about the crazy color palette available nowadays. Sarah also used chrome-colored duct tape, silver, purple, blue, red and lime green.
She did her own hair and makeup. And on the big night, she and James were met with responses "across the spectrum."
"Pavilion is a small school and it's quite strange for someone to do this," she explained matter-of-factly.
Turns out that duct tape, which purportedly can cure warts and do other wondrous things (it's holding up my Scion's back bumper), is practical for a whole lot of things, except wearing. It's heavy. The dress alone weighs at least 20 pounds. Duct tape doesn't breathe, thus it's hot. Besides being a tacky prom dress, it gets tacky. Sarah tried to dance in it, but gave it up almost instantly.
"I'm going to change my clothes," Sarah told her peers.
"But what about the group picture? Aren't you going to wear the dress for the group picture?" someone asked.
"When's that?" Sarah responded.
"At the end of the night," said the peer.
No way. So Cinderella doffed her gown and donned something she could dance in and the evening at Batavia Country Club went swimmingly.
As for the scholarship money, up until July 26, people can go online and vote for the entry they want to win. They can vote once per day. Sarah and James are hoping people in Genesee County and elsewhere will take the time to log on and vote for them every day.
Go to <www.stuckatprom.com>.
First Place gets $3,000 per person ($6,000 per couple), plus $3,000 for the school. Second Place gets $2,000 per person ($4,000 per couple), plus $2,000 for the school. Third Place gets $1,000 per person ($2,000 per couple), plus $1,000 for the school.
The remaining seven winning couples get $500 per couple.
Sarah, who is graduating a year early, will be attending Michigan State University this fall and plans to major in zoology and minor in arts. She would like to work with Indian elephants in field studies.
In the senior yearbook, she was voted "Most Artistic," and plans to spend the summer wielding and working with rocks. She also enjoys pottery, drawing and painting.
"I guess you could say I'm a fashion designer, too," she said.
Top prom photo supplied by Sarah Scott.