The Anatomy of a Win

My friends all know that I’m a competitive person. I LOVE contests. When I was younger, it was rough. I really, really, really wanted to win. But nobody wins all the contests, all the time. Though I ended many a contest in tears, it didn’t dull my love of competition. Thankfully. Because as an adult, I see contests as more than just a chance to win. It is an opportunity to complete something (nothing helps me finish like a deadline). I have a reason to stretch myself – try new skills. And I get to see what other like-minded creatives have come up with. I love getting to see other entries! I get inspired by what they came up with. And while I still get a little jealous when I see an awesome idea and think, “Man, I wish I had come up with that”, it is now combined with an appreciation for the craftsmanship behind it, and excitement by the inspiring idea.

three different dresses

So, when the Craft and Hobby Association (CHA – now AFCI {Association For Creative Industries}) announced their “Fashion Fusion Challenge” I KNEW I wanted to be a part of it. I’m much more of a quilter than a garment maker, but I’ve successfully made several garments. And considering that the show is filled with crafters, not all sewists and garment makers, I liked my chances. Plus – it would give me a chance to stretch myself.

 

Here are the basics of how the contest was going to run: There were two tracks – accessories and garments. People could sign up as individuals or in paired garment/accessory combos. We would all show up on Thursday at 11am. We’d have several hours to work in the workroom, using the supplies generously donated by sponsors. If we didn’t finish, we’d have access to sewing machines on the show floor on Saturday and Sunday. We had to turn in our completed designs Sunday afternoon for judging. Winners would walk the runway Sunday night.

supplies from sponsors

On the website were photos of the patterns that would be available for us to choose from, the fabrics we would have, and some of the notions and accessories. For a contest, they really gave us quite a bit of information up front. I loved it, and decided to use this information wisely!

 

Fairly quickly, I found a friend to team up with. We started sending design ideas back and forth. We came up with a feather theme. I’d convert the pattern for a top into a dress with a high front and low back. We’d add feather designs on the inside back for extra interest. I would bring Espadrille soles to make coordinating shoes which would lace all the way up the calves. I ordered the pattern online to play with it, and try my pattern adjustments at home – I knew from experience that the first time I make a garment isn’t nearly as successful as my third or fourth.

sharing the pattern

But then she had a family emergency, and couldn’t come. Luckily, Simone offered to step in for me. We re-planned. The pattern I had ordered came in and I sent her photos of my first attempt.

first attempt at design

It was not great. The dress was baggy where it should be fitted. It was uninteresting. And I wanted to take advantage of my quilting knowledge. So I tried again.

dress with quilted pieces

This one was more interesting, but the length made it look like a housedress. And while the log cabin piecing was perfect for quilting … it did nothing to enhance my figure. But, I had taken two passes at the pattern, knew what was working well and what was not, and more importantly, I was out of time.

 

On Thursday, I was late. My flight arrived on time, and I was able to get from the airport to the hotel. But my hotel room wasn’t ready for check-in. I had to rummage through my bags for the items I planned on taking with me, stow my carry-on items in my suitcase, and check them at the bell desk before running to the conference center. Late is not my favorite way to start!

 

Once we were both there, Simone and I wasted no time getting started. She was going to create a headband and purse. I was going to create the dress. And (time permitting) Espadrilles. We went through the items from the sponsors to see what we could use. WOW! So many fancy items that I didn’t even know existed!

Other than being late, I had a second hiccup. I had brought my own rotary cutter and ruler, but there was no cutting mat. My design hinged on cutting strips of fabric and piecing them back together. Not possible without a cutting mat!

Luckily, we were able to wrangle one from one of the booths on the show floor, and I started piecing my dress.

pressing and working

The workroom was loads of fun. Hanging out with the other gals sewing and crafting, chatting with my friend Simone, learning about the cool Brother machine and the Brother Scan-N-Cut. There was lots to keep me entertained while I stitched together strips of fabric.

sewing photo

Unfortunately, Simone and I weren’t able to take advantage of all the workroom time. We were both scheduled to speak at a roundtable on social media that overlapped with the last hour. Simone had nearly finished the clutch (there was adhesive drying on it), and I was at a good stopping place. We packed up what we had, and crossed our fingers.

In the hotel room, I did as much prep as possible. Pinning and marking don’t require a sewing machine. Simone was able to finish embellishing the clutch. She started on the headband.

Pinning on Bathroom Floor

On Saturday, I headed back to the sewing machine. Between working in booths and attending events on the show floor, I snuck in about an hour of sewing. I had forgotten to mark the neckline, so couldn’t progress any further. I also stitched the pieces for the Espadrilles. Saturday night I’d have to stitch the fabric to the soles, as well as mark the dress. And hope that I’d have enough time in the morning to stitch the neckline, sew the sides together, and hem the dress!

While hanging out in the hotel lobby with friends on Saturday night, I stitched up the shoes. I LOVED the way they turned out, and knew that they would be perfect to wear with the dress.

stitching shoes

Sunday I was exhausted. When I attend the show in January, I usually just go for Saturday and Sunday. Just two days. By this time I was on day FOUR. Four days of chatting, planning, partying, staying up way too late, and waking up WAY too early. But I was determined to finish!

oh so very tired

When I finally had the dress sewn together and ready to hem, I was so excited to try it on. Of course I took a bathroom selfie to send to Simone!

ready for hemming

After hemming, I tried on the whole outfit, with shoes and clutch. Just needed the headband from Simone, and we were ready for judging!

try on dress

The judging was incredibly nerve-wracking. Quite a few contestants didn’t make it to the final judging. In the “teams” category, my main competition was a teen who had made a skirt. It was the second garment she had ever sewn, and she had done quite a bit of hand-sewing in order to get her look finished on time. I barely knew her, but was incredibly proud of her for getting it all done.

The worst part of hoping that you will win is knowing that someone else will lose.

judging

When the final result was announced, I was so excited! WE WON!! But that meant being runway-ready that night. Luckily for me, it was as easy as messaging my friend Jessica. She had done my hair and makeup for more than one of these types of events, and knocked it out of the park each and every time.

Makeup session

With the perfect hair and makeup to go with my outfit, I felt fierce as I walked down the runway a winner! Here I am with the other contestants and their awesome looks. To the left of me is the individual garment winner from The New Craft House. To the right, the individual accessories winner. And on the end, the outfit that was my competition. No, we are not all glowing – the lighting in the bar just made us look that way!

fashion show winners

The whole event was such a fantastic experience. It was so fun to alter a garment, work in my quilting skills, partner up and collaborate with a friend, and (of course) come away a winner!

the three dresses

Usually a good win comes with a great prize – this contest was no exception. As the winning team, Simone and I were given a Brother sewing machine and a Brother Scan N Cut. We had them send the sewing machine to Simone, and I’ve been able to give the Scan N Cut a new home!

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How to Make a Duck Tape Dress

Making a Duck Tape Prom Dress

Yes. You read that right. How to make a Duck Tape Dress. Why? Well, besides the obvious “totally unique” aspect, and the fact that you really can make anything out of Duck Tape, if you’re in High School, making a Duck Tape Prom Dress could win you a fat scholarship with Duck Tape’s “Stuck at Prom” promotion.

My mom and I sewed my dress for my Senior Prom, so making a dress out of Duck Tape for a potential scholarship would have been right up my alley. But I’ve already gone to my 10 year reunion, and am well on my way to my 20 year reunion, so I missed the boat.

But, Duck Tape sponsored an “80’s Prom” at a conference I went to, and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to try my hand at making a Duck Tape dress. I looked up the official rules to make sure that my dress would be Stuck at Prom “legal” (besides the obvious fact that I’m not in High School), so that I could share any Duck Tape Prom Dress-making secrets.

Before you decide that you want to make a Duck Tape Dress, here are some things that you might want to consider:
Duck Tape is not Breathable
Wearing a Duck Tape dress is very hot and sweaty. It keeps in all of your heat. I had a sleeveless, short dress, and my cheeks were red the entire night. Consider this as you design your dress.

Duck Tape is not very Flexible
There is a little bit of “give” to Duck Tape, but once you’ve made an entire dress out of it, it isn’t very flexible. If your skirt is going to be snug, you might want a slit up the back. And you can forget about bending over if you’ve dropped something.

Duck Tape Display

Duck Tape can be Expensive
Your Duck Tape dress will be more work than buying a dress off the rack, and may be expensive. I used about 9 rolls of tape for my dress. Some rolls (like the glitter rolls) have a lot less Duck Tape on them. When you decide what colors and patterns to use for your dress, look at the label to see how many yards are on the roll. The glitter and prism tapes are awesome, and will add great sparkle to your dress, but they will also increase the cost.

Duck Tape isn’t always Flattering
You want to look good at your prom, and if you don’t have any experience making clothes, or you already feel self-conscious, a Duck Tape dress might not be for you. I’m over 30, and while other gals at the event said that I looked good in the dress (one specifically told me that Duck Tape made my butt look great!), I felt very exposed. The dress didn’t really hide any flaws, and I didn’t feel like it played up any assets, either! But, a 17 or 18 year old going to a high school prom probably has a better body than me, right?

If you’ve read all of that and you still want to move forward (yay!), I’ll tell you how I made my dress.

How to make a Duck Tape Dress

The Stuck at Prom rules don’t say that your outfit has to be entirely made out of Duck Tape. You can see in this clip from Season 11 of Project Runway that some of the designers did use a sewing machine to make their dresses. What you don’t see is that some also used a muslin underneath the Duck Tape to help it keep its form.

Duck tape is sticky on one side, and you absolutely don’t want to stick it directly to your skin for your dress. So your options are to either make a sheet out of the Duck Tape by making a double-sided sheet, with the adhesive in the middle, or to stick the Duck Tape to fabric.

To make my Duck Tape dress, I went to a discount clothing store and bought a plain dress. I double-checked the 2014 rules (don’t just take my word for it, make sure you read the rules carefully for yourself), and you can use other materials in your dress. However, you cannot use someone else’s design. I read this to mean that I couldn’t just Duck Tape over an existing dress and call it “original”, I had to truly make it an original piece. And I couldn’t look online to see a dress I liked and re-create it in Duck Tape. The finished product had to be one-of-a-kind. That was my interpretation, but don’t take my word for it – read the rules to make sure you understand them. Really, the biggest benefit was having a base to stick the tape to – and that the base had a zipper so that I could get in and out of the dress easier.

The dress I picked to be my base was not a style or color I would wear. But it had the basic shape I was looking for – and everything else was going to be covered in Duck Tape, so what I saw in the mirror wasn’t the deciding factor.

Base for Duck Tape Dress

Once I bought my dress, I started adding the tape. The dress I bought was a knit fabric, which stretches. I would have preferred a woven fabric (which doesn’t stretch as much). Because it was a knit fabric, I had to have the dress on while adding the tape. Because once the tape was applied, the dress didn’t stretch. However, any areas where the dress stretched while I was in it (think: stomach, hips, thighs, chest, etc), as soon as I got out of the dress, the fabric would start to un-stretch, which made the Duck Tape less smooth. If you plan on using a fabric base for your Duck Tape dress, a woven fabric, rather than a knit, is your best choice. If you have access to a dress form, that would be a big help as well.

Note: I did overlap the strips of Duck Tape to make sure there were no gaps.

bottom of the Duck Tape Dress

I mentioned before that Duck Tape has almost no stretch, right? While taping the dress on my body, I filled my lungs with air to expand them as much as possible. This sounds like the opposite of what you might want to do – because this will make the dress bigger. However, getting in and out of a tight dress with almost no stretch is very hard. Expanding the top of the dress by filling my lungs with air made it much easier to get the dress on and off.

My goal was to make an 80’s dress, so I wanted to have an off-the-shoulder top. I cut off one strap, then used some Duck Tape to hold it all in place while I taped up the top.

making the top of the dress

While doing this, I managed to get some Duck Tape stuck to my armpit. OH MY! Getting that off was painful!

The final step was taping the back. I couldn’t reach the back myself, so I had my friend Gina from Mom’s Lifeboat tape the back for me. She taped on either side of the zipper, so that I could still use the zipper to get in and out. On the night of the event, my friend Angie from The Country Chic Cottage added a vertical strip of tape over the zipper to cover it.

Finished basic Duck Tape Dress

The plain dress was fine, but I wanted to give it a more 80s look with ruffles. I would have loved to add lots of ruffles, but they take some time (and quite a bit of Duck Tape) to make.

If you want to add ruffles to your dress, here is my secret: use your bed. I used the bed at the hotel to make the ruffles. I lifted the sheets off the bed to expose the fitted sheet. I taped long strips of Duck Tape to the fitted sheet, overlapping them a little. Once my ruffle was wide enough, I peeled it off, and lay it on the bed tape-side-up. Then I covered the tape with fresh strips of Duck Tape, overlapping the seams.

Duck Tape Prom Dress

I added some sparkle with glitter Duck Tape on the ruffle and the bottom of the dress.

I used a similar strip to add a bow to the back. Very 80s.

back of Duck Tape Prom Dress

Here are a couple photos of me at the event in the dress. In this top photo I’m hanging out with Angie, who is wearing a vest made out of Duck Tape.

80s Duck Tape Prom

In this bottom photo, I’m posing with Kimberly from Stuffed Suitcase, who also made a Duck Tape dress for the event.Wearing Duck Tape Dresses

My Duck Tape look was finished off with some fun accessories. I dressed Trusty the Duck (the Duck Tape Mascot) in matching lapels and tie, added Duck Tape to my shoes, and added some Duck Tape jewelry.

Duck Tape Prom Accessories

If you want some detailed instructions on making accessories, here are some tutorials:

Duck Tape Bracelet
Duck Tape Bangles
Duck Tape Earrings
Duck Tape Necklace
Duck Tape Flowers (if you want to make a Duck Tape Corsage)
Duck Tape Cat in the Hat’s Hat (you can modify these instructions to make a top hat)

I hope these details help you make your own Duck Tape outfit for Prom! Look around online for inspiration and ideas, and save your pennies for all those rolls of Duck Tape!