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A teen in a dress made of duct tape, mostly black and white with holographic highlights, in a musical theme.
Hattiesburg, Miss., teenager Aubri Sparkman finished as runner-up in the Duck Brand Stuck at Prom contest. Photo courtesy Aubri Sparkman

Person of the Day | Aubri Sparkman: Duct-Tape Dress Designer

After a morning of worship leader practice, Aubri Sparkman and a few friends took a break, chatting in the restroom of the Passport Choices camp in South Carolina. The camp required a digital sabbatical, so the girls had no phones. As the girls prepared themselves to head back into the auditorium, Aubri’s mother Colbey Sparkman rushed into the bathroom.

She announced with excitement that Aubri had earned a finalist position in the Duck Brand Stuck at Prom scholarship competition. The contest is a national competition in which high-school students create either a prom dress or tuxedo made entirely of duct tape. The first-place winner earns a $10,000 scholarship prize.

“I was jumping up and down like a crazy person,” Aubri told the Mississippi Free Press. “Of course, everybody there didn’t really know me and didn’t really know what was going on, but they knew I was celebrating, and they kind of celebrated with me.”

The announcement as a finalist made the hours of effort worthwhile for the teen. Sparkman spent three weeks waking up earlier than usual to work on her dress. Altogether, the finished product took 66 hours and 14 rolls of duct tape to complete.

“She originally made a miniature model of it, which I was fascinated by,” Colbey Sparkman told the Mississippi Free Press. “I really didn’t know how she’s going to translate (the model) to real life, but she did. When she gets on a project, she gets on it and puts a lot of effort and energy into it.”

A teen in a dress made of duct tape, mostly black and white with holographic highlights, in a musical theme.
The teen told the competition that “music has the power to evoke emotions, transport us to different times & places, and unite us with others.” Photo courtesy Aubri Sparkman

The 17-year-old’s creation was made of black, white and mirrored duct tape fashioned into a music-themed design with a fitted bodice and flared skirt. The dress featured a violin, piano, tambourine and electric guitar.

“I chose the theme music as my theme because I play a lot of instruments, and I wanted to kind of incorporate that into the dress design,” Aubri said. “The shimmer tape was supposed to represent the movement and color that music has.”

The senior homeschool student plays each of the instruments represented on the dress as well as the acoustic guitar and ukulele. The musical measure on the skirt is from the score of one of her favorite movies.

“The song is actually from ‘The Princess and the Frog,’” Aubri explained. “It’s ‘Ma Belle Evangeline.’”

Although this outfit was her first duct-tape design, the 17-year-old has created several other works of art. She has painted murals and public utility boxes in Hattiesburg, Miss., a 10-by-30-foot wall on USM’s Eagle Walk, and items for Hattiesburg’s Pocket Museum. She is currently working on murals for the Children’s Clinic in Hattiesburg.

The final stage of the competition required two weeks of daily community voting. Aubri made a video and other graphics to help publicize the vote.

“She was really creative in the campaign too,” Colbey said. “She tried to continue to get the information out there and made all these really creative and fun videos showing the dress. She really was the only one who did something like that. Being from Mississippi (with) a smaller population of people (Aubri) really had to work hard to get your information out there.”

The teen finished as runner-up in the Stuck at Prom contest. She earned a $500 cash scholarship and $100 Duck Brand prize package.

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