An Illinois high school student is going viral after creating a coronavirus-themed prom dress out of Duck Tape.
Peyton Manker, 18, says the like most seniors, her high school career was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. When Manker heard about Duck Tape's 2020 Stuck at Prom Contest, it felt right to create a dress themed around the virus that caused both her senior prom and high school graduation to be canceled.
"No one has had the chance to use this theme in past competitions," Manker said of her entry into the contest, which awards a $10,000 college scholarship to the winning prom dress and tuxedo. "And, hopefully, no one will be able to use it for future competitions, which would make me stand out from the other competitors for years to come and leave an impact on the competition."
Although Duck Brand will not announce the winner of the contest until July 21, Manker's dress has already made an impact. Nearly 12,000 people have liked the Facebook page she created to showcase her work, with fans reaching out from around the world, including New Zealand and Mexico, to compliment her design.
The gown, which is primarily blue and covered in coronavirus-related images, took 41 rolls of tape to create. Manker spent nearly 400 hours on the design over a four month period.
She even created accessories for the gown, including a "flatten the curve" face mask, purse in the spiky, circular shape of the virus, jewelry and an arm bouquet made from toiler paper rolls — a nod to the toiler paper shortage that occurred early on in the pandemic.
The Sparta, Illinois, teen also made a hair piece that says "separately together," a subtle message to the importance of sticking together while social distancing.
"My anklet says, 'This, too, shall pass,'" added Manker. "It's covered by my dress skirt which symbolizes how people may have forgotten the coronavirus pandemic will eventually pass and everything will be normal once more."
But it's the small features covering the body of the dress that mean the most to Manker.
"The virtual graduation is a tribute to my classmates and other seniors who did not have the privilege of attending a normal graduation," said Manker, who plans to attend Southwestern Illinois College in the fall. "There's a tribute to those working on the front lines — nurses, doctors, janitors, postal workers, police officers, military workers, construction workers, restaurant workers, firefighters and grocery workers — and the design I created of people running from the coronavirus is meant to signify the world trying to escape the virus."
Other designs on the dress represent varying countries affected by coronavirus, the mental health issues faced by many in the wake of the pandemic and the need to stand 6 feet apart from others and wear a mask while in public for the foreseeable future.
The dress is made primarily from Duck Tape, but Manker says items like her purse, shoes, jewelry and bouquet are existing items covered with the colorful tape. The dress also features a layer of fabric beneath the tape, making it "extremely stiff and heavy," and not a gown Manker would actually wear for a school dance.
"There is zero ventilation," Manker explained. "I was sweating like a pig when I wore the dress to take photos, and after wearing it for about an hour and a half to take photos, the weight of it was causing my feet to turn red and purple."
Still, Manker says the late nights and hard work were worth it, and she's proud of the gown she created.
Manker's mom shared her own thoughts about her daughter's creation in a viral Facebook post.
"I knew she was artistic, but I am amazed to see the results of her dress," Suzy Manker wrote in the post, which has been shared more than 200,000 times. "It tells a story ... whatever the outcome of the contest, I am so proud of her hard work and perseverance."
Manker says it's the support of her family and online fans that has made the project most worthwhile.
"I am taken aback by the amount of support I have had from people all over the world," she said. "At this point, I don't even mind if I don't receive the scholarship, I'm just glad to have all the support and opportunities my dress has given me."
Duck Brands will announce their top choices in the contest and open the contest for community voting from June 29-July 10. The contest winner will be announced on July 21.