In late fall 2014, 16-year-old Jamie Werner was given an assignment in her high school drawing class… create something to submit to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, a national program that has been celebrating the vision, ingenuity, and talent of America’s youth for over 90 years. Of the three art category options her teacher presented, Jamie, a budding multimedia artist who’s always up for a challenge, picked duct tape. What she did next is nothing short of extraordinary.
“I knew I wanted to make a dress. I had seen duct tape dresses online and I really wanted to try to make one.” When the Nesconset, Long Island, NY teen with an eye for style and fashion told her mom Laura what she planned to do, the initial reaction was disbelief. “You think of duct tape, and you think about going to fix something in the yard,” Laura told WYSK in a phone interview today. “But there’s no talking to my daughter when she gets an idea. She’s always determined to make things work.”
Jamie then gave us the scoop on the inspiration behind her duct tape dress. “I love wedding dresses and I love to watch Say Yes To The Dress, so I knew I wanted to make a white dress. I’m also a big fan of Betsey Johnson because her dresses are really poofy and fun. So I wanted my design to be a combination of two things I love.”
Having natural-born artistic talent, Jamie started to explore her interest in fashion design when she took courses at the famed Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in spring 2014, traveling to and from New York City by train every Saturday with a friend. The 12-week program included pattern making, sewing, and drawing the fashion form. She then returned to FIT last summer to take a series of advanced classes that spanned 4 weeks, 3 days a week. So the now high school sophomore ventured into the world of duct tape dress designing with some serious skills and know how, and created something amazing in the end.
With the exception of the zipper, Jamie’s design is made entirely of duct tape; she used about 8 rolls in total. How she managed to get duct tape to do all of this so stunningly – flawless box pleats, flowing lines, precision seaming, folds that make a perfect perky bow – is beyond us. Jamie’s masterful hand work might even manage to render Kleinfeld’s Randy Fenoli speechless.
After sketching out her ideas, it took her only four days to construct the party dress. “I did it over Thanksgiving break. My initial sketch was different than the final design because I modified it as I went along,” she shared. “I love how it turned out and it was a really cool experience.”
And, yes… the dress is actually wearable. Jamie explained that she designed it on a child’s form so it’s a little short for her, but her mom has happily volunteered to model it at home. “The fact that she was able to design something so beautiful just blows my mind,” the proud mom gushed. “Jamie is incredibly talented. She’s amazing!”
Jamie submitted her incredible duct tape dress in two of the Scholastic Art Awards’ categories: fashion and duct tape. Last month, on February 2, 2015, it earned her the Silver Key in the fashion category, and she was also named winner of the entire Northeast region. The duct tape category winner will be announced later in March. That award comes with a cash prize of $500, so Jamie’s fingers are crossed her duct tape dress will take top honors there. If she wins, she plans to use the money toward scholarship applications for the pre-college programs she continues to take to hone her craft.
Though she’s still a little over two years out from going to college, Jamie already knows that her top school of choice will be FIT. However, she’ll be taking art and graphic design classes this summer at the Savannah College of Art and Design to explore all possibilities for herself. Smart girl.