Elaborate duct tape dress wins Los Angeles teen a national scholarship contest

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 07: Karla (cq) Torres (cq), 18, of Los Angeles, is a finalist in the Stuck At Prom, a duct tape scholarship contest, on Friday, July 7, 2023 in Los Angeles, CA.  The contest awards scholarships to high schoolers who make the best prom attire out of Duck Brand Duct tape.  Torres will be attending California State University Fullerton pursuing a degree in business marketing starting Aug.  2023. Karla spent 120 hours making the dress.  (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

Eighteen-year-old Karla Torres of Los Angeles is the winner of Stuck At Prom, a duct tape scholarship contest. The contest awards scholarships to high schoolers who make the best prom attire out of Duck brand duct tape. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

A Los Angeles teen who designed and made a Marie Antoinette-style prom dress completely out of duct tape was named Wednesday as the winner of a national scholarship contest.

Karla Torres, who graduated this spring from Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School in Boyle Heights, won a $10,000 scholarship after amassing the most votes for her dress in the competition’s online poll.

Torres, 18, was named a finalist last month for the 23rd annual “Stuck at Prom” scholarship contest sponsored by Duck Tape, a trademarked brand of duct tape. As a finalist, she had to compete against five other teen dressmakers for votes.

The 18-year-old said she found out last week that she won the grand prize, but had to keep the news under wraps until the official announcement.

Read more: Inspired at the Getty, LA teen’s duct tape dress among scholarship contest’s finalists

“I just got so excited,” Torres said. “I just really wanted to tell people.”

She was, however, able to tell her immediate family, including her mom, who she said helped bring her pink, white and gold dress to life.

“We started jumping up and down,” she laughed, recalling the moment with her mom. “It’s crazy, it doesn’t feel real.”

Torres’ dress, an intricate design featuring detailed lace and florals, was inspired by 18th-century French art she saw on a field trip to the J. Paul Getty Museum. Her design will soon be displayed at Duck Tape headquarters in Ohio, she said, on display with past winners.

A close up detail of a young woman holding up a white fan with pink roses.

Intricately-cut details adorn all elements of Torres’ design, which included the 18th century-inspired dress, a purse and a fan. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

“My dress is going to be all the way across the country,” Torres said. “It’s a national contest. … Being selected as the only Californian, and more specifically the event [from] Los Angeles and Boyle Heights, it’s really cool.”

As the first in her family to go to college, Torres said the $10,000 scholarship would be a huge help, even with significant financial aid. She said it was overwhelming trying to understand all the different costs and fees she would have to pay for her freshman year at a California State University school.

But she knows one thing, her first purchase with the scholarship money will be a new laptop.

“I really want a new laptop because the old one I have is a little rusty and really slow,” she said. She can’t even remember exactly when she got it, but sometime in middle school, she said.

She plans to study business marketing in college, ideally focused on the fashion industry. She said she is hopeful that this contest and the media attention that’s coming with it — even relatives in Mexico saw her dress featured in the news — will help propel her into the field.

“After this competition, I hope to be intern in a fashion company in the future,” Torres said. “That’s something I am interested in and will always be interested in.”

A young woman poses for a photo outdoors, on a grassy hill, holing at her side a white and pink dress

Torres will be attending California State University Fullerton pursuing a degree in business marketing starting in August. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

Of more than 200 entries to the contest, Torres’ gown was selected among the top five designs for dresses. Another top five tuxedo finalists were chosen — with Ian Hernandez Rojas of Taylorsville, Utah, winning with a suit that honored his Salvadoran roots.

“From going viral on social media to fielding interviews with the media, the top 10 finalists gave it their all,” Ashley Luke, senior product manager at Shurtape Technologies, the company that markets the Duck Tape brand, said in a statement. “With so many talented teens entering this year’s contest, the competition was high, but Karla and Ian really exemplified how an ordinary material, like Duck Tape, can be transformed into an artistic attitude.”

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This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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