LINCOLN — After graduating from Lincoln High School in May, Zaineb Aljumayaat was looking into college scholarship opportunities.
On a list of scholarships available in Nebraska was a national competition that caught her eye — Duck Brand duct tape’s “Stuck At Prom” contest, which gives $10,000 in cash scholarships to high school students who design the best dress and best tuxedo out of duct tape.
“I wanted to do something creative because I am an artist,” Aljumayaat said. “I wanted to play to my strengths.”
Aljumayaat, who attended the Arts and Humanities focus program, had previously drawn, painted and sculpted, but she’d never given fashion design a shot before.
“One thing that’s known within the art world is if you practice one medium, it’ll surprisingly help you in another,” she said. “Doing sculpture helps you understand lighting and shadows and you really need to know that when you’re making a 2D image and trying to make it pop.”
Another challenge ahead of her? The contest’s deadline to submit designs was just a week and a half away.
After 152 hours and 34 rolls of duct tape in seven colors, Aljumayaat’s creation came to life. The duct tape was placed on pleats of fabric that she cut and pinned together, forming a circle skirt with wings, a chest piece, a headpiece and purse.
Aljumayaat’s dress was inspired by Middle Eastern Muslim culture, a nod to her Iraqi heritage. The centerpiece of the design is a depiction of the Sheikh Zayed mosque in Abu Dhabi, considered one of the most beautiful mosques in the world.
“After looking at submissions from previous years, everyone had done something personal to them, so I wanted to change my design to be meaningful to me,” she said. “The specific design elements of the dress were quite spontaneous. Sometimes over-planning can ruin art.”
The patterns she added to the dress are reflective of ones found in the traditional architecture of mosques and Middle Eastern buildings. One of those patterns is based on the Islamic star — Aljumayaat even created a purse in this shape to match the dress. The bright turquoise and dark blue colors were chosen to represent those in the evil eye design.
Aljumayaat also made a headpiece that she said was inspired by ancient Middle Eastern and Egyptian fashion. To create something that both suited her hijab and fit the aesthetic of the dress, she picked up an unused sheet of tape and began shaping it to her head until it created a shape she was happy with.
“Over the past few decades, there has been so much misunderstanding and hate towards the Arab world and I want to take the attention off of that and bring people’s eyes to the art and beauty of my people,” Aljumayaat stated in her submission essay to the Duck Brand contest.
After submitting photos of her dress to the website on the day of the deadline, Aljumayaat found out a few weeks later that her dress had become one of five finalists in the prom dress category.
“I didn’t think I was going to make it,” she said. “I’m really happy I made it because it was very rushed. I’m happy they liked the design. I worked the most on the mosque and that’s the centerpiece.”
If she were to win the $10,000, Aljumayaat said it will go toward her college education at the Rhode Island School of Design. She said that entering this competition and working under the tight deadline was helpful in preparing her for art school.
“I learned that I can adapt to time, and that really reassured me,” she said. “As long as I put my heart into it, I can get it done, so in that sense I feel ready to go to college and tackle whatever happens there.”