Sticky prospects

Suits of armor, duct-tape prom wear, latex gowns and other garments that may be difficult to get into and out of alone.

Published June 18, 2001 10:45PM (EDT)

A friend of mine is getting married soon, and the other day I asked my boyfriend -- idly, not in a harping way -- what he planned to wear.

"What do you think I'm going to wear?" he asked. "A suit."

"Oh," I replied, then thought it over. "Of course, that doesn't rule out a clown suit," I said.

"Or a birthday suit," he said.

"Or a suit of armor," I said.

We spent the next few minutes imagining him attending the wedding in a suit of armor.

"I'd fall on the dance floor and wouldn't be able to get up," he said.

"You'd go into the bathroom and run a little water over your helmet, smooth it back," I said.

"I'd adjust my tie -- which I'd wear over the suit of armor. Then I'd turn to the guy next to me, and say, 'Lot of nice women here tonight.'"

"Then you'd walk out -- clink, clink, clink."

What he'll probably end up wearing is a brown, pinstriped Versace pimp suit, a good idea in theory, if a little high-concept for a 4 o'clock wedding in the woods. Me, I plan to wear 4-inch spiked heels. I will very likely be bolted to the dirt all night like a cheap cafi table.

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But modern life just doesn't offer enough occasions to dress for the occasion, so we just have to take them when we can. Too much of what we wear is utilitarian, but the practical and the outrageous don't have to be mutually exclusive, as the makers of Duck brand duct tape found out. The company recently sponsored a contest "for the couple that wants to be both stylish and frugal": the duct tape prom ensemble contest.

After asking participating couples to attend proms wearing gowns and suits made entirely from duct tape and to send in a color photo of the results, the company received hundreds of photos of creative couples clad entirely in adhesives.

May we just say that the sight of these enterprising teens -- who stand to win $2,500 in scholarship money -- caused the wizened crones here at Communiqui to wipe away more than one salty tear. Among the most astounding creations were a long strapless gown with a fishtail train made from silver tape; two matching red, white and silver striped ensembles (the boy in a three-piece tape suit with tape stove-pipe hat, the girl in a tape bustier with matching ball gown skirt, handbag and wrap) and an incredible Scarlett O'Hara style number in yellow (tape) complete with a scalloped hem gathered above the ankles with two black (tape) rosettes. Either duct tape drapes like silk, or this girl knows her chemistry. Either way, it's nice to know kids today are so grounded.

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Sticky strips of electrical insulation are not the only space-age polymers with a toehold in the fashion world.

An essay in this month's Jalouse relates in sweaty detail what it's like to wear latex beyond the dungeon. Writer Ducky Doolittle describes going to get her own, custom-made rubber dress from a designer called, discreetly, "The Baroness." The process involves several fittings, during which the dress is molded onto the body.

Like a suit of armor, a latex dress can be difficult to get into and out of alone, making getting dressed and undressed a social activity with interesting prospects.

And if you fall on the dance floor you'll probably bounce right back up.

By Carina Chocano

Carina Chocano writes about TV for Salon. She is the author of "Do You Love Me or Am I Just Paranoid?" (Villard).

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