Duct tape had been done. But a prom dress made out of gum wrappers? “Why not?” asked Anneliese Gries, a 17-year-old junior at Marian Central Catholic High School in Woodstock.
“I love chewing gum,” she said. “It always felt like a waste throwing away the wrappers, so I started collecting them.”
Starting around Christmas 2009, Gries gathered roughly 500 wrappers. Friends would throw her gum wrappers in the hallway. She’d get gum for Christmas, her birthday, “like 80 packs a year,” she said.
She wasn’t sure what to do with all of the wrappers until a friend suggested she turn them into a prom dress.
At first she thought perhaps she’d maybe put duct tape over them. “I really did not know,” Gries said. “I’d never made any clothes before.”
She’d heard about how prom-goers elsewhere had made their outfits out of duct tape.
Ever year, teens throughout the nation compete in the “Stuck at Prom” contest hosted by Duck brand duct tape. Those with the best duct-taped outfit win cash prizes.
If they can do it with tape, she can do it with gum wrappers, Gries thought.
So she turned to one of her friend’s mothers, Maryanne Buettner of Lakewood, for help. Buettner and her triplet daughters, classmates of Gries, have always sewn.
“It was a way to entertain my kids,” Buettner said. “When they were little, we would spend hours in the fabric store.”
So Buettner and Gries went to work. The two picked out patterns and looked up other gum wrapper dresses on the Internet. Yes, others exist.
Buettner wanted to make sure the dress was comfortable for Gries and that she could dance in it.
“She probably had the only dress at prom she knew wouldn’t fall apart,” Buettner said. “We made all these extra precautions. ... We didn’t want it to look like it was gum wrappers. The top had a leathery shiny look to it. It wasn’t stiff. It was comfortable.”
Gries made much of the black top herself, while Buettner worked on the bottom, which turned out black with colorful stripes.
Only Wrigley 5 wrappers were used. It comes in eight different colors, the wrappers are bigger and shiny, and the gum itself, well, “It’s good and it lasts a long time,” Gries said.
The two used layers of lining, or an inner facing. The gum wrappers were made into giant squares and shapes and ironed to the facing. The biggest problem?
“Corners of the wrappers were coming off,” Buettner said. “Toward the end it was driving us crazy.”
The two also made a tie out of the wrappers for Gries’ date, Jon Campbell, a senior at McHenry High School West Campus.
Buettner found a necklace that matched the dress perfectly, containing every single color in the dress. And she even made Gries a small purse out of the wrappers to match the dress.
“It was a lot of fun because I had Maryanne with me. She made it come together,” Gries said.
In all, it took roughly three months to put the dress together.
Was it worth it?
“I got a lot of comments like, ‘Oh my gosh, you actually did it,’” Gries said. “People had a lot of doubts, but in the end I think they liked it.”