University of South Carolina

Sticky business: Honors College student tapes her way through the looking glass

For her Honors College senior thesis this past December, Virginia Walker handed in a stunning collection of costumes made for six major characters in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.

"We're seeing more projects like Virginia's. ... We're encouraging them to think outside the box."

What makes the costumes so interesting is that they were made entirely of colorful duct tape, form fitted to the students who served as models for the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts, the White Rabbit, and so on.

"The first thing I made of duct tape was a purse in high school," says Walker, who graduated in December and now lives back home in Colleyville, Texas. "I made my prom dresses out of duct tape for my junior and senior proms, too."

Duct tape computes for ex-theatre major

Virginia Walker
Virginia Walker

When she enrolled at Carolina, Walker was a theatre major and took a few costume design courses. She switched to computer science in her sophomore year, but she never lost her love for costume design--and duct tape.

"I got interested in Alice in Wonderland in high school after watching the movie and reading the book," she said. "I learned that Carroll was a brilliant mathematician--he put all kinds of clever puzzles and logic problems in the book, and that appealed to me because I love math.

"I'm going to work in the computer science field, but making things of out of duct tape hasn't stopped. I'd like to reproduce paintings with duct tape."




Theses: Boxes no longer required

Laura Mewborn, who coordinates senior thesis projects for the Honors College, said more students are choosing non-traditional projects.

"Senior theses tend to be research papers, but we're seeing more projects like Virginia's," Mewborn says. "Some students don't want to do another project within their major, and we've been encouraging them to think outside of the box."
Making duct tape costumes is definitely outside of the box, says Lisa Martin-Stuart, a theatre professor who specializes in costume design and served as Walker's faculty advisor for the project.

"Virginia manipulated the material so well, doing pleats and ruffles and other details," Martin-Stuart says. "What I learned from her was how you can manipulate the duct tape so many ways. And I never knew there were so many different colors."

About Walker's Alice in Wonderland costumes

  • she estimates that the six costumes required about 125 hours to complete, a testament to her patience and that of her models
  • duct tape colors used were purple, black, blue, silver, red, green, yellow, white, teal, chrome, and two different types of plaid
  • Walker gave the costumes to her friends who served as models; no one else could wear the form-fitting outfits
  • Walker was the model for the Cheshire Cat costume, which is on display on the first floor of Harper College, home of the Honors College administrative offices.
Posted: 01/26/09 @ 8:00 PM | Updated: 04/09/09 @ 5:03 PM | Permalink