Use Your Pageant Clothing Choices to Stand Out From Your First Moment On Stage
You should look like a winner from the first moment you step onstage, because the judges’ first impressions set the tone for the rest of the pageant.
Contestants are usually introduced onstage in the “Parade of Contestants” or “Parade of States,” in either costumes, suits, or gowns. From your first moment onstage, project the message: “I’m gonna be a top contender so keep your eyes on me!”
Parade of Contestants / Pageant Opening Productions
Most pageants introduce contestants, who are attired in suits, dresses, evening gowns or costumes during an opening “Parade of Contestants” production number.
Some pageants differ from year to year, sometimes having girls wear a gown or suit of their choice, other times having a guest designer provide gowns.
The Miss America Pageant has fluctuated from gowns, to career attire, to dresses, the casual attire reflecting the contestant’s personality. The Miss Teen of America program often introduces contestants in patriotic red, white, or blue blazers or suits.
Whatever the format, wear a stunning outfit that makes you look like a million bucks and is slightly different from what other entrants will be wearing.
For instance, during the contestants’ introduction at the 1986 Miss America Pageant, Miss Tennessee, Kellye Cash, stood out from the crowd of look-alike beaded gowns by wearing a simple black gown with a large white fabric “fan” across one side of her bodice. During another preliminary competition night, she wore an ankle-length ace dress, which (again) completely stood out from the crow of beaded gowns. There was no way the judges could overlook her when the top ten were announced. She won the crown.
Similarly, when contestants wore suits during the opening number at the 1981 Miss America Pageant, the eventual winner, Elizabeth Ward, set herself apart from the crowd of “serious” businesslike suits by wearing an elegant, romantic black velvet suit with a ruffled neckline that framed her beautiful face. She looked like the winner the moment she stepped onstage. The introduction of contestants provides an ideal opportunity to catch judges’ attention by looking slightly different from one’s rivals for the crown.
There is a fine line between looking individual and looking odd. The idea is to create a positive impression.
Costumes for the Pageant Parade of States or Parade of Nations
Many pageants, like Miss USA, Miss Teen-USA, and Miss Universe, stage an opening production number with contestants in full costume representative of their community, state, or country.
Teen Pageant Costumes
In teen contests, costuming should be appropriate for the age. “It needs to be wholesome and youthful,” advises Warren Alexander, whose Miss Teen of America program asks entrants to come up with costumes symbolizing a great achiever from their state. “We’ve had Snoopy, Miss Piggy, the Pillsbury Dough Boy, a giant butterfly, and a Hershey’s Kiss in silver lame. It can’t be too sophisticated for a teenager. You have to present it too,” he says, citing the state contestant who came as a pumping artificial heart with protruding tubes and flashing lights. “You have to present it in such a way to get the most out of that costume.”
Beauty Pageant Costumes
In beauty pageants like Miss USA or Miss Universe, where the emphasis is on show biz and glamour, instantly standing out in costume can give an entrant a competitive edge. Although a separate panel judges the costumes, the winner of the “Best Costume” award often moves on to the semi-finals. The most successful beauty pageant experts in the world, from Venezuela and Colombia, whose titleholders regularly make the finals at Miss Universe, help their girls to stand out with dramatic costumes, such as beautiful historical gowns or sexy Indian wear.
When judges have fifty or more contestants walking out at them briskly, they don’t have a lot of time to think. Impressions are made quickly. “Costumes don’t count toward scores,” observes Warren Alexander, “but the judges have seen you onstage. That makes an impression. Any time [contestants] are in front of the judges they are making an impression . . . and judges are going to remember them.”
Pageant Costumes Should Instantly Create a Winning Image
Costuming should craft an eye-catching, winning image instantly.
- One Miss Universe, Trinidad’s Janelle Commissiong, outclassed the competition in a metallic gown with nine-foot tall wings.
- In 1993, Miss Kansas-USA won the Best Costume award as an elegant Native American chief, made the finals, and became second runner-up to Miss USA.
- Kenya Moore, Miss USA 1993, wore a white winter gown with a fur-trimmed hood to win her crown and went to Miss Universe as an elegant Statue of Liberty.
- Miss Venezuela 1994, a statuesque athlete, came as a warrior in skimpy gold metallic armor. She became second runner-up to Miss Universe.
The famous Guy Rex team of Richard Guy and Rex Holt, the only people ever to “produce” five back-to-back Miss USAs, are masters of costume design. Their secret included packaging their girls as spectacular rhinestone cowgirls in second-skin body suits, cowboy hats, metallic high-heeled boots, gun holsters, and ostrich-feather chaps. No GuyRex girl ever got lost in the crowd!
Match the Pageant’s Image
In any pageant, make sure your costume image matches the pageant. A sexy costume at Miss Teen of America is a no-no. A sedate “great achiever” costume with no sex appeal would bomb at Miss USA. Match the image.
Look Like the Winner from the First Moment You Step Onstage
But whatever type of pageant you enter, the secret to using the costume competition as a key to the crown is: Look like the winner from the first moment you step onstage.