Physically demanding pageant talents such as dance, baton, and acrobatics require outstanding costuming that defines the mood of the talent performance.
Whether it’s classical or modern ballet, a sultry jazz number, glamorous Hollywood-style tap, seductive island dance, or energetic acrobatic act, proper costuming can add professionalism and instantly intrigue the audience and judges.
Consider the attention-getting costuming used by several national semi-finalists:
- From the moment Sandy Frick, a ballerina famous for moon-walking en pointe to “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” leaped onstage in toe shoes, colonial military hat, and Revolutionary War “uniform,” judges knew there wouldn’t be any dying swans in her performance.
- Miss Alabama 1993 performed an acrobatic dance in a harem costume and “I Dream of Jeannie” hairdo
- Miss Massachusetts 1992 performed a cancan en pointe in a Parisian chorus girl costume
- Miss Ohio 1978 shimmied in a seductive harem costume for her tradition breaking belly dance.
- Miss Michigan, Kaye Lani Rae Rafko, became the first Tahitian dancer to win a major title, Miss America 1988, after she slinked onstage attired in a low-riding pink grass skirt, strapless bustier, and towering feather headdress.
Needless to say, no one had to nudge the judges awake.
Your costuming should ideally capture and keep judges’ attention, whether your talent is dance, baton twirling, acrobatics or gymnasts. Your talent costume should instantly communicate the theme of your talent performance and instantly evoke a specific mood.
“You have to create an image. Everything has to fit. Everything has to be perfect. The total picture is the key.” — Stacy King, Miss Louisiana 1989
Additionally, it is advisable to wear a full body tight with any physical talent, for both modesty purposes and to keep judges’ attention off of jiggling thighs, etc. Contestants who do not wear tights risk have judges distracted (and perhaps put off by) glimpses of areas that are better off covered. This is especially true for contestants whose performances involve splits and leaps that could potentially expose parts of the groin area. Ladies, as judges, we can attest that glimpses of areas that should remain private are not a plus for contestants and detract from a contestant’s overall performance.
In the past, contestants were usually advised to avoid bare midriffs. In fact, up until the 1960s, contestants literally were not allowed to display their navels on television!
Today, that expectation has relaxed somewhat. Often wearing dance or athletic costuming with sheer fabric across the midriff is still recommended. However, for contestants with extremely well-toned abdominal muscles and low body fat, it may be safe to expose some of the midriff. Kristy Cavinder, Miss California (above right), a 2010 preliminary talent winner, whose amazingly toned abdominal muscles demonstrates such an exception during her winning ballet dance. However, our suggestion is to seek advice from experienced pageant coaches on what costume design best suits your individual talent and body.
In conclusion, just as a pageant gown tells judges who a contestant is, her talent costume also conveys a specific image. What message will your pageant costuming send to judges?
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