Pageant Interview Suits and Dresses | Tips for Choosing Pageant Interview Clothes

What do you wear to pageant interviews? Pageant Interviews are a highly competitive situation and contestants need to know what to wear – and not to wear – to score well.

Feeling confident during the pageant judges’ interview is easier when a young woman knows she looks her best. Psychologists tell us that being well dressed and groomed not only increases the wearer’s confidence, it elicits a more favorable response from others. To help pageant judges see you as their winner, strive to create a winning image with your pageant interview outfits and body language.

Pageant Interviews are a competitive situation similar to a corporate job interview. And as with any important employment interview, a contestant should dress for success. “You are interviewing for a $150,000- a-year job,” asserts Robin Elliott-Bear, of Robin Elliott Ltd., pageant clothiers. “I try to keep that in mind (while wardrobing) from the local-to-national level. Starting at the local level, judges are looking for a girl who could be the next Miss Amer­ica. So it’s just as important at the local level as it is at the state level-which a lot of young ladies forget. Whatever level they are in, I try to find the outfit that makes them look as if they could walk away with the national crown.”

“Starting at the local level, judges are looking for a girl who could be the next Miss America…Whatever level they are in, I try to find the outfit that makes them look as if they could walk away with the national crown.” — Robin Elliott-Bear, Robin Elliott Ltd., pageant clothiers

The most important part of that image is the reaction it creates instantly, Research shows that when people are introduced, their first impressions become lasting impressions. In pageants, instant reactions are viewed as so significant that “first impres­sion” is an actual judging criterion in many systems. “That first impression is a lasting one,” says Robert Zettler, past president of the Miss Ohio Pageant, “and when you’re making a judgment at the end, it is going to come into play.”

From the first moment judges meet an entrant, her clothing should create the image of a winner.

Dress Appropriately for the Pageant System

The format of the pageant interview also affects interview clothing choices.  Since every pageant has its own image, pageant interview clothing must be appropriate for the pageant system.

“There’s a difference, so you need to know the system you’re dealing with,” explains Kathleen Munson, owner of The Pageant Shop. “You have to ask yourself, ‘What am I interviewing for?’ In the Miss USA system, you are interviewing for a glamorous job. In the Miss USA system interviews are very ‘cocktaily,’ even at the teen level. In the Miss America system, you’re interviewing for a scholarship program. It’s a career look. You don’t interview for , ‘scholarship and career’ in a cocktail dress. Many of the teen pageants, like Miss T.E.E.N., have a Miss America feel. Ask yourself what that system is all about, then figure out what is appropriate .”

Make Sure Your Pageant Interview Suit Fits Well

Since interviews require confidence and concentration, a con­testant cannot afford the distraction of needing to adjust uncomfortable clothing.

“I have them do the ‘sit test,'” explains Elliott-Bear. “Nothing is worse than an outfit that doesn’t ‘sit’ well. Sometimes when you sit, an outfit will pop in the center and make you look like you have a big bubble at the waist. Usu­ally a two-piece works better. Also stay away from linens and other fabrics that wrinkle easily. That’s one reason we picked a knit for Marjorie Vincent [Miss America 1991].  It just held up so well.”

Pageant Interview Suits: the Color Makes a Statement

I tell everyone, ‘Think of yourself as a canvas. You’re telling me about your­self.” — Thomas Tolbert, of Legends, pageant wardrobe specialist

The girl’s personality (quiet, gentle, intense, confident, feminine) is an important consideration in choosing the color of her interview outfit.

“It’s important to find the wardrobe that best suits that person’s personality,” explains Elliott-Bear. “If they are a powerful personality, you try to keep that going throughout. Marjorie Vincent is a very powerful speaker, so she needs to wear reds and brights when she speaks.  I did her [national] interview outfit, which was a red knit with a black asymmetrical scarf from her shoulder to her right hip. The look was feminine but still corporate, very powerful, and it worked with her attitude and image. The wardrobe should suit the image of the person.”

Pageant wardrobe specialist, Thomas Tolbert, of Legends, agrees that the color of a contestants’ pageant interview suit should  reflect her image.

“It is important to match the contestant’s personality with a color that suits her personality. If she is very demure, very young, she needs a pastel color,” explains Tolbert. “I’ll put her in a pastel, a peach or pink, or an ivory or white suit. Now if she has a mild interview, but she’s wearing a red suit, I’m going to be disappointed — because red is a very vibrant color that gets you emotionally excited. But if a girl is really intense and she walks in wearing a red suit, then I’m going to say, ‘Wow … here she is! ‘” Mismatched images can confuse the judges. “If they’re climbing over the table to get their point across, but they’re in lace silk,” says Tolbert, chuckling, “it just doesn’t work. I tell everyone, ‘Think of yourself as a canvas. You’re telling me about your­self.”

Tips for Pageant Interview Clothes

Interview attire should always be flattering, age-­appropriate, and well acces­sorized. “You want an inter­view suit to contour your body,” says Kathleen Munson. “You’re not looking for a ‘mother-of-the-bride’ look.  You want it to shape your figure somewhat. It can be a one-piece  or  two-piece  shorter skirt is a popular choice with contestants. You want an age-appropriate hemline. With teens a short hemline is appropri­ate,” Kathleen advises, but contestants in conservative pageants or competitions for married women may prefer more modest skirt lengths.

“Finish is everything,” she continues. “I don’t care if you’ve got a hundred-dollar suit or a fifteen-hundred-dollar suit, you’ve got to finish with appropriate earrings and nice shoes.”

  • Choose four-season fabrics: crepe, featherweight wool, a lightweight knit.
  • The neckline should take your face shape into consideration.  Analyze your face shape, then decide on your neckline.
  • Choose age-appropriate hemlines.
  • Choose hemline length that suits the pageant’s image.
  • Coordinate your interview outfit with well-chosen, age-appropriate accessories.

Your interview attire defines who you are for judges. Make sure your clothing makes you look and feel like a winner.

Pageant Interview Outfit Mistakes Can Cost You the Crown

pageant interview outfit on Miss Teen of America

You pageant interview outfit must fit the pageant system (shown: Miss Teen of America)

Clothing mistakes can be costly! While the right pageant interview clothes can help clinch the crown, the wrong attire can damage a contestant’s chances by causing judges to question her judgment. (If she’d wear that in an important competition, what would she be likely to wear in public as the winner?)

Just such a situation occurred recently when a top contender for a national title wore large crystal earrings and a rhinestone-dotted cocktail dress to a morning career-style pageant interview, Etiquette dictates that one not wear cocktail attire in the morning-let alone to a be interviewed for a $150,000-a-year job. Her inappropriate choice of clothing was so jarring to judges that it became an obstacle she had to surmount to win us over. (During private deliberations later, one judge admitted, “To me she had to overcome her outfit.”) Fortunately, despite the blunder, the contestant was superb throughout the pageant and went on to become a top runner-up. But, who can say whether she might have won had she looked the part during the private inter­views when the judges were forming our first impressions of each woman’s suitability for the crown?

Another national contestant ruined her chances by wearing flimsy underwear. Rather than focusing on her answers, judges were distracted by the sight of her nipples jutting through her sheer bra and knit dress! Yet anoth­er contestant wore a short skirt that she had failed to put through the crucial “sit test.” Throughout her interview the panel was distracted by a splendid view of her undies! When she left the room, a judge quipped, “I made a note to tell her how nicely her panties matched her outfit.” Such clothing mistakes cause judges to conclude that the young woman lacks good judgment and would make similar mistakes in public as the titleholder.

In other words, clothing blunders can cost you the crown.


  • garish colors and too-trendy fashions
  • dyed satin shoes, flats, too-high heels
  • swaying earrings / noisy bracelets
  • over-sized, gaudy or clunky jewelry
  • low-cut necklines and see-through fabrics
  • revealing “natural-look” bras
  • too-short skirts
  • “loud” hosiery
  • purses carried into the interview

Select attire that creates the image of a lovely, tasteful young woman qualified to represent her community, state, or nation.

Dress like a winner.

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