Tips for Pageant Shoes: How to choose the right shoes for the evening gown competition
When it comes to the evening gown competition, the right pageant shoes also finish the image the contestant is creating for judges. Pageant contestants in their teens and up should always wear high heels in the evening gown competition to create a taller, slimmer, more elegant body line. Pageant shoes are available with heels ranging from one to four inches.
“The right shoes add the winning touch to a pageant evening gown.” — Cheryl Prewitt-Salem, former Miss America and founder of CP Annie Productions, Inc.
Pageant apparel specialists differ on their specific style recommendations. Some experts prefer clear open-toe shoes with rhinestone trim, while others prefer an elegant fabric or mesh evening pump. Whatever the choice, a competition shoe should always feature a low-cut “throat.” The higher the front cut of the shoe, the clunkier it looks.
Clear Acrylic Pageant Shoes
The advantage of a clear shoe is its invisibility onstage. “I prefer the acrylic shoes with rhinestones for evening gown because it’s softer,” says pageant wardrobe specialist Robin Elliott-Bear. “Nobody’s looking at your feet-and that’s the point with acrylic shoes. The judges are below you when you are competing so you don’t want your foot to be the first thing they see. The acrylic shoe doesn’t jump out at them.” Yet, she prefers a matching pump with black gowns. “When the dress is so dark, if you wear the acrylic shoe, it’s such a contrast.” [Return to top]
Classic Closed Pumps
Many pageant wardrobe specialists prefer traditional closed pumps over transparent open-toe shoes. “I’ve never liked the clear shoes, because when you stand there your toes are hanging out,” says pageant wardrobe expert Annette Gerhart. “Why would you want to wear a drop-dead gorgeous evening gown with your toes hanging out? I think a closed pump is always the safest bet. It’s a very safe, comfortable, neutral shoe and it completes the look.” [Return to top]
Closed formal shoes have been successfully worn in both simple unadorned styles or as dressier beaded closed pumps. With a traditional evening pump, consider the gown and the total look. Closed formal shoes have been successfully worn in both simple unadorned styles or as dressier beaded closed pumps. With a traditional evening pump, consider the gown and the total look.
Pageant wardrobe specialist Kati Fish advises, “If you’ve got a dress without beading, you probably won’t want a shoe with a lot of sparkle because you don’t want your feet to take away from the dress. You’ll probably want to go with satin and peau de soie shoes that can be dyed to match the dress. It all depends on your gown.” [Return to top]
- Carolyn Sapp, Miss Hawaii and Miss America 1992, wore satin dyed bridal pumps with her gorgeous evening gown during the talent competition.
- Miss Universes Porntip Nakhirunkanok (’88) and Dayanara Torres (’93), and Miss Teen of America 1994, Carla McPherson, wore simple white pumps to complement their white gowns.
- Miss USA 1988 Courtney Gibbs wore simple black pumps with her beaded black strapless gown.
Beaded and Glittery Pageant Shoes
A beaded shoe may be lovely with a lavishly beaded gown, but only if the shoe matches perfectly and does not over-power the dress. “If a girl is dripping in bugle beads, then she can carry that right down into a beaded shoe,” advises Annette, “but you’ve got to watch the all-sequin pump because it can make your feet look fat.”
Metallic silver or gold shoes usually call too much attention to the feet onstage. Even so, Deborah Carthy-Due won the 1985 Miss Universe title wearing shiny gold shoes with an ankle-length white beaded slip-dress accented with gold beading. (Hey, a winner makes the rules!) [Return to top]
Another very popular choice is a delicate, open-toe formal sandal in the gown’s color, as worn by Miss Americas Dorothy Benham, Kylene Barker, Susan Powell, and Vanessa Williams. However, warns Gerhart, “Sling-backs can get caught in hemlines. I can’t tell you how many girls have come in with hems ripped out from the buckle catching.” [Return to top]
Mesh Dress Pumps Trimmed With Glitter or Crystals
The stunning Starburst evening slipper with a sheer mesh toe trimmed with rhinestones is recommended by Thomas Tolbert because of the style’s ability to keep attention off the feet. “Your eye goes down to the rhinestones, and once it hits the toes, for some reason, the eye goes right back up, so again you’re looking at her face-not the feet. It’s an elegant shoe that shows the foot off very well-and it’s comfortable.” [Return to top]
Correct Heel Height
Although most contestants wear traditional three- to three-and-a-half-inch heels, petite girls sometimes opt for four-inch heels to add height, and pre- to early-teen contestants wear flats or short heels. As a rule, the taller the shoe heel, the sexier the look, and the more difficult it is to walk properly. When unsure of the proper heel height, ask the pageant director for recommendations.
Break-in Your Pageant Shoes!
Comfort is crucial since the fit of a shoe directly affects how a young woman walks while onstage. When a girl’s shoes fit poorly, they hurt her feet, and her walk is stilted.
When you find your ideal evening pumps break them in, advises Cheryl Prewitt-Salem, of c.P. Annie Productions footwear, “because when a girl wears shoes onstage that she doesn’t normally wear, her feet are killing her-and that should never be. You should be comfortable onstage.”
“Don’t wear new shoes, period,” advises Kenn Berry, the late Miss New York regional field director and veteran judge. “When you walk out onstage, any judge worth his salt can tell in a minute. If you’re going to buy new shoes for a pageant, get them four months before and walk in them, work in them, do your housework in them.
The same with undergarments for the evening gown competition. Don’t just buy a new undergarment and come out onstage in it. If you’re not used to it, it’s going to show. You have to be perfectly relaxed in what you wear. Otherwise you look as if you’re uneasy – and those judges can tell.”
The bottom line with any accessory, from shoes to bras, is get used to them before competition, because discomfort is a dead giveaway. [Return to top] [clear-line]