Your Pageant Gown is Your Portrait
The ideal gown or pageant dress will also complement the young lady’s personality by highlighting her best qualities for judges. She is painting her self-portrait for the panel. And, as any artist knows, a Rembrandt is different from a Rubens. Yet both are masterpieces.
A girl’s evening gown portrait should be her masterpiece – beautiful and individual. “When you are judging evening gown, you are judging her overall look,” says Debbie Brown, of Brides & Beauties, who dressed Miss USA 1994 and Miss America 1994 for evening gown competition. “You’re not judging whether you like her dress. You’re judging how this dress looks on her. Does it show her off well? Does it complement her personality? You are not judging the dress.”
Your Gown Reveals Your Suitability to be the Winner
However, judges do consider what that gown says about a young woman’s suitability to be their winner. The moment she steps onstage, a contestant’s gown style and color reveal volumes about her personality (is she reserved or flamboyant?), attitude (does she like to command respect or shock?), and image (is she a Grace Kelly, a Marilyn Monroe, or a Snooki?).
Obviously, a red sequin dress with the plunging neckline is going to send judges an entirely different message than the flowing pink-lace-and-chiffon number.
Conveying the Right Message is Critical
Getting that message right is critical. To avoid sending mixed signals to judges a girl’s personality should influence the choice of gown.
“If you have someone who is a very confident, flamboyant personality, she can wear something that is flashier than a young woman who is demure,” explains Tricia Copelin, of Mississippi’s Custom Creations By Tricia. “Sometimes you have a girl who is bubbly, a cheerleader type, and other times you have a girl who is elegant, high-fashion, and sophisticated. You can look at them both in blue jeans and tell just from the way they look, the way they carry themselves, the way they act, what their personality is. The dress should reflect that.”
Develop a Theme with Your Pageant Wardrobe
“There is no question that you can develop a theme or mood with your gown by the line and color.” — Kathleen Munson, pageant gown expert
To achieve the right look for a girl’s personality, Kathleen Munson “meticulously develops a theme with her wardrobing.” She asks the contestant to complete a personal adjective list that defines the image she wants to project to judges. “Let’s say you want to be considered intelligent, sophisticated, elegant, and glamorous,” says Munson. “You’ve already told me what colors you want. I probably would work with darker colors and straighter lines. If you want to be fun, cute, and darling, I would probably put you in softer colors and softer lines. I might put puffs, ruffles, or bows. There is no question that you can develop a theme or mood with your gown by the line and color.”
The most successful gowns perfectly suit the young woman’s personal style. “It’s got to be something that represents her,” explains Richard Guy, who coached six women to the Miss USA throne, “something that she can feel.”
Your evening gown is a portrait of your personal style. Make it a masterpiece.
Wear the Pageant Gown That Makes You Feel Like the Winner
The right pageant gown not only makes the judges feel like they’re looking at a winner, it makes the contestant wearing the gown feel like she is already is the winner. “When you find the gown that you absolutely fall in love with, that you know looks great on you,” says Kati Fish, co-owner of KT’s The Winning Edge in Arkansas, “you automatically walk prouder, with your head held higher and your shoulders back, and you walk more gracefully than you would walk in a dress that was just so-so. Having the right gown makes a big difference when you’re competing,” says Kati, ”because it builds your confidence. You want to make sure that you look your absolute best.”
Robin Elliott-Bear, of Robin Elliott Ltd., says: “I tell every girl who is here, ‘I want you to feel so good in this gown that if all fifty contestants walked onstage in the same dress, you would still feel like the winner.’”
There is No One Pageant Gown That Every Judge Will Like
Remember that there is no one pageant gown that every judge will like. “Everyone has their own opinions,” Robin warns, “so when you get into a competition and there are five or seven judges who all have their opinions, you could have a different winner every day of the week. That’s why it’s important to find a dress that suits the young woman’s personality and figure, and that makes her feel the best.
Because you cannot make every judge happy.” No one can predict what judges will like on a given evening – so wear what makes you feel like a winner.
A pageant contestant must also evaluate what evening gown styles, fabrics, and colors are most flattering to her figure shape, height, hair color and style, and skin tones under stark stage lights.
In addition to considering what type of gown best reflects her personality and creates a winning image, a pageant contestant must also evaluate what evening gown styles, fabrics, and colors are most flattering to her figure shape, height, hair color and style, and skin tones under stark stage lights. The objective isn’t to find the most eye-catching gown but the gown that makes the young woman look her most beautiful.
In an era when the typical student spends most of her young lifetime in jeans and T-shirts or work-out clothes, a contestant may have no idea what gown styles look good on her. “A lot of times when they come in they have never been in a pageant and they’ve never even worn a gown, so we try on,” says Zola Keller, who has outfitted numerous state and national winners, including Leanza Cornett, Miss America 1993. “She needs to see, ‘Okay, this bottom looks good on me, but this top doesn’t.’ If it’s the first time she’s ever put on a gown, she won’t have any idea what she is supposed to look like.”
Try On Lots of Different Styles
The only way to find that ideal gown, says Zola, is, “Try on a hundred different gowns-gowns with sleeves, without sleeves, halters, strapless. You’ve got to try on.”
Thanks to recent changes in evening gown guidelines to discourage cookie-cutter beaded gowns and encourage simplicity, entrants can successfully wear a wider range of styles in competition. “I think pageants are becoming a little more open-minded now,” says Debbie Brown. “I love it because now, if you look good in a beaded gown, you can wear a beaded gown. If you have big hips and you look better in a chiffon skirt, then wear a chiffon skirt. You’re not going to score lower. It’s okay to wear what looks good on you.”
“Sell yourself as an individual in an elegant situation.” — Rex Holt of GuyRex Associates, coaches to a strong of Miss Texas-USA, Miss USA winners