Pageants have long been a popular feature of our society, originating in the US in the 1920s. This idea quickly escalated to become an industry of its own, with hundreds of thousands of pageants having taken place since this time. Largely, pageants or beauty pageants are contests catering towards young girls and women in which they compete in categories including talent, sportswear, casualwear, formalwear and interview. Contestants may be asked a range of questions about themselves on stage before an audience and may also be asked to perform a dance routine, song, or something that showcases a talent of their choice.
Some pageants have even gone on to be televised across the globe, with pageants such as Miss Universe airing in more than 190 countries worldwide and being seen by more than half a billion people annually. The media coverage that exposure like this has given the industry has even led to TV shows being created around the premise of pageants. For example, Toddlers and Tiaras, for better or worse, exposed the world of child beauty pageants in the US; with seven seasons airing on TV, the show followed the lives of the young girls and their parents who were deeply involved in the pageant community, and showed us the dedication and lengths they would go to for the prize.
With all that being said, no matter what route you choose to go down within the pageant world, one thing is for certain: a great formal gown is a must. Pageants are famously renowned for their glitz and glamour and the formalwear category is the perfect opportunity for showing this off. Although these kinds of gowns are typically on the girlier, more feminine side of things, there’s no reason why every contestant shouldn’t find something that suits her exact style, so she feels her best and most confident, which is arguably the most important thing when on stage.
For that reason we have put together a go-to list of some past pageant trends and tricks, along with our favourite ways to approach these, so that you can take the stress out of choosing a gown for this all-important moment in the contest.
The Maximalist Approach
It goes without saying that pageants are often larger than life and tend to encourage going big or going home, in many senses. If you’re looking to make an impression with an eye-catching gown then make sure that it doesn’t overwhelm you, and that your personality is still able to shine through to the judges.
Something like this ballerina-style gown could be just the thing for you. Made up of white, pale blue and flecks of gold, this gown is ethereal and regal without being too in-your-face. The gowns displayed at couture fashion week often have this regal feeling about them. Inspired also by the theatre, this gown is perfect for any girl with a theatrical, dramatic side that she may want to show off; the off-the-shoulder ruffles and ribbons add yet another dimension and touch of elegance. Complete the full look with silver or gold accessories to perfectly balance the subtlety of the gown’s gold embroidery. If you’re looking for inspiration, the collections of Elie Saab are full of dazzling jewel tones and metallics that will give you endless ideas and are perfect for the glitz and glam of pageants.
On the other hand, if bolder colours are more your taste, then opt for something like this summery tea dress. Despite the white background, the floral motif in bright yellow, pink, green and blue is sure to catch the judges’ eyes and make you stand out. The shoulder ruffle detail also adds an extra touch of detail and echoes the folds of the flower print scattered across the body of the gown.
Or, if brights aren’t your cup of tea but you still want to make a statement, then this Sugarplum Fairy-inspired flower-embroidered gown is also an excellent choice. The puffball skirt is a feature that is always certain to grab attention, while the pinks and greens of the flowers intertwined across the gown add yet another dimension. With plentiful tulle layering, a ruffled waistline and a v-cut-out back with matching tulle trim, this gown is perfect for girls who love an elegant, feminine approach to pageant dressing.
The Minimalist Approach
Contrary to the stereotypical ‘more is more’ approach, it can sometimes be more effective to go for the simpler side of things; make a statement instead by dressing simply, but still elegantly. For example, monochromatic looks, though simple, are still eye-catching. And when choosing a colour for your outfit, it is always important to remember what each colour stands for, and what it symbolises.
One website states:
- Red stands for confidence
- Pink is playfulness
- Green is ingenuity
- Orange is associated with joy and energy
- Blue is smart and stable
- Yellow is happiness
- Purple speaks of royalty
So if, for example, you’re looking to portray intelligence and strength then choose something like this Blue Bow Pocket dress.
Blue is a bold, powerful colour, and this cobalt tone is perfect for making a statement in a pageant. Or, if your sense of humour is your strong point, go for pink as this suggests fun, light-heartedness and playfulness. Simplicity allows for versatility, and it ensures that you never look like you’re trying too hard. It is always refreshing to pare things down and keep it natural, especially in a world like that of pageants where things can easily be the opposite.
During the 2017 Miss Universe competition we saw this demonstrated when the 2016 outgoing winner Iris Mittenaere, who won the contest for France, wore an ombré red gown which, aside from its sparkling fabric, was simple yet still undeniably show stopping.
Dazzle With Your Accessories
Although the dress is undoubtedly the showstopper piece and the main attraction, accessories always complete a look and can elevate your ensemble automatically. Headbands are one great way to incorporate this trend into your pageant look. A piece like this blush pink butterfly hairband will certainly catch attention; the bold gemstone butterfly and decorative gemstones will glitter and sparkle under those stage lights so that all eyes are on you.
Glitzy headgear has been especially popular in the collections of several designers in recent seasons, making this the perfect way to demonstrate that you’re up to date with all the latest trends. Take inspiration from the likes of British designers, Ashley Williams and Simone Rocha, who implement these bold accessories into their collections and make them just as important a part as the clothes themselves.
Though only a relatively small feature, something like this kind of hair clip, or an embellished hairband, is unique and fun, while also demonstrating that your fashion forward and savvy. Team with a simpler gown so as to juxtapose the items and also to take care that neither clashes with the other.
David Charles Ivory Pearl Sparkle Hair Clip
If headgear is a bit too bold for you, then go for something slightly more classic, like some simple jewellery. A bracelet or necklace, or a pair of earrings, can again elevate any look by adding a touch of sophistication and glamour. Pearls have especially been long associated with luxury and decadence, something which is always played into in the pageant world, so something like this pink champagne toned pearl charm bracelet could be exactly the piece to complete your look. Similarly this turquoise and mint julep bracelet is also another perfect alternative. This slightly chunkier style is just the right piece for any girl with a bold personality who isn’t afraid to make a daring fashion statement.
Pageants are all about standing out from the crowd and showing both the judges and the audience what makes you unique. An interesting and unusual piece of jewellery is both an intricate and subtle way to do this. Colour co-ordinating with the rest of your outfit ensures high scores across the board and will set you in good stead to wow the panel with your personality, performance and individuality.
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