A beauty pageant is a competition focused on the physical attributes of the contestants, although elements of talent and personality are also highlighted. PT Barnum organized the first beauty pageant in 1854, but the first “swim suit” contest was held in 1880 and these contests quickly became summer fixtures in towns and cities across the States, starting in Galveston, Atlantic City and New Jersey. Many different types of pageant started to emerge over the decades, such as Miss Black America and Miss Indian America.

There are now three broad categories of beauty pageant. The glitz pageant is characterized by a lot of makeup and attire embellishment, with slip-on veneers (flippers) very much de rigueur. Hair pieces and flippers are not allowed in the next category, the semi-glitz pageant, although they are alike in other respects. The natural pageant, finally, places the emphasis on natural beauty without enhancements like flippers and hair pieces. Contestants approach all three types of pageant with the utmost seriousness and the aim of every entrant is to win the coveted crown.

The origins for the famous “Miss America” beauty pageant can be traced back to 1921 and the Atlantic City Hotel. A local hotel owner had the idea of enticing visitors by having attractive women wearing flashy numbers walk around his establishment. Herb West, a local reporter, suggested crowning the best one and calling her “Miss America”.

Choosing perfect pageant dresses and gowns

For a girl entering a beauty pageant, choosing the right dress, hairstyle and finish, with the perfect complementary makeup, is critical. In any pageant, whatever the level, the sense of raw competition always bubbles just beneath the surface, and perceived expectations and sheer nerves are much in evidence. The best way to create a sense of control and calm is to pick the right dress and look great.

Skin tone

Skin tone is a most important factor to consider here. The dress needs to complement the natural skin tone rather than overpower it. Generally, fair-skinned girls should steer clear of light-colored outfits, but at the same time a little experimentation is recommended because the rules can sometimes be broken with fabulous results. Pageants are after all about fun as much as anything else.

Makeup and hair

Hair and makeup are almost as important as the gown or dress chosen. The dress’s shape, for example, will determine whether the contestant goes for a romantic, soft curl look or for something trendier. The pageant stage can get pretty hot, so whoever does the makeup needs to know what the event is and should take this into account. Accentuated cheeks and smoky eyes sometimes work well, or a more natural look might be more appropriate, depending on the dress and hair.

Catwalk influences

Top designers often specialize in producing stunning outfits for beauty pageants of all kinds, available in the high street and online. It should be remembered that, although you get what you pay for in terms of quality and exclusivity, winning the contest is down to a whole range of factors, attire being just one of them. It is, however, true that a contestant can stand out and gain a certain edge by donning the latest outfit by the likes of Tony Bowls, Mac Duggal or Sherri Hill, and many fabulous gowns and dresses are readily available in a range of styles from specialists like Rissy Roo’s.

Upcoming trends

This season, the whole fashion scene in general, and the pageant side in particular, is starting to open up and there is something for every conceivable taste. Whether the contestant is a wild hip chick or prefers a sleek and conservative business-style suit, the sky is the limit and she will be able to express her personal style and preferences as she wishes. Contestants who are comfortable in what they wear and feel their garments to be natural extensions of their personality are that much likelier to do well and gain the coveted prize.

Fabulous forties

Covered shoulders and belted waists in the style of movie icons like Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn are coming back with a vengeance. An open back and cowl neckline can accentuate the look and these garments perfectly complement an hourglass profile. Lines are uninterrupted and sleek, and bold colors can bring out a femme fatale quality.

80s nightlife

The 80s aren’t finished yet and are staging a fierce comeback, with shoulder pads back in fashion, evoking Dallas and Dynasty. A triple-thick belt goes well with these “power” outfits and will, moreover, help contestants with stance on the stage. This distinctive look starts at the shoulders, of course, and goes all the way down the legs to showcase the well-sculpted results of yoga and Pilates. A neat miniskirt with sequins, a cat suit or any look reminiscent of the heyday of Madonna or Cyndi Lauper will do equally well.

The joys of ruching

Many women, and beauty pageant contestants are no exception, have an issue with hips and thighs but, with the coming season’s trends, this ceases to be a problem. A ruched bodice can help shape the bust and define the waist and covers a multitude of sins. An Elizabethan swag that pulls and tucks in the necessary places or a Greek goddess-like drape are other sensational options here.


The secret of enjoying any beauty pageant, as well as having a better chance of actually winning it, is to dress and make up as well as possible and then simply have a fabulous time. Nobody wants nerves, and choosing the right gown or other outfit will greatly assist in alleviating them. With a good dress, the presentation will have poise, confidence and balance and the whole persona will light up. Confidence is the name of the game in pageants and, with the new trends coming in, it is easier than ever before for a girl to pick the outfit that showcases her figure and personality to perfection.

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