The pageant world took the internet by storm after the controversy surrounding R'Bonney Gabriel winning the coveted Miss USA title. Not only were the claims against Gabriel gracefully disproven, she went on to sweep the global stage and take home the Miss Universe crown.
Drama aside, the world of pageantry is one full of glitz and glam alongside blood, sweat, and tears. After competing in pageants for five years myself, I've amassed quite the closet of pageant attire. We're all familiar with the extravagant evening gowns we see onstage, but did you know that there's a lot more that goes into a pageant girl's wardrobe?
Each area of competition requires its own different outfit that represents the unique look and brand of the contestant. We broke down the most important categories of pageant attire with tips on how to translate these over-the-top looks into everyday wear, featuring our fashionable Miss Universe herself.
1. THE CHECK-IN OUTFIT
First impressions are everything -- not just in pageantry, but in everyday life. No judges are present until the competition actually starts, but you never know who could be watching. The check-in outfit should be something you feel the most yourself in! Gabriel's custom check-in outfit from Ruben Isaza screams high fashion and makes a clear statement about who she is: fierce.
Tip: This is definitely the most wearable category of a pageant girl's wardrobe. Whatever outfit makes you feel like a queen, wear it!
2. THE INTERVIEW
Don't let the name mislead you, pageant interview attire is vastly different from regular interview attire. Striking a balance between professionalism and being fashionable is key, and it's normal to see bright colors and bold silhouettes that wouldn't be found in a regular workplace. Gabriel designed and made this jumpsuit herself, taking inspiration from thunderstorms as well as her own storm following her Miss USA win.
Tip: Ace your next job interview by incorporating bright colors in a more traditional silhouette. We love this lilac dress from White House Black Market, but if you'd prefer a jumpsuit like Gabriel's, this baby blue jumpsuit from Neiman Marcus is both fashionable and professional.
3. THE EVENING GOWN
The evening gown is the most glamorous and recognizable piece in a pageant girl's closet. This phase of competition is all about confidence and female empowerment as contestants present the best version of themselves to the judges. Gabriel's gown for the final competition at the Miss Universe pageant was made by Filipino designer Rian Fernandez in honor of Gabriel being the first Filipina-American to hold the Miss USA crown.
Tip: You might be wondering how on earth you make an evening gown wearable, but we promise there's a way! For your next formal event, consider buying from a designer known for pageant gowns like Sherri Hill or Johnathan Kayne. They offer more subdued formal attire that's perfect for any upscale occasion.
4. THE SWIMSUIT
Gabriel made a powerful statement on the Miss Universe stage with her "If Not Now, Then When?" cape that she designed herself using recycled plastics. Guess what? The bathing suit is just a regular bathing suit. Neon colors are perfect for the stage, and both bikinis and one-pieces are seen on contestants. The swimsuit competition continues to face scrutiny for objectifying women, but the new ownership of the Miss Universe pageant plans to keep it to promote health and well-being.
Tip: You'll never see a plain one-piece on the pageant stage. Elevate the look with fun cutouts like this hot pink number from Revolve. If you'd rather stick with a bikini, this suit from Free People comes in a range of eye-catching colors.
5. THE ACCESSORIES
If there's one universal experience that pageant girls share: it's the importance of a good statement earring. It doesn't matter if it's onstage or off, interview or evening gown; big earrings reign supreme. Our personal favorites are these floral earrings that Gabriel wore in a photo shoot with Dorian Qi before her crowning. In the world of pageantry, bigger really is better when it comes to a statement earring.
Tip: Consider this an insider source of pageant information. For us girls that don't have the budget for custom jewelry, we absolutely adore Kendra Scott for their rainbow of gemstones and larger-than-life pieces. If you're looking to shop small, Jenai's Jewels has fabulous handmade jewelry crafted by a pageant girl!
HONORABLE MENTION: THE NATIONAL COSTUME
The national costume, which is judged separately and doesn't affect the overall score, gives contestants an opportunity to showcase the beauty of their culture in a fashionable way. Gabriel's space-themed look, designed by Patrick Isorena, honors the first astronauts to walk on the moon and the advancement of women in space travel. This heavy creation made a powerful statement onstage and showcased one of the nation's greatest accomplishments, located in Gabriel's hometown of Houston.
Tip: Unfortunately, you'd have to work pretty hard to make a national costume wearable. Maybe try this American flag sweater from Ralph Lauren?