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How to Select the Perfect Gown Based on Your Pageant System

23, April 2016

Caroline Carothers, Miss Texas 2016 and Her Court - Photo: Miss Texas Pageant Caroline Carothers, Miss Texas 2016 and Her Court - Photo: Miss Texas Pageant

No two pageant systems are identical. Different systems have different expectations and requirements, so before you compete, you need to know what judges and directors are looking for in a Miss-so-and-so. Beginning with… evening gown.

Finding the Perfect Gown

Age Appropriateness

If you aren’t in the loop – and there are a lot of loops to keep up with – knowing when young contestants should transition from cutesy to all grown up can be difficult to determine.

One dilemma that comes with that decision is when to make the switch from short dresses to long dresses. In some systems, girls will wear short dresses in evening gown up until the preteen age division, while in others, girls tend to wear longer gowns sooner. (You’ll need one of these heels for a long evening gown: Pageant Evening Gown Shoes)

Another question regarding age is: Does the system prefer a young or a mature look? I’m not talking a low-cut, high-slit gown on a preteen. That is never okay. The question is when to choose a gown that is more mature looking than Cinderella-esque.

The way to make the best gown choice to ensure age appropriateness for your pageant system is to watch what wins. Go see a pageant before you compete and check out past winners. It is also a good idea to simply ask. Get a few outside opinions from people who are very familiar with your pageant system. (For personalized advice on your wardrobe strategy, let us help: VIP Membership Trial)


Of the entire color spectrum, we know that white, red, and black are winning evening gown colors. But, that doesn’t mean you should choose them for that reason alone.

Think about the stage you will compete on. Will black blend into the backdrop? Will red complement your skin tone? Will white – okay, white is always a good idea.

The point is, you can choose to follow the straight path of winning color trends or you could make your own and be just as successful. Nina Davuluri, Miss America 2014, won in yellow, an uncommon color on the Miss America stage. You never know.


We often get so excited about a gown that we love that we fail to realize the reality of it. For example, if it has a train, it could be hard to walk in. The evening gown you choose has an impact on the way that you model it on stage.

Comfort is important, too. If you are not comfortable in strapless gowns and have to constantly tug at them, well, you may be better off looking down the next aisle of dresses.

You can choose your evening gown based off of what wins or what you love, but whatever you do, find something that flatters you. That goes for color, shape, and even personality. You can mimic the look of a winner, but always do what is best for you. (Read: 6 Secrets to Discovering the Perfect Evening Gown for Your Next Pageant)

You have to think past the initial WOW factor of your gown to the logistics of modeling in it. This is serious stuff.


Your evening gown is just one way of showing the judges and the audience who you are. Every aspect of your gown, especially style, give insight into your personality. Therefore, I urge you to be wise in your gown selection by not just choosing something you think is pretty or popular.

Look at your gown from the judges’ perspective and ask yourself if this style is flattering on you and what impression it gives someone who just met you. Consider the job you are competing for. What is your role and what do you want your image to be as a titleholder? Once you determine that, you can easily decide whether or not you want to go edgy, timeless, etc.

There are certain trends and expectations in evening gown that are different for most systems. To determine these winning evening gown trends, research past winners in your same pageant system and age division and take note of any commonalities among winners.

Don’t be too timid to contact people who are involved in your pageant system and ask about what is preferred and sought after in a winner… and her perfect gown.

You are sure to find ways to apply those characteristics to your evening gown if you so choose, but remember that every set of judges is different and every girl is different. The way to choose the best evening gown for your pageant system, after taking these factors into consideration, is to choose the gown for YOU.


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