Inside the Making of a Gown (E. Safrit)

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GUEST BLOG: Gown designer MacDuggal

My first meeting with Elizabeth was when she walked in my runway show for the premiere of the Spring 2015 collections. She had recently been crowned Miss United States 2014, and I was immediately impressed with her character, style and poise. I knew she would be a strong contender for one of the biggest pageants in the world and was eager to design a one of a kind magnificent creation for this beautiful woman.

Speaking with Mr. Chris Wilmer, pageant director for Miss United States shortly after, he felt based on my experience, vision and prior successes I was the perfect designer for the Miss World Pageant wardrobe and our collaboration began.

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The original design with neckline beading

During our second meeting I had Elizabeth try on a variety of my gowns in all kinds of fabrics, colors, and body shapes. Right away, I knew that the mermaid style looked marvelous and provided an amazing fit for her longer body.

Now that I knew Elizabeth should wear a mermaid style dress, I also realized that I wanted the gown to look clean and grand. Elizabeth completely agreed although this was outside “the sparkle queen” image she had presented in the past wearing typical pageant gowns.  We were all confident that if Elizabeth was to make an impact as Miss United States, then this was our direction.

The original design was based on a previous pageant style.  Although this original style has very minimal beading, Elizabeth’s gown would not have any. In addition I added ¼ inch straps, which perfectly complimented her frame and bone structure. My vision was for her to envelope the Hollywood red carpet glamour without anything to distract from her facial beauty.

Elizabeth’s contribution to the design was a plunging neckline. My research showed that in previous Miss World competitions this is not a standard feature. However, this detail proved to be a major success.

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Gown Sketch by MacDuggal. Named “Lal Rani”

The last decision came to the final color. Sometimes girls think of color coming first, but it is the last thing I think about. I believe that it’s best to create a design that will best showcase you and your walk first.

Elizabeth had to decide between red and white. Originally Elizabeth had been crowned in white, but she really wanted a red dress. It was truly a hard decision to make, but she trusted me with the final choice.

The red version of the dress truly lit up her face. It was unbelievable, the red gown even made her eyes glisten.

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Elizabeth seeing her gown for the first time

When the gown was finally completed, it took up an entire garment rack on its own...

I couldn’t just give this magnificent creation a style number, it needed so much more. The dress needed a name.

I christened the gown “Lal Rani,” meaning the Red Queen in my native tongue.

Elizabeth was stunned when she first laid eyes on “Lal Rani.”  She kept asking over and over, “Is that really my gown?!”

At first, my team and I had to help her walk in her dress because of the voluminous Mikado fabric, and extended train. Making her keep her eyes closed until she first saw herself in the mirror added to the anticipation. When she opened her eyes, she started crying instantly and said, “It is everything that I could have ever imagined!”

"I was so excited to see the dress that Mac took me directly back to where it was hanging, before we even got a chance to talk. He didn't want to keep me waiting any longer, which I was thankful for since I felt like I was about to burst with anticipation! When I saw it, I couldn't take a big goofy smile off my face. I also remember giggling because I was so giddy! I imagine trying on your Miss World gown is similar to trying on a wedding dress and finding the right one -- I just felt like it was part of me. It was just RIGHT and it was simply me. I had tears because it was perfect in every way. I can't thank Mac enough for giving me my dream dress and making me feel like Miss World every time we worked together. He is, like his designs, one of a kind!"
–Elizabeth Safrit, Miss United States 2014

As a designer, these words were so utterly heartwarming and I felt a deep sense of satisfaction.  These are the moments that have kept me enraptured with my work and profession for over thirty years.

Britain Miss World

(Photos courtesy of MacDuggal, Miss United States Organization, and Miss World Organization)

This article was written by Guest Blogger

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