2012 was a landmark year for pageantry...
Pageant fans witnessed the controversial as transgender issues in pageant competition were addressed, and a defamation judgment of $5 million was awarded. Not to be overshadowed, was the celebration of Olivia Culpo returning the Miss Universe crown to the USA...the first time in 15 years.
2012 was also a memorable year for innovative and iconic gown designs and the young ladies that adorned them. To recognize these ladies and their gowns thePageantGuy.com presents the Top 10 Pageant Gowns of 2012.
To make this the most relevant and comprehensive Top 10 list, I contacted over 75 of pageantry's leading authorities across the country including gown designers, boutique owners, pageant coaches, seasoned pageant judges, hair and makeup stylists, photographers, and current and former state and national titleholders in the Miss America and Miss Universe organizations.
Gowns that were eligible for nomination were those worn by ANY contestant competing in ANY pageant, in ANY system during the 2012 calendar year, then ranked in Top 5 format with points for each placement.
Over 50 gowns were nominated...
...but only 10 made the list as the Top Pageant Gowns of 2012.
These gowns barely missed cracking the Top 10, but deserved special recognition (in alphabetical order)
Ashley Renee, designer and co-owner of Sassy Chic Boutique said: "When I designed this gown, I was thinking about the face, because that is what wins a pageant.
I wanted a sparkling frame, anchored by solid lines and beautiful draped fabric.
Jersey is the best fabric for this, leaves nothing and everything to the imagination."
Danielle Bounds-Hahn, also co-owner of Sassy Chic Boutique further added: "Lady like, regal, and sexy all rolled into one! It takes my breath away and demands stage presence.
It's simple & classic, makes her look so long; men love it, women love it.
What's not to love about this very memorable gown, It's perfect."
Gaspar, owner of Crown Couture, who has designed and dressed numerous national and international pageant titleholders provided thePageantGuy.com details on this special design:
"The gown is made of 20 yards of silk dupioni. Thousands of crystals and rhinestones and were made in less than a week.
All the appliques are hand sewn then adorned with rhinestones, loch roses and beads.
Marie-Lynn was originally going to wear a gold version of this dress and then decided at the last minute she wanted a black gown.
With only a week to make her a new one, I managed to get it done before she left for Las Vegas."
Miss USA 1995 and Executive Director of the Miss Nevada USA pageant, Shanna Moakler offered thePageantGuy.com this insight about Jade's gown: "Well the story behind her gown is different...sadly there was a wardrobe malfunction [with her initial gown], so I had to pick a gown out of all the gowns used in the [Fadil Berisha] goddess shoot as that is all we could get in such short notice, literally the night before prelims. I had pulled 3 different white gowns and that one just seems to fit. Jade seemed really confident in it, it was like trying on a wedding dress and just knowing THAT was the one!
I am so proud of Jade's flexibility to change her gown under such last minute terms and to work it so well. I could put her in a potato sack and she would wear it like a Versace. I couldn't be more proud how Jade rolled with the punches and still delivered a stellar performance...she is one for the history books!"
Robin Fleming, owner of La Casa Hermosa, gave thePageantGuy.com unique insight regarding this breathtaking gown: "La Casa Hermosa of Wellington has worked with Miss Peru Universe 2009 Karen Schwarz and again this year, for Top 15 finalist Miss Peru Universe 2012 - Nicole Faveron. Stylist Louis Calveiro had Nicole come into the store for an appointment with me, and the three of us worked as a team, having Nicole try on many gowns to determine the best gown for her coloring, height, figure, and personality. Her gorgeous figure, carriage, and posture really enabled us to put her in the full out glamour of an illusion gown, bedecked in the gold and Aurora Borealis Swarovski stones designed by MacDuggal, with the unique design elements of the one sleeve, typically more difficult to pull off on a slighter girl. In other words, both Louis and myself at La Casa Hermosa felt this gown just 'sang' on her body when she took the runway, and it was voted Best Evening Gown at Miss Universe by the Global Beauties bloggers. It was really a case of the perfect marriage of gown to girl which created a magic that could not be denied."
Antoinette Romero, pageant coordinator at MacDuggal further added: "Miss Peru Universe 2012's gown is a new piece from the Spring 2013 Collection, style number 50080P. The gown will be available in stores starting January 2013. It's a fulling beaded gown on netting, with an illusion key hole back design and a illusion side at one side. The retail of this gown is $3500. Expect this gown to become one of the hottest gown this season."
Nick Verreos, fashion designer and Project Runway contestant, commented on Janine's gown: "Janine, the First Runner Up to Miss Universe 2012, wore an aqua blue iridescent organza strapless gown. She looked like a "Pageant Angel" in this. It featured a strapless folded top section with intricate crystal beading detail and a fan-pleated full skirt. This gown on someone else, with it's iridescent and sheer fabric, could have been a Pageant disaster; but for Janine I have just three words: She WORKED it! Overtime. The way she walked and then did her "Cobra" head moves and then finished it with her arm across the waist pose. Drag Queens across the World will be copying it! It was MAGICAL. She should have won. Just from that alone."
The Philippines has produced 2 Miss Universe titleholders, the last in 1973. Over the past 3 Miss Universe pageants they have continuously improved their placement in the Top 5 with this year's delegate placing 1st RU.
Next year will be 40 years since the Philippines last crowned a Miss Universe. Is 2013 the year of the Philippines?
The first gown appearing in our "Top 10 Pageant Gowns of 2012", placing #10, Is Miss Venezuela Universe 2012 - Irene Esser's gown designed by famed pageant gown designer from Venezuela, Gionni Straccia.
With this year's holiday themed edition of Miss Universe, her gown really captured the Christmas spirit yet still demonstrated the reputed fierceness that Venezuela is known to bring to the Miss Universe stage.
In our expert poll, Miss Venezuela Universe 2012's gown fell victim to split voting.
Let me explain...during the Miss Universe 2012 pageant, she wore separate (yet both very beautiful) gowns for the preliminary competition and for finals.
But for the Top Pageant Gowns of 2012, the gown she wore for finals made our Top 10.
However, if you combined Miss Venezuela Universe 2012's votes for BOTH her preliminary and finals gowns she would have easily made our Top 5.
Then again...if she would've answered her on-stage question more articulately, we also could be looking at a different Miss Universe 2012 Top 5 lineup.
This is quite possibly the most discussed gown at Miss USA 2012. Whether it was the canary yellow color, the drapery-like volume of this Sherri Hill piece, or the gorgeous woman walking in it, you couldn't forget this gown!
My first impression when I saw this gown in person during the preliminary competition at Miss USA 2012 was how it filled up the rather large stage yet still had a graceful, fluid motion in her presentation.
When asked by thePageantGuy.com, Miss Ohio USA 2012 - Audrey Bolte said this about her gown:
"Leading up to Miss USA 2012, I honestly didn't have a clue what direction I would go. I've never been a huge sparkle, rhinestone girl...I love the more elegant, simply classic fashion. Sherri Hill had a good idea behind my personality and wanted a dress to showcase it. Sherri along with my Miss Ohio USA gown sponsor, Henri's Cloud Nine, pulled out the yellow raw silk gown.
Upon seeing it for the first time, it the most beautiful, huge couture gown I have ever seen...it was like we were destined to walk the stage together. The gown is 100% raw silk with beautiful texture! It's actually extremely light weight...only a tiny amount of crinoline at the hips. The design of the dress let the air carry it and flow. It was truly an honor to wear such a one of a kind gown from Sherri Hill...I loved it!
Wearing it at Miss USA 2012, I felt like I was Superwoman and I wanted the runway to be 50 feet longer! It was nicknamed 'The School Bus' due to its large size and wide turn ratio haha!"
Introducing Miss Utah USA 2012 - Kendyl Bell's gown for Miss USA 2012.
Kendyl gave thePageantGuy.com these comments about her gown: "When I first saw my gown I remember thinking it had a beautiful Hollywood glamour like style about it. It seemed to scream class, that was part of my thought process in selecting my gown. I wanted to be classy and sexy. I really wanted to emphasize my waistline, this gown accomplished that. Red was an easy color choice, I tried on other colors but my director and I knew red was it! Nothing compared to it!
Nothing can describe how I felt in my gown on the Miss USA stage. Every time I put on my gown or a fitting or to show someone I felt like a queen. It was very overwhelming to feel so elegant, regal, classy, and sexy all at the same time. That coupled with the sense of accomplishment of competing in Miss USA is a moment I will never forget.
The only additional thing I would like to add is it is important to know what you want to be remembered as in selecting a gown. I wanted people to remember me as the girl with total class, a red hot bombshell, and the best waistline. Felt like a slam dunk for me in my evening gown."
Had Miss Utah USA 2012 advanced as a Top 15 semifinalist at Miss USA 2012, (and be seen by millions on television) I am quite certain that this gown would easily be in our Top 5 list of gowns.
Making a powerful statement in red, this form fitting gown is a sequined one shoulder, and hidden behind her sash in this photo is beading over her left hip.
"Simple. Elegant. Classic." ...is what I remember telling people during the pageant about this Sherri Hill designed gown.
My first impression of Kendyl's gown was that it reminded me so much of the Miss Universe Organization's logo.
What do you think?
The front runner pick on nearly everyone's list as the next Miss Universe, Melinda failed to place in the Top 5 at Miss Universe 2012, and the same applies here in our expert gown poll.
However, this one shoulder, golden creation was still favored among many. Here's what a few said:
Ephraim Danforth of Muzzie's Couture said, "Love the contemporary take on a traditional pageant gown. The gold paillettes really catch the light and give movement to what could otherwise be a 'heavy' presenting gown. Delivered both in person and on camera. The 'perfect storm' of pageant gowns! Love that it is so wearable and that I don't have to work so hard to 'get' it."
As one of her top picks, Beth Graves of Think Twice Fashions said this about Miss South Africa Universe 2012's gown, "Very unique! The hard texture of the gown combined with it's feminine style makes this gown a stand out!"
This gown first debuted at Paris Couture Fashion Week this past summer, but Lebanese designer Georges Hobieka's most recent and memorable pageant client is the current Miss Universe 2012 - Olivia Culpo.
In this gown creation, Olivia broke the pageant gown mold by wearing long sleeves without a hint of rhinestones...in doing so she captured the Miss Universe 2012 title.
On Twitter the night of the pageant, I remember the love/hate tweets about Olivia's gown -- a sign of an iconic gown in the making.
Solidifying this gown's place in history was Olivia's Miss Universe 2012 win and only the 3rd Miss Universe to be crowned in long sleeves...and quite possibly the first with a belly button neckline plunge!
Reaching out to Miss USA 2011 - Alyssa Campanella, she told thePageantGuy.com this about Olivia's gown:
"A few weeks before she left for Miss Universe 2012, I helped Olivia narrow down a gown color to red. We knew it would really pop onstage. Shortly after, Olivia sent me a photo of the gown she wanted to wear for Miss Universe but I was not quite sold immediately. But she told me that she felt like a Miss Universe in her Georges Hobeika gown as soon as she tried it on, and my golden rule is you should wear a gown that makes you feel like a queen. And when she came out onstage in that gown she did look every inch a queen. You can also tell she loved her gown so much because she refused to change it for the telecast and she had so much fun with it during the final look! I am so proud of her for sticking to her gut in wearing a gown that SHE felt special in, and for stepping outside the box by gracing the Miss Universe stage with such an unforgettable couture style."
Although tied with Miss Universe 2012 for the 5th spot, this gown worn by Miss Bristol USA 2012 for the Miss Virginia USA 2013 pageant actually received more 1st place votes (but still tied with for total points).
Miss Bristol USA 2012 - Sarah Jones' gown was a custom design by Robin Fleming of La Casa Hermosa.
Robin shares with thePageantGuy.com her thoughts on designing this beautiful gown, "Sarah Jones is a long time client of LCH and was competing for her last year of qualification at Miss VA USA. When she approached me about a custom gown, I wanted to pull out all the stops and do a 'drop dead' sexy yet elegant and glamorous gown for her. I chose the white jersey to showcase her fabulous figure, and the gold Swarovski artwork at the waist line, repeated at the epaulettes at the shoulders and the open back to compliment the honey gold tones of her brunette hair and show off her gorgeous skin. Working from Sarah's measurements I designed this gown after drawing on her body the ideal bodice/ neckline using a tape measure, muslin and a fabric marker. My inspiration was partially drawn from The Cleopatra exhibit on display in Los Angeles California Science Museum, combined with Sarah's unique beauty. I love to draw on strong fabulous female influences from the past to design for modern day women."
Pageants can't have a tie resulting in two 4th RU's, so if I were to hold a tie breaker based on who received the most 1st place votes (versus a tie breaker on pageant win-loss records...with Olivia being undefeated) then Miss Bristol USA 2012's gown would be awarded the tie breaker. But since I don't have a tie break for this poll, I'll let you decide who gets 4th RU
Coming in at 3rd RU is the reigning Miss Alabama USA 2013 - Mary-Margaret McCord's winning gown for her state pageant.
When thePageantGuy.com asked about her winning gown for Miss Alabama USA 2013, Mary-Margaret said: "My dress is a custom Claire's Collection. Steven Fields from J.S. Fields and Company in Nashville, TN helped me design and pick it out. After I placed 1st RU at Miss Alabama USA last year, I started planning my next dress right away. My favorite color to wear is black, but I hadn't found the perfect black dress yet. Steven came to Atlanta Market with me in August and we were able to pick and choose pieces of other gowns and basically design my gown from scratch. We ordered it in August and since it was a custom gown, I had to wait until November when it came in, so I didn't get to try on my actual dress until two weeks before Miss Alabama USA 2013!
I was blown away when I first tried it on. I wanted to wear black because I wanted to have a 'darker' look. It is my favorite dress I have ever worn by far! I felt so amazing in this gown. It was so simple, yet so detailed with beading and construction of the dress. I couldn't have asked for a better dress to compete in, and I have Steven Fields to thank for that. I was so in love with my dress that it only added to my confidence!
Because I did not see my dress until two weeks before Miss Alabama USA, I had the worst nightmares about it. I would dream that it came in and it was a cotton maxi dress or that it was a big white poofy dress...it was awful! In my dream I even asked my alterations lady if it was possible to put beading on the cotton maxi dress :)"
Our 2nd RU gown belongs to Miss Brazil Universe 2012 - Gabriela Markus. Gabriela's gown was designed by Brazilian designer Alexandre Dutra, the same designer for Miss Universe 2011 - Leila Lopes' gown. This strapless gown had a unique, symmetrical sequin design which brought your focus inward, and along with the slit down the center, it really looked like she sparkled from within! This was one of my favorite gowns at Miss Universe 2012. Here's what others had to say:
Miss New Jersey USA 2012 - Michelle Leonardo said this about the gown, "I chose this gown as my winner because I remember when she stepped out on stage I said to myself 'Wow, now she looks like a diamond.' It's hot and sexy, figure flattering, and makes you look. The detailing is also perfection."
Mr. USB 2012 - Roy Garcia further added, "I look for a gown that encompasses both Pageant Dazzle and Red Carpet Glamour. Rarely do we see a gown cross a pageant stage that can capture both looks, but Miss Brazil’s gown certainly did that. Not only was the gown Red Carpet worthy, but the design and bead work of the gown accentuated her beautiful figure and tiny waist."
This gown placed the highest amongst all teen gowns nominated and is the only one in the Top 10. This custom gown worn by Miss Dallas Teen USA 2012 - Brooklynne Young during the Miss Texas Teen USA 2013 pageant was designed and handmade by her older sister Alexis Lantz.
Alexis Lantz of Alexis Lantz Couture provided thePageantGuy.com some design insight on her unique gown concept: "Last fall I was stopped in my tracks by Taylor Swift’s Wonderstruck perfume ad that I saw in a department store. This year I decided that I wanted to go all out with Brooklynne’s evening gown for Miss Texas Teen USA 2013, incorporating some of the features from the Wonderstruck ad. I wanted to use blush pink silk duchess satin for the bodice and for a gown with this much ruffle and tulle it was important that the pink be just right – not too 'little girl pink' but just enough pink to compliment the romantic softness of the design.
I decided to make the gown with silk organza, because the fabric supplier for the blush pink silk duchess satin also carried the same color in silk organza. I then decided to just use ivory tulle because, mixed in with the organza, it would give a soft, cloud-like effect to the gown. I ended up ordering 75 yards of 54-inch tulle (for the large skirt panels), 400 yards of 12-inch tulle (for the large ruffles), and a whopping 1,150 yards of 6-inch tulle (to be doubled over and sewn into the smallest ruffles). I used a mix of Swarovski AB, Clear, and Golden Shadow Chaton Rose Montees (in stone sizes ranging from SS20-40), as well as some large Swarovski cushion and marquis cut accent stones. Some Swarovski Ivory Pearls (4 mm and 8 mm) were added for depth and texture. I loved how the pearls brought an elegance and softness to the gown. The beading was done on a base of the blush pink silk organza, which was stretched across a large embroidery frame."
Ashley Renee of Sassy Chic Boutique commented, "I absolutely love this gown!!! It is the IDEAL teen princess gown....the tulle onto of tulle!!! This peach color is breathtaking.....there is nothing I don't like about this gown, besides that I didn't think of it!!"
Among others who commented said, "This was the most unique, show stopping teen gown I have ever seen. It was phenomenal, daring, and fun wrapped in one fluffy package!" and "Most original, angelic dress I have ever seen!"
When thePageantGuy.com asked about her gown, Miss Dallas Teen USA 2012 - Brooklynne Young explained, "The first time I actually walked in my gown, fully finished, was on stage at Miss Texas Teen USA 2013. My breath was taken away by how comfortable and beautiful I felt in it. I felt so confident in it and I was overjoyed to wear it. The whole entire gown is custom from the bead work on the bodice to the dyeing of the fabric!
My sister went to great lengths to make it a show-stopper. It was very funny seeing her dye the fabric in a huge pot outside on our grill...if that's not custom then I don't know what is!!"
Most iconic gowns are very polarizing...you either love it or hate it. However, Miss Georgia USA 2012, Jazz Wilkins' gown was a love it/love it gown. Receiving the highest 1st place votes and placing Top 5 in over half of all our expert polls, Miss Georgia USA 2012's gown is the Top Pageant Gown of 2012.
Miss Georgia USA 2012 - Jazz Wilkins provided thePageantGuy.com her thoughts about her iconic gown of 2012: "My gown was designed by Randall Smith out of Atlanta, GA. When I first saw the gown (before Miss Georgia USA 2012), I was nervous as to whether I could pull it off or not! It's very daring with such a plunging neckline but I got so many compliments on it after the pageant. The long sleeved white gown I wore to Miss USA was actually a modified version of the gown I wore at my state pageant. That gown just worked so well for me the first time that I didn't want to switch it up too much and go with something completely different, so we added an open back and embellished the V cut in the front.
I just feel like when you find something that works for you stick with it! I felt way more confident wearing it the 2nd time around at Miss USA 2012 than I did at my state pageant...even after the fact that we made it even MORE daring. I just felt like this was kind of my lucky dress since it helped me win my first pageant ever. Granted there are plenty of 'white long sleeved' gowns out there by so many designers, but I just felt like I couldn't go wrong with this one. I even named her 'old reliable' LOL!
Something many people may not know is before I went on stage at Miss Georgia USA 2012, I got a huge stain on the back of my dress that I awkwardly tried to hide with my hand when I did my gown presentation. I told myself, 'If I win this thing...I am not wearing white to Miss USA'. But we all see that was not the case "
Here's what others said about the Top Pageant Gown of 2012:
Current Miss Virginia USA 2013 - Shannon McAnally commented, "Besides the fact that this gown fit Miss Georgia USA like a glove, it was the most simplistic, sexy gown showcasing her body without taking away from her face. For that reason, I chose it as my winner. I have never seen a more perfect balance of gown vs. contestant than with this one."
Travis Stanton, a pageant judge in several 2012 USA state pageants, also commented, "This girl was born to wear this gown. On anybody else, it would probably be just another pretty white dress. But her skin and figure elevate this beyond the realm of mere evening gown. Unlike many great gowns that threaten to overpower the girl, this gown was made even more appealing because it was the perfect compliment to everything Jazz brought to the table."
Current Miss South Carolina USA 2013 - Megan Pinckney also added, "This dress is a classic interpretation of the 'pageant gown'. For years to come people will look at it and see its beauty. Never will it be seen as dated!"
To address some questions, concerns, and comments, I have included a short editorial for your entertainment and reading pleasure.
1) The Top 10 rankings are off.
If your girl wasn't mentioned or wasn't in the Top 10, then I'm sure you will say the rankings are off. I AGREE! Although I didn't vote, my TOP pick came in 8th place and several of my Top 5 didn't even get an honorable mention.
2) There are no Miss America gowns in your Top 10.
I had a MAO gown in my personal Top 5 (Miss Oklahoma 2011's gown at Miss America 2012), but I didn't count any of my votes. For this poll, I contacted respected leaders that follow both MUO and MAO pageants. Some strictly and only follow MAO. Several MAO gowns were nominated. Some of the strictly MAO folk submitted their Top 5, and some didn't submit anything. Of those that did, many of their Top 5 didn't have a MAO gown in it. With Miss America at the beginning of the year and the gown review at the end, could it be an "out of mind, out of sight" scenario? Maybe.
3) Won't those pageant experts just vote for their friends and clients?
Some will and some wont...but probably yes. But I am guessing you would too, right? If I opened up voting to the general public I'm sure it would be very much the same or might even go a bit further, inviting their entire Facebook friend list to vote for their daughter/sister/niece/etc. So why not use a smaller sample size consisting of knowledgeable pageant experts that I know and respect as credible and competent?
**So, please don't get upset. This isn't a science, it's just a poll and there's no prize package awarded here. You didn't spend any money, maybe 5 minutes of your time. This was just for fun. Pageants are supposed to be fun right? If it's ALWAYS about competition for you then go play sports. If you aren't a team player, try golf
-Will the Pageant Guy
This article was written by Will the Pageant Guy
I'm the Guy at thePageantGuy.com