Some of you may be competing for the first time in the Miss America System. I remember entering this new world of Miss America and taking my daughter shopping for wardrobe that seemed to have mystical requirements and huge sticker prices. It was a particular type of swimsuit she needed or a business suit for interview that she would never wear again outside of the pageant world. (Now even more in Miss America 2.0, the wardrobe you need for a local competition should not be clothing that you wouldn't find in your existing wardrobe.)
What I didn't know is that no one should spend a lot of money to compete in a local preliminary Miss America competition. In fact, chances are, you can compete quite successfully without spending anything extra. Here are some suggestions to help you think about what you already have that could show you at your best in the competition:
Interview: Gone are the days that you need a business suit to compete in a pageant interview. Think about what you already own as you consider this criteria: Choose something that flatters your shape and draws attention to your face. It can be a nice dress or a pant outfit that looks like something you would wear in a downtown professional office. It doesn't have to be expensive, but it should fit properly. Make sure that you feel comfortable in it and you don't find yourself fidgeting with it. For example, if the neckline plunges and is at risk for showing your bra, you will be self conscious during the interview. That will come across in a negative way. Try your dress on and walk up to your mirror above your bathroom vanity and determine if you like what you see. Since you will be behind a podium, the main focus will be on your upper body and face. But don't forget that your first impression is when you enter the room. Make sure you are wearing heels that will help you walk vibrantly into the room.
Talent: Wardrobe should complement the piece you are performing and not inhibit you from really selling your performance on stage. The judges will start forming an opinion the moment you walk out on stage, so don't underestimate how important your costume is. Practice in your outfit so you know how you move in it, this includes jewelry. If you are wearing a headset mic, large earrings could get tangled in the headset or worse yet, make a banging noise against the mic as you are doing your performance. Practice as if you are doing the real performance. That will get the nerves out and give you the extra edge to really wow your audience.
Lifestyle and Fitness: Teens should pick a workout outfit that is something bright and vibrant. Cutaway details in the top or leggings are acceptable, as long as it doesn't make you (or your parents) uncomfortable. You can use a sports wear from standard retailers (Target, Macy's, Venus) but make sure that the fabric is not so thin that you can see through the clothing under bright lights. A top that is lined will prevent that problem. In Miss America 2.0, Miss candidates no longer compete in swimsuit.
Evening Gown: Probably every young woman in a Miss America local recycled her prom dress for her first local competition. That is absolutely fine to do that. Just make sure the fit is right and that you feel comfortable in the dress. Definitely don't go out and purchase an expensive evening gown just to compete in a local competition. Look at after prom sales, second hand shops or borrow a nice dress from a friend (as long as it fits well). If you win a title, wardrobe expectations are higher when you compete at the state competition for Miss Minnesota, and even more expectations if you are lucky enough to compete at Miss America. With those expectations, there are often dress sponsorships, which will help you pay for a really cool dress. Lastly, you should look at the current trends by watching the latest Miss Minnesota or Miss America pageants (check the websites for photos). But don't choose something just because last year's winner won in it. Instead, learn from how they carried themselves in the dress and how it complemented their personality. You are a different person, so find the dress that is right for you. Sometimes that dress is right in your closet already. Miss America 2.0 is expanding the idea of "red carpet" and not everyone wears a gown. We have seen some competitors win in a nice short dress or even a pant suit.
On Stage Question: Teens do On Stage Question in their Evening Gown. According to the prescribed format, teens answer their question right after they model their Evening Gown. Miss compete in On Stage Question as an extension of their private interview, so they will wear the same outfit they wore for interview.
Be wise in the wardrobe you select:
--Think of items that you have gotten compliments on: what color/shape/styles seem to coincide with positive impressions?
--Re-purpose what you already have.
--Check everything for a good fit and get alterations if you need (not too early to start thinking about that for January)
--Make sure everything looks well kept (pressed, no missing buttons, dragging hems, etc)
Mostly, have fun with selecting your wardrobe and make sure it reflects you well. In the end, it should make you feel fantastic both in interview and on stage. It is YOU who will win over the judges, not what you are wearing.