For a young woman competing in a pageant, selecting the right evening gown is as important as choosing the perfect wedding dress.

A wedding dress is all about making your dreams come true. The perfect pageant gown is about creating the illusion of perfection in your allotted minute of competition. The evening gown should make you stand out in a positive way, emphasizing your strong points and hiding everything you want hidden.

First consideration is the colour of the gown. Instinctively you may go for your favourite colour. However, this may not be a colour that looks good on stage or good on you under strong stage lights. The perfect colour may be one that you dislike.

Next is the shape of the dress. If you are 5’8” or taller you can probably get away with any shape. If you are 5’5” or less the most advisable shape is one that turns you into an upward pointing arrow, i.e. a column shape with a halter top and in a solid colour. Stay away from any dress that creates horizontal lines across your body, but do look for vertical lines. If your height is in between, the determining factor is your body shape.



The siren or fishtail dress is an extremely popular shape. I do advise against this shape though. If the dress is too narrow around the thighs and knees it will interfere with your walk. If you have wide hips, particularly with a narrow waist, the fishtail dress will draw inordinate attention to your hips.

Avoid two-piece dresses. They create horizontal lines and lack the elegance required for an evening gown competition. Avoid also dresses with very long trains, or trains in general, as they are difficult to handle and accidents waiting to happen.

The two dress shapes I recommend are two sides of the same coin, the column dress and the full-skirted ball gown. The column dress has no flares, whereas the full-skirted gown can have from a few to many flares. Both shapes work amazingly in a strapless style.

A classic example of the column dress was worn by Ariadne Gutierrez, Miss Colombia, in the 2015 Miss Universe Evening Gown competition.


The full-skirted gown is ideal for showcasing a narrow waist and an hourglass figure. If you have broad shoulders and narrow hips, this type of gown will balance out your figure and if you are bottom-heavy, this dress shape is ideal for drawing attention elsewhere.

The full-skirted gown even works for shorter girls, who should however wear platform shoes with this style. A great example is the gown styling of Olivia Culpo, Miss Universe 2012.

When selecting a gown, make sure you have at least one extra pair of critical eyes to look at you from every angle. Isn’t that how you would shop for your wedding dress?


Published by

Richard John Isa

Emerging photographer and Pageant Consultant

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