Each dress is an extension of their personality and can make or break a competitor’s edge. These gowns aren’t just dresses – they’re statement pieces. These gowns are works of art that combine elegance, creativity, and a touch of magic. From the runway to the crown, each gown tells a story of poise, personality, and the art of making an unforgettable entrance. Ladies and gentlemen, we now present the most stunning Miss America pageant gowns you’ve ever seen.
Margaret Gorman, The First Miss America
This look is for you if you love vintage fashion. Unless you’re a hardcore fan, you probably don’t know who holds the title of the first official Miss America. Well, here she is. Margaret Gorman was only sixteen when she won the inaugural competition in Atlantic City in 1921. Interestingly, she wasn’t officially crowned until a year later, which was when this photo was taken.
Margaret proudly stands on stage sporting a very regal-looking outfit, complete with an elaborate crown and quintessentially 20s dress. The photo is in black and white, but records state that the gown was a sea-green chiffon. Take away the striped cape and sea-worthy crown, and Margaret’s dress would fit right in at a cocktail party today. It’s absolutely beautiful.
A Stunning Group Photo
We absolutely love this group photo of Miss America contestants from a bygone era. The image is undated, but we can infer that it was taken sometime in the 1920s, based on the women’s outfits. Every woman’s gown in this photo is so unique and gorgeously crafted. From elaborate feathered headdresses to delicately beaded bodices, this photo encapsulates every milestone of Roaring 20s fashion.
We love how different every woman’s outfit is. If you take a closer look, you’ll notice that some women are wearing harem pants while others are wearing more flapper-esque styles. It’s also interesting to observe how some young women are smiling while others have a more serious expression as a remnant of turn-of-the-century portraiture. Each woman stands out for her own beauty and poise, which is what Miss America is all about.
Miss Ruth Malcomson, “The Golden Mermaid”
It’s quite interesting to see how the Miss America event has changed over the decades. This photo of Miss Ruth Malcomson was taken during the 1923 contest in Atlantic City. Ruth’s experience in the Miss America pageant was probably a lot different than what young women experience today. In this photo, Ruth is wearing what appears to be an old-fashioned bathing suit.
However, the outfit stands out because she’s paired it with a fur coat. That seems like such an odd combination, right? We can’t help but wonder if the weather was too cold for a bathing suit, prompting Ruth to throw on that elegant piece of outerwear. Ruth was Miss Philadelphia before she won the 1923 pageant, unseating incumbent Mary Campbell. Interestingly, the winner of the Miss America pageant was still called “The Golden Mermaid” at this time.
The 1925 Miss America Pageant
Miss America has always been an event full of pomp and circumstance. This line-up of Miss America contestants in 1925 shows just how elaborate their gowns used to be back in the day. Every woman has their signature flapper hairstyle and chic makeup. They’re also wearing glitzy gowns. Well, all except for the woman on the right.
Fay Lanphier, aka Miss California, is the only woman in this photo who isn’t all dressed up. The photographer seems to have caught her before she was done getting ready. All of the other women are wearing shiny, gorgeous gowns. The one that particularly stands out is the one right next to Fay. Just look at that showgirl costume. In an ironic twist, Fay would end up winning the 1925 Miss America pageant. We wonder what her winning outfit looked like.
Miss Norma Smallwood on Her Throne
We have to imagine that being crowned Miss America is a surreal moment. As the winner bends their head to receive the crown, she must feel like a real-life queen. When Miss Norma Smallwood won the Miss America competition in 1926, the event went all out. By the looks of this photo, they gave Norma an all-out coronation.
Norma is seated on a throne with a scepter, crown, and royal cloak. Her 20s-era gown looks to be elaborately beaded with delicate designs. In classic evening gown fashion, velvet seems to be the main fabric of the dress. The dress is stunning, which comes as no surprise. Norma won the “best-dressed girl in an evening gown” portion of the competition that year.
Miss Lois Delander, the Glam Queen
This photograph of Lois Delander, Miss America 1927, may be in black-and-white, but it is vivid nonetheless. The sparkles just jump off the page. Lois is wearing a shiny evening gown that has delicate, shimmery beading on the bodice. She must have dressed for the part she wanted because it perfectly compliments the sequins, beading, and crystals on her Miss America get-up.
We’ve never seen a royal cloak with so many sequins. It’s practically making us squint through our computer screens all these years later. We’re not mad about it. Lois’ look is absolutely stunning. The crystal-encrusted scepter and beautiful crown are just icing on the cake.
“The Viking Queen,” Margaret Ekdahl
Although it wouldn’t fly today, Margaret “Mickey” Ekdahl was nicknamed “The Viking Queen” when she was crowned Miss America in 1930. The thinking behind the nickname came from the fact that she was born in Sweden in 1912. Plus, her beauty was strikingly unique compared to other contestants.
In this photo, a young and vibrant Margaret stands with her Miss America sash and crown. Her outfit would be considered a cute evening look today, but back in 1930, it was probably a swimsuit. Nevertheless, it’s one fancy swimsuit. It’s glistening, glittering, and glowing, just like her crown. Margaret will always be remembered for her radiant Miss America looks. Sadly, she would pass away just two years later from peritonitis.
Henrietta Leaver, the Queen of 1935
September 7, 1935, would change Henrietta Leaver’s life forever. On that day, she was crowned Miss America after competing in the pageant’s bathing suit competition. She had previously held the title of Miss Pittsburgh. Based on this photo, she was thrilled to win. She’s rosy-cheeked and smiling with her trophy, scepter and crown.
Miss America was really into the whole “queen imagery” aesthetic back in the 20s and 30s. You can’t really see Henrietta’s gown underneath the queen’s cloak, but it looks layered and frilly. We love a good bow accent on an evening gown look, honestly. Henrietta would go on to do a few screen tests and try her hand at acting in Hollywood.
Rose Coyle, Crowned in 1936
By the time Rose Coyle won the 1936 Miss America pageant, the contest had been around for a little over ten years. However, Rose was the first contestant to ever receive an encore during the competition. There’s a first for everything! Rose’s talent portion of the pageant included a rendition of the song “I Can't Escape from You,” made famous by Bing Crosby.
She then performed an eight-minute tap dance, and the crowd went wild. Her performance left no doubt in anyone’s mind that she would be crowned Miss America. Here she is with her prize trophy and crown, looking totally elated. She’s wearing what appears to be a classy velvet evening gown that would be the envy of any modern-day fashionista.
And the Crown Goes to…
This photo of the 1937 Miss America competition shows what has come to be the most iconic moment of the event. The five finalists are lined up on stage, waiting to hear who will be crowned Miss America. From left to right are Miss Texas, Miss North Carolina, Miss Miami, Miss California, and the future winner, Miss Bertrand Island. We love how different each woman’s dress looks from the others.
Miss North Carolina’s dress, in particular, stands out quite a bit. It’s completely sheer, which seems pretty out-of-the-ordinary for the 1930s. How scandalous. Miss Miami in the middle is rocking a classic bias-cut dress that looks quintessentially of the time. Bette Cooper, the future Miss America on the right, stands out with the cute flower appliques on her skirt. Honestly, we’d wear each and every one of these dresses.
Miss Ohio, Twice Crowned
Miss Marilyn Meseke has the distinction of being the only one crowned Miss Ohio twice. The first time she won, she was only 14 and therefore banned from competing in the Miss America pageant. She came back with a vengeance in 1938 and went on to win the Miss America title that very same year.
Marilyn was announced the winner at the end of the bathing suit section, which was quite common. The 1938 contest included a significant change. It was the first year that women were scored based on their talents and not just their beauty. Nevertheless, Marilyn still had to be photographed in her fancy, shiny swimsuit. She’s totally rocking it, though.
Patricia Donnelly, Shining Star
It’s a good thing old-fashioned swimsuits looked so fancy back in the day. Although Miss America contestants are undoubtedly prepared to pose in their swimsuits, it probably feels a lot fancier to be wearing an evening gown. Nevertheless, 1939 winner Patricia Donnelly is absolutely rocking her swimsuit look with that crown and trophy.
Her slingback heels and shining swimsuit are timeless and elegant, even if they’re meant to be more casual. The swimsuit was pretty modern for the time. The cut and material are prescient nods to what would become a style iconic to the 1940s. It seems that Miss Patricia Donnelly was ahead of the curve where fashion was concerned.
Everything’s Coming Up Rosemary LaPlanche
She’s beauty, she’s grace, she’s Miss America 1941. That’s Rosemary LaPlanche strutting her stuff on stage at the 1941 Miss America competition. She was crowned the winner after the swimsuit competition, which we can see based on the outfit underneath the royal cape.
Rosemary is all elegance and poise as she walks down the catwalk with her scepter, sash, and crown. There is something totally 1940s about this look, even though she’s just wearing a simple bathing suit. Rosemary might as well be working a couture evening gown with all the glitz and glam she’s naturally exuding in this photo. Her hair, her heels, and everything else worked perfectly together to create this iconic moment.
Miss America or Mrs. America?
Beauty pageants have been full of controversy since Miss America debuted. From swimsuit dress codes to racial disparities, the competition is not without its tensions. When Peggy Payne was crowned Miss America in 1945, it caused quite a stir when it came out that she was married. How dare a “Mrs.” compete in “Miss” America!
As an alternative, Peggy was crowned “Mrs. America,” which was a totally different competition because everyone knows women are completely different people once they’re married (not). Anyway, Miss Peggy was still crowned while wearing her cute swimsuit, and everything worked out in the end. Her two-piece suit is totally iconic, with a strapless bandeau top and high-waisted bottoms. Some designs are truly timeless.
The Most Iconic Miss America Duo
This 1940s photograph is so iconic we can’t stand it. It features BeBe Shopp, Miss America 1948, with world-famous American-born French performer Josephine Baker. The photo was taken at the Folies Bergère in Paris during BeBe’s year-long tour of Miss America appearances.
Josephine is introducing BeBe to the crowd as she stands there in a glamorous off-the-shoulder floral evening gown and delicate gloves. Although BeBe looks amazing, this photo is also culturally significant. Women of color were banned from competing in the Miss America pageant until 1970. The fact that BeBe, the symbolic face of an all-white institution, was collaborating with the famous Josephine Baker was a pretty big deal at the time.
Yolande Betbeze Fox, Renegade Miss America
Yolande Fox is an interesting Miss America figure. She won the title during the 1951 competition. By then, women were no longer being crowned while wearing swimsuits. So why is Yolande pictured here in a swimsuit with her trophy? Well, the winner was still expected to model in sponsor’s swimsuits as part of her Miss America duties.
Yolande is posing in a cute white swimsuit. Even though she’s smiling, we now know she wasn’t happy about this photo. Afterward, she refused to pose for swimsuit photos. This protest caused Miss America’s swimwear sponsor to pull its funding and start the rival Miss USA pageant. Yolande would go on to use her outspokenness as a social activist during the civil rights movement of the 60s and anti-war protests.
Colleen Kay Hutchins and Her Runner-Ups
Colleen Kay Hutchins won the Miss America title in September of 1951, making her the first Miss Utah to ever win the competition. By the 1950s, Miss America finalists were no longer required to show up on stage in their swimsuits, as we can see in this photo. The competition’s “princesses” surround Colleen, and they all look fabulous.
The color white seemed to be the name of the game during this competition. All of the women look stunning in florals, off-the-shoulder bodices, and poofy skirts. Each gown captures that classic 1950s silhouette of a fitting waist and A-line skirt. No wonder Miss America was aspirational for so many young women. They look so glamorous.
Evelyn Ay and Her Royal Court
Not all Miss America looks are hits. This 1954 shot of Miss America Evelyn Ay and her court of “princesses” shows a coordinated effort to look kind of silly. Evelyn is in the center in a floor-length silk gown and elaborate hat. The dress itself isn’t bad, but that headpiece did not age well.
Don’t get us started on the princesses' dresses. They’re all wearing matching sequin and silk minidresses, making them look like a dated bridesmaid party at someone’s wedding. The weirdest part of the whole ensemble was the hat they were required to wear. It looks like two bullhorns are emerging from their heads. These ladies most likely had no say about what they could wear to these photo-op events, so we feel for them.
The Passing of the Crown
The 1950s is really when the glitz and glam of Miss America started to ramp up. The contestants started going all out with their eveningwear looks during the final crowning ceremony. Naturally, everyone wanted to look their best in case they won the crown and had to pose for a celebratory photo.
This snapshot shows previous Miss America winner Evelyn Ay crowning her successor, Lee Ann Meriwether. Lee Ann didn’t hold back with the silhouette on this dress. She looks like a real-life queen with that gorgeous tulle skirt and fitted bodice. The strapless gown goes perfectly with her drop earrings and glistening crown.
Miss America in Technicolor
When Sharon Kay Ritchie was crowned Miss America in 1956, the United States got one of its first glimpses at a beauty queen in full color. Color photography was becoming more common, so fans could now see their favorite contestants and winners in a more realistic way.
This photo of Sharon Ritchie and the previous year’s winner, Lee Ann Meriweather, shows a more down-to-earth depiction of the queens. They’re still glamorous as all heck, but it’s humanizing to see them with their natural hair color and everything. Plus, it’s cool to see the real-life colors of these amazing ballgowns. Sharon looks so happy in her dramatic white gown and classic red lipstick. We love to see it.
The Difference in Dresses
There’s something about the 1950s that was so glamorous. At the time, the Miss America pageant really captured that sense of femininity and elegance that so many young girls wanted to emulate. This snapshot of Marian McKnight, who won Miss America 1957, shows just how glamorous these beauty contestants were.
Marian is seated in a poofy white dress while her Miss America predecessor Sharon Ritchie passes on her crown. It’s interesting to see how the now-former Miss America dresses so differently from the newly crowned winner. As a soon-to-be-retired queen, the predecessors often wear tighter, more mature dresses so as not to overshadow the new winner.
Walk That Runway, Queen
That moment when the winner of Miss America is announced must be nerve-wracking for all the finalists. Imagine the elation previous winners have felt when they realized they were to become the next Miss America. Of course, any good beauty pageant finishes with a celebratory runway walk, and Miss America 1958 was no different.
Winner Marilyn Van Derbur looks so happy in this photo. She’s absolutely floating amongst all the tulle in her evening gown. The dress looks more like a prom or cotillion dress by today’s standards, but it’s still super elegant. We love that sweetheart neckline and lace bodice.
Lynda Lee Mead, The 1960 Queen
As the 1960s rolled around, nothing major seemed to change for the Miss America competition. It was already pretty well-established, and fans knew what to expect. So, even as the social climate and popular fashion were changing, a lot of contestants were on the conservative side when it came to fashion.
Lynda Lee Mead looks radiant in her white gown and crown. Her strapless dress and white gloves were a look that was seen throughout the 50s, giving it a timeless appeal. A little bit of Lynda’s personal style peaks out with her jewelry, featuring a bold diamond bracelet and matching earrings. She looks fit to be a queen, which is pretty convenient.
Keep It Simple, Silly
Maria Fletcher kept it simple and classic for her Miss America 1962 look. When she was crowned Miss America, she wore a strapless white dress and classic white gloves to match. The poofy A-line skirt looks a lot like previous winners’ looks. Before you start judging Maria for her lack of originality, let’s talk about why most Miss America dresses looked the same in the 50s and 60s.
According to some judges, white and other neutral colors are encouraged for contestants' evening gown looks. The thinking behind this idea is that white is a “safe” color. It doesn’t distract from the woman wearing the dress. So, if a contestant wears a neutral color, the judges won’t be distracted by any spicy colors and can judge a woman based on her talents and good looks. We’ll leave it up to you to decide if that’s a fair point or not.
Camera Ready, Miss America Style
By the time 1963 rolled around, the Miss America pageant had already been nationally televised by CBS for a few years. This TV special brought in millions of viewers and was a great hit. With the widespread broadcast of the pageant, all the contestants were acutely aware that they needed to put their best foot forward.
There’s nothing more nerve-wracking than thinking about the millions of strangers watching you on television. Thankfully, Miss America contestants are professionals. Jacquelyn Mayer was the winner of Miss America 1963, and she is all beauty and grace next to program host Bert Parks. The scallop-edged neckline and brocade fabric of her dress are so elegant.
Miss America of 1964 and 1965
This photo is technically all about Vonda Van Dyke, the winner of Miss America 1965. But the thing is that we can barely see her gorgeous dress behind the giant bouquet of roses. Based on the years before, it’s safe to assume that Vonda was wearing a billowing, dramatic white evening gown.
Miss America 1964, on the other hand, is wearing something completely different. Donna Axua is rocking a stunning retro-fabulous evening gown with an entirely beaded bodice and structured skirt. The square neckline is a lot different from other evening gowns that were popular among Miss America contestants. This might just be the first hint of 60s mod fashion in a Miss America photo.
The Mentor and Mentee
The winners of the Miss America pageant all have a special connection to each other, whether they’ve met in person or not. Each woman has a unique experience, but we imagine the struggles and triumphs are very similar. Miss America winners are in a special class all their own, so it’s always interesting to see them interact with each other.
Worlds collided when Vonda Van Dyke, aka Miss America 1965, met Miss America 1945, Bess Myerson. Each woman won the crown 20 years apart, and their meeting probably had something to do with commemorating that anniversary. Bess looks chic in a beaded boatneck dress. A young Vonda played her part by wearing a youthful floral dress along with her crown.
From Small Town to Main Stage
When Sharon Singstock won the title of Miss Wisconsin in 1965, she could only dream of winning the Miss America title the next year. This photo of Sharon walking the Miss America stage in her evening gown shows just how much she transformed from a small-town beauty queen into a big-name winner.
The photo shows an interesting perspective because it also includes the pageant’s cameraman training his lens on Sharon. We so often see the polished and perfected photos of beauty queens with a hint of what goes on behind the scenes. Sharon still looks glamorous and perfect in her elegant gown, but we get a better idea of what it was really like for those women up on stage with this shot.
An In-Between Gown
Debra Barnes walked the runway at Boardwalk Hall when she won the Miss America 1968 contest. Her dress was a perfect example of how contestants were finally veering away from the 50s silhouette and old-fashioned fabrics. Instead of the usual prom-like gown, Debra wore a boatneck gown with thick lace stripes.
Her gown is cinched at the waist with a thick silk ribbon, breaking up the repetitive lace pattern. The dress captures the in-between style of the late 60s. It’s still mod in design and silhouette, but the materials are more relaxed and give off a 70s boho vibe. We never thought we’d describe a Miss America winner as having a “boho” style, but here we are.
A Shift in Fashion
The 1960s brought huge changes in society, politics, and fashion. Although Miss America has never marketed itself as a cutting-edge program, some more modern touches did make their way into the competition during the 60s. One example is this sleek shift dress worn by Nikki Peck, or Miss Indiana, in 1968.
The shift dress was popularized in the 1920s and then revitalized in the 1960s. It’s a flattering column-style dress that is shorter than traditional silhouettes but with less emphasis on curves. Nikki’s look is utterly modern. We wouldn’t be surprised if we saw someone wearing a shift dress like this to a fancy party or gala event today. Maybe shift dresses should have another moment. What do you think?
Pretty in Blue
This photo may be black-and-white, but we’re here to tell you that the winner of Miss America 1967 finally wore something other than a white dress. Jane Jayroe’s dress was a stunning baby blue with dark blue sequins and a flowing tulle skirt. What a breath of fresh air.
No hate to the other women who wore white. We just really love to see when people shake things up. The glittery bodice and striking dark blue accents make this dress stand out from the others. It’s beautiful, timeless, and really makes Jane’s dark hair pop. Jane’s winning evening look just goes to show that it’s okay to think outside the box.
New Decade, New Era?
The start of a new decade is always an exciting time. There’s always a sense in the air that things can start fresh and new when a brand-new decade begins. With the crowning of Miss America in 1970, the contest was shaking things up in the fashion department. The winner, Pamela Eldred, wore a bold evening gown that featured an embroidered bodice and flowy skirt.
Gone were the poofy white silhouettes of the 1950s and 60s. In their place came color, experimentation, and even more glam. This dress is all about the details, such as the single sequins sewn into the top or the delicate edging sewn into the skirt. In a later interview, Pamela revealed that Miss America pageants had always enchanted her. She finally had one of her dreams come true by winning this competition.
A Totally Groovy Winner
We love this reaction shot of Phyllis George when she learned that she was the new Miss America in 1971. Not only is she showing genuine surprise at being named the winner, but she’s also embodying quintessential 70s style. The empire waist was one of the most popular silhouettes of the decade, and Phyllis was right on trend.
A ton of the other girls in the background are wearing empire waist dresses, too. Honestly, all of the dresses in the background look like they could fit into a modern-day high school dance. The jewel and sequin encrusted tops give an extra kick of pizzazz to dress up what would otherwise be a pretty casual-looking dress.
The Ice Queen
We wouldn’t be surprised if the creators of Disney’s “Frozen” were inspired by this dress when they were brainstorming Elsa’s wardrobe. This light blue evening gown was worn by Laurie Lea Schaefer, who won Miss America in 1972. The dress is simple but oh-so elegant.
We love the bedazzled bodice that looks like it’s encrusted with ice crystals instead of sequins. To finish off the look, the dress transitions to an ice-blue skirt with a sheer layer of tulle on top. Dainty bits of glitter, crystals, or sequins are embroidered onto the sheer layer of the skirt in a sporadic pattern. We adore this look, especially when paired with the winning red royal robe flanking Miss Laurie.
Assuming the Throne
The 70s were a wild time. Mainstream fashion took a sharp turn into maximalism, with embroidery, bright colors, and “more is more” becoming the norm. Terry Meeuwsen won Miss America in 1973 and pulled off this totally 70s white evening gown. To be honest, it looks more like a wedding dress than an evening gown, but we’re all about it.
This dress is gorgeous, with floral appliques all over the dress, from top to bottom. Terry ditched the more traditional look of white gloves and went barehanded. She still kept it classy with a long-sleeve silhouette, however. Laurie Lea Schaefer, who is placing the crown on Terry’s head, looks like an amazing 1970s fairy godmother in a bell-sleeve gown.
A Pageant of Fashion
We can’t get enough of how fabulous everyone looks in this 1975 photo. The six Miss America contestants in this picture are each wearing something that conveys their personal style and personality. It’s a fun and refreshing look at Miss America fashion, which is usually super formal and elaborate.
Miss Illinois is definitely channeling some Farrah Fawcett energy with those billowing sleeves and feathered hair. On the other hand, Miss California is rocking what appears to be a hippie-inspired ensemble that pays homage to the laid-back vibes of the Golden State. In a shocking twist, Miss Ohio seems to be wearing a matching set with pants. Which outfit is your favorite?
I Love the 80s: Miss America Edition
Ah, the 80s. Depending on when you were born, you find this decade’s fashion to be totally rad or completely over-the-top. Cheryl Prewitt was all aboard the maximalist train when she won Miss America in 1980. She looks great in this heavily embellished, intricately designed evening gown. It looks like every inch of this gown is covered in beading, including the straps.
Cheryl Prewitt won Miss America against all odds and looked great while doing it. As a child, Cheryl was in a serious car accident that left a sizable scar on her face, as well as a disability. She was no stranger to a challenge by the time she reached the Miss America stage. Not only is Cheryl a true fashion icon, she’s an inspiring woman, too.
Elizabeth Ward, Miss America 1982
When Elizabeth Ward competed in Miss America in 1982, she was an accounting student at Arkansas Tech University. Little did Elizabeth know that winning Miss America would change the trajectory of her life forever. With the pageant’s scholarship money, Elizabeth decided to pursue the art of acting in New York City and Hollywood.
Before all of that happened, Elizabeth was just another hopeful contestant in a beautiful evening gown. She wore this dress for the evening wear portion of the competition, which is supposedly worth a third of a contestant’s total score. Elizabeth pulled off her look without a hitch. She wore a dress that somehow provided full coverage while looking very slinky and sultry. That leg slit, though!
An Iconic 80s Fashion Show
We 100% wish this 1983 photograph was in color. The Miss America finalists in this snapshot are all wearing such elaborate, over-the-top gowns that we know for a fact the colors were vivid to the max. Oh well. At least we can use our imaginations. Every woman’s dress is so 80s that this photo seems more like a caricature of an 80s fashion show than a real-life line-up.
It is, in fact, a real picture, though. Debra Maffett sits in the center with her Miss America crown, poofy sleeves and all. Surrounding her are the finalists, who are all killing it in their evening gown outfits. We love how Miss America evening gowns slowly transitioned from all-white apparel to this fun explosion of color, sequins, and individuality.
Vanessa Williams Makes History
The Miss America pageant has always had a contentious relationship with race, excluding women of color from competing well into the 1970s. The first Black contestant didn’t compete in a Miss America pageant until 1970 when Cheryl Browne entered as Miss Iowa. So, when Vanessa Williams won the crown in 1984, she knew all eyes were on her.
For her crowning moment and first walk down the runway, Vanessa wore a lavender mermaid-style gown with a tulle skirt and halter neckline. Her winning moment was like a breath of fresh air, both for the Miss America contest and its fashion history. Vanessa looks every inch the queen in that iconic gown, making it one of the most significant dresses in Miss America history.
Sharlene Wells, Crystal Queen of 1985
Sharlene Wells won the Miss America crown in 1985 in a truly glorious gown. Her mint-green, floor-length gown glistened under the stage lights as her name was announced as that year’s winner. The delicate dress featured expert crystal beading along the neckline and down the front, creating a foliage-type pattern.
The sleeves of the gown were the true stars of the show because they featured matching crystal strands that were draped in an elegant way that looked almost royal. Pretty fitting for the next Miss America queen, if you ask us. Former Miss America 1984, Suzette Charles, also looks stunning in the background with a fully-sequined gown and fairytale-princess sleeves.
A Familiar Face at Miss America 1986
If you did a double-take when you first saw this photo, you’re not the only one. Yes, that familiar face of the second-from-the-left woman in this photo is none other than Halle Berry. Halle competed as Miss Ohio and won first runner-up. As always, she looks amazing in her sequin gown with white crystal spaghetti straps.
Halle seems to be the only contestant who passed up on the shoulder pads, a classic 80s trend. Nevertheless, her fellow contestants look just as amazing. The winner, Christy Fichtner, wears a simple but chic embroidered dress with intricate lace detailing. Of course, there are sequins as far as the eye can see on every dress. We’re not mad about it.
Susan Akin, Miss America 1986
No matter your feelings about fur, there’s no denying that Susan Akin’s 1986 evening gown made her stand out from the crowd. She won the Miss America crown in a floor-length white gown. She kept it classic with the color choice, but the furry straps and floral appliques brought the dress straight into the 80s.
We have to admire whenever a contestant decides to shake things up during the evening gown portion of Miss America. The contest’s decades-long tradition of wearing white is nice, but switching it up is always way more interesting. Susan was a beauty pageant veteran by the time she sported this look. She competed in over 110 pageants during her career.
Gretchen Carlson Glistens in Blue
Besides the red carpet, beauty pageants are just about the only other place you’ll see elaborate evening wear that exudes such a level of glam. There’s just something about the bright lights of the stage that transport us to another world full of princess-status fashion and over-the-top elegance.
Gretchen Carlson really leaned into this precedent with her blue and white gown during the 1988 event. Her floor-length, long-sleeve gown was covered in a squiggly pattern of aqua-blue sequins that made her look like a fairytale come to life. The neckline was accentuated with a fiery white sequin design that elevated the whole look.
Serving Va-Va-Voom in 1994
The 1994 Miss America finalists must have coordinated their outfits ahead of time. Not a single one of them decided to wear the traditional white evening gown that was so synonymous with the pageant. How scandalous! We’re kidding, but it’s truly pretty unprecedented. Each contestant is glowing in a unique shade of blue, red, and black.
Every dress stands on its own as a solid eveningwear look. The deep red dress is giving major Jessica Rabbit from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” and we can’t get enough. The three black dresses may be the same shade, but they’re all so unique and beautiful, even after all this time.
Kimberly Clarice Aiken
Kimberly Clarice Aiken won Miss America 1994, making her the fifth African American contestant to ever win the competition. Even though she was only 18 when she won Miss America, Kimberly was already used to breaking through glass ceilings. She was the first black woman to win the Miss South Carolina title. We can’t help but wonder if all this was running through her mind as she walked down the Miss America runway for the first time.
The gown she chose is timeless, chic, and elegant. It features a criss-cross top with sheer black sleeves and a high neckline. The thigh-high leg slit counterbalances the more conservative top half of the dress, making this look an unforgettable one in Miss America fashion history.
Heather Whitestone, An Unprecedented Queen
Miss America once again broke down its own barriers in 1995 when Heather Whitestone won the competition. Heather became the first person with a disability to win the crown, becoming a hero and role model to young women across the nation. Heather, who lost most of her hearing when she was a baby, competed for the Miss America crown after winning the Miss Alabama title.
Heather looks ethereal in this white evening gown. The deep v-neck is offset by the glamor of her earrings and chic up-do. This wasn’t the first time Heather wore white during the competition. She performed a moving ballet number during the talent portion, wearing a flowing white dress with cape-like sleeves that made her look like she was floating across the stage.
Shawntel Smith’s 1996 Halter
The 90s saw a more minimal approach to eveningwear, especially compared to the maximalism that was so popular in the 80s. Shawtel Smith of Oklahoma won Miss America 1996 in this sleek and simple white halter dress. The beaded detailing across the chest is semi-sheer and draws the eye toward the ruched bodice.
The skirt is smooth and minimal, making it stand out as a quintessentially 90s look. Shawntel topped off her look with pearl drop earrings and naturally glamorous makeup, including a red lip. Shawntel would go on to serve as a board member for the Miss America Organization after her year-long reign was over.
Tara Holland Wows in White
Tara Dawn Holland looks absolutely thrilled to be receiving the Miss America crown from Shawntel Smith, the previous year’s winner. Tara won the competition in 1997 and went on to advocate for literacy during her year-long reign as Miss America. For the final ceremony, Tara wore a floor-length white gown as an homage to the contest’s eveningwear tradition of always wearing white.
The gown featured sheer long sleeves, a deep sweetheart neckline, and crystal embellishments on the front of the bodice. We love the neckline of the gown because it’s so flattering and timeless. Tara accessorized her gown with larger-than-life diamond earrings that echoed the crystal embellishments on the front of the dress. All in all, it’s a perfect Miss America look.
Kate Shindle’s Reigning Moment
Kate Shindle, who you might recognize, won Miss America in 1998. She had won the Miss Illinois title only a year before while still a student at Northwestern University. Once Kate won Miss America, she hit the ground running as an advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness and fundraising. Believe it or not, taking such a stance was quite controversial and “against the grain” in the 90s.
Thankfully, Kate stood her ground and ended up making a difference. Before all of that happened and Kate’s acting career took off, she was just an excited young woman being crowned as the new Miss America. On stage, she wore a white gown that had a criss-cross bodice and embroidered leaf pattern. Simple but chic.
A Little Black Dress Is Always the Answer
Miss Nicole Johnson stood out from the crowd when she won Miss America in 1999. She wore a slinky black dress with a halter neckline that made her shoulders look amazing. Out of the five finalists, Nicole was the only one who wore black to the final ceremony segment. It seems her fashion risk paid off!
The dress is tailored to perfection and looks like something a celeb would wear on the red carpet today. The back of the dress featured a single black strap running down the center of her back. A sheer black overlay is toward the bottom of the almost-backless gown, adding a touch of elegance. This Miss America fashion moment just goes to show that a little black dress always looks good.
Miss America Enters the New Millennium
Who remembers Y2K? Ringing in the new millennium was a big deal. From the computer takeover apocalypse to “Mambo No. 5” hitting the US Billboard Hot 100, you really just had to be there. The hype was no different for the Miss America competition that year. Everyone was feeling refreshed and optimistic about the new incoming era.
You can definitely feel that energy with Heather French’s winning gown. Heather wore a full-length ombre gown in a gorgeous blue gradient. The fabric of the skirt is gathered at the waist and leads into the delicate ruching of the bodice. It’s a lot less glittery than Miss America gowns of the past, but it still steals the show with its understated elegance.
A Lot of “Firsts” in 2001
Miss Hawaii Angela Perez Baraquio achieved a lot of “firsts” when she won Miss America in 2001. She was the first Asian American and Filipino American contestant to ever win the pageant. She was a triple threat because she was also the first teacher to win the crown. All eyes were on Angela when she accepted the crown in this stunning red dress.
This fiery red evening gown had a classic halter-neck cut and slinky silhouette, which was a perfect fit for the new millennium’s optimism. The dress also featured a thigh-high leg slit, allowing Angela to show a little leg while keeping it classy. She completed her winning look with understated jewelry and light strappy heels.
Miss Oregon Takes the Crown
Katie Harman became the first and only woman from the state of Oregon to ever win the Miss America title. She looks absolutely ecstatic in this snapshot from the 2002 competition. The year’s previous winner, Angela Perez Baraquio, stands behind her to bequeath the winning crown onto her head.
Katie wore a simple but timeless black gown. There’s a bit of a Grecian influence with its gathered halter neck secured by a piece of gold jewelry. She kept it simple with thick hoop earrings and a sleek low bun. Master of Ceremonies Tony Danza appears just as excited as Katie about her victory.
Miss America, Attorney at Law
Erika Harold wore this spectacular evening gown on stage when she was announced as Miss America 2003. The cream-colored gown featured a glittery silver sparkle motif and organic layers of ruffling along the skirt. The diagonal fringe was echoed in the gown’s off-the-shoulder sleeve on one side.
Erika’s entire dress was covered in neutral-shaded sequins, creating a beautiful and elegant effect. After winning the Miss America title, Erika went on to study and earn her Doctor of Law degree from Harvard Law School. Her career as an attorney and politician is quite enviable. As of 2022, she works for the Illinois Supreme Court as an executive director.
Ericka Dunlap Spreads Sunshine
The Miss America pageants in 2003 and 2004 may be the only two consecutive years when two women with the same name won the crown. Ericka Dunlap won the competition in 2004 and was crowned by Miss America 2003, Erika Harold. She looks totally thrilled to be winning such a well-deserved title.
Miss Ericka Dunlap hailed from Florida, otherwise known as “The Sunshine State.” It’s pretty fitting that she decided to wear a bright yellow strapless gown for her winning moment. The dress featured a classic minimalist silhouette with delicate silver detailing at the waistline. She emphasized the dress’s crystal beading with silver drop earrings and a matching bracelet.
Miss Deidra Downs, Breaking Convention
There was breaking news in the pageant world when Miss America 2005 was announced. The winner, Deidra Downs of Miss Alabama fame, wore a two-piece evening ensemble. Even more heartstopping was the fact that a portion of her midriff was showing. This look was totally unprecedented on the Miss America stage, so we think this look deserves to have a moment.
Diedra rocked this quintessential early-2000s looks. Her halter top features bold crystal embellishments over a lightly patterned fabric. The hem of the crop top features sharp scallop edging, which is pretty cute if you ask us. The business of her crop top was offset by the simple elegance of her bright white maxi skirt. We love how she was able to show off a little skin while still keeping the classic evening gown silhouette.
Jennifer Berry’s On Pointe Outfit
The 2006 Miss America competition was the first of its kind to be held outside of Atlantic City. Instead of its original New Jersey location, Miss America execs tried to move the pageant to Las Vegas, Nevada, in an attempt to bolster falling TV ratings. The move was a little weird, considering that Miss America endears itself to the American public because of its modest “apple pie” vibe.
Regardless, winner Jennifer Berry looked stunning through and through. She won the talent portion of the competition with a beautifully executed en pointe ballet performance. She wore this ethereal ballet dress that flowed with her as she moved across the stage. The dress featured a blue-and-white ombre skirt and a crystal-encrusted leotard.
Miss America Takes the Plunge
After winning the talent portion of the 2006 Miss America pageant, Jennifer Berry was crowned the overall winner. Jennifer’s evening gown was sexy and daring, a very appropriate choice considering the pageant’s new location in Las Vegas. Although much more revealing than winning evening gowns of the past, Jennifer, of course, looked immaculate and classy.
Her white gown featured a plunging halter neckline encrusted with silver and white crystals. The crystal floral appliques fluttered down to the bodice, which was a daring sheer fabric that gave the illusion that Jennifer’s midriff was exposed. The artfully placed appliques eventually petered out into a solid white, floor-length skirt with a slight train.
Eudora Mosby’s Top Ten Look
Everyone loves to focus on the evening look of the Miss America winner every year. But what about the other women competing? They spent just as much time planning their eveningwear looks, so it’s about time we give them some credit. This stunning gown was worn by Eudora Mosby, who competed in Miss America 2006, representing the state of Arkansas.
Eudora made it into the Top Ten that year, and this dress is a testament to why. She carried herself with such elegance and poise, wearing this floor-length crystal gown with a nude-colored underlay. The dress is daring yet classic, a fine line that’s hard to achieve in eveningwear. Obviously, Eudora pulled it off without a hitch.
Lauren Nelson, French Lace Fancy
2007. Another year, another Miss America pageant held in Las Vegas. During the 2007 competition, Miss Lauren Nelson of Oklahoma became the second consecutive “Miss Oklahoma” to win the ultimate crown. She was awesome in black during the evening gown competition. Her dress combined lace and beading, which we know are two of Miss America’s favorite things.
Her halter top gown featured black-and-beige French lace detailing and shimmering crystal bordering. The entire floor-length skirt was covered in black beading, which must have taken hours for tailors to complete. The dress also had a surprise keyhole neckline, which was a chic, modern twist to a classic silhouette.
Elyse Umemoto Sparkles as Miss Washington
Elyse may have placed as the second runner-up in the 2008 Miss America competition, but she’s first in our hearts where fashion is concerned. A little dramatic, you say? Well, we’re not joking. Elyse’s evening gown was unique and glamorous, just like her. She wore a classic halter dress, which seemed to be the silhouette of choice among early-2000s competitors.
Elyse’s dress was unique because of its color. It was made with a shimmering fabric that glittered somewhere between black, gold, and olive. The material and extra beading were mesmerizing to look at. She absolutely sparkled as she walked down the runway. Elyse would exude the same grace and beauty during her stint on the reality show “Survivor: South Pacific” a few years later.
Jacquelynne Fontaine’s Hidden Talent
The talent portion of Miss America was added in 1938 as a way to revitalize the competition and draw bigger crowds. This was a great decision that’s still in place today. Every woman who competes in Miss America, or any other pageant for that matter, is super talented. Jacquelynne Fontaine blew audiences away during her 2007 Miss America performance.
Jacquelynne appeared on stage in a glorious strapless gown with a corset bodice, looking every inch a princess. She performed Giacomo Puccini’s “Vissi d'arte,” a soprano aria that is no easy feat. Trained as a professional opera singer, Jacquelynne hit every note and left no crumbs with her performance.
Nicole Rash, Dashing in Purple
Nicole Rash made her Miss America debut during the 2008 competition. Although she didn’t win, she placed as first runner-up. During her stint as Miss Indiana the year before, she learned how to rock an evening gown. For her Miss America eveningwear debut, she chose a deep purple flowy gown.
The gown featured a bedazzling bodice covered in contrasting white crystals. The fitted corset-like bodice flowed into a gathered skirt that flowed behind her as she walked on stage. The straps of Nicole’s halter were just as sparkly as the dress’s bodice, as were her earrings. Although she didn’t win the 2008 competition, she went on to win Miss America 2012.
Kirsten Haglund’s Modern Twist
Kirsten Haglund won Miss America in 2008 and she sported one of the most daring evening gowns in the pageant’s history to date. The gown was long-sleeved, floor-length, and covered in crystals. That sounds pretty standard, right? Well, take a look at the design. As you can see, Kirsten’s dress was a pretty modern interpretation of the classic evening gown.
The long sleeves of the dress were totally sheer, with only patches of crystal beading covering her forearms. From there, the dress had sheer fabric meandering down the length of Kirsten’s body. Intricately sewn crystals covered up a majority of the dress, but it was still pretty suggestive by Miss America standards. Kirsten rocked this look. We can’t imagine anyone else being able to pull it off in quite the same way.
Katie Stam’s “Countdown to the Crown”
The year Miss Indiana Katie Stam won the Miss America competition, it was a little different. For the first time ever, Miss America was televising its contestants and behind-the-scenes process to the public. TLC’s program “Miss America: Countdown to the Crown” followed all 52 contestants as they made their way through the 2009 competition. The reality show, and Katie Stam, were a hit.
Katie was a beauty pageant veteran by the time she made her Miss America and reality show debut. She started competing in pageants when she was just 15, so she knew how to carry herself. For her winning moment, she wore a white gown with an asymmetrical hemline covered in sheer lace.
Chasity Hardman’s 2009 Evening Look
The same year that Katie Stam won the crown, Miss Georgia Chasity Hardman won first runner-up. Many fans grew to love Chasity and her sense of style during TLC’s reality show “Countdown to the Crown,” which aired before the actual competition. Chasity didn’t pull any punches when she walked on stage in this evening gown look.
She wore a bright red strapless gown with a deep sweetheart neckline and mermaid-style skirt. She cut a classic and sultry silhouette in this gown, so people naturally had nothing but praise for her outfit. The gown had ruching on the front, which created a point of interest in this timeless piece.
Miss California in Aqua
Kristy Cavinder, born in Orange, California, represented her home state in the 2010 Miss America competition. Still held in Vegas, the competition crowned Caressa Cameron as the winner. Kristy got first runner-up. Despite not winning the crown, Kristy still looked stunning in an eclectic blue-and-silver gown.
The gown is reminiscent of a mermaid princess, with its glittery bodice and ombre silk skirt. The dress faded from vivid aqua to a barely-there light blue, which perfectly matched Kristy’s strappy heels. The bodice featured unique corset-like boning that really made the crystals shimmer under the stage lights. Kristy finished off her eveningwear look with a simple updo and statement earrings.
Caressa Cameron’s Showstopping Ensemble
Caressa Cameron made history in 2010 when she became the first Miss Virginia to win the Miss America competition. She stopped the show in this stunning bright yellow evening gown. The dress had a one-shoulder neckline, which isn’t a common silhouette choice for Miss America finalists. The bust was covered in delicate, stunning crystals that made Caressa glowingly beautiful.
But wait, there’s more. The glittering bodice dropped off to a skin-tight yellow dress with a flared mermaid skirt. The gown had a short train, further adding to the all-around glamor. She wore her hair loose in a side-swept style and chandelier earrings.
Teresa Scanlan, Miss America 2011
When Teresa Scanlan won Miss America in 2011, she was only 17 years old. Winning such a title is a pretty big deal, especially for someone so young. Teresa graced the stage in a classic white gown with elegant ruching and extraordinary beading. According to Insider, her gown had more than 2,000 individual beads sewn onto the dress.
The Miss America pageant says it requires its contests to be at least 18 years old, so how Teresa was able to enroll in the competition is unclear. Regardless, her crown was well-deserved. It’s pretty cool that she got to make history as the youngest Miss America since 1937’s winner, Bette Cooper.
Miss America’s Got Talent
Teresa Scanlan may have only been a teenager when she won the Miss America crown, but she was already an accomplished pianist and musical theater actress. For the talent competition in the 2011 show, Teresa played the piano. She wore a stunning red gown and played the challenging “Whitewater Chopped Sticks” by Calvin Jones.
The performance only lasted 90 seconds, but she blew the audience away. Her red gown truly matched the drama of the arrangement, with its sheer lace back and flowing train. Teresa added some extra oomph with an elegant, sweeping updo and bright red drop earrings to match.
Laura Kaeppeler, Miss Wisconsin
Laura Kaeppler, of Miss Wisconsin fame, absolutely rocked the Miss America crown and sash when she won in 2012. She became the first contestant from Wisconsin to win since Terry Anne Meeuwsen reigned in 1973. For her winning eveningwear look, she wore a gorgeous black v-neck gown by renowned designer Tony Bowls.
Bowls is famous for his amazing pageant and formal gowns, so it’s not surprising that Laura looks so immaculate. The gown featured a lace black bodice and and slim floor-length skirt, cutting a classic but modern silhouette. Laura’s sultry smokey eye makeup fit perfectly with the vibe of her gown.
A Colorful Waltz
It must be so fun for pageant contestants to choose their outfits. Sure, it’s probably extremely stressful, too. But the experience of stepping on stage in a gorgeous, glittery gown must be a cool experience. Laura Kaeppeler seems to have had a blast picking out her gown for the Miss America talent competition because her dress was bright, colorful, and light-hearted.
Laura wore a bright red ruched gown with an iridescent crystal design on the bodice. The rainbow-colored gemstones formed a half-circle that extended out to make an off-the-shoulder strap. Laura belted out Luigi Arditi’s “Il Bacio” waltz for her talent portion and won a $2,000 scholarship because of her skill.
Sweet and Simple
Mallory Hytes Hagan kept it simple for her 2013 Miss America eveningwear competition. At least, that is what it looks like when you first glance at her dress. She sported a body-hugging white gown that made her look like a true goddess. The flattering cut was accentuated with subtle ruching and draping, giving it a sleek appearance.
The gown had a single off-the-shoulder strap and an elegant train. Mallory offset the white gown with black-and-white earrings and a cuff bracelet that shimmered under the spotlights. She also went with a smokey-eye look, which hadn’t been common on the Miss America stage until a few years before. Overall, Mallory’s dress created a subtle and cohesive look that took her to the top.
Nina Davuluri in Buttercup Yellow
The winner of Miss America 2014 was Nina Davuluri, who represented New York. Nina, who is of Telugu descent, became the competition’s first Indian American contestant to win the crown. Also, she was the second Asian American to be crowned after Angela Perez Baraquio. To break records and make history, Nina wore an elegant light yellow dress that had cap sleeves and a deep v-neck that was covered with sheer fabric.
Her look was elegant, modest, and timeless, which is what every Miss America queen represents. Nina’s win was following in the footsteps of Vanessa Williams, a former Miss New York winner and the first Black Miss America. Both women broke barriers, defied the odds, and made history.
Winning in White
Kira Kazantsev went for a full-coverage look for her eveningwear when she won the crown in 2015. She looked classic in a full-length slinky gown with long sleeves and a high neckline. The gown was form-fitting but modest and complimented her blonde hair perfectly. The dress wasn’t just plain white, though.
Delicate crystal beading lined the ends of the sleeves, adding a nice touch of sparkle. As we all know, you need at least some sparkle on the Miss America stage. Conveniently, the crystal cuffs matched perfectly with the bejeweled “Miss America” sash. Coincidence? We think not, Kira. Well played.
Katherine Kelley, a 2016 Competitor
By the time Katherine Kelley made it to the 2016 Miss America competition, she was already on her way to getting a master's in education at the University of Las Vegas, Nevada. This Miss Nevada teacher didn’t make it to the top ten at that year’s competition, but she was one of many talented young women competing.
For her talent portion of the competition, Katherine played the piano in a stunning emerald green gown. The dress had a deep back with a jewel-encrusted border that played off her larger-than-life chandelier earrings. She looks so happy in this photo, with her gown billowing around her.
Va Va Voom in the Room
By 2016, the Miss America competition had already returned to its original Atlantic City home. Everyone could feel the energy in the air as Crystal Davis swept down the runway in her evening attire. She wore a retro-inspired deep purple gown that gave major Old Hollywood energy.
Crystal looked every bit the star as she strutted her stuff in the strapless floor-length gown. The dress had a dramatic flourish that was entirely unexpected. As she walked, a cape-inspired attachment billowed out from her skirt, creating a voluminous silhouette with major Grace Kelly vibes. Crystal ended up ranking in the Top 15 semi-finalists that year and took home a $3,000 prize.
Looking Wright in Blue
Kalie Wright represented the state of Idaho during the 2016 competition. Like her co-competitor Crystal Davis, Kalie decided to throw it back to the days of retro glam and Hollywood with her evening gown. Her bright blue gown was made of a beautiful jewel-tone fabric that made her skin glow.
The dress was slinky and tight but had an expansive bustle attached to the back. This silhouette was super popular during that year’s competition, which is interesting because it’s not a style that many finalists had worn before. There’s a first time for everything! Kalie didn’t end up winning, but she was crowned Miss USA in 2018. Go, Kalie!
Betty Cantrell, a True “Madama Butterfly”
You may recognize Betty Cantrell as Betty Maxwell, the professional singer. Before she married her partner, Spencer Maxwell, and became an accomplished country singer, Betty was blowing people away with her crown-worthy talent performance during the 2016 Miss America competition.
She held no punches when she performed Giacomo Puccini’s aria, “Tu, tu, piccolo Iddio” to a packed theater. This amazing rendition made her the winner of the talent competition and ultimately the year’s winner. Betty performed the aria in a strawberry-red gown with a strapless neckline and simple ruching. The dress was classy yet simple to showcase her amazing singing voice.
A Mermaid Moment in 2016
2016 Miss America winner Betty Cantrell set herself apart from the rest with this unconventional evening ensemble. After winning the talent competition for singing a Puccini aria, Betty wowed the crowd with this unique two-piece formal get-up. This two-piece outfit featured a dressed-up crop top with three-quarter-length sleeves.
The matching skirt had a mermaid-cut flare that hugged her in all the right places. The white satin of her dress was finished off with a cute light turquoise border at the waistline and sleeve cuffs. In true mermaid fashion, Betty wore her hair down in natural waves. Glimmers of her diamond earrings peaked through her hair, adding even more glamor.
A Dream Come True
Growing up, Cierra Jackson always dreamed of competing in Miss America. Her dreams came true when she qualified for the competition in 2017. You can see the joy on her face in this photo of the pageant’s first night of preliminary competition. For the opening night, Cierra wore a gorgeous yellow gown with a cute cowl neck and delicate needlework details.
The dress is summery and light, striking the perfect balance of class and casual. The first night of competition is important, and we think Cierra made a great first impression. Over the course of the competition, Cierra won the “Preliminary Lifestyle and Fitness Award” before she was eliminated.
Shannon Patilla Floats on Air
Although Shannon Patilla didn’t make it past the first few rounds of competition, she still made quite an impression. For the 2017 Miss America competition, Shannon wore a mermaid gown in bright white. A mermaid silhouette is always a good idea, and this dress did not disappoint.
The organic curves of her dress were echoed by the smooth, wavy lines of the gown’s neckline. The shape and tailoring of this gown gave it a modern feel. It was a nice twist on an old classic that is always a winner when it comes to the eveningwear portion of the competition.
Fashion Triple Threat
This photo featuring Betty Cantrell, Hannah Brewer, and Nina Davuluri is from the 2017 Miss America Competition. Each woman looks stunning in their evening gown, so let’s go down the line and appreciate all the fashion. First up, we have Betty Cantrell on the far left. Betty rocked a formal red gown with a beaded bodice and full skirt. With that crown on her head, she truly looks like a queen.
In the middle is Hannah Brewer, aka Miss Maryland. Her red dress appears to be a duotone, with the halter bodice made of velvet and the skirt made of satin. Her hair is pulled back in a minimalist bun, making it even more obvious how beautiful she is. Nina Davuluri, Miss America 2014, made a special appearance in a summery off-the-shoulder gown with a ruffled neckline.
Unruffled and Poised
Miss Hawaii Allison Chu wore this incredible dress during 2017’s second night of preliminary competition. The strapless red gown looks like a standard ballgown at first glance, but it’s so much more when you take a closer look. Allison’s dress is made up of hundreds of individual ruffles.
We can’t imagine how many hours it took artisans to make this dress. Allison looks amazing in it. Some people like to criticize ruffles for being too “unserious” and girly, but we disagree. This dress is fun without being trivial. It still serves evening wear seriousness with a creative twist.
The First Miss Nebraska
Believe it or not, Cara Mund was the first contestant from Nebraska to win the Miss America title. She was crowned in 2018, almost 100 years after the competition began on that fated Atlantic City boardwalk. Cara Mund did not disappoint and did her state proud. She wore a beautiful black gown that fit her to perfection.
The dress had an elaborate neckline with keyhole cut-outs and shimmering crystals that were practically glowing. The platform stilettos, sheer train, and wavy hairstyle all tie this look together into something modern, chic, and fun. All in all, Cara’s eveningwear look was everything a Miss America gown should be.
Holli’ Conway’s Broadway Dreams
Holli’ Conway never imagined that her dreams of being on stage would lead her to the Miss America 2019 competition. She represented the state of Louisiana and lent her musical skills to the talent portion of the competition. During her performance, she wore a stunning midnight purple gown with a flowing sheer cape.
Holli’ has always known how to command a stage. Even though she didn’t win Miss America, she went on to achieve her dream of starring in a Broadway show. She debuted in “Tina — The Tina Turner Musical” as a member of the original cast. From there, she starred in the hit musical “Six.” This former Miss America contender sure knows how to achieve her goals.
Nia Franklin, Miss America 2019
In 2019, former Miss America Cara Mund crowned the new winner, Miss New York Nia Franklin. Just like every woman who competes in the Miss America competition, Nia is absolutely gorgeous. Her white gown served to emphasize her natural beauty with its simple silhouette and cut.
Nia’s mermaid gown flowed on her body so naturally that it looked like it was made for her. The floor-length gown had an organic flare that framed her feet as she walked. Nia’s dress also had a fun one-shoulder sleeve with a poofy frill on it. This added a touch of whimsy that reflected Nia’s own warm personality. This dress was perfect for her.
2020: A Year of Unknowns
Camille Schrier was the winner of the 2020 Miss America competition, but this photo captures the moment when that was still unknown. Camille stands next to her co-contestant, Victoria Hill, in the tense moments before the first runner-up was announced.
Both women wore stellar evening gowns, with Camille dressed in a minimalist off-the-shoulder gown in all black. Victoria rocked a bright blue strapless dress with a daring, thigh-high leg slit. As both women stood on stage, they must have known they were on the precipice of a big change, both in their lives and the world. In an unprecedented twist of events, Camille was asked to extend her queenly duties into the next year, 2021.