Miss America 2018 was crowned last night, but what we really care about is what they wore.
Pageants, and pageant people, are a culture unto themselves. The Miss America pageant, which has now been going nearly 100 years, continues to exist despite all the strides women make in equality, swimsuit competition and all.
But the most interesting part of the pageant, in my view, is the evening gown round, as all 51 women come up in their best finery. Why? Because its a snapshot of our style as it is right this second.
Fashion, as I’ve said before, is the place where art meets commerce. Runway shows are a place where fashion designers look at what is trendy now, and attempt to push those looks, or riff upon them, or react to them in such a way as to push the conversation forward. Those who are successful find their outfits being worn on the highest end red carpet –a snapshot of what will become trendy in a few year’s time.
Pageant dresses on the other hand, are not fashion forward. They are the epitome of fashion now, when they’re not actually fashion backward — something that was big 4-6 months previous when the Miss State winner realized she needed to pick a gown for the Miss America, still several weeks on.
Therefore, unlike red carpets, which show up our fashion as its most aspirational, these are looks that show our fashion at it’s most desperational, if you will. A determination to be so now, they will be forgotten by this time next year.
In the spirit of that, let us look down the line at the winner of this year’s pageant (North Dakota) and her 50 runners-up, and see what it says about what fashion is, at this moment, as we pass into the end of the second decade of the 21st century.
Half train chiffon
Half train chiffon in art deco.
One shoulder armor
Half train chiffon (That’s three!) Plus bad keyhole (That’s two!)
They don’t call that Mellow Yellow. (Quite rightly.)
Second soft look.
Trying way too hard.
Two dresses fighting.
Fourth half train, first in non chiffon.
Fifth half train.
Awfully old school.
Merrrrrr maids. (Four)
Second art deco.
Slightly more mellow yellow. (But not by much.)
Mermaid Number 5.
Second single shoulder, second trying too hard.
First to go full cape.
A column of huh.
A nothing burger.
Seventh mermaid, sixth half train, third art deco.
Our first two piece look.
I can’t see past the unfortunate glaring seam.
Seventh half train.
Eight! Plus our third yellow gown.
I assume she was going for classic and missed.
Went for classic and hit.
Went for classic and wound up in bridesmaid.
Went for classic and landed in Mother of the Bride.
Third bad keyhole, ninth half train.
Seventeenth white dress of the lot.
Leftover fabric from the Game of Thrones costume shop.
Ten half trains. That’s one fifth of the country.
Second black nothing burger with the same neckline.
Second full cape. Fourth keyhole.
That’s just ugly.
I suppose. At least it’s a different color.
Twelve half capes.
It’s not trendy, it’s West Virginia.
Last full cape of the lot.
And a final unfortunate neckline.