4 Tips for Choosing Pageant Gowns & Dresses

Pageant DressAs a former pageant girl, this topic is a little near and dear to my heart. Pageants can be a great opportunity for a girl to see a side of herself that she otherwise might not get to see until her wedding day. Picking the right dress, the perfect hair style, and finishing up with the right makeup come together to create a magical experience for girls to enjoy.

But as fun as pageants can be, they can also be tough. Nerves, competition and perceived expectations are all things that can affect pageant contestants in a negative way and which can take a toll on scores.

If there’s anything that can help calm these devils of the stage, its confidence in choosing the right pageant dress.

Consider Skin Tone When Choosing Beauty Pageant Dresses

Several years ago, I was dating a guy whose little sister wanted so badly to be in her school’s pageant that year. She had never had the opportunity to dress up like that before, and it broke my heart to think that she might miss her chance to experience what I knew was so much fun. So I entered her in the school’s pageant, and took her dress hunting.

The first few shops we went to weren’t that special, but I secretly knew that. The third shop was a real treasure trove of beautiful pageant dresses for girls, and the look on her face as we entered the shop was priceless joy. As she shopped around, I noticed something about her natural choices…this girl had no concept of her own skin tone.

She was a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl with very fair skin. She fell in love with a romantic pale yellow ball gown with crystals adorning the bust. The dress was beautiful, but once she tried it on, it was clear that she looked like a big yellow cupcake.

Over and over we tried dress after dress, and came up empty-handed. The problem was simple, the colors my little gal-pal liked so much completely washed her out, which would only have been exaggerated by stage lights.

Skin tone is an important factor to consider when choosing a pageant dress. The dress should complement your skin, not overpower it. I’ve even seen some girls who had skin that overpowered their dress! Striking the right balance takes trial-and-error, not to mention patience.

I’d usually say that fair-skinned girls should avoid light colored dresses, but the magical world of pageantry makes all things possible…my then boyfriend’s sister and I walked away with a gorgeous white dress that fit her beautifully. A little spray tan here and some low-lights there, and she was able to pull off a pure white dress that normally would have been forbidden for her skin-tone.

The moral of this story is multifaceted. First of all, know what works for you and what doesn’t. Invite friends and family members that you trust to shop with you, and get their honest opinions on your dress as you try it on. The shop girls and owners are also there to help you, and with their experience on your side, I’m sure you’ll find yourself moving in the right direction.

Secondly, once you know the rules, don’t be afraid to break them! Pageants are about fun more than anything else. Do what feels right to you, and trust your gut instincts. If you’ve fallen in love with a coral colored A-line and you know you can’t pull it off yet, don’t be afraid to use some self-tanner to highlight your skin and give yourself a deeper color. There are so many options out there to make your dream dress a possibility…and a possible winner.

Hair And Makeup

Nearly as important as the dress is the style of hair and makeup that you choose to wear with it. A lot of thought and careful consideration should be put into your hair and makeup. The shape of your dress and body can help determine if you should sport a trendy up-do, or romantic soft curls. Think about the idea of yourself as a character on stage that you’d like to portray.

Also remember that stage lights are bright, and sometimes hot. If getting your makeup professionally done, be sure to let them know you’re competing in a pageant, and choose a professional who has experience with hair and makeup for pageants if possible.

Smokey eyes and accented cheek bones will stand out well on stage. Some pageants require a more “natural” look, which should be planned for appropriately as well.

When having your hair and makeup done, bring a picture of your dress to be used as a reference piece. Hair volume will go a long way on stage, and always be sure to wear a button-down shirt while getting your looks put together, so you don’t damage the finished product while getting into your dress.

The Walk

Some pageants have sections for talent, speech and other criteria that judges awards points for based on performance. But the most important of their criteria may be the walk. Practicing your walk at home will help you feel confident, graceful and prepared as you take the stage during your pageant. This is very important, because self-doubt and intimidation will show in body language, and won’t help you at all.

Your walk should have poise and balance, without looking rigid. Your hands should be relaxed without swinging, and your smile should be natural and eyes on the judges.

All these things may seem like a lot to take in, but pageants really can be a lot of fun. They were always something my sister and I looked forward to, even when we didn’t win (which was more often than not!).

One last tip to help you in your quest for pageant bliss is this…

You Can Save Money With Pageant Dress Rentals

Consider renting your dress! Pageants are the perfect event for dress rental, because they only are a one, two or three day event (depending on your pageant). Rather than spending tons of money buying a dress for your event, consider renting one at a fraction of the cost. My mom did this for my sister and I every year, and the money we saved on our girls pageant dresses allowed us to get our hair and makeup professionally done, and even allowed my brothers to compete as well! (don’t tell them we told you that!)

Some reputable online dress rental services, like Rent the Runway, in the USA, offer the option of renting pageant dresses. My bet is that you’ll have so much fun that you’ll want to do pageants every year, so renting your dress is the smart way to go! Have fun and good luck as you begin your adventure into pageantry!

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