Last night’s official proceedings showed only the top 10 finalists sashaying across the stage in their evening gowns. The remaining 41 contestants — eliminated either by the preliminary judges or after the evening’s swimwear competition — popped up all too briefly in the background in a terrible choreographed dance number. (Florence Welch’s vocals will never quite be the same.)
Fortunately, all the queens previewed their senior prom finest in the preliminary round of competition, as well as for a special glam gown photoshoot. This means we get to rank ALL FIFTY ONE. And this is significant because — spoiler alert — most of the top 10’s looks pale in comparison to the rest.
Note: while some of the contestants wore the same look for both their photoshoot and preliminary showcase, others changed. (Tactics, tactics!) Where one queen wore two different dresses during the pageant’s proceedings, we’re averaging out the fabulousness.
Also, there’s a reason we start the list at #52. It’s not a typo, promise.
52. Miss Maine, Ali Clair.
Miss Maine is not even trying.
51. Miss Pennsylvania, Jessica Billings. (Top 15)
And neither is Miss Pennsylvania. If there were laws banning cruelty against pageant gowns, this dress and its lack of any sparkle whatsoever would break them. (No evening gown should be forced to walk nude, basically.)
50. Miss Massachusetts, Sarah Kidd. (Top 15)
You might say there’s an awkward mass of fabric floating around Miss MA’s right underboob, and it certainly ruins this gown’s otherwise clean lines.
49. Miss Illinois, Stacie Juris. (2nd runner-up)
A bordello lampshade or a sheer disaster; deciding which of these looks is tackier is a veritable Stacie’s Choice.
48. Miss Hawaii, Brianna Acosta.
Regional pageant officials might say “aloha!” to these looks, but the judges at Miss USA will most definitely be saying “aloha¡”… if you see what we did there. You’ve got to up your gown’s game for the national stage, and this catalog pageant “couture” just won’t cut it.
47. Miss Arizona, Rachel Massie.
Bridal catalog pageant “couture” is marginally better than regular catalog pageant “couture.” But only by a silky wisp.
46. Miss Virginia, Shannon McAnally.
And on that note, let’s waltz our way through a number of near equally-uninspiring white wedding-style gowns. If they’re not interesting enough to even tempt a fellow competitor to “accidentally” spill sugar-free grape juice over then what’s the point?
45. Miss Oregon, Gabrielle Neilan. (Miss Congeniality)
“Dime-a-dozen David’s Bridal” wedding.
44. Miss Alaska, Melissa McKinney.
“Ancient Egypt themed reception” wedding.
43. Miss New York, Joanne Nosuchinsky.
“Not even glamorous enough for My Super Sweet 16” wedding.
42. Miss Utah, Marissa Powell. (3rd runner-up; Miss Photogenic)
“The tiered curtains in the fancy guest bathroom at your grandma’s house” wedding. If there’d only been some more frippery or ruffles, Miss Utah could have torn them off and hid behind them after her epic fail in the judges’ questions round.
41. Miss New Hampshire, Amber Faucher.
“Scandalized whispers from the in-laws in the third row” wedding.
40. Miss Missouri, Ellie Holtman.
I think I speak for everyone when I say that we expect a lot more from a “champion greased pig catcher” — unless she’s actually hiding a butter-covered piglet under her oddly voluminous skirt, which would be AMAZING (and segue nicely into the talent portion of the night’s competition).
Note: Miss USA doesn’t actually include a talent segment, but no-one’s going to mind if a cutesy little teacup piglet takes the stage.
39. Miss Florida, Michelle Aguilar.
Well, at least she won’t need to change before heading to whichever horrid Vegas club is hosting the pageant’s after-party.
38. Miss Tennessee, Brenna Mader.
Top tip for future contestants: when you ask for a Grecian-style gown, make sure you specify that you don’t mean one that looks like a marble column. Because it’s not a good look.
37. Miss Nebraska, Ellie Lorenzen.
As with Miss Hawaii a few spots back, here’s another example of gowns that might cut it at state level, but most certainly not at the nationals. Miss NE gets a boost, though, because it could be argued the diamante pattern on her red dress is an abstract representation of a Nebraska-grown ear of corn. Squint a little and you’ll see it.
36. Miss Kansas, Staci Klinginsmith.
There’s a reason Staci is the only contestant braving a purple gown. There’s a better reason still why she chose to change out of it for the preliminary rounds.
35. Miss New Mexico, Kathleen Danzer.
And there’s also a reason Miss New Mexico is the only contestant still thinking one-sleeved gowns are a thing. In fact, two minutes pre-show a frantic pageant handler found her sobbing in a bathroom backstage, trying to cut off that twee embroidered sheer sleeve with a pair of nail scissors… but it’s too late, it’s just too late. What a sad, sad story.
34. Miss Indiana, Emily Hart.
Something about this sad little gown doesn’t work. And by something, I mean just about everything — it’s a textbook example of something that probably looked great sketched on rose-scented sketching paper, but (much) less so in real life. If it ain’t right, it just ain’t right.
33. Miss Georgia, Brittany Sharp.
Again: great on paper, less so in person. Silver is clearly Miss Georgia’s metallic of choice (well, that and bronze) but, in both of those dresses, there’s something just a little off-color.
32. Miss Nevada, Chelsea Caswell. (Top 10)
You’re Miss Nevada, you live in Las Vegas and you can’t muster up a single ostrich feather to adorn your LBD with — what is wrong with this picture? (The answer: lots.)
31. Miss Wyoming, Courtney Gifford.
Another too-too-simple LBD in need of some more bedazzling (or, you know, a tutu). This gown lands a place higher, however, because of a nicer bustline and the fact that, in Wyoming, ostrich feathers are still a whispered fairytale of a rumor spread in the back of small-town gay bars.
30. Miss Idaho, Marissa Wickland.
Every beauty queen knows their best accessory is a sharp stiletto heel (obvious reason is obvious) and that their second best accessory is a winning smile. Miss Idaho’s is just lovely; indeed, it almost makes this run-of-the-mill cobalt blue dress palatable.
29. Miss Wisconsin, Chrissy Zamora.
28. Miss Washington, Cassandra Searles.
Never underestimate the power of some floaty, bias-cut skirt panels and a wind machine set on “slight, modesty-retaining gust.”
27. Miss Connecticut, Erin Brady. (Miss USA)
A trio of queens paired a sparkly bustier with a simple, draped white skirt, though only the one got to show hers off in the top 10 contestant’s evening gown round. (Look out for the other two contestants’ gowns down the line.) Funnily enough, this year’s Miss USA picked the worst take on the trend — with an unflattering curve to the bodice and a sateen-esque skirt fabric proving just a little too weighty to be draped right.
26. Miss Maryland, Kasey Staniszewski.
An ice skater’s leotard with some cut-price haberdashery trim and a bold, blue shower curtain hastily tacked on: if it’s good enough for a Project Runway innovation challenge, it’s good enough for Miss USA. (Except not really.)
25. Miss District of Columbia, Jessica Frith.
We’re now firmly in the “good to better (but not quite best)” part of the gown rank-down, and both these gowns fit that criteria as snugly as they do Miss D.C.’s figure. But aren’t dripping crystalline patterns a little too expected?
24. Miss South Carolina, Megan Pinckney. (5th runner-up)
Dripping done right: this gown, so lustrous and languid it looks like it’s near-pouring off Miss South Carolina’s curves. (Unfortunately, she later let her ever-smiling pageant poker face slip upon the announcement of her final placement, and that kind of ruined things — even though she did deserve a higher placement than Miss Utah.)
23. Miss Vermont, Sarah Westbrook.
Here’s the second of the glitzy bustier/white skirt gowns — and on the whole, a much more light and graceful example. (Maybe a tad too bridal, but that’s still better than a tad too bawdy.)
22. Miss Ohio, Kristin Smith. (Top 10)
Of all 51 contestants, only Miss Ohio debuted a new gown during the live finals — a floaty, mustard yellow number. Getty has no photos of the look yet, and that’s probably for the best. Why? Because while there’s shades of the autopsy table about this vain/veiny red look, anything’s better than mustard.
21. Miss Texas, Ali Nugent. (4th runner-up)
Props to the designer of Miss Texas’ red dress for upcycling the mirror tiles leftover from his recent bathroom renovation. It’s a cynical reflection on the glittering, shallow culture of pageantry, right? No?
How about an attempt to shock Donald Trump with his reflection then? Still no?
Huh. Well then, on face value alone it’s a little much. Still, definitely better than her floral number, though, which looks like the pattern on a tablecloth at one of those ghastly “black & white” themed wedding receptions where the centerpieces are always plastic lilies and cheap black pillar candles that smell bad when they’re lit.
20. Miss California, Mabelynn Capeluj.
A dress entirely covered in pearly beads? Yes please — thanks to Showgirls we all know what can happen when a few errant crystals “spill” their way across a stage. (Disclaimer: no-one wants to see a Miss USA contestant injured. But falling over is fair game.)
19. Miss Iowa, Richelle Orr.
Featuring a delightful glittery pattern reminiscent of the ornate latticework you’ll find in well-kept Southern gardens, all this dress needs is some appliqué wisteria.
18. Miss Delaware, Rachel Baiocco.
And speaking of climbing plants, look at this! Sure, it’s a little less Kate Moss and a little more “wallpaper print that looks like moss,” but it’s still lovely.
17. Miss Michigan, Jaclyn Schultz.
Only this is slightly more lovely still.
16. Miss Montana, Kacie West.
And while this is quite a tenuous take on the “covering my modesty with twee little sequin leaves and petals” concept, it’s still a great look.
15. Miss New Jersey, Libell Duran.
Somebody needs to confirm that this dress on the right came thanks to a collaboration between New Jersey pageant officials and the team from Cake Boss, because it looks like her full fishtail skirt got dipped in frothy frosting — and that’s a good thing. (At least, it’s either that or a mound of wet Charmin — and that’s not a good thing.)
14. Miss North Dakota, Stephanie Erickson.
Classy, classic pageant glamour. Simple as that.
13. Miss South Dakota, Jessica Albers.
Ditto. Some might argue the Dakota queens look a little old-fashioned, but quintessential pageant glamour is timeless.
12. Miss Minnesota, Danielle Hooper.
That’s not to say contemporary trends can’t look great either, though. Here’s Miss Minnesota in peplum perfection.
11. Miss North Carolina, Ashley Love-Mills. (Top 10)
A highlight of the night’s proceedings: Miss North Carolina walking in this stunner of a gown and casually flashing a glimmer of some sequinned hot pants. (And yes, this gown was the best of the three bustier/draped skirt combos even before that moment.) How it didn’t land her a spot in the top 6 remains a mystery — unless judge Betsey Johnson forgot to vote.
10. Miss Rhode Island, Brittany Stenovich.
Also mysterious: this. “I know you’re not going to crown Miss Rhode Island the winner two years in a row so I’m just going to wear this fabulous mess of a dress and that’s that.”
9. Miss Mississippi, Paromita Mitra.
Where did it all go wrong for Miss Mississippi? When she couldn’t put down the gold trim, that’s when. Saying that “less is more” is, in the pageant business, rank blasphemy — but in this instance it’s also the cold, hard truth.
8. Miss Louisiana, Kristen Girault. (Top 10)
Apparently sharing a dressmaker with Miss Mississippi, and clearly getting the better of two variations on that Grecian Goddess theme. (Miss Louisiana might have that mild case of narcolepsy, but you clearly won’t catch her napping when it comes to gown selection.)
7. Miss Alabama, Mary Margaret McCord. (1st runner-up)
Now, this is how you (nearly) win Miss USA in relatively unembellished black dresses. Stunning times two.
6. Miss Oklahoma, Makenzie Muse.
Aside from some weird ripple action at the bottom of Miss Oklahoma’s fishtail gown, these looks are flawless. A-OK, if you will.
5. Miss West Virginia, Chelsea Welch. (Top 15)
Really, anyone so committed to pageant-worthy excess that they arbitrarily staple fan-pleated silk panels to their gown’s waistline deserves to be commended. This is beautiful; Miss West Virginia was #robbed.
4. Miss Colorado, Amanda Wiley.
Also #robbed: all the pageant’s viewers, basically, for not getting the chance to marvel at this outstanding gown during that brief group dance number with the queens not placing in the top 10.
3. Miss Kentucky, Allie Leggett.
Candy cotton fishtail gowns: in all their saccharine splendour, they never fail to impress.
2. Miss Arkansas, Hannah Billingsley.
The dress on the left is exactly what Miss USA judge NeNe Leakes will be wearing to the next Real Housewives of Atlanta reunion. Bet on it, because it is just that perfect — if it were only paired with some McQueen lobster shoes then it’d be worth the pageant’s crown for good styling alone.
But the best evening gown look by a longshot comes courtesy of…
1. Miss Louisiana’s childhood glamour photo.
Each of this year’s contestants have a childhood photo in their profile online. In every instance, they’re adorable — but this image is very special.
After all, who doesn’t wish all Miss USA contestants dressed like this for the main stage?
All photos courtesy of Miss USA 2013.