1. Here’s Margaret Gorman, the winner of the first Miss America pageant in 1921. Evidently she’d been shopping in King Triton’s wardrobe.
Interestingly, the Miss America pageant was born out of several business ideas coming together. In an attempt to increase readership, certain newspapers began running beauty contests. At the same time, Atlantic City businesses were trying to keep tourists around past the summer, and so they began inviting the beauty contestant winners seen in print to Atlantic City to compete in a larger contest. That first year, Margaret was awarded the “Golden Mermaid” trophy for being “The Most Beautiful Bathing Girl in America.”
She became known as Miss America a year later.
2. Nowadays…sparkly ballgowns. So sparkly.
3. No joke, this was the swimsuit portion of the first Miss America contest.
According to Miss America’s history, in this first contest, “judging was largely based on their general appeal in appearance, personality, conversations with the judges, and interactions with the crowds.”
4. Just slightly less fabric now.
5. Here’s Margaret two years later — in 1923 — with that year’s winner, Mary Katherine Campbell. And also Dumbledore.
6. These days, it’s unlikely you’d see contestants sharing a stage with a creepy wizard. Instead, they get the lovely Chris Harrison.
7. A 1938 winner basks happily in her glory in what appears to be a shiny romper. I dig.
8. Miss America 2012 loses it upon winning her title.
9. The Real Housewives of Downton Abbey — er, I mean — contestants in fancy dress, with the 1925 winner, Fay Lanphier (far right), wearing…well, I’m not sure what she’s wearing.
10. Pageant fashion these days is still flashy. Emphasis on the flash.
11. Although some things have not changed.
Behold, the winner of a contest called “Miss America Under Five Years” held in 1933. Basically the Toddlers & Tiaras prototype.
13. Here’s the 1927 winner, Miss Illinois. She’s clearly happy…
14. But maybe not as happy as this girl.
15. Or this girl.
16. Or this girl.
There she is, Miss America.