Grading The Gowns: Miss Universe Edition

It takes a lot more than blinding sparkles to make a good pageant dress. Here’s a ranking of the Miss Universe evening gowns, from worst to best.

11. Miss Venezuela

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She gets points for trying something different with the stripes but loses more points for looking like a big green sparkle slinky. Also the lack of volume and train makes her look like a caterpillar.

Grade: F

10. Miss Brazil

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The contrasting stripes of sparkles add a small amount of intrigue but not enough to keep me from wondering if those sparkly blue spheres behind her are actually exercise balls that allow the contestants and host Giulana Rancic to do crunches between segments. Also the crispy nature of the fabric cheapens this too much for me.

Grade: D-

9. Miss Hungary

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I’m sorry, did she come from getting married in one of Miss Universe base camp city Las Vegas’s nearby wedding chapels? This is a wedding dress, not an outrageous or interesting pageant gown. Where’s the intrigue? The weird element that makes us remember this moment? That said, it’s a better looking wedding dress than you see on 99% of the eight million reality shows that are about picking out wedding dresses.

Grade: D-

8. Miss Russia

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This looks like a sparkly bathing suit with an oversized sarong hanging off it. Design-wise it doesn’t quite cohere for me. If this were Project Runway, you know Nina would ask why the designer spent so much time on the sparkly bodice but not the skirt.

Grade: D

7. Miss Philippines

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The “under the sea” flavor of this gown gives it design cred. It feels less like a bunch of sparkly shit sewn into a figure-flattering item of clothing than a real IDEA.

Grade: B-

6. Miss South Africa

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But the scale-like sequins all over this gown and its mermaid train make me think “mermaid princess,” which is an even better idea than the “under the sea” dress above.

Grade: B

5. Miss France

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Leave it to France and her country’s fashion cred to class the joint up a bit. This is not my favorite evening gown ever but you could see someone like Ana Kendrick wearing it to the Golden Globes or something and E!’s Fashion Police and People magazine putting it on a best-dressed list.

Grade: B

4. Miss Australia

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This is another perfectly acceptable red-carpet option! It has legit awards show potential, and it’s always impressive when that happens at a beauty pageant. But the boning in the top makes it look too “Victoria’s Secret catalog” for this to be an A+ choice.

Grade: B+

3. Miss Universe 2011

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I like this because she showed that you can be dramatic and attention-getting at a beauty pageant without looking like Carnivale shit sparkles all over you. This is pageant avant garde.

Grade: A-

2. Miss Mexico

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This has the same “sparkly bathing suit with attached sarong” quality that Miss Russia’s gown did, but this succeeds because it’s Christmasy, and everyone loves Christmas right now. Also the neckline is so bizarre and the leg opening so dramatic that you’ll remember this the next day. And as a pageant contestant, if you can get audiences to remember you past that night, you’re doing something right.

Grade: A

1. Miss USA

David Becker / Getty Images

Go USA! Obviously being an American, I’m biased, but she really managed to achieve drama in a modern way with this velvet-and-chiffon look. Without any sequins here, you totally remember this and think, WOW, and not just because of her breasts, which almost put Blake Lively’s rack to shame.

David Becker / Getty Images

But because her dress did THIS! This is joy in a pageant gown, right here. The Christmas gift under America’s Christmas Tree. The uniform Mrs. Claus wished she had. That’s our girl!

Grade: A+++

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