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The First Miss America Pageants Are Shockingly Different From Today's

Here's "sexy" swimwear circa 1921.

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Here's Margaret Gorman, the winner of the first Miss America pageant in 1921. Evidently she'd been shopping in King Triton's wardrobe.

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

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.


No joke, this was the swimsuit portion of the first Miss America contest.

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

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."


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.