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

Here’s “sexy” swimwear circa 1921.

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.

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.

2. Nowadays…sparkly ballgowns. So sparkly.

David Becker / Getty Images

3. 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.”

4. Just slightly less fabric now.

David Becker / Getty Images

5. Here’s Margaret two years later — in 1923 — with that year’s winner, Mary Katherine Campbell. And also Dumbledore.

NY Daily News via Getty Images

6. These days, it’s unlikely you’d see contestants sharing a stage with a creepy wizard. Instead, they get the lovely Chris Harrison.

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

7. A 1938 winner basks happily in her glory in what appears to be a shiny romper. I dig.

Imagno / Getty Images

8. Miss America 2012 loses it upon winning her title.

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

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.

NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

10. Pageant fashion these days is still flashy. Emphasis on the flash.

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

11. Although some things have not changed.

Imagno / Getty Images

Behold, the winner of a contest called “Miss America Under Five Years” held in 1933. Basically the Toddlers & Tiaras prototype.

12. Toddlers & Tiaras has apparently been a thing since ye olde days.

13. Here’s the 1927 winner, Miss Illinois. She’s clearly happy…

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

14. But maybe not as happy as this girl.

David Becker / Getty Images

15. Or this girl.

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

16. Or this girl.

Ethan Miller/Staff

There she is, Miss America.

Check out more articles on!

  Your Reaction?

    Starting soon, you'll only be able to post a comment on BuzzFeed using a Facebook account or via our app. If you have questions or thoughts, email us here.


    Now Buzzing