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SASHES AND TIARAS.....65th Miss Universe National Costumes Show: Top 20 Best Costumes!

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Queen Chalita: Miss Universe Thailand in her Queen Sirikit-inspired costume--Miss Universe 2016 National Costume Show

Pageant fans (myself included!) are excited for the Finals of the 65th Miss Universe which are happening tomorrow LIVE from Manila Philippines. The show will be televised at 7 PM EST US time which in Manila Philippines will be 8 AM Monday morning. 86 of the world's most beautiful women are competing for the coveted title. Events leading up to be the big finale Crowning Night have been occurring for the past three weeks in the Philippines, including the most-important Preliminary Competition which happened 2 nights ago. Along with that, there was the fan-favorite National Costume Show, where the contestants showcased their "National Costumes".

Andean Goddesses, Wicker Basket Diva and a Folies Bergère Showgirl--Miss Universe 2016 National Costume Show in Mall of Asia Arena Manila Philippines

The term "National Costumes" has been used very flexibly during the last few years at Miss Universe. Instead of those traditional "Happy Hands at Home"-looking ensembles of the past, there have been more and more contestants being inspired by Victoria's Secret Angels. This year, there were lots of "Supermodel/Beauty Pageant Birds", Pre-Columbian Goddesses, an homage of sorts to Julie Andrews/"Sound of Music", a Folies Bergère Showgirl and even Pippi Longstocking. Here are my TOP 20 Favorites from the 65th Miss Universe National Costume Show (plus a bonus!). I judged in terms of impact of costume, uniqueness, head-to-toe quality, and the kind of overall tribute it represented to the contestant's nation. 

My Number One Best Costume Pick goes to...
1. Miss Universe Myanmar Htet Htet Htun: I really can't explain these photos above if you have not seen the actual "performance"--which you can view below on YouTube (her part begins at 1:37):


Miss Universe Myanmar came out with her own background stage! Let's just begin there. She already receives 50 points from me with that! Then she proceeded to do a traditional Burmese puppet dance and literally brought the house down! The "costume" was created by the same designer who made her competition evening gown and was showing traditional Yoke thé Burmese marionette puppetry. Unbelievable. Whoever is judging the Miss Universe 2016 National Costume Show, please give her the Best Title. And Some prize money to her designer. ASAP!

2. Miss Universe Vietnam Le Hang: The Miss Universe Vietnam Organization held a contest throughout the country to have designers come up with Miss Universe Vietnam's costume (a nice way to get these costumes made for free: Hello--It's called Marketing 101). Anyhow...The top 5 designs were chosen and the above was the one chosen. It was inspired by the art of making wicker baskets highlighting the agricultural history of Vietnam. It was STUNNING--from head to toe. I love when a designer of these national costumes also thinks of the SHOES! So many of these ladies show up in these fabulous costumes --and then wear Chinese Laundry platform pumps. Ayyy Dios Mio! But Miss Universe Vietnam did not. Bravo.

3. Miss Universe Thailand Chalita Suansane: This glittering costume is entitled the "Jewel of Thailand". It features a gold long sleeve top with a sabai, and matching skirt. It was inspired by a type of traditional Thai dress named "Siwalai", which Queen Sirikit of Thailand used to wear decades ago...


The designer won 20,000 Thai baht (about $560 US dollars at today's exchange rate) for his winning design entry; I'm thinking he should have gotten much more! The design is spectacular and worthy of being in a Costume Museum and certainly more than a $560 prize. Creating that costume alone--sewing, fabric, pattern, fittings and design fee...well, any designer worth their design resume would charge about $10,000. It was designed by culture scholar Hirankrit Pattaraboriboonkool and is decorated with 100,000 Swarovski crystals. Insane!

4. Miss Universe France Iris Mittenaere: It's not a shocker that Miss Universe France decided to look like a Folies Bergère Showgirl for her national costume. But, what is a surprise is that this was actually Folies Bergère Costume loaned out to her. And this was one of the first times the iconic French Showgirl company has done so. These costumes rarely--if ever--leave Paris. She looked FABULOUS and perfect! I honestly can't think of a better ensemble for a Miss France to wear! 

5. Miss Universe Indonesia Kezia Warouw: This gorgeous golden costume was designed by Dynand Fariz, president of the Jember Fashion Carnaval as well as the JFC creative team. It took two months to create. The theme was "Unity Nation" and the inspiration is the iconic Garuda Bird. The Garuda bird represents sovereignty of Indonesia and symbolizes grandeur and glory with its golden color. The costume was gorgeous and incredibly elaborate in its jeweled detail.

6. Miss Universe Nicaragua Marina Jacoby: Miss Universe Nicaragua wore one of my Top Favorite of the very popular "Bird Costumes". This one was entitled "Guardabarrenco: Brother of Wind, Song and Light", representing Nicaragua's national bird in photo above-- known for its colorful plumage which can be found throughout the country. The costume was designed by Nicaraguan designer Neftali Espinoza and weighed over 20 pounds. I'm surprised that is all it weighed!

7. Miss Universe Venezuela Mariam Habach: Mariam caused a big "WOW" from the audience during the "Miss Universe 2016 National Costume Show for various reasons. First, it was a MAJAH costume! Designed by Venezuelan designer Nidal Nouaihed who also did her evening gown, it was entitled "Enchanted Queen of the Sea". The costume is inspired by the mythology of the mermaid of Guaica. She was a mestiza indian named Guaricha Guaica from the Guaiqueries tribe. She disobeyed the rule of not entering the ocean, especially on Good Friday. After searching and searching for her, she was never found and eventually, they were told that she had been lost to the sea and in fact, had now become the virginal mermaid "Enchanted Queen of The Oceans".

If that wasn't enough, it was also inspired by the Venezuelan coastline and its beaches and featured 120 meters of fabrics, hundred of pearls and crystals. At least it wasn't inspired by the fact that many of Venezuela's population can't even find food or feminine hygiene products. But that's a whole other matter. Overall, this was an incredible costume. The only negative was that when Mariam took the stage, she could barely walk and stumbled miserably. I would have put her costume higher if only it was created with her in mind--and the fact that she was going to actually WALK in it!

8. Miss Universe Mauritius Kushboo Ramnawa: Kushboo's National Costume was designed by a Filipino designer Kirsten Regalado and assisted by 4 high school students from Bacolod City Philippines. The ensemble was inspired by the volcanic eruption that created her island nation and it is made of recycled materials. The headdress is made of red fabric petals representing the volcanic eruption and also the flora of Mauritius after the volcanic eruption. The detachable cape is made of eco-fabric material hand painted to show the volcano on the outside of the cape and then the volcanic eruption inside...


The three-piece custom made gown is constructed using different materials. The upper gown is covered with recycled corded red lace and sewn with sequins for sparkle, reflecting the colors of the lava from the volcanic eruption. The skirt is made of recycled corrugated cardboard boxes, cut into diamond shapes and the floor sweeping train is covered with 1,300 pieces of recycled clear plastic cups and paper mache' painted to show the hilly and amazing Seven Colored Earth of Chamarel in the island of Mauritius. Overall, this costume was pretty incredible!


9. Miss Universe Dominican Republic Sal Garcia: This colorful and gorgeous costume was designed by Dominican designer Leonel Lirio with help from Luis Rivas and hand painted by artist Maribel Pena. It's entitled "Bird Enchantress" and inspired by Dominican painter and fine artist Candido Bido (lower photo), famous for his intense colors and use of the sun and birds--among many other things. I absolutely LOVED it!

10. Miss Universe Panama Keity Drennan: This bold and colorful costume was designed by Panamanian designer Daniel Cortina. The title of the ensemble is "Flowers and Coffee: Pride of My Land" and was inspired by a traditional market in a small town where locals and travelers from all over the world can buy flowers and coffee grown in Panama's green mountain highlands of Boquete. Not sure what the human-like mannequins are there representing but...it was a very impressive costume for Miss Universe Panama.

11. Miss Universe Ecuador Connie Jimenez: Miss Universe Ecuador's national costume really grabbed my attention for being one of the BEST in the "Bird Fabulous" Category. Ecuador is known as Land of the Hummingbirds with 124 different species. The costume plays homage to all those differently colored hummingbirds that call Ecuador home. The winged cape of her costume was pretty incredible!

12. Miss Universe Argentina Estefania Bernal: Estefania wore one of the BEST of those "Victoria's Secret"-like Indigenous Goddess looks for this year's edition of "Miss Universe". This costume--designed by Marcelo Pendola who has created several of the previous "Miss Universe Argentina" costumes. It was inspired by the Pachamama Goddess revered by the indigenous people of the Andean. The Goddess is also known as "Mother Earth"--or Creator of the the Universe. I loved the entire look--from head to toe; the plumage, the exquisite sequin work...and the fact that her shoes were part of the costume! Also, she did a lift-of-the-wing thing that made the audience go WILD! She got points for that (at least from me!). Muy bien!

13. Miss Universe Hungary Veronika Bodizs: Miss Universe Hungary's national costume was designed by Peter Mero and features the prominent red color, featured in Hungary's flag and flower-influenced folk costumes. The design is adorned with 1500 of the red peppers that are used to make paprika. The costume was Couture Fab, very impacting and worthy of inclusion in my Top 20! 

14. Miss Universe Haiti Raquel Pelissier: Miss Universe Haiti wore the costume above for the Miss Universe 2016 National Costume Show. The design is supposed to depict the natural beauty of Haiti, which is known as the "Pearl of the Antilles", beginning back in 1492 when it was "discovered". Notice the huge pearl she is holding, really putting an exclamation point to Haiti being the "Pearl of the Antilles". I love this costume and thought it was one of better Pre-Columbian styles of the pageant. Once again, I admire the fact that whoever designed this, also thought of the shoes and leg details. And by the way, that headdress is STUNNING!

15. Miss Universe Austria Dajana Dzinic: Dajana's national costume for Austria is...inspired by the 1965 Academy award winning film "Sound of Music"...naturally! You can almost hear "The hills are alive...with the Sound of Music!" while the lovely Dajana twirls around. The beautifully printed costume was designed by Aviad Arik Herman, same designer of Miss Universe Sweden's costume and evening gown. I love the obviousness of this and it's very high kitsch factor, while still being quite beautiful and elegant. It was done very well. All that was missing were the Von Trapp kids. Well, probably better for that.

16. Miss Universe Bolivia Antonella Moscatelli: This festive and colorful costume was created with the help of the Association of Folkloric Ensembles of Oruro (ACFO) and designed by Monika Siles with help from Marcelo Anteza who created the feathered headdress as well as 20+ people who aided in creating the ensemble. The costume represents the allegories in the 18 types of dances in the Carnival of Oruno and is entitled the "Allegory of the Carnival of Oruro". The carnival is a religious festival dating back more than 200 years that takes place in Oruro, Bolivia. It is one of UNESCO's Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The cost of making the costume: $1500...quite cheap for such an elaborate costume! I loved the colors, the festiveness of it and that the designers/creators thought of EVERYTHING--including the footwear. 

17. Peru Valeria Piazza: Peru's contestant wore a costume depicting a fabulous bird (I told you the theme was a popular one this year!). It was made by hearing impaired artisans in the Peruvian jungle and created using sustainable materials and natural items such as rice, and maize. The aspect of this design that really made me (and everyone in the audience) go "Wow!" was that she made the wings take flight:



18. Miss Universe Malaysia Kiran Jassal:  This costume for Miss Universe Malaysia has caused quite a stir on social media for being so "out there"/non-traditional and yes, avant-garde. Designed by the duo of Rizman Ruzaini, the national costume is a glittery silver jumpsuit inspired by the Petronas Twin Towers, prominently featured on her shoulders and arms.The design is embellished with thousands of Swarovski crystals over a nude-colored fabric base. The crystal choker on her neck represents the sky bridge that connects the two towers. Personally, I think it's SUPERFAB and kudos to the designers for thinking outside the traditional national costume box.


19. Miss Universe Canada Siera Bearchell: Combining a bunch of different icons and symbols, Canada's costume features the iconic Maple leaf from her country's flag and its theme was the infamous Canadian Winter. The large snowflake includes the shape of every Canadian province and territory with thousands of crystals, and it's topped off with a hat and snow boots. It was designed by Canadian costume and theme wear designer Rebecca McKenzie.

Finally...
20. Miss Universe Philippines Maxine Medina: Designed by Filipino fashion designer Rhett Eala, Maxine's national costume was inspired by the vinta, a traditional boat from Mindanao (lower photo above). The head piece was made to resemble a large piece of coral found in the country's reefs. The headdress alone which includes sea pearls, is said to have cost more than 1 million Philippine Pesos (about $20,000) according to the designer. This look on Maxine was chic, elegant and I loved how she mimicked the waves and sails with her hands during her "performance". It was enough to get her in my Top 20 List.

A Bonus...
Miss Universe Sweden Ida Ovmar: This costume was designed by Avid Arik Herman (who also designed Miss Universe Austria's "Sound of Music" national costume). It's entitled "Dress of Dreams", which represents the vision that every child has the "opportunity to be loved and the possibility to fulfill their dreams". The strapless asymmetrical hi-lo ballgown features photos of children on the dress to go with the "every child has a dream" theme. She added a sequined top/shoulder/sleeves piece, red braided wig, mismatched stockings and a big ol' horse and voila: She's Pippi Longstocking with Supernatural Strength! I didn't include this costume as one of my Top 20 Favorites especially since the contestant used the same dress for her Evening Gown as well...but I will give it a "Memorable Mention" just for its "kookiness" and for the wonderful and worthwhile project it is attached to.

4 Responses to "SASHES AND TIARAS.....65th Miss Universe National Costumes Show: Top 20 Best Costumes!"

Closer2Fame said...

The Garuda is a mythical bird-like creature which is present in Hindu and Buddhist traditions.

While Ms Philippine's costume is also a modern interpretation of the traditional princess attire of Maranaos, a large muslim ethnic group in the island of Mindanao.

Unknown said...

A lot of thought and effort in these beautiful creations in recent years, much better than they were in earlier years of the pageant.

Closer2Fame said...

I commend Miss Mauritius for going on stage even with bloody lips after her face fell flat on the floor because Ms. Venezuela "accidentaly" stepped on her national costume just like how she stepped on Ms. Peru's gown. I also wonder how Ms. Venezuela convinced Ms. Kazakhistan to trade her red gown and Ms Slovak Republic to trade her winning Terno when both girls barely speak English nor Spanish?

Rebecca McKenzie said...

Thank you for including Miss Universe Canada Siera Bearchell in your list! 😙🍁❤

-Rebecca McKenzie, Lux Custom Costume Design