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SASHES AND TIARAS.....Best of 2016 (and early 2017!): Top 25 Best Beauty Pageant Gowns

Best of the Caped Queens: Caped and Watteau-back Gowns at 2016 Beauty Pageants (L to R) Miss South Dakota USA Madison McKeown, Miss Universe Thailand Chalita Suansane, Miss Venezuela Keysi Sayago, Miss World Philippines Catriona Gray

As you may know, I cover Beauty Pageant Evening Gowns here on my "Sashes and Tiaras" blog and I have written about A LOT of gowns this past year! And since the last "Biggie" of international beauty pageants occurred last week-- the 65th Miss Universe Pageant--I thought it was finally time to give my Top 25 Best Pageant Evening Gowns of this past 2016 (and early 2017) Season.

Originally I had almost FORTY gowns here but naturally I had to edit them because the blog would just go on and on, and on, and that's not cute. I've included my favorites from international beauty pageants including the most recent Miss Universe, Miss World 2016, Miss International 2016, Miss Grand International 2016, Miss Supranational 2016, Miss USA 2016, Miss Binibining Pilipinas (Miss Universe Philippines) 2016 and Miss Venezuela 2016.

Ballgown Divas: (L to R) Miss Sucre Venezuela Victoria Gonzalez, Miss World 2016 Stephanie De Valle and Miss Universe Ukraine Alena Spodynyuk

There were several Gown Themes that were popular throughout this past year's international pageants, including "Caped Queens", "Ballgown Divas", "Sequined Divas" and a "Mermaid Gal" or two. So without keeping you in Gown Suspense much are my Top 25 Favorite Gowns of 2016 (and early 2017):

1. Miss Universe Ukraine Alena Spodynyuk: I literally got up off my couch and started doing my own "pretend Pageant Gown Runway Walk" when Miss Universe Ukraine entered the stage with this red sequined silk gown from Lebanese designer Ziad Nakad. The coral-like sequin detail was exquisite and the fit was perfection which is not a surprise since this was from the designer's Couture collection. I loved the slightly pouf'ed sleeves, open back and to top everything off, her hair and makeup were FLAWLESS. For me, this was hands down THE BEST GOWN of 2016 Miss Universe Preliminary Competition and so sad she didn't get to 'feature" it at the Finals since she did not become a Semi-Finalist. 

2. Miss South Dakota USA Madison McKeown: Out of the 52 contestants vying for this year's 2016 Miss USA title, in terms of evening gowns, Miss South Dakota SHUT IT DOWN. When she appeared onstage, I immediately knew that we had gone into non-Sherri Hill Couture Territory! Madison wore an ivory silk crepe gown that had an attached dramatic cape and was hand-painted dip-dye of blue and silver. It fit her perfectly and she brought the Miss USA 2016 Evening Gown Competition to a new Haute level during the Finals. The dress is from Tony Ward Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2015/2016 Collection. Ward is one of those Lebanese Couturiers that are favored by the Gulf State Ladies as well as European Awards Show Red Carpets such as Cannes. This dress was a MAJAH "Bravo!" gown moment.

3. Miss Sucre (at Miss Venezuela 2016) Victoria Gonzalez: This gown design by Venezuelan designer Alejandro Fajardo was probably the most impacting, chic, Haute Couture-like gown of the night. I loved the striking design and silhouette which featured a fitted column with attached ballgown overskirt. The fit was also amazing and the silver Baroque-like sequins over the ziberline base was EVERYTHING. 

4. Miss Venezuela 2016 Keysi Sayago: I loved this gown ensemble worn by Keysi Sayago "Miss Monagas" who was eventually crowned "Miss Venezuela. The ivory silk crepe gown was designed by Hugo Espina and it had a gorgeous and dramatic hi-lo short sleeve cape. It was heavily--and beautifully--embroidered with silver sequins throughout. The only thing I didn't like were the gloves and TOO-platform'ed pumps (Can you say "Tacky-licious!?). But, I will overlook those little accessories details when a gown like this is so Alta Moda perfect. 

5. Miss World Philippines Catriona Gray: Miss World Philippines made the Top Five at last year's Miss World wearing this very beautiful dusty rose pink-colored gown. I love everything about it: The gorgeous sequin work, the style, the back "Watteau"-like cape detail. This was a "Get Your Crown" gown! Unfortunately, she didn't...but almost. It was still, one of my Top Favorite Gowns of the "Miss World 2016" Finals and of this past year!

6. Miss Universe Vietnam Le Hang: This gown was INCREDIBLE: The Mermaid shaped gown featured nude backing, silver sequin applique, fitted long sleeves, scooped and squared neckline and finally, a very dramatic train. She looked like the Queen of a COUNTRY! Seriously, this needs to be in a fashion museum, like yesterday. In addition, it was very smart for her to do her hair sleek and pulled to the back, clean and chic and keep the accessories to almost nothing--except earrings. When you are wearing a gown like this...who needs anything else...except a crown perhaps? Stunning.

7. Miss Universe Thailand Chalita Suansane: Speaking of stunning...Chalita Suansane wore MY FAVORITE GOWN of the recent 65th Miss Universe Pageant. When she stepped onto the stage for the Evening Gown competition, she SHUT IT DOWN in this gown from Thai fashion brand Asava Group and its Creative Director Polpat AsavapraphaI loved the Haute Couture drama, the simplicity of the silhouette, the overt homage to traditional Thai dresses...and that back cape was EVERYTHING! She looked like a DIVA. On a minor negative note, I wished she would not have worn those nude platform shoes with this black gown! What was she thinking? Oh well, I'm trying to ignore that shoe faux pas! 

8. Miss Miranda (in Miss Venezuela 2016) Rosangelica Piscitelli: Rosangelica was one of the favorites to win the crown. She surprisingly ended up getting Fourth Runner-up but did get the "Miss Elegance" and "Miss Photogenic" titles. In terms of her gown, she was very on-trend with this caped design by Venezuelan designer Hugo Espina. The blush/nude gown featured lots of gold, silver and copper sequin applique work. She looked like she was worth A MILLION BUCKS! 

9. Miss Universe Colombia Andrea Tovar: Andrea wore this golden gown from Colombian designer Alfredo Barraza. She looked beautiful and the gown was STUNNING. The strapless sequined applique design was fitted with a flared bottom section and featured scalloped stiffened tiers beginning at the hip. It was very Haute Couture in its silhouette and fabrication. Muy Bella. Bella enough to almost become Miss Universe. Almost.

10. Miss World 2016 Stephanie Del Valle: Stephanie--who represented "Puerto Rico" wore this pale pink ballgown made of silk organza and 24,000 Swarovski crystals. The tiered design was created by Puerto Rican fashion designer Carlos Alberto who named Stephanie as his Muse (I would too!). It was STUNNING, beautiful, and very "Miss World". It was one of the BEST gowns of the pageant and one of my Top 25 Favorites of the Year!

11. Miss International Indonesia Felicia Hwang: The beautiful Felicia won the "Miss Best Dresser" Award during the entire competition, as she was very much the perfectly styled fashionista throughout the pre-finals events. Her gown--created by Indonesian designer Anaz Couture--for the final night was STUNNING. The royal blue and ivory halter-style gown featured intricate sequined embroidery that almost made her look like a priceless Ming Vase. To add major drama to the design, it featured a gorgeous satin cape attached to the back. Felicia was coming to win with this gown--and she almost did, since she got the 2nd Runner-up crown in this fabulous and dramatic design.

12. Miss Universe India Roshmitha Harimurthy: The minute Roshmitha walked onto the stage in this red gown, I gasped; The gown was so elegant, beautifully made and perfect for her. The lipstick red silk crepe gown featured gorgeous bead work, side front slit, long sleeves and plunging neckline (but not too plunging). I loved the shape and especially the solid softly draped overskirt. In case you are wondering, it was designed by "Project Runway" Season 14 designer Swapnil Shinde. Congrats to Swapnil for such a gorgeous design which was one of my favorites of this past Miss Universe and made it onto my Top 25 Beauty Pageant Evening Gowns List.

13. Miss Universe Georgia Nuka Karalashvili: Nuka is a working print and runway model and well, if you had any doubt, all you had to do was witness her performance and entrance in the Miss Universe 2016 Preliminaries Evening Gown Competition. I LOVED her ivory gown which featured multi-jeweled silver and blue sequins and paillettes--heavily beaded at the top but then delicately placed throughout the rest of the dress. It also had a cascade draped overskirt that was not overwhelming and worked seamlessly with the rest of the design. A GORGEOUS contestant wearing a GORGEOUS gown!

14. Miss Universe Venezuela Mariam Habach: One word--WOW! Mariam--who was a BIG FAVORITE to win the crown but didn't even place into the Semi-Finals--entered the stage in what first looked like a ballgown with a sequined top and feathered bottom skirt. Then...slowly but surely, she looked to the right and then to the left and VOILA: She unsnapped the feathered white/blue ombre shaded feathered skirt and...With a twirl, showed the inner sequined column gown hiding underneath. It was a MAJAH Pageant Moment and kudos to Venezuelan designer Nidal Noauihed for the design! Watch this video below to see the Gown Moment that I was talking about (and hootin' and hollerin' from the audience!): 

15. Miss Universe Thailand Chalita Suansane: Chalita already made this list with the black sequined cape-back one shoulder gown I included toward the beginning of the blog and here, she makes my list once again! I loved this original gown design from Thai designer Adhit Dhirakittiwat "Joe Surface" for the Miss Universe Preliminary Competition. The minute she stepped on stage, Chalita got my attention with this dramatic Couture Runway-worthy style of a gown. It was a bit over the top, but just RIGHT over-the-top! I loved the silver applique over clear organza, the fitted halter-style bustier and exploding tulle netting back overskirt. This is the kind of gown that makes little boys dream of being either A) A Fashion Designer or B) Drag Beauty Queens. Just fabulous.

16. Miss Supranational Philippines Joanna Eden: Miss Supranational Philippines Joanna Eden wore this beautiful teal-colored gown from Filipino designer Mark Bumbarner. The custom-made gown featured an off-shoulder draped neckline/top section and split-front skirt, as well as a dramatic overskirt. She looked flawless and so did this gown and that's why I included it in my Top 25 of 2016!

17. Miss Universe Jamaica Isabel Dalley: Isabel is one of the MOST BEAUTIFUL women of the Miss Universe 2016 pageant yet she didn't even place as a Semi-Finalist. Nevertheless, she looked resplendent in this red sequin, tulle and feathered gown. The jeweled applique work was out of control gorgeous and the manner it was placed throughout the dress was strategically impressive. Normally, I might not been a fan of the plumage but I LOVED it; it was used delicately and like a quiet "exclamation point" for the dress. One of the BEST red gowns of the season!

18. Miss Supranational 2016 Srinidhi Shetty: The eventual winner from India, Srinidhi wore this gold gown featuring leaf-like "fringe" sequins that fluttered beautifully as she walked. I thought the design had a strong gold color and stage presence. The gown fit well and looked perfect for her and was one of the best of the Golden Gowns of the year.

19. Miss Universe 2016 Iris Mittenaere: The gorgeous Miss France wore this almost see-through shimmering gown from Vietnamese designer Hoang Hai. I thought she looked stunning in this creation that featured silver and gold sequins on a nude tulle base with long sleeves. It fit her to perfection and was "Miss Universe" right--so right that SHE WON!

20. Miss Universe Indonesia Kezia Warouw: Kezia wore this strapless gown for the Miss Universe 2016 Preliminaries and I liked it so much, I placed it as one of Top 25 Best of the 2016 Pageant Season. She looked like an actress at the Cannes Red Carpet. I loved this gown for its simplicity and clean elegant silhouette.  It was designed by Indonesian designer Ivan Gunawan and featured a stiffened bustier and full skirt with high side slit and thousands of Swarovski crystals.

21. Miss USA 2016 Deshauna Barber: I loved this golden gown worn by Miss District of Columbia USA Deshauna Barber who eventually became Miss USA 2016. She wore this gown for the Preliminaries and it was designed by Juan Carlos Pinera. The design featured a nude organza base with gold metallic criss-cross detail and had an iridescent organza attached overskirt. This was one of the most outstanding gowns of 2016!

22. Miss Universe Aruba Charlene Leslie: I thought Charlene was one of the Top Standouts of the Miss Universe 2016 Preliminaries but once again, she didn't even make the Semi-Finalist Top 13. For the gown moment, she wore this white column gown that featured bands of sequins juxtaposed with bands of satin. It fit her perfectly and she looked elegant, classy and on-point. Oh, and her chignon hairstyle was EVERYTHING "vintage" Miss Venezuela. 

23. Miss Binibining Pilipinas #16 Vina Openiano: Out of all the gowns at the 2016 Binibining Pilipinas (Miss Universe Philippines) 2016 Pageant, this canary yellow gown worn by Vina Openiano was my favorite and it was beautiful enough to make my Best of 2016 List. I loved the color, the sequin applique and the shape fit her very well. She looked like a Pageant Goddess. Her hair and makeup were DIVA-licious, as well.

24. Miss Grand International 2016 Ariska Putri Pertiwi: Ariska represented Indonesia and won the entire pageant. The gown she wore was one of the most stunning ones of the pageant.  Her gown was inspired by the Javan hawk-eagle and was completely handmade, featuring 800 emerald crystals and 3,000 Swarovski golden crystals. The entire gown took 1200 hours to create. In other words, this was true Haute Couture and probably would retail in the $80,000-$100,000 range, if you were wealthy enough to be able to order it. It was a stunning mermaid-shaped gown and probably THE BEST of that silhouette of the entire past year!

25. Miss Supranational Malaysia Julylen Liew Gizelle: I absolutely LOVED this silver sequined gown worn by Miss Supranational Malaysia. Not only is the design outstanding and Couture-worthy, I love the perfect fit, her chic center-parted chignon hair as well as choice of earrings. Normally I would criticize these too-high platform heels (these are a but TOO HIGH!), but I'm glad she chose to wear gold/metallic ones as opposed to nude or Lucite "Stripper" styles. I just loved the style, the silver sequined fabrication and overall, she looked beautiful.

**UP NEXT: The "Uh OH" Pageant Gowns of 2016 (and early 2017)! Stay tuned...

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