Last year I covered Miss Universe’s National Costume Contest. I didn’t realize when this year’s was, but it was pointed out that pictures were out and I had better get started.

I’m not sure who the actual winner of this event is (I think that doesn’t happen until Monday?). Since I have a different criteria than the judges of the pageant – they enjoy “bras that look like eyeballs” and I enjoy “Icelandic schoolmarm” – I wasn’t sure exactly how to go about picking a winner of my own.

I looked for overwhelming trends this year (including Nonsense Capes, Escape from Prom Island, I Was a Project Runway Challenge, and Shit You Have to Carry), but I finally stumbled across a picture that made me realize the difference between perception of these national costumes and their reality.

This is Japan’s national costume.

First of all, and I mean this: way to improve over last year, everyone. Sure, it’s completely over the top, but this is Miss Universe, not the Parade of Dignity, so whatever. And yes, she’s holding a fan as tall as she is, but hey, you guys got the memo about Shit You Have to Carry, so you’re just doing your job.

But, uh, here’s what it looks like in person.

In which pretty much no one learns a damn thing from last year, except Canada.

Miss Japan is working the crap out of it, don’t get me wrong, but without the photo-shoot lighting and eye line, you sort of get the feeling that she was forced to carry that fan because it was supposed to be balancing on the bow-bedecked samurai pole and it just didn’t work out.

Please note that she was far from the only poor soul who had some ungodly prop shoved into her hands/strapped to her back/dropped onto her head at the last second.




Kosovo, looking completely awesome and you know it. (Note an early appearance of the Nonsense Cape, which we will get to in a moment.)

Mexico, whose headdress would be standard except she is too excited to even keep it on without help.

Serbia. Did she make bouquets for the judges? What?

Miss U.S. Virgin Islands (I think), who stole Egypt’s best concept and then added a gladiator helmet so it would look like her own idea.

And even the gladiator helmet didn’t go over well with some people:

One of the few capes in the competition that isn’t Nonsense. However, the rest of it looks like they bought a “General Arousal” costume from the Happy Hubby Hideaway and then handed her an actual hand-forged sword with which to exact vengeance on her sworn enemy!:

Switzerland, Warrior Princess.

(I cracked up when I saw Switzerland, and will not pretend otherwise. )

Egypt, creatively bankrupt once the Gold Wings thing was taken, got so sad her armbands cried.

Peurto Rico is sympathetic.

Kazakhstan, who I hope did some neck-strengthening exercises prior to this. (Love the top of the dress, though.)

Dominican Republic. Uh…what?

Speaking of people who went to the Happy Hubby Hideaway, this is Albania’s national costume.

USA, showing how much worse the Wonder Woman redesign could have been.

Venezuela, who will be using that projectile to slice Miss USA open from soup to nuts for also going metallic.

You’ll notice that a lot of the costumes this year have trailing Nonsense Capes. This is hardly new to the pageant, but this year I’m pretty sure it was mandatory. Some of them were only told at the last second, so they had to rip up their own skirts just so they could have something to winsomely and/or sassily wave at the audience.


Belgium. Oh, Belgium, Belgium, Belgium. Did you learn nothing from Ireland last year? You can’t wait until the night before to start your costume! People can tell!

Speaking of which: Ireland.

(I laughed. I don’t know what else to tell you.)

Slovak Republic, the first of many who sacrificed her skirts to the Nonsense Cape requirement.



Greece, who must be aware that she lucks out in this category every year, since she can wear a lovely chiton forever and just forget about it.


Lebanon, who looks like she’ll never find her way out of that thing.

Curacao, whose Nonsense Cape is actually interesting, and who might have won this category…

…except that Angola did it, too, and she’s going to ram those ovipositors right through anyone who gets in her way, so if Curacao has the sense God gave a waffle, she will withdraw from the Nonsense Cape category and take those bright red flowers off her head, because it just makes her easier to see.

The Czech Republic, expertly baffling me

Aruba, or as she’s known in Miss Universe costuming circles, The Canada of the South.

Speaking of people who did not even try, some of them just handed the whole thing over to Project Runway contestants, or asked their country’s representatives to just wear a prom dress they could modify with some craft supplies.

Colombia, who looks as though she had to hop on and off that stage with her legs pressed this tightly together to keep from getting disqualified on a panty-rules violation.

Ukraine. Austin Scarlett, you are remembered!

Singapore, member of the Homecoming Court

Is this popcorn, Argentina? I’m seriously asking.

“Oh shit, Miss Universe IS coming up! Quick, grab my quilting supplies!”

France is wearing an Eiffel Tower on top of her beret. (It’s to distract from the dress…I desperately hope. Not that it works – we see that Nonsense Cape, France!)

Norway, Harvest Ball Princess.

China, who had by favorite entry last year, completely dropping the ball.

Brazil, who got excited about the “craft supplies” part.


Botswana is so gorgeous I honestly didn’t even notice how her top is one string away from falling off. Then I did, and now I’m that mom who gasps every time a kid at the dive meet leaves the board, even though everyone is perfectly fine.

Turkey. Uh…what?

But of course, a few of these entries still managed to be awesome.

Korea, whose hanbok is so great I will overlook the Nonsense Cape attached to her hat.

Denmark. I am the only person in the world who liked Bjork’s swan dress. I am probably the only person in the world who likes this dress.

Malaysia. The costume here is not great. However, I think it must be suffering from Photo-Shoot Syndrome, since it looks awesome in this shot.


You know what the national costume of Uruguay is? SOME COMFORTABLE PANTS.

I am not down with fur, but if I cover it up, the rest of this dress is lovely!

Ditto Canada, who at least tried this year.


Nigeria. I love both her national costume, and the look she’s giving the pit of photographers.

But my favorite this year actually follows all the rules instead of breaking them – and you know what, even with a Nonsense Cape AND Shit You Have to Carry, Thailand comes out of this thing looking like a stone-cold winner, doesn’t she?

Even though you are a year older now than when you started this post, this is not every national costume. Check them all out here.