Every year, there are eleventy billion beauty pageants worldwide, all of which are amazing and unsettling in their own special ways. However, for sheer Essence of Pageant, I’m not sure you can beat the National Costume segment of Miss Universe.

I’ve enjoyed writing some of these costumes up for the past three years – in fact, I have probably enjoyed seeing them much more than many of these contestants have enjoyed wearing them.

And this year was no exception! Aside from the usual cadre of ladies who seem to have forgotten about the assignment until the morning of the parade (parade? contest? thing the pageant does just to make me happy?), and the perennial getups that are there are always yearly trends, like 2009’s Wide World of Foliage, or 2010’s Nonsense Capes, resurrected a little this year in what I’m sure is an amazing homage if you are in the loop on pageant stuff. “CLASSIC retro Nonsense Cape,” pageant people say back and forth very seriously.

What are this year’s trends? Let’s take a journey.

And Singapore sets the stage with INSTANT Nonsense Cape, running so long that they had to reframe the shot. This whole pageant is a gift.

But it’s not a bad dress, all told, though, even taking that monster train into account. She certainly fared much better than many of the others who reached for the Nonsense Capes of yore.

Finland! Her cape is being wisely deployed to distract from her sparkly armpits. (I question this! Those stones aren’t cheap! Was that the very best use of them, Finland? Was it?)

Lebanon! I actually dig this; it has interesting detail and seems like a cohesive part of the ensemble.


We cannot dislike this outfit any more than Romania herself dislikes it. We just can’t.

Ireland, who has never, ever gotten their shit together for this competition, ever.

Greece, you have one job. A chiton is your job. What is this.

…France. France. Look at yourself.

The thing is, if you’re going to do a cape, you have to Do a Cape.

Nicaragua demonstrates.

In fact, let’s just take an appreciative spin through the countries whose costuming teams are like, “Did you want spectacle? Oh, we’ll GIVE you spectacle! Are your shoulders load-bearing?”

Mexico! I love the frosted lips. They didn’t want to do too much!


USA, Empress of restraint and tact.

Angola; not a fan of the concept, but I appreciate that there was clearly effort put into the execution.

Ecuador, winner of the Height Division.

Peru. WHAT. YES.

But not every spectacle costume is a good one!

Netherlands, oh gosh.

If you just try to add a bunch of stuff, your outfit can end up backfiring on you big time!

Costa Rica, come on. Do or do not. There is no “maybe just a few drizzly crystal armbands.”

Brazil, your outfit is drunk.

Bolivia, and her frond antennae.

If there is anywhere where the sentence, “Gosh, I hope no one else does Frond Antennae this year” could reasonably be uttered, that place is Miss Universe, and New Zealand has just uttered it.

Canada, which is pretty terrible, sure, but given that they have been sort of appropriatey in the past, I am more than willing to accept this I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing cape. (I also love her expression here. “I know, right? So many people from around the world in Canada! Dig it! CANADA.”)

Venezuela. I CANNOT STOP LAUGHING. That hat LITERALLY has a tag that reads “Special Edition.”

And Jamaica, who was greeted offstage by someone holding a “You Tried” sticker and asking for their Victoria’s Secret practice wings back.

And it’s too bad, because you don’t need to go Full Spectacle to look good! Some ladies managed to look pretty good, and in some rare, wild instance, might even evoke their actual national costume like we’re all supposed to be doing!

Sri Lanka was inching toward Full Spectacle, I’ll grant you, but it looks fabulous!



Philippines is owning that outfit so hard you don’t even notice her Nonsense Cape.

Argentina IS Maleficent, in theatres everywhere 2013.

Korea! Fabulous.

Ghana! Fabulous.

Russia, who could lose the hat but is otherwise adorable!



Cayman Islands!

Curacao! Because this is Miss Universe, this is not the first time she has dressed as a bird; it is, however, the first time it has looked cool.


Georgia! I wish I could see the front, but I would never interrupt someone this committed to a pose.

And this year as every year, several ladies, perhaps never having seen this competition before, didn’t know quite what to do and had to scramble for outfits backstage in the community theatre wardrobe room.

Namibia, wearing a Project Runway “Evoke the Sea!” challenge middle-of-the-roader. (Weirdly it’s still kind of okay? I dunno, compared to some of the ones we’re headed for, this one is not bad.)

British Virgin Islands IS a Finding Nemo art installation!…with shells glued to her face.

Poland, proving someone is willing to make an evening dress to the specs, “In a thumbnail, we really want it to look like a booger. Wheat and plenty, or a booger. Your call.”

St. Lucia, who is going to have words with some people after this.

Great Britain, who wishes she just qualified for Nonsense Cape instead.

Croatia, who is like six inches of skirt away from a cute outfit instead of looking like she stole this one from Junior League.

Germany, dress courtesy of Party City Bargain Bin.

South Africa, who grabbed a Cirque du Soleil costume AND a Cirque du Soleil backdrop and did what she could, I guess.

Belgium, climbing over rocky mountains for the third or fourth time. Belgium is into those parapluies!

The Bahamas! Is it awful? You bet! Is it amazing? YOU BET.


This year’s Special Consideration award goes to Denmark, because I have laughed so hard every time I looked at her made-by-second-graders mermaid costume that I just want to acknowledge her separately.

(It’s the holding the nose that does it. “No, see, I’m a mermaid! That’s the costume! Mermaid!”)

But for me, China walked away with this one, because damn, look at it. Did you want some haute couture Ming vase? You did? GOOD.

(And of course, this isn’t even everyone, you can head to MissUniverse.com for the full story! The full, amazing story.)