Last January 15, all pageant fans were glued to their seats in anticipation for the moment when one of the 84 confidently beautiful women representing their own country would bring home the most-coveted Miss Universe crown. Although there is no mistaking the ensuing disappointment that every Filipino felt when our own Celeste Cortesi did not make it past the semifinals, there was still much to appreciate in the competition, especially during the evening gown segment.
The Top 16 candidates strutted down the Miss Universe catwalk live on television with perfect smiles and not a single hair out of place. Unique stories were told through every crisp fold and magnificent swoop sewn into the evening gowns worn by these beautiful ladies—each story befitting that of a queen.
The uninspired—1.5s out of 4.0s
Individually, all gowns certainly held their own, but when put in a competition where every garment is a masterpiece, some were just more deserving of the pièce de résistance title than others. Unfortunately, the countries of Canada, Portugal, Australia, Curaçao, India, and Spain left much to be desired in the aesthetic department.
Rounding out the bottom of the list is the gown worn by Miss Canada, Amelia Tiu. Although the image of a trailing cape following her down the runway made for an appealing silhouette, the feathers that were seemingly stuck haphazardly over the garment took away the class and simplicity of the piece. Additionally, the way the cape fastened over her neck failed to complement the candidate’s graceful bone structure, instead making for an uncomfortable look.
On the other hand, Telma Madeira of Portugal was put in an unflattering gown that lacked cohesion. The triangular cutout on the front of the dress looked out of place and did not mesh well with the rest of the sheer, flowy garment. The shiny strings of fabric that hung behind her were an unwelcome distraction that overshadowed Madeira’s stage presence.
Adding to the list of gowns that stuck out awkwardly on stage is Curaçao’s, worn by representative Gabriela Dos Santos. While the top half of the piece was structured beautifully and well-tailored to her body, the bottom half may result in the audience raising an eyebrow. The silky, shimmery silver of the garment slowly transitioned to a purple color, effectively reducing the entire garment to a mere ombré look, making it quite an unfortunate design choice for the big stage.
If the problem with the previously-mentioned dresses were blatant stylistic mistakes, the issue with the gowns worn by Monique Riley of Australia, Divita Rai of India, and Alicia Faubel of Spain was that they were just simply underwhelming and, quite frankly, forgettable. Australia’s sleek dress was drowned out by the silhouette’s lack of character and overall average look. The same goes for Miss India, whose gown was surprisingly uninspiring, especially since they were running for a back-to-back win. For Spain, aside from the lack of vision, Faubel’s off-shoulder mermaid dress was stiff toward the top, making her walk look less clean and rather fiddly.
Although each queen’s garment clung tightly to their figures and shone brightly as they walked down the catwalk, this collection was just not enough to impress. However, this only gives the countries room to improve on their vision and execution for next year’s Miss Universe pageant.
Middle ground—2.5s out of 4.0s
Unlike the previous countries, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, the United States of America, Peru, and Laos did well enough—but they still left much to be desired.
Alessia Rovegno of Peru wowed the crowd in an exquisite silvery gown that exuded elegance. The embellishment lining the upper half of the gown just over her chest was a nice touch and added a nice spin to an otherwise average-looking garment. Meanwhile, Payengxa Lor of Laos was mesmerizing in an almost-sheer gown with detailed patterns that beautifully cascaded down her figure, though its shape was not much to rave about.
Nevertheless, Puerto Rico’s Ashley Cariño sparkled in her silver floor-length thigh-high slit gown. Adding more sizzle to her look was her deeply-collared neckline that emphasized her swan-like neck and chiseled bone structure. On the other hand, frontrunner Andreina Martínez Founier of the Dominican Republic showed the universe why she was ahead of the game. She sashayed her way down the runway, reminiscent of a Greek goddess in her metallic sweetheart neckline evening gown tied together perfectly with a metallic belt that cinched her waist. However, it must be said that fans favored her hot pink preliminary evening gown more, which was very à la Legally Blonde.
The eventual winner of the Miss Universe 2022 crown and Filipino-American beauty queen R’Bonney Gabriel was nothing short of a stunner in her black gown with fringe skirt, covered in Swarovski stones made by the Philippines’ very own Rian Fernandez. Naming the gown the “Phenomenal Queen”, Fernandez shared that the gown’s color represents “competence and sophistication,” while the fringe skirt represents “the new era of emerging women.”
Queens of the night—4.0s across the board
The evening gown segment was more than just wearing a gown—it is also showing grace, creativity, and innovativeness in the form of a dress. And the five following countries showed utmost regality and elegance in the most fashionable way in which any one of these representatives would have deserved the well-dressed title.
Coming in fifth was Colombia’s María Fernanda Aristizibal. Her emerald gown hugged her body perfectly and accentuated all her best features, with her blonde hair contrasting the color of the gown quite nicely. Although her pink preliminary evening gown was arguably the greater show stopper, her Top 16 gown still managed to pique everyone’s interest.
As for Miss Venezuela Amanda Dudamel, she certainly knew how to stand out. From her lime-green preliminary evening gown to her colorful, interlacing white, gold, and blue finals ensemble, Miss Venezuela made certain all eyes were on her. The pop of color amid the bevy of basic colors made it challenging for the audiences to keep their eyes off this stunning beauty queen.
Another strong contender was South Africa’s Ndavi Nokeri, who brought a piece of her homeland to the international stage with her intricate burgundy gown and plunging neckline embellished with colorful stones. The gorgeous design was reminiscent of South Africa’s traditional patterns, with the color of choice adding a tasteful touch of mystery to this candidate.
Furthermore, Miss Trinidad and Tobago Tya Jané Ramey turned heads with her gorgeous deep green silk, see-through evening gown that perfectly matched her skin color. Adding more flair by attaching a cape to the gown, Miss Trinidad and Tobago shone like a true star that night, worthy of being listed in the Top Five best in evening gowns.
But Miss Haiti Mideline Philezor’s golden gown stunned the crowd, too. Donning an intricate number wrapped in golden threads, several bodice cutouts, and a high slit, Miss Haiti made the whole place shimmer. Her look oozed with sexiness and elegance, deserving to be crowned as the best of the best.
Ruler of the universe
When faced with an event designed to elicit ooh’s and aah’s, it is truly difficult to compare one masterpiece to another. But at the end of the day—or night—there will always be queens who either stuck out like a sore thumb or stood out because they deserved the title of best-dressed.