What do dictionaries, fighter planes, plantains and the Swiss Guard have in common? That’s a serious question, but with a delightfully nonsensical answer: All served as inspiration for national costumes on display during the 2023 Miss Universe pageant’s preliminary competition. (Specifically, those were the looks donned by Miss Great Britain, Miss Philippines, Miss Dominican Republic and, yes, Miss Switzerland.)
Eighty-four countries are represented at this year’s Miss Universe, which is taking place in the El Salvadoran capital of San Salvador. Among those national titleholders are the first-ever married contestants, following an amendment to the eligibility requirements enacted this year, and
two transgender women, representing the Netherlands and Portugal.
Miss Nepal, Jane Garrett, is
one of the first “curvy” women to compete at Miss Universe; Erica Robin, meanwhile, is the first woman to represent Pakistan at the pageant.
The pageant’s preliminary competition got underway Wednesday, with contestants having already participated in days of rehearsals, as well as photo shoots, charity events and excursions. The main event, however, will take place on Saturday night, when the winner of the best national costume will be announced — as will the new Miss Universe, of course, who will take over from
the reigning queen, R’Bonney Gabriel of the USA.
See some of the contenders for the best costume award below.
The inspiration for Miss Denmark's costume? Vikings, if you can believe it. Broadcast commentary on her look said it represented a mythical ocean dragon and the enduring spirit of Viking sailors. - Hector Vivas/Getty Images A trio of blue macaw parrots sat on the shoulders, literally, of Miss Brazil, whose costume sought to highlight that the species is under threat. - Hector Vivas/Getty Images Though hardly a textbook example of a pageant gown, Miss Great Britain's national costume was all about the English language — the Oxford English Dictionary, specifically. - Hector Vivas/Getty Images Miss El Salvador's volcanic gown was presented to rapturous applause — both as the hometown hero and because her costume lit up to represent an eruption of hot lava. - Hector Vivas/Getty Images No volcanoes for Miss Iceland, who paid tribute to the midnight sun phenomenon, which sees 24/7 daylight for a period in the country during the summer months. - Alex Peña/Getty Images The sun was also coming up on Miss Argentina's costume, literally — it referenced her country's national symbol, the Sun of May, in numerous ways. - Hector Vivas/Getty Images A veritable smorgasbord of American landmarks adorned Miss USA's costume, with the Statue of Liberty a central reference point for the Venezuelan American beauty queen. - Hector Vivas/Getty Images Miss Venezuela's costume paid tribute to the dancing devils, otherwise known as spirit dancers, who perform at religious festivals in her country. - Alex Peña/Getty Images Miss Dominican Republic's costume, meanwhile, was all about the plantain, with what commentators described as a "ready-to-eat" headpiece. - Alex Peña/Getty Images South America/Getty Images The color palette of Miss Spain's flamenco-inspired gown, which featured dramatic ruffled cuffs and a long train, was inspired by carnations. - Hector Vivas/Getty Images Another floral moment came from Miss Netherlands, whose runway reveal saw her peel back the petals of a rainbow-patterned tulip — a metaphor for her evolution "into the proud woman she is today," pageant commentators explained. - Hector Vivas/Getty Images Featuring richly woven and beaded details throughout, Miss Nigeria's look was inspired by powerful queens and warriors from her country's history. - Hector Vivas/Getty Images Miss Switzerland's look was modeled on the Swiss Guard's uniform (though her sword was bedazzled). - Hector Vivas/Getty Images Miss Myanmar's national costume took inspiration from a tradition in Buddhist communities in which a portion of a family or individual's savings are donated to their local monastery. - Hector Vivas/Getty Images Embodying a Celtic sea goddess, Miss Ireland's costume was made from recycled plastic lids and reclaimed wool — materials chosen to represent the importance of protecting Irish waters from pollutants. - Hector Vivas/Getty Images Miss Costa Rica also highlighted her country's marine ecosystems and beaches in her costume, which perhaps read as "Frozen" as much as "The Little Mermaid." - Hector Vivas/Getty Images The Olympic rings adoring Miss Curaçao's outfit served as a callout for the country's athletes, who the pageant's commentators explained yearn to compete in the Games under their own flag. - Hector Vivas/Getty Images Miss Greece's draped ensemble — drawing from the clothes worn by ancient high priestesses — came with a placard that appeared to call for the repatriation of the country's artifacts from foreign museums. - Hector Vivas/Getty Images An armored look from Miss Portugal, who is one of two transgender women competing at this year's final. - Hector Vivas/Getty Images Performing an in-flight safety demonstration on the runway, Miss Philippines paid tribute to her status as a reservist in the country's Air Force with an aeronautical costume (complete with large-scale wings, of course). - Hector Vivas/Getty Images Miss Ukraine's costume addressed the war in her country — it represented a mother's love for her child, commentators explained, and hope for a sky free from Russian missiles. - Alex Peña/Getty Images Miss Kazakhstan, meanwhile, dressed up as the ancient warrior queen Tomyris in a gown that balanced sculptural leather corsetry and a dramatic headpiece with delicate ruffles and a sheer cape. - Hector Vivas/Getty Images Miss Latvia in a sculptural, daisy-inspired gown. - Hector Vivas/Getty Images Miss Bahamas' look referenced a popular 19th-century childrens' doll. - Alex Peña/Getty Images Inspired by Incan culture, Miss Peru's costume featured a large-scale representation of a tumi, a ceremonial knife. Also, lots of points feathers. - Alex PeÃ±a/Getty Images South America/Getty Images A borderline bridal moment from Miss Russia, who wore an intricately beaded white gown, veil and crown. - Hector Vivas/Getty Images Miss Honduras paid tribute to the Lenca people and their indigenous crafts and artistry — skills that have survived for centuries thanks to oral history and ancestral tradition. Panels on her intricate feathered, beaded and embroidered costume revealed portraits of some of the artisans. - Hector Vivas/Getty Images An elegant costume worn by Miss Malaysia. - Hector Vivas/Getty Images Miss Jamaica on the runway. - Hector Vivas/Getty Images Miss Slovakia's costume featured an ornate headdress crafted from straw. - Hector Vivas/Getty Images True to form for the competition, Miss France ventured into Moulin Rouge's costume department. - Hector Vivas/Getty Images Miss Thailand wore an intricate costume in tribute to a revered Thai goddess. - Hector Vivas/Getty Images Miss South Africa showcased Zulu beadwork on her sari-inspired gown. - Hector Vivas/Getty Images Miss Mexico wore a colorful look showcasing mythical creatures — a magical owl and deer, respectively, that represent wisdom and focus in traditional folklore. - Hector Vivas/Getty Images "Big hat, big aspirations," the competitions commentators quipped of Miss Mongolia's outfit. - Hector Vivas/Getty Images Miss Nepal's costume also served to represent the woes of war, and, more importantly, Nepal's quest for world peace. She released a plushie dove from the cage she carried on the runway during her walk. - Alex Peña/Getty Images South America/Getty Images Miss Nepal's look was topped by a large-scale, homespun headpiece seemingly crafted from foam and spray paint — a representation of an exploding bomb's dust cloud, and additional missiles above it. - Hector Vivas/Getty Images
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