Guessing the price tag for a designer label pageant gown can be a tricky game to play. Thankfully with our years in the fashion industry, we can pretty much give you the price range for these expensive gowns.
To paraphrase master couturier Cary Santiago, “pageant gowns are never the barometer of fashion“. In fact, pageant gowns offer only a limited range of silhouettes to use and people in the fashion industry usually regard pageant fashions as fashion-followers instead of making groundbreaking innovations. Topping that is the hefty prices that someone has to pay for a luxury label dress. That is why it always sends pageant fans excited whenever a pageant girl wears a designer label gown for any pageant.
LUXURY DESIGNER BRANDS
Designer label dresses from well-established foreign brands would retail from approximately $1,800 to an upwards of $8,000. However if it comes from a well known luxury brand and is fully embroidered/ embellished, then you can expect that the price range could easily start from $5,000 and can go up to 5 figures.
Oxana Fedorova in Gucci, Miss Universe 2002 – the story behind this gown was that it was Miss Universe-Japan’s former national director, Ines Ligron that lent this gown to Oxana. This gown is said to be Mina Chiba’s gown that Ines lent to Oxana in the finals when she saw how uninspired her preliminary gown was looking. The Gucci gown was from Tom Ford’s Spring Summer 2002 collection and features an inner corset and white satin ribbon. It actually comes in black and in white, with the white version worn by Kate Beckinsale at the 2002 SAG Awards.
Riyo Mori in Gucci, Miss Universe 2007 – this boho-folkloric long dress was part of Frida Giannini’s 2007 Spring-Summer collection for Gucci. The gown features a black long-sleeved maxi-dress with multiple godets on the skirt. Oprah Winfrey donned the dress earlier for the Vanity Fair Oscars party. Ines Ligron had the knack of putting her ward in European designers and Gucci seemed to be a favorite. She even confirmed in a CNNgo interview that MUJ 2010 Maiko Itai, will be wearing Gucci for the finals. It is also said that the gown Hiroko Mima was to wear for the MU2008 finals would have been a Fendi gown.
Kurara Chibana in Rochas, Miss Universe 2006 – the black gown with open lattice-work that she wore for the Miss Universe finals was designed by Olivier Theyskens for Rochas. It was deceptively simple at fist glance but those open-work lattice is a mastery of craftsmanship.
Miyako Miyazaki in Celine, Miss Universe 2003 – this was a daring choice for the finals but it paid off greatly. The gown-kini from Celine was one of the most memorable gowns in the past 3 decades. The beaded top, the feathered skirt were from Celine while the dramatic overcoat was purchased by MUJ director Ines Ligron in a London vintage shop. Ines once mused that she regretted having Miyako change to a more conservative gown after making top 5 as it made her blend in rather than stand out with the Celine outfit.
Miriam Quiambao in Halston, Miss Universe 1999 – this gown was from the 1998 Spring Summer collection by designer Randolph Duke for the label Halston. Halston became a fashion rockstar in the 1970s’ disco heydays with the founder’s knack for fluid, minimal but sophisticated designs. Roy Halston Frowick stated his women’s wear brand in 1968. The gown worn by Miriam though was added beadwork by Colombian designer Alfredo Barraza to make it more pageant-ready.
Katherine Annwen de Guzman in Naeem Khan, Miss World 2000 – the blue fully sequined dress was from the S/S 1999 collection of Indian- American fashion designer Naeem Khan. Khan who shows at the New York Fashion Week has once mentioned that the embroideries of his dresses takes place in India with laces from China.
Wendy Fitzwilliam in Badgley & Mischka, Miss Universe 1998 – one of the all-time top scorers in the evening gown competition, Wendy smashed the competition in Hawaai that year with this ivory white gown from the design duo Badgley & Mischka. Wendy paired the gown with a white chiffon opera coat that flowed as she walked.
MICHAEL CINCO COUTURE
Dubai-based Filipino designer Michael Cinco is arguably one of the most accessible designers when it comes to seeing his gowns worn in pageants. His elaborate creations were worn by no less than 7 girls, making him a favorite of pageant girls. Most of the designs he loans these pageant girls would later be seen on several international celebs.
There is a general agreement among fashion connoisseurs that couture pieces could approximately be sold from $80,000 to $100,000+ due to the intricacy of the handwork made on the design. The more laborious the design, the more expensive they tend to be. Knowing how lavish M5 designs are, it would be safe to say that the price tag might too high for a regular pageant girl to purchase.
Marta Magdalena Stepien, Miss Universe 2018 – she was the only girl (aside from outgoing MU queens Iris & Pia) to have worn a M5 on the Miss Universe finals telecast. Her pink gown with a detachable overskirt deserved the grandeur of the Thai MU stage that year.
Mariana Varela, Miss Universe 2019 – she had two Michael Cinco gowns for the Miss Universe pageant. Her preliminary competition gown a hot pink ruffled gown with amazing beadwork while her supposed finals gown was the red number that Marta Magdalena Stepien wore in a M5 fashion show a year prior.
Valerie Weigmann, Miss World 2014 – this muted canary yellow ballgown may look familiar to regular Pinoys as this was worn by actress Marian Rivera for her prenup photoshoot in dunes of the Dubai desert. But Valerie Wiegmann wore this a year prior at the Miss World finals in London.
Kseniya Alexandrova, Miss Universe 2017 – she flew to Dubai and posted fittings of her Cinco gown on her Instagram account. It was unfortunate that she didn’t shine during the preliminary competition. Add to that is the fact that she didn’t wear the M5 gown in the preliminaries at the Planet Hollywood mezzanine hall.
Queenierich Rehman, Miss World 2012 – there was a persistent rumor in 2012 that this M5 gown was supposed to be the winner of the World Designer competition segment of the MW pageant. However the said award was mysteriously scrapped and was never mentioned who officially won the award. This red ombre confection has all the tulle, beads and plumes working in a harmonious design. This was first worn and showcased in the Philippines by actress Anne Curtis in the designer’s show that wowed local fashionistas.
Mohana Prabha, Miss Universe 2019 – this national costume was PR’d to be inspired by the Singaporean national flower, Vanda Miss Joaquim. Unfortunately, this M5 piece was previously shown as part of the designer’s collection named “The Impalpable Dream of Swan Lake”. It drew flak from some Singaporeans for being inauthentic to the country it represents.
Ahtisa Manalo, Miss International 2018 – rumor has it that Ahtisa was supposed to wear a different designer who got bumped off to make way for Cinco’s creation. This blush colored number is a study of detail. It may have looked simple and understated from afar, up-close it is anything but. The bodice was decked with matte-finish Swarovski crystals in the pales of pink hues. Judging by the details alone, this gown could have been made by no less than 2,000 to 5,000 hours with the hand-embellishement taking a huge chunk of the time. Aside from the lavish beadwork, it also features fine plumassier work on the skirt and hemlines.
FRENCH HAUTE COUTURE DESIGNERS
The gowns and designers mentioned on this list is perhaps among the well-known and revered ones in haute couture. They are separated from the others as only those named and approved by the French Chambre Syndicale de la Couture can actually call themselves as “haute couture” labels. True haute couture gowns would pack a punch when it comes to prices and it is said that they are allegedly sold at a minimum figure of $120,000 to $160,000 for the most elaborately embellished gowns! The maximum price? Well, the sky’s the limit!
Diana Harkusha in Zuhair Murad, Miss Universe 2014 – this deep raspberry pink Zuhair Murad gown was part of the Lebanese designer’s Fall-Winter 2014 haute couture collection. It features a sweetheart neckline with a dramatically draped train using silk organza. The bodice is boned and hand-embellished with a darker colored beadwork. She is one of the only two European candidates that year to wear a haute couture gown in the pageant.
Valerie Abou Chacra in Zuhair Murad, Miss Universe 2015 -Valerie wore a Zuhair Murad couture piece twice for each of her pageant competitions. She first wore a white & silver beaded gown at the Miss Lebanon finals, and a second white & nude colored gown for Miss World 2015 in Sanya, China.
Olivia Culpo in Georges Hobeika, Miss Universe 2012 – Olivia was such a pioneer in pageants as she became the first woman to wear a haute couture gown for the Miss Universe finals back in 2012. The raspberry confection from the Lebanese designer was first shown in the Paris Haute Couture Week in July of 2012. Georges Hobeika’s couture collection tells of a “mystical tale of fairies in a valley of dreams, harmonizing the romance of a fairy tale with the passion of a love story”.
Yulia Alipova in Ellie Saab, Miss Universe 2014 – Yulia Alipova shocked the pageant world when she wore not one but two Ellie Saab gowns in the 2014 Miss Universe pageant in Doral, Miami. Ellie Saab shot to worldwide fame when his burgundy gown was worn by Halle Berry when she won the Oscar’s Best Actress in 2002. The preliminary gown that Yulia wore was a deep wine colored gown and paired with some Bulgari looking earrings (this is not yet confirmed). This was a gown that made us gasp in awe during our coverage of the MU2014 prelims.
Yulia Alipova in Ellie Saab, Miss Universe 2014 – rumor has it that this gown is approximately between $150,000 to $175,000! And we all would have loved seeing it in the finals! For those like us in the audience that night, we’ve spotted Yulia wearing this Ellie Saab number at the background during the announcement of winners. The gown was truly exceptional with the ombre effect on the lace and jacquard dress. Not to mention the additional beadwork that has to go into the piece. It would not be surprising if the entire gown would have taken over 5,000 hours to make. Haute couture pieces are mostly done by hand and only a number of structural seams are allowed to be finished using a sewing machine. So it makes sense that this Ellie Saab number could whop a huge amount in the price department!