For many of us, shopping is probably one of the most exciting parts of pageant preparation, I could stay in a shop all day trying on gowns, searching for the perfect dress!
The Best Places to Look for the Perfect Dress:
1) Local Bridal Salons: Princesses to Pre-Teens can check the flower girl/first communion section, Pre-Teens to Coeds may check the prom/debutante/pageant sections. Many girls like checking bridal gowns too. If you live near Sacramento, CA, try "House of Fashions."
2) Specialized Evening/Pageant Shops: These are my favorite places, because the people who work there make sure you look and feel your best. Here are some of the best shops: Elizabeth Anthony Collection (Houston, TX), Debbrah's (Paducah, KY), California & Main (Ventura, CA), Nora's (Park Meadows Mall, CO), Lillie Rubin (Nationwide)
3) Online: You would be surprised how many wonderful finds there are! Just type in "Pageant" on E-bay. Online is the best place to do your research, this allows you to get an idea of what dresses are available out there, check out the links section of my website for some of my favorites.
Important Things to Keep in Mind When Shopping:
1) Age Appropriate: Make sure you look your age, Princesses should look 4-6, and Coeds should look 18-20. Wear a gown that makes you look your age and accessorize accordingly.
2) Rules and Regulations: On the National Level and in many states, girls are required to have full skirted gowns with a hem that touches the ground or is no more than 1/2 an inch off the floor. It is a good idea to take the newsletter with you when shopping for a gown and to choose a gown that meets National level criteria.
3) Color and Style: Dark colors (i.e. black, brown, navy, burgundy, forest, etc.) are highly discouraged. This pageant represents girls that are 3-21 years old, choose fresh, youthful colors (i.e. aqua, pink, yellow, lavender, and fuchsia, peach.). Wear a color that makes your personality shine. Choose a style that is flattering to your figure. If you have a short waist like me, wear a dress that has a clean unbroken line.
4) Fit: After you purchase your gown, try it on again when you get home and check the fit. It is essential that your dresses have a "pageant perfect fit." Take your dresses to a tailor that specializes in bridal and pageant gowns or does European tailoring, these ladies are the best.
Putting the Look Together
1) Shoes: Heels should be less than 2 inches for Princesses to Pre-Teens, and at least 2-3 inches for Jr. Teen-Coed (petite girls like me can wear 4 1/2 inch). I recommend clear shoes with rhinestone trim, these shoes go with most gowns, and look great. Younger girls may also wear dyed to match shoes, however, the trouble with these is getting them to match perfectly with the dress. Make sure your shoes are scuff free, because judges are eye level w/ your feet!
2) Jewelry: Less is more. Follow the rules in the newsletter. Wear simple jewelry, and keep the sparkle close to your face.
3) Hair: Natural and all-American. Keep it simple! No crunchy updo's! I have seen so many contestants spray their hair to a "crispy point," for queens, this means a struggle between the crown, and maximum hold hair products... Just tame the wisps and brush it off your face.
The Best Places to Look for the Perfect Interview Suit
1) Fine Department Stores: Pre-Teens to Coeds can check the career wear section or evening suit section. Princesses to Pre-Teens may want to check the Children's Section. Some of my favorite department stores are Nordstroms, Neiman Marcus, and Lord & Taylor, all nationwide.
2) Boutiques: There are plenty of great shops that have beautiful suits for pageant interviews. Princesses to Pre-Teens can try Storybook Heirlooms. Pre-Teen to Coed can try: BCBG Max Azria, Petite Sophisticate, and Casual Corner, all nationwide.
3) Pageant Shops: Once again these places are gold mines! Princess to Pre-Teen: Hollywood Babe (http://www.hollywoodbabeinc.com), Debbrahs (Paducah, KY). Pre-Teen to Coed: Elizabeth Anthony Collection (Houston, TX), Debbrahs (Paducah, KY), and California and Main (Ventura, CA)
Things to Keep in Mind When Shopping for the Perfect Suit
1) Age Appropriate: Once again, it is important to look your age.
2) Occasion Appropriate: Jr. Teens-Coed should dress for a job interview, and Princess-Pre-Teen should dress like they would for church.
3) Rules and Regulations: In some states and on the national level, the standard for suits in the Jr. Teen-Coed division is a hemline that is no more than 1 inch above or below the knee. Do not wear a pantsuit!
4) The Sit Test: This the hemline and fabric check. Have Mom check to see if the hemline is too short, if she can see up your skirt when you sit down, then you need a longer skirt. Check to see how easily the fabric wrinkles. Try to stay away from high rayon content. If you choose a silk suit, make sure it is a high quality fabric.
5) Fit: Waistlines to hemlines. Pageant suits should be more form fitting than a business suit. Taking in the waist and the skirt, makes the suit more age appropriate and youthful.
Putting the Look Together
1) Pantyhose: Wear pantyhose with your suit! It gives you a clean and well groomed look. Bare legs are a definite "no-no."
2) Shoes: Wear shoes that compliment your outfit, I recommend keeping these shoes closed toe. They good, clean, and professional. Mary Janes are a great style for Princess-Pre-Teen. Frederico Leone Taupe Pumps are a must for Jr. Teen-Coed. They work with most suits and good great. Dyed to match pumps are also a good option.
3) Jewelry: Stay away from bracelets, watches, and rings. Many girls have a tendency to play with their jewelry subconsciously when they are nervous. Keep it simple, earrings and maybe a necklace if your suit has an open neckline. Check your newsletters just in case.
4) Hair: Just like evening wear, keep it in a simple style that is easy to manage. It is important to keep your hair off of your face.
5) Buttons: Yes, pay attention to the buttons of your suit. I always change plastic buttons to rhinestone, gold/silver, or cover buttons in the same fabric, unless the buttons are designer. This is a simple way to turn any ordinary suit into a fabulous competition suit.
Pageant Tips Page 7