If the 2015 Miss USA pageant is the annual fancy dinner at Olive Garden of American pop culture, then the evening gown competition is its unlimited-soup-salad-and-breadsticks crown jewel. In fact, the concept of the evening gown is basically synonymous with the event: It's glitzy, it straddles the line between provocative and saccharine, and we're totally cool with only busting it out of the closet once a year.
For me, one of the most compelling things about the evening gown competition is considering the evolution of the garment itself. The concept of evening wear has been around for centuries, each new style of dress changing to match the trends of the time. High necks, low necks, sleeves, lace, jewels, full skirts, slim silhouettes; the evening gown has seen it all. When it comes to contemporary beauty pageants, though, most of the gowns seem to favor a figure-hugging silhouette with a few unusual details.
Another interesting fact about the evening gown competition is that it's a chance for the queens to show off their individual style. Though they're all required to wear swimsuits from the same company, the queens have total control over their evening gown designs. Last year, Nevada-born winner Nia Sanchez stunned the crowd in this number, which reminds me of a cross between Belle and Frenchie's prom dress in Grease:
So how did the contestants' formal wear stack up this year? Here are some of my absolute favorites of the night.
1. 2014 Miss USA Nia Sanchez
She showed up to open the show in the same shade of yellow that she wore last year, and she'll give her crown to the next winner. However, this amazing gown proves that's she's still a queen.
2. Miss Rhode Island
I knew I liked Miss Rhode Island from the moment she introduced herself. She has a particularly self-assured quality about her, and I also dig the fact that she's much taller than the other contestants. This column dress with a sheer panel down the middle is everything.
3. Miss Nevada
I feel like if you're going to wear an evening gown, you may as well be extra about it. Miss Nevada included a removable train with her silver ensemble, and I am 100 percent here for the over-the-topness of it all.
4. Miss Maryland
I'm fairly certain that this was the only black gown on the stage, and it is bursting at the seams with Black Swan realness. I really like the fact that isn't the usually hyper-feminine shade, and the collar adds even more drama to the look.
5. Miss Michigan
This is a throwback look that I can appreciate, and I also live for a bell sleeve. It definitely stood out as being one of the more unusual looks on the stage, and it takes courage to deviate from the norm so boldly.
6. Miss Delaware
There's not much to say here, other than the fact that she looks like a queen. Never has something so regal come out of Delaware.
7. Miss Oklahoma
Call me crazy, but she looks like the layer cake I dreamt of for my fifth birthday party. Thank you, Miss Oklahoma, for making all of my childhood dreams come true.