Spending several hundred or thousand dollars on an evening gown may be doable for some contestants (thanks to generous families or sponsors), but other girls may be more strapped for cash come pageant season. If this is the case, sometimes borrowing a gown or even purchasing a used gown at a discount can work to one’s advantage.
In recent years, a Miss Maryland USA won in a borrowed gown as did a Mrs. Arizona. The Audience Choice award winner at Mrs. United States was wearing a designer gown that she bought at a fraction of the price from a former Mrs. contender.
How do you go about borrowing or buying a used a gown? Like most things in life, building relationships is key. Get to know a couple girls in the pageant industry through Facebook, orientations, etc. Ask around! Scour pageant resale websites or consignment stores. Check these websites often as they typically update their inventory weekly. Don’t be afraid to get in touch with girls whose dresses you have admired—they may be interested in selling them! For example, I was in love with a gown worn by a Mrs. United States contestant, and emailed her about how much I loved it after the show. She was kind enough to tell me where she got it, and I knew that she would think of me if she was ever interested in selling it. Ebay is also a great place to look for bargains and discounts (we recommend searching by designer name).
Ever think the evening gown of your dreams (and within your budget) may already be in your possession? Mix up a gown hanging in your closet by adding rhinestones, an easy DIY project. Prita did just that to a gown she owned for added stage presence at Miss DC USA in 2010. Change the look of the gown even more by adjusting the neckline or adding a slit, but make sure you enlist the help of a professional for these and other major alternations.
As a reminder, the cost of your dress is not directly related to your odds of winning. If you are on a budget, stick to it and get creative! Remember that tailoring is key. If you borrow a gown and cannot get it altered, make sure to get crafty with hemming tape and pins if permitted. Happy shopping!