By Voltaire Tayag
In a competition where it is important to stand out among 94 candidates, the evening gown and styling choices are crucial because for this one night, these elements can determine a woman’s future. The details are not to be taken lightly or ignored.
In general, while the choices made were fabulous, I am hoping that in next year’s edition, there will be a departure from the nude embellished gowns and more of an expression of individual styles. Choosing a gown is not simply about fashion or couture craftsmanship—the gown has to make the woman feel her most beautiful and her most confident. After all, Miss Universe is both aspirational and relatable.
The Gray-Green (i.e., Catriona Gray of the Philippines and Tamaryn Green of South Africa) showdown was predicted by many pageant observers the moment each was crowned in her respective national pageant. Both of them competed flawlessly from the time they arrived in Bangkok to wearing fashionably chic ensembles every day. Gray was highly praised for the thoughtful use of Filipiniana-inspired outfits that utilized local materials and handiwork but in a modern way, many of which were designed by Jearson Demavivas.
In Miss Universe, candidates can wear a different gown for the Preliminary Competition and the Finals, especially if they are front-runners. Here is my review of the Top 10 finalists’ evening gowns, starting, of course, with the winner.
Miss Universe 2018: CATRIONA GRAY
Philippines, 24 yrs old, 5’10”
Gray carried her fashion momentum from the Preliminaries all the way to the Finals in her exquisite Mak Tumang custom gowns. In a Facebook post, Tumang said the Preliminary gown was “inspired from the Philippine Adarna bird, the phoenix, and [the] Mikimoto Crown. Embroidered crystals in hyacinth, fire opal, topaz, jonquil aurora borealis, [and] topaz aurora borealis were layered to create the effect.” For the Evening Gown Competition, Tumang created an explosive design that paid homage to Gray’s hometown of Albay and its Mount Mayon. Her now-famous “Lava Walk” was coined because of the gown, inspired by the amazing colors of the landmark volcano’s lava flow. Shades of red, orange, gold, yellow, and black Swarovski crystals in varying sizes created the perpetual shimmer on her gown, even while standing still. Tumang says the gown is estimated to be worth P1 million. Gray looked like a modern Jessica Rabbit come to life with her side-swept hair, curvy silhouette, and thigh-high slit. To complete her look, she wore her Three Stars and the Sun earcuff by Tessera Jewelry, the same one she wore at the Binibining Pilipinas finals. This is a trend she single-handedly made very hot!
First Runner-up: TAMARYN GREEN
South Africa, 24 yrs old, 5’9”
For the Preliminaries, Green wore a white column gown with a very dramatic cape (above left) that looked phenomenal on stage. Although this style is a bit dated, it still works with the right girl. It complemented her beautiful skin tone and created the goddess effect that many pageant fans adore. For the Finals, she wore a silver, fully sequined, crystallized gown with a high slit and a skirt drape detail (above right). It was clean and fresh. I also loved that she wore silver crystal-encrusted strappy shoes and not the typical nude pageant heels. Possibly her only misstep was with the high ponytail extension, which was a tad too long and slightly thin and lacking volume. Netizens were quick to come up with memes suggesting it was very Arianna Grande-inspired.
Second Runner-up: STHEFANY GUTIERREZ
Venezuela, 19 yrs old
Gutiérrez wore a very nude long-sleeved gown that literally showed off her body. This nude trend dominated most of the Miss Universe gown choices. Hers was embellished with wavy lines made with silver crystals, but spaced far enough to show a lot of skin. With her thick, silky, waist-length black hair, she looked like a very glamorous Pocahontas.
Top 5: KIARA ORTEGA
Puerto Rico, 23 yrs old, 5’7”
Puerto Rico came back strong after several years of weak performances. Ortega wore a deep-V nude gown with silver crystal details in vertical lines that accentuated her shape and added visual height. She opted for a straight, side-part hairstyle and crystal earringsto complete this very clean look. Her choice of non-nude heels should also be commended.
Top 5: H’HEN NIE
Vietnam, 26 yrs old, 5’8”
Nie channeled her inner Halle Berry with a short hairstyle and gorgeous mocha skin, which she highlighted with a deep-V nude gown with crystal embellishments and an interesting sleeve of metal coils that enveloped her arms. This was definitely a shining moment for this young woman who was once a maid. I feel she will be a queen for the rest of her life!
Top 10: Marta Magdalena Stepien
Canada, 24 yrs old, 5’10”
Next to Catriona, I feel Stepien had the best gown of the night. How could it not be when she was wearing a Michael Cinco? It’s that classic Cinco couture craftsmanship coveted by many women. The spaghetti-strap, fully embellished nude gown hugged every curve and lengthened Stepien’s legs to goddess proportions. During the Prelims, she wore it without the train (above left). But during the Finals, she came out with the enormous, dramatic train that almost covered the width of the stage (above right). The audience let out a collective gasp. I have dreamed of a Miss Philippines in a Michael Cinco couture gown of this magnitude and beauty!
Top 10: MANITA DEVKOTA
Nepal, 23 yrs old, 5’8”
Devkota wore different gowns for the Prelims and the Finals. Personally, I feel her nude, gold Preliminary gown (above left) was far more interesting and flattering for her body type. The white, one-sleeve Finals gown (above right) did nothing for her body, and the orange tint on the skirt looked more accidental than intended. It looked as if it got mixed up in the laundry with a red gown and was pulled out quickly before the color affected the rest of the gown.
Top 10: NATALIA CARVAJAL
Costa Rica, 28 yrs old, 5’8”
Costa Rica must love jewel tones. Carvajal wore an emerald gown (above left) in the Preliminaries and a blue gown for the Finals. The off-shoulder, royal blue, serpentina gown featured a sequined and embroidered lace bodice, and ostrich feather details on the skirt (above right). Another lady who chose to wear her hair very straight and clean. She was one of the surprise semifinalists of the night.
Top 10: SOPHIDA KANCHANARIN
Thailand, 23 yrs old, 5’7”
Host candidate Kanchanarin chose a different gown for the Finals, where she wore a red, bustier, mermaid gown with tons of crystal embellishment (above right). I felt the gown looked a bit heavy, and made her look thicker than she actually is. Personally, I preferred the silver gown she wore during the Prelims (above left) because it looked lighter.
Top 10: AKISHA ALBERT
Curacao, 23 yrs old, 5’8”
Albert was the epitome of elegance in her silver, crystal-encrusted gown with side cutouts. She was the only candidate who wore a classic low bun, which showed off her face. Her chandelier earrings were the perfect complement. This pageant veteran was 1st Runner-up to our very own WinWyn Marquez in Reina Hispanoamericana 2017.
All photos courtesy of Miss Universe Organization