Pinup Pageant Guide: Planning your Pageant Outfits

They say first impressions are everything which is definitely true when it comes to pageants and planning your appearance. Your stage outfit can definitely effect your scoring, your performance and how your routine and story come across to the audience. It might feel relatively simple to just put on a fun outfit and go on stage but it should be carefully considered and meticulously planned to ensure it aids your performance and doesn’t hinder you. Of course, every pageant is different and will be scored different; most don’t score a contestants physical beauty which means a lot more emphasis is placed on their outfit instead. You don’t need to spend a lot of money or get something fancy and new for a pageant so don’t worry about that.

Compliment your Routine
Your pageant outfit should tie into your theme, story and routine. If you are planning a beach routine, perhaps a ball gown won’t be the best outfit of choice. A lot of girls have a misconception that they need to dress up super fancy with all new clothes to do well in a pageant but heaps of pinups have done really well with just something from their wardrobe. Keep your outfit simple and concise. You don’t need to wear everything and the kitchen sink so less is definitely more. I’d recommend a bright outfit (if it fits your theme) as bright colour really stand out well on the stage. Prints can also be really fun as they add dimension and can compliment your theme.

You want to look your best onstage so make sure your outfit is well fitted and flattering. A dress or outfit that is too loose with make you look frumpy and an outfit that is too small and tight is never flattering. Find outfits (which can be assisted by certain undergarments) that really show off your curves, lines and body shape as this will also show your confidence. If you do want to wear something that’s is looser or added on such as a cardigan, perhaps make it part of your routine to take the cardigan off in order to show your shape a bit more. The way you appear onstage should make you look and feel like a vintage bombshell so really bring your amazing shape to the part and embrace your curves and swerves.

Miss MonMon wearing a drindle for her Polish flower seller routine at Miss Retro Rewind

A pretty dress is always a staple favourite. It’s simple to wear, style and blend into a routine. If you are going for a feminine, summery and fun look, florals are always a good idea. Such dresses can easily been jazzed up with a few accessories and a petticoat. If you want to go a bit more rockabilly in your styling, fully commit to the look. At one pageant, a contestant held back on her outfit in a rockabilly category and regretted it heavily after the pageant. Have fun with leather, leopard prints, bold colours and outfits a bit more figure hugging. When planning an outfit, think outside the box; certain themes will result in people often wearing something similar so push the envelope in your favour. If the theme is “spring”, maybe avoid florals as it can be a bit of a cliche, opt maybe for a simple house dress and do a “spring cleaning” theme.

You can also dress according to a certain era or style; you might be surprised how stunning a 1940’s pants suit outfit, or dungarees can be on stage and it might help you stand out from the other contestants. Your pageant outfit should be a reflection of you and who you are so don’t try to fit into a mould if it’s not who you are. Make bold choices with your outfits. In saying that, avoid going too costume-y or overly kitschy in your outfit and styling. A pageant outfit should be a few steps up from normal daily pinup wear and very polished in it’s look; it’s not a costume competition. Avoid cliche things such as poodle skirts unless you can work it into your routine. This is a fine line to balance as some themes can be super costume feeling such as “country and western” themes. You don’t want to look like you got your outfit from a costume store so keep that in mind.

Miss MonMon wearing dungarees for her potato farmer routine at Miss Vintage Kiss 2019

If you do find it appropriate or necessary to wear something very fancy and formal; be clever in your styling so you stand out. I’d recommend finding good matching accessories and sticking to a colour theme. I’ve lost points for wearing white evening gloves with a pink dress and I wished I had dyed them pink (I’ve learnt my lesson since then). Personally I think evening gowns should have a petticoat of some kind underneath the skirt as it just fills out the skirt and really makes you have that vintage classic shape. You can find some good cheap petticoats and hoop skirts online so don’t stress about the budget.

If your pageant has multiple rounds, each outfit should be complimentary in some way. That doesn’t mean you can’t do completely different looks but I find that a lot of contestants do well if a theme is obvious throughout all rounds.

Miss MonMon wearing a true vintage gown for Pinup Doll Australia 2018.

Avoid outfits that are overly “sexy”. Yes I know I told you to embrace your curves a few paragraphs above but sometimes, pageants aren’t the place to be sexy. Most pageants are part of larger events, most of which are family friendly so you don’t want to make the audience uncomfortable or have to take their children out of the crowd to avoid questions about body parts a little too soon. Unfortunately I have seen my fair share of nip slips during pageant routines and even a boob trying to make a break for it and although some found it funny, the judges did not. Oh and wear a bra and panties … please? Yes we can tell and no, you don’t get extra point for displaying your bosoms on stage. Keep it clean.

Don’t feel pressured to wear all true vintage. Unless the pageants specifically states that true vintage is preferred, you should feel free to wear reproductions in any round (especially in formal wear). I’ve had a lot of friends come to me in a panic to borrow a gown for a pageant because they don’t have any true vintage themselves. That is not necessary and a modern reproduction can definitely stand its own on stage. Judges shouldn’t penalise you for not wearing true vintage especially if it’s not a requirement. Plus, not everyone can find a gown that fits or is within budget so don’t stress over this.

The devil is always in the details when it comes to a pageant outfit and accessories are a great way to tie together a theme or outfit. You don’t have to adorn every inch of your body in accessories so if you jingle and clack with your movements, maybe do something about it. I remember for one routine I wanted to wear some bangles but they were so noisy and distracting that I ended up taking them off before my performance.

Accessories are also a fun way of telling your story especially if there is a theme. For example, if you are wearing a pinup inspired Cinderella outfit, perhaps a brooch of a shoe or a mouse would really compliment your idea and push it up a notch. If you don’t have a themed outfit, stick with colours that compliment each other really well. Sometimes even just plain accessories on a plain coloured dress can look really polished especially if your accessories are vintage inspired. If you are after some vintage reproduction brands which do multiple coloured accessories in similar styles, check out Bow and Crossbone, Luxulite, Splendette, Resin Doll and Miz Smitten Kitten.

Miss MonMon at Miss Dirty Love 2018

Simple accessories can be hair accessories as well. Sometimes you just can’t get your victory roll to sit right so a hair flower or scarf can be perfect to hide it and also compliment your outfit. A full post about pageants grooming is coming soon. Hair accessories can be super easy to make as all you need are some fake flowers or something within theme eg. shells for a beach theme, hot glued to a comb or some pins. Get creative and have fun with this process.

If you’re wanting to wear accessories that are a bit more bling and sparkle (especially for evening or formal themes), go for vintage inspired costume jewellery. You can find something suitable at jewellery stores or online and some stores will even have coloured stones that you can match your outfit to. You don’t have to be dripping in diamonds (unless it’s your theme) so remember to pull in the reigns if you think you’re going over board. Personally, I love a statement neckless and earring set with perhaps a matching brooch if it all goes together.

Sometimes the inside is just as important as the outside; same goes for pinup pageants outfits as undergarments can really boost your outfit. Let’s start with some basics; bras and panties. As mentioned above, wear them. Secondly, make sure they are flattering and fit you and the outfit. Avoid visible bra straps especially if your dress has spaghetti straps or a low back. Seeing an undergarment is never a good thing. A slight push up bra can help you fill out a vintage reproduction and a vintage reproduction bullet bra can really help you fill out a true vintage piece. I’m not ashamed to admit that I do wear Spanx or some kind of scary stomach holing in underpants when I’m on stage. Endo belly can strike at anytime so by having something to hold me in can make me relax and feel confident that I don’t look bloated and puffy. Personally, I don’t think you need to worry too much about a corset for a pageant but that is up to your discretion. Some outfits might require you to wear one but don’t feel pressured to go out and buy one and if you do, make sure it fits you well and is seasoned (read how to do that here).

Stockings are a great undergarment to have as part of your outfit. Stockings can really smooth out your legs and make them look a million dollars. As someone who is always covered in bruises, stocking can really help the way your legs look on stage. Secondly, you can now buy stocking with coloured back seams to match to your outfit. This is one of my favourite things to do when styling an outfit is finding cute stockings to pull everything together and I’ve found judges and contestants love all the matchy – matchy. My go-to coloured seamed stockings come from What Katie Did but I am always on the look out for more brands.

Miss MonMon wearing crystal fishnet stockings at Miss Dirty Love 2018

If you are wearing a swing skirt or flared dress, I would recommend a petticoat of some kind underneath your skirt to really make your outfit pop. You might be surprised how much of a difference a petticoat can make to an outfit and you can always find a good budget one (I’d recommend avoiding the Hell Bunny branded ones even though they are cheap). Now there is a bit of a debate as to whether it’s ok to show a bit of petticoat or if you should hide it completely. I’ve known of some judges to deduct points for a visible petticoat, whilst other’s aren’t bothered by it. Personally, I am not a fan of a visible petticoat as it is an undergarment and should remain under the outfit but of course, that is just my opinion and it certainly is up to you.

The cherry on top of your outfit can definitely be your shoes. When it comes to finishing your pageant outfit, I’d definitely recommend wearing some kind of heel as they elongate your legs, make your bum look great and help with your posture. Of course, health, age and anxiety permitting, there are plenty of pinups who cannot wear a heel and they should feel no pressure to do so. I’d recommend maybe telling the pageant organiser or manager this just incase the judges judge unfairly without knowing if a previous condition. I’ve done a pageant round in flats because I left my shoes at the hotel (whoops) and it was totally fine. Just look confident and make it look like that choice was on purpose.

Make sure your shoes compliment your outfit. A simple, vintage style shoe (Mary Jane or anything with a T strap) can really pull together a great outfit. Choosing a complimentary colour is recommended but you can also experiment with really fun and funky heels. Personally, I’d recommend a shoe that holds your ankle in place so you don’t accidentally slip out of your shoe onstage. Also, I would opt for a thicker heel as I just feel more comfortable that way but it’s totally up to you.

Make sure your shoes are clean. Scuffed and damaged shoes might make you lose points and you don’t want that. If your shoes are looking worse for wear but you are tight on the budget. See if you can paint them or have them polished. I’ve dyed and pained many shoes in my lifetime and find it’s a great budget friendly way of giving shoes a new lease on life.

You can also jazz out your shoes if you feel they are boring. I love a good pair of shoe clips and have made and worn many on stage. For my pinup bestie I made a pair or shoe clips which looked like a whipped cream swirl to compliment her cake routine and I still think they look adorable to this day. If you want to cheat the system, clip on earrings can also work as shoe clips! Another way to jazz up boring shoes is by adding crystals to them or glueing on bows, buttons, ribbons and other accessories.

I know that might seem like a lot of information to take on board and I do apologise if you are feeling a bit overwhelmed. Take it slow and just start from perhaps one item of clothing or an accessory you love and build around it. Use Pinterest and instagram for inspiration and of course, you can totally make something if you are handy with a sewing machine. I’d also say that if you are still stuck or can’t decide between options, I am happy for you to message my instagram with your options. I’ve had a few girls do this over the years and I always find it fun to be apart of someones pageant planning process. I’ll always give you an honest opinion but you can also ask friends, family and other pinups as well.

Coming up will be a post all about hair and makeup for a pinup pageant. I did think about lumping all these topics together but I’d rather take my time and clearly explain everything and give examples. Don’t worry, the blog will be out super soon. Good luck with your planning!

This post is part of a Pinup Pageant Guide mini-series. Feel free to find more posts from this series here:

-Writing a Pinup Bio
-Sending in Pinup Pageant Applications
How to Plan a Routine
-Planning your Pageant Outfits
-Planning your Pageant Hair and Makeup
-Using Props on Stage
-Posing on Stage
-What to do on Stage
-What to Pack for Pinup Pageant Day
-Pageant Etiquette


Note: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions and thoughts expressed are solely my own and not influenced in any way. There are no affiliate links and I do not benefit from any link clicks or purchases made.


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