Focus on the Miss Universe national costumes starting with Southeast Asia
For Frederick Lee, having haters is a fact of life and he is willing to take the risk. The 45 year old Singaporean couturier embarked in a daunting task of designing the national costume for Miss Universe Singapore 2015 Lisa White. It is understandable why he is a bit concerned. His predecessor took a beating from online bashers for designing Miss Universe Singapore 2014 Reetha Menon’s national costume.
Lee is unperturbed. One will get bashers somehow no matter what you will design and create anyway. So, 200 hours and US$3, 000 later, a national costume that depicts the diversity in Singapore was born. The costume is an amalgam of Chinese, Malay and Indian cultures. The top of the dress is a Chinese cheongsam with the classic Singapore girl (as seen of Singapore Airlines cabin attendant uniforms) pattern. The headdress meanwhile was inspired by the ones used by Malay brides. On the other hand, the 3 meter structure harnessed at the back was influenced by kavadis that Hindu devotees carry during the Thaipusam procession.
While it is true that the designers of Singaporean national costumes at Miss Universe usually get a beating online, neighboring Thailand on the other hand, enjoys a better situation. That is largely due to the democratic process involved in selecting which costume would represent Thailand the best. Every year, hundreds of entries are entertained by the Miss Universe Thailand organization. A panel would narrow down the entries and eventually a winner will be announced.
This year, the winning design created by Hirankrit Pattaraboriboonkul is completely out of the box! The creative costume pays homage to the ubiquitous vehicles that ply the chaotic streets of Bangkok – the tuk-tuk! Miss Thailand Universe 2015 Aniporn Chalermburanawong’s unique costume calls for a 3-D scanning to ensure a snug fit and, because of its uniqueness, it caught the attention of international press from the Las Vegas Sun to The New York Times!
Indeed with such a long record of wonderful and creative costumes, Thai designers get respect and adoration in their home country. That is contrary to what is happening in the Philippines. Like an annual ritual, the national costumes of the Philippine bet at Miss Universe gets more than a fair share of negative criticisms. At Miss Universe 2014, the costume created by the Colombian designer Alfredo Barraza for Miss Universe Philippines 2014 Mary Jean Lastimosa was labelled as a teenage girl’s birthday cake.
The most contentious issue among the Filipino fans is why the national costumes are designed by a foreigner. Most believe that a national costume should be designed by a local couturier so that the concept and theme would truly reflect the culture and history of the Philippines. For years, the Bb. Pilipinas organization – the national organizer of Miss Universe Philippines – ignored these critiques. Apparently, the “birthday cake” costume was the last straw. The costume was hammered hard by the bashers and critics and even the national news network in the Philippines aired the controversy. A member of the parliament even announced that she will initiate legislation to ensure that Filipino designers will design the national costumes of all Filipina beauty queens.
Because of the uproar, Bb. Pilipinas decided to commission a Filipino designer to create the national costume of Miss Universe Philippines 2015 Pia Wurtzbach. The costume is yet to be revealed publicly (usually a surprise till the National Costume competition) but the designer, Albert Andrada, gave the fans a sneak peak. He posted the sleeve of the costume and he described it as a “terno ensemble involves yards and yards of cocoon fabric and jusi with embellishments of pearls, capiz shells and crystals. Dangling capiz shells are added to give a more dramatic sound effect as she glides her way to victory. A crown inspired by the carnival queen of the early 1900s completes the epitome of a Filipina beauty queen…”
While the Philippines had been struggling with its National Costume designs, Indonesia is doing perfectly well. In fact, during the 2014 pageant year, the nation swept the Best in National Costume awards at Big4 pageants (except at Miss World where the award is not available)! The designers usually draw inspiration from the richness in the cultural diversity of Indonesia.
This year, Miss Universe Indonesia Anindya Kusuma Putri will wear a costume called “Mythical Eyes on Barong”. Designed by Dynand Fariz, the costume weighs 27 kilos! In Balinese mythology, Barong is a God of spirit and symbol of goodness, so goes the explanation as to where the design came from. But whatever is the real inspiration behind this costume, it is bound to rock in Las Vegas. Indonesia will once again prove to the world that it is a powerhouse when it comes to this department.
So what about the rest of Southeast Asia? Miss Universe Myanmar May Thaw will wear a Kayan costume which is famous because of the brass coils worn in the calves and neck. For the Kayans, the longer the neck of a woman, the more beautiful she is. The costume’s accessories include Burmese jade and onyx worth almost $10, 000!
Miss Universe Malaysia Vanessa Tevi Kumares will wear a national costume that consists of a purple songket top and skirt, embellished with Bunga Mas (gold flower), a traditional gift the Sultans of the northern Malayan states used to present to the king of Siam as tribute.
Miss Universe Vietnam Huong Pham’s national costume is yet to be revealed in its entirety but it will be a white ao dai sprinkled with golden leaves. What makes this ao dai special is the additional bird-like headdress with elaborate golden feathers strapped at the back. The white fabric of the ao dai blends well with the gold colors of the accessories.
Indeed, Southeast Asia is a vibrant region with rich and diverse cultures. The national costumes from this region are usually colorful and steeped in history. Will the region retain the Best in National Costume award? By the looks of it, it will!