When I competed in the Miss North Carolina 2014 Scholarship Pageant, the competition started on a Tuesday with a 10 minute interview in front of a panel of judges. This meant that the first time the judges saw me, I was in a pageant interview outfit I bought at the last minute–just a couple of weeks before the competition.
It was almost an afterthought.
Lucky for me, the dress I picked to be my pageant interview outfit was a good one (so was the outfit I wore to my Miss USA interview). However, things don’t always work out that well. Want to make sure you walk into the interview room confident and well-dressed? Read below.
1. Department Stores
I turn to department stores first for interview outfits of any kind, typically in this order: Belk, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Dillard’s.
PROS: lots of options, especially if you look online.
CONS: so many options that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Make sure you have in mind what you want before turning to a department store. If not, it’s easy to get fatigued if you aimlessly search through everything they have. If you want some ideas, try checking out the “Pageant Interview” board on the White Collar Glam Pinterest page, here. I’ve added a wide range of options from dresses to jumpsuits to separates.
2. TJ Maxx/Marshalls/Ross
These three stores are the BEST places to look for interview outfits when you’re on a budget. They have options from designers you’ll recognize and it isn’t hard to walk out with a beautiful $40 interview dress or jumpsuit.
PROS: really affordable. Also, did you know TJ Maxx also has an online store now? See here.
CONS: similar to department stores, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of clothing in these stores. Also, a lot of women turn to these stores for interview outfits, so you run the risk of buying a dress that someone else might also be wearing. *gasp* The easiest way to avoid this problem is to buy separates or get a custom outfit.
3. Other Retailers
Some other retailers that I frequent when looking for interview outfits for pageants: ASOS (only online), Topshop, Zara, White House Black Market, and Express. I look to many of these same retailers when I’m searching for suits for work.
PROS: If you mix and match some separates from a couple of these retailers, it’ll be easier for you to have a unique outfit that will stand out. This is especially important considering the sheer amount of women competing this year. If I’m not mistaken, there are nearly 50 women competing for the title of Miss North Carolina, and over 40 teens vying to be Miss North Carolina’s Outstanding Teen. Obviously, you’ll want your intellect, talent, and personality to stand out, but an easy way to make sure you have the judges’ attention from the start is by having a unique interview outfit.
CONS: so many stores, so little time.
As I mentioned, the two easiest ways to make sure that nobody else in the competition will be wearing an identical pageant interview outfit are: (1) wear separates; and (2) buy a custom outfit. The two go-tos here are Canary Designs (seriously in love with almost everything on their Instagram page) and Gregory Ellenburg. Gregory actually made both my Miss USA interview outfit and my Miss Universe interview outfit.
PROS: One-of-a-kind outfit that will fit you to perfection.
CONS: $$$$. When I competed, I was a law school student and I didn’t have much money to invest into my wardrobe. When I competed for Miss NC 2014, my swimsuit alone was $200, my talent gown was $400, and my evening gown was $300. Additionally, I had to pay for accessories, shoes, housing for the week, appearance outfits for competition week, etc. Needless to say, I simply couldn’t afford $600+ for an interview outfit on my law school salary (read: I was broke). However, if you can swing it, this is a great option. (Contact the designers for their individual pricing)
5. Pageant Shops
Many know Jewel’s Formals and Foxy Lady for the spectacular evening gowns they have, but few are aware that they also have a few interview outfits as well. Contact them to hear more about their selection or swing by their stores.
PROS: GREAT customer service. I haven’t been to Foxy Lady, but I hear fantastic reports from my friends and fellow contestants. I adore Courtney from Jewel’s and I appreciate that every time I visit her store, I have her full attention and she really listens to what I tell her when I’m looking for something specific.
CONS: It can be hard to make the time to drive to Smithfield or the beach, especially if you’re in Charlotte like me. However, it’s worth the drive to make sure you’ve got the wardrobe you need.
Finally, here’s a special shout out to Brittany Crews DiCello of The Finishing Touch for her input while I drafted this article! She’s my go-to when I need advice for anything related to pageants (besides my mom lol). I turned to her to make sure all my bases were covered. Thanks, Brittany!
Pictured below: dress (Guess, old), earrings (Bebe, old).