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The Most Stunning Evening Gowns in Miss America History


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The Miss America pageant has been a staple of American culture ever since its founding in 1921. While the organization recently celebrated its 100th birthday, a lot has changed over the years. The event is now branded as a “competition” with “candidates,” and there is no longer a swimsuit portion. These days, the brand is seeking out more than just beauty—Miss America 2020, Camille Schrier, won the competition by conducting a science experiment as her talent. As the pageant evolves, so do the dresses. Click through this gallery to see some of the most stunning Miss America dresses from the past 100 years.

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1921

Miss America’s evening gown competition has been iconic since the very first pageant. Margaret Gorman from Washington D.C.’s look is proof: She wore a drop waist embroidered gown and topped it off with an American flag shawl.

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1922 to 1923

In 1922, Mary Campbell from Ohio was the first Miss America to don a regal robe, crown, and scepter. She was also the only person in the pageant’s history to take home the crown twice—both in 1922 and 1923.

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1924

Ruth Malcomson represented her home state of Pennsylvania in a swimsuit and fur-trimmed coat, and took home the coveted Golden Mermaid trophy that year.

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1925

Fay Lanphier from California, far right, was crowned Miss America in 1925. The beauty queen is seen here backstage with her fellow contestants.

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1926

Norma Smallwood from Oklahoma added some flair to her ’20s-style gown with a velvet rose sash.

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1927

Lois Delander of Illinois looked glamorous in a silver beaded fringe dress for the 1927 Miss America competition.

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1930

Margarethe Ekdahl from Tampa, Florida wore a sequined unitard with her Miss America crown in 1930. She was decades ahead of her time, sporting the look way before bodysuits were in.

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1933

When Marion Bergeron from Connecticut won Miss America, she was wearing an outfit fit for a queen. The puff sleeves and Renaissance design gave off major Romeo and Juliet vibes.

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1935

Henrietta Leaver from Pittsburgh placed the ceremonial robe and crown over her gold lamé evening gown when she was crowned Miss America in 1935.

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1936

Rose Veronica Coyle from Philadelphia took home the title in 1936, wearing a black velvet gown for the occasion.

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1937

Black velvet was huge in the ’30s. Bette Cooper’s dress perfectly matched the robe she won when she went from Miss New Jersey to Miss America.

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1938

Marilyn Meseke proved that accessories are a girl’s best friend when she paired her winning wand, crown, and robe with this smooth-as-silk look.

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1939

Miss America in 1939, Pat Donnelly, is seen here modeling a tulle black evening gown with a tiered skirt. Her perfectly curled up-do only adds to the polished look.

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1941

Rosemary LaPlanche from California wowed the crowd in a dark bathing suit and voluminous curls at the pageant in 1941.

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1951

Yolande Betbeze of Alabama looked perfect by the pool in a white, lace-trimmed swimsuit. She’s hard to miss with that shiny trophy and matching sash.

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1952

Colleen Hutchins from Utah, center, is pictured next to the runners-up following her win. Her white off-the-shoulder gown is fit for a bride.

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1954

Evelyn Ay from Pennsylvania looked simply stunning in a full-length gown with embroidery details.

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1955

Lee Meriwether from California wore a regal evening gown to match her crown for her Miss America portrait. The pleated detailing and sweetheart neckline brought the perfect amount of glamour to the competition.

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1957

Marian McKnight was South Carolina’s first Miss America winner. She donned a tulle-filled dress in front of the Empire State Building.

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1960

Lynda Mead from Mississippi smiles for the camera in her white strapless gown—a design that, for the time, was rather risqué.

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1963

Jacquelyn Mayer of Ohio, left, is the definition of pageant royalty in her floral embroidered gown. Everything about the outfit—from her satin sash to her elegant white gloves—looks straight out of a Disney movie.

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1965

Kathleen Knight of Colorado squeezes in one last fitting before the competition. This entire look is pure retro perfection.

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1965

Donna Axum of Arkansas, left, rocks a beaded gown, as she prepares to pass her title on to the following year’s winner, Vonda Van Dyke.

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1966

Former Miss Americas, Vonda Kay Van Dyke (1965) and Bess Myerson (1945), strike a pose in embroidered evening gowns, while attending the 1966 Miss America pageant.

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1967

Jayne Anne Jayroe from Oklahoma wore a powder blue dress with a crystal bodice when she was crowned Miss America in 1967.

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1968

Moving into the late ’60s, winner Debra Barnes made an impression on the runway in this short-sleeve lacy dress in 1968.

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1968

Nikki Peck, Miss Indiana, competed for the 1968 Miss America pageant wearing a white bateau beaded evening gown that is just as timeless now as it was back then.

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1970

An evening gown with a beaded bodice and pleated skirt cinched the crown for Pamela Eldred in 1970.

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1970

Kathy Huppe from Montana was barred from competing in the Miss America contest in 1970 due to her political views and opposition to the Vietnam War. Huppe’s bravery makes her Miss Montana pageant evening gown all the more beautiful.

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1972

Laurie Lea Schaefer left the judges in awe with this sparkly pale blue gown.

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