Photos show how the winning gowns from the Miss America contest have changed through the years

George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images; Bettmann/Contributor via Getty Images; Lou Rocco/Walt Disney Television via Getty ImagesMiss America contestants were previously crowned in their swimsuits.

  • Since the Miss America competition started in 1921, candidates have walked the stage in fabulous evening gowns.
  • The contest has gone through some changes over the years, including the elimination of the swimsuit and evening gown portions of the pageant.
  • From plunging necklines to classic silhouettes, here’s a look at the winning gowns Miss America contestants have worn through the years.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Over the years, the winning gowns from Miss America have featured everything from plunging necklines to classic mermaid silhouettes.

The Miss America competition first started as a bathing suit contest in 1921 and has since seen many changes, including the removal of the swimsuit and evening gown portions.

Ahead of this year’s Miss America pageant on Thursday, here’s a look back at the gowns winning contestants have worn over the years.

The first-ever Miss America pageant winner was Margaret Gorman from Washington, DC, in 1921.

Bettmann/Contributor via Getty ImagesMargaret Gorman was the first winner of the beauty pageant in 1921.

Margaret Gorman was only 16 years old when she won what was originally known as the “Inter-City Beauty” contest. Her title was changed to “Miss America” in 1922.

She accepted her crown in a ’20s-style flapper dress.

Mary Katherine Campbell took home the Miss America title in both 1922 and 1923.

AP PhotoMary Katherine Campbell posing with her crown and robe after winning.

Mary Katherine Campbell is the only Miss America contestant to have won two consecutive years in a row. She posed in a regal robe after winning the title.

Ruth Malcomson represented Philadelphia in the 1924 Miss America pageant.

George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty ImagesRuth Malcomson representing Philadelphia in the 1924 Miss America contest.

The 18-year-old was wearing a knee-length satin dress with short heels during her crowning.

Fay Lanphier was crowned Miss America in 1925.

Bettmann/Contributor via Getty ImagesFay Lanphier was the fifth person to earn the Miss America title.

Prior to earning the Miss America title, Fay Lanphier was named Miss California in 1924.

Lanphier accepted her crown wearing a short, button-up dress with low, closed-toe heels.

In 1926, Norma Smallwood became the first woman of Native American heritage to win the Miss America pageant.

George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty ImagesNorma Smallwood posing in the Miss America sash and robe in 1926.

Norma Smallwood represented Tulsa, Oklahoma, during the pageant. She wore a mid-length flowy dress with her hair pinned up.

Lois Delander took home the Miss America crown in 1927.

Bettmann/Contributor via Getty ImagesLois Delander accepted her crown and scepter in 1927.

Delander wore a sequined fringe dress that was typical of the 1920s flapper style.

The Miss America contest took a six-year hiatus following the crowning of Delander. The pageant was temporarily discontinued after 1927 as a result of bad press surrounding the event, as well as growing pressures from religious and women’s groups.

Marian Bergeron was crowned Miss America in 1933 after the pageant was briefly revived.

NY Daily News Archive via Getty ImagesMarian Bergeron wears her crown after winning the 1935 Miss America title.

Marian Bergeron wore a regal robe with puffy sleeves over her white gown when she was awarded the Miss America title.

The contest returned for good in 1935, and Henriette Leaver was crowned Miss America.

George Rinhart/Contributor via Getty ImagesHenriette Leaver represented Philadelphia in the 1935 Miss America pageant.

Henriette Leaver sported a black one-piece bathing suit when she was crowned Miss America.

Rose Veronica Coyle was the second Miss Philadelphia to win the Miss America title in 1936.

George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty ImagesRose Veronica Coyle smiles after she is crowned Miss America 1936.

Rose Veronica Coyle wore a white one-piece swimsuit with strappy heels when she was crowned as the winner.

Bette Cooper represented Bertrand Island, New Jersey, when she was crowned as the 1937 winner.

George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty ImagesBette Cooper poses with her crown and trophy.

Bette Cooper originally entered the Miss America pageant as a dare but ended up winning the title.

She wore a velvet gown to accept her crown.

Marilyn Meseke was crowned the pageant winner in 1938.

Photo by Imagno/Getty ImagesMarilyn Meseke was 21 years old at the time she was crowned.

Marilyn Meseke donned a silk romper at the time of the pageant.

Patricia Donnelly wore a swimsuit to accept the 1939 Miss America title.

Photo by Keystone France:Gamma Rapho via Getty ImagesPatricia Donnelly was crowned Miss America 1939.

Donnelly wore the satin swimsuit with sling-back heels.

Frances Burke was representing Philadelphia when she won the Miss America contest in 1940.

George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty ImagesFrances Burke became Miss America in 1940.

Burke was crowned wearing a simple, black bathing suit.

Rosemary LaPlanche had won Miss California two years in a row prior to winning Miss America in 1941.

Bettmann/Contributor via Getty ImagesRosemary LaPlanche won Miss America in 1941.

Rosemary LaPlanche was the first runner-up in the 1940 Miss America pageant. In 1941, she claimed her crown wearing a black bathing suit paired with black heels.

Jo-Carroll Dennison won the Miss America title in 1942.

George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty ImagesJo-Carroll Dennison standing next to the Miss America trophy.

Jo-Carroll Dennison posed in a black one-piece swimsuit when she took home the title.

Jean Bartel won the title of Miss America in 1943.

AP PhotoThe 1943 Miss America title went to Jean Bartel.

Bartel also wore a black one-piece swimsuit during her crowning.

Venus Ramey was the first contestant with red hair to win Miss America in 1944.

George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty ImagesVenus Ramey posing with a scepter and crown during her victory.

Venus Ramey represented the District of Columbia before she was named Miss America in 1944. She also wore a black V-cut swimsuit during her crowning.

In 1945, Bess Myerson became the first and only Jewish woman to be named Miss America.

Bettmann/Contributor via Getty ImagesBess Myerson was the first Jewish woman to win the competition.

Myerson was also the first Miss America to receive a scholarship as part of her victory.

Myerson took home the crown in white, modest swimwear.

Marilyn Buferd won the title of Miss America in 1946.

Photo by Bob Landry/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty ImagesMarilyn Buferd was crowned the 1946 winner.

Buferd donned a white bathing suit with white heels during her crowning moment.

Barbara Jo Walker earned the Miss America title in 1947 and was the last to be crowned in her bathing suit.

Bettmann/Contributor via Getty ImagesBarbara Jo Walker posing during her 1947 Miss America crowning.

Barbara Jo Walker wore a two-piece swimsuit that featured flowers on the front.

In 1948, BeBe Shopp was the first Miss America winner to be crowned in an evening gown.

Bettmann/Contributor via Getty ImagesMiss America winner Bebe Shopp accepting her flowers during her crowning.

Shopp wore a long, flowy evening dress during the 1948 Miss America pageant.

Jacque Mercer was representing Arizona when she won the Miss America title in 1949.

Bettmann/Contributor via Getty ImagesJacque Mercer wore a blush-pink bathing suit during her crowning moment.

Mercer opted to wear a bathing suit during her Miss America crowning.

Yolande Betbeze refused to pose in a bathing suit after winning the Miss America title in 1951.

AP ImagesYolanda Betbeze is crowned by Miss America 1949, Jacque Mercer.

There was technically no Miss America 1950. The Miss America title became post-dated by three months in 1950, meaning the 1950 winner, Yolande Betbeze, was crowned Miss America 1951.

Betbeze wore a long, white gown when she was crowned. Her refusal to pose in a swimsuit during the contest resulted in swimwear sponsors creating their own pageant, Miss USA.

Colleen Hutchins became the first Miss Utah to win the crown at the 1952 Miss America competition.

Bettmann/Contributor via Getty ImagesColleen Hutchins posed with the other contestants at the 1952 Miss America competition.

Hutchins wore a long, white evening gown with embellishments near the top that made it a simple, yet elegant choice.

Evelyn Ay was the first and only Miss Pennsylvania to be crowned Miss America.

Bettmann/Contributor via Getty ImagesEvelyn Ay was crowned Miss America 1954.

Ay wore a white Cinderella-like ball gown during her Miss America crowning.

Lee Meriwether won the 1955 Miss America title and was the first to be crowned on national television.

Walt Disney Television via Getty ImagesPrior to Lee Meriwether’s Miss America victory, she was also crowned as Miss San Francisco and Miss California.

Meriwether opted for a more fitted strapless dress during her crowning moment.

Sharon Ritchie was crowned Miss America 1956.

Bettmann/Contributor via Getty ImagesSharon Ritchie being crowned by Lee Ann Meriwether, Miss America 1955.

Ritchie donned a white ball gown for her crowning moment at the 1956 Miss America pageant.

Miss America 1957 Marian McKnight became the first Miss South Carolina to take the crown.

Tom Watson/NY Daily News Archive via Getty ImagesMarian McKnight poses in her dress and sash.

McKnight wore a stunning white ruffled dress that had a long tail attached to the back.

Marilyn Van Derbur was crowned Miss America 1958.

Bettmann/Contributor via Getty ImagesWhite dresses with gloves were standard throughout 1950s fashion.

Marilyn Van Derbur wore a white ball gown with gloves during her crowning moment. Gloves were common at the Miss America pageant throughout the 1950s.

Mary Ann Mobley was the first representative from Mississippi to win the Miss America crown.

AP ImagesMarie Ann Mobley is crowned by Marilyn Elaine Van Derbur.

Miss America 1959 Marie Ann Mobley looked chic during her crowning as she wore a white ball gown with white gloves.

Lynda Mead was crowned Miss America 1960, making her the second winner in a row from Mississippi.

Bettmann/Contributor via Getty ImagesLynda Mead holds a bejeweled scepter.

Mead paired her white gown and gloves with a silver rhinestone bracelet and earrings.

Nancy Fleming won Miss America 1961.

Bettman/Contributor via Getty ImagesNancy Fleming smiles with a red bejeweled scepter in her hand.

Fleming competed in the pageant as Miss Michigan before she claimed the Miss America title. She wore a simple white gown with gloves during her crowning moment.

Maria Fletcher was representing North Carolina during Miss America 1962.

Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesMaria Fletcher was representing North Carolina in the 1962 Miss America pageant.

Fletcher was a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall in New York City before she was crowned Miss America.

She chose to wear a strapless ball gown that was simple, yet classy.

Jacquelyn Mayer represented Ohio in the 1963 Miss America pageant.

CBS via Getty ImagesJacquelyn Mayer took home the crown.

Mayer opted for a white spaghetti strap dress with floral designs. She paired the look with white gloves.

Donna Axum was the first Miss Arkansas to win the title of Miss America.

Bettmann/Contributor via Getty ImagesDonna Axum stands atop an Atlantic City hotel overlooking the ocean.

Miss America 1964 Donna Axum was 22 years old when she took home the pageant title. She posed with her crown in a black long-sleeved dress.

Miss America 1965 Vonda Van Dyke performed as a ventriloquist for the talent portion of the competition.

Bettmann/Contributor via Getty ImagesVonda Van Dyke being crowned by Miss America 1964 winner Donna Axum.

Van Dyke wore a long white dress that featured embellishments at the top.

Deborah Bryant was crowned Miss America 1966, which was also when the pageant first aired on TV in colour.

NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty ImagesDeborah Bryant was the first representative from Kansas to claim the Miss Universe title.

Bryant wore a classy white satin dress with satin gloves to match during her moment of victory.

Jane Jayroe earned the title of Miss America 1967.

NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty ImagesJane Jayroe takes a seat on the throne next to her trophy after winning the 1967 Miss America pageant.

Jayroe also took home the crown for Miss Oklahoma in 1966. She wore a long white dress that had a high neckline with a keyhole cutout in the front.

Debra Barnes was crowned Miss America 1968.

AP PhotoDebra Barnes posing with roses during her Miss America victory.

Barnes previously won Miss Kansas before earning the title as Miss America 1968. Barnes took home the crown in a strapless dress with a sweetheart neckline.

Judith Ford represented Illinois in the 1969 Miss America pageant.

Bev Grant/Getty ImagesThe newly-crowned Miss America 1969, Judith Ford, waving on the runway.

Ford took home the crown wearing a long white dress with gold detailing on the straps.

Pamela Eldred of Detroit, Michigan, was crowned as the winner of the 1970 Miss America contest.

Bettmann/Contributor via Getty ImagesPamela Eldred being crowned Miss America 1970 by the previous winner, Judith Ford.

Pamela Eldred accepted her crown in a beautiful sequined dress.

Phyllis George was Miss America 1971.

Bettmann/Getty ImagesMiss America 1971 Phyllis George the moment she found out she had won.

George accepted her crown in a sparkly halter-style dress with a loose-fitting skirt.

Miss America 1973 Terry Meeuwsen won both the talent and swimsuit competitions.

Bettmann/Getty ImagesTerry Meeuwsen was also Miss Wisconsin 1972.

Meeuwsen looked like she was ready to walk down the aisle in this long-sleeved white gown. The flower detail throughout the dress matches the subtle Miss America crown perfectly.

Miss America 1983 winner Debra Maffett was crowned Miss California first in 1982.

NBC/Getty ImagesDebra Maffett competed as Miss Texas in the Miss America pageant several times.

Maffett opted for a more dramatic dress with puffed sleeves.

Miss America 1984 Vanessa Williams was the first African American ever crowned.

NBC/Getty ImagesWhen Vanessa Williams won, she was representing the state of New York.

Williams made history in a pink halter-style gown embellished with crystals. The standout detail was the puffed sleeve that matches the tulle detail at the bottom of the dress.

Sharlene Wells was crowned Miss America 1985.

Bettmann/Getty ImagesSharlene Wells represented Utah during the Miss America pageant.

Wells is wearing a mint gown covered in crystal embroidery. The gown is complete with crystal sleeves.

Susan Akin, who was named Miss America 1986, participated in more than 110 pageants in her lifetime.

NBC/Getty ImagesSusan Akin was originally Miss Mississippi 1985.

Akin took home the Miss America crown in a white floor-length gown with furry straps to match.

Gretchen Carlson represented Miss Minnesota at the 1989 Miss America pageant.

Jeff Kravitz/Getty ImagesGretchen Carlson went on to become the Miss America chairwoman in 2018 until she resigned in June 2019.

Carlson won the Miss America pageant in a sparkly blue gown. The white beaded feather-like detail across the V-neck really stands out.

Kimberly Aiken, who was named Miss America 1994, was the first African American woman to be crowned Miss South Carolina.

Tim Clary/Getty ImagesKimberly Aiken represented South Carolina at the 1994 Miss America pageant.

Aiken kept it demure in this black evening gown packed with different design features. The criss-cross front, sheer sleeves, and thigh-high slit all work together flawlessly.

After winning Miss America 1996, Shawntel Smith went on to join the organisation’s board.

NBC/Getty ImagesShawntel Smith represented Oklahoma at the 1996 Miss America pageant.

Smith took home the Miss America crown in a white halter dress with beaded details across her chest.

Miss America 1997 Tara Dawn Holland represented Kansas at the pageant.

Tom Mihalek/Getty ImagesTara Dawn Holland was crowned by Miss America 1996 Shawntel Smith.

Holland’s winning gown featured sheer sleeves.

Kate Shindle represented Illinois in the Miss America 1998 pageant.

Donna Connor/Getty ImagesIn 2014, Kate Shindle wrote her memoir ‘Being Miss America: Behind the Rhinestone Curtain.’

If you look closely, you’ll notice the criss-cross detail and embroidered leaves going down the front of Shindle’s gown.

Nicole Johnson, who was crowned Miss America 1999, first started competing in pageants in Florida.

Timothy A. Clary/Getty ImagesShe moved to Virginia in 1997 and represented that state at the 1999 Miss America pageant.

Johnson went with a classic black halter dress for her crowning moment.

Heather French was the first woman from Kentucky to win Miss America.

Tom Mihalek/Getty ImagesHeather French competed to become Miss Kentucky five times before winning.

Heather French won Miss America 2000 in an ombré blue maxi dress with a sweetheart neckline.

Angela Perez Baraquio was the first Asian American woman to ever win Miss America.

Tom Mihalek/Getty ImagesBaraquio was also the first teacher to ever win the pageant.

Angela Perez Baraquio won the 2001 Miss America crown in a fiery red halter dress with a thigh-high slit.

Miss America 2002 Katie Harman was the first and only contestant from Oregon to win.

Getty ImagesAfter her Miss America reign, Katie Harman went on to pursue singing and acting.

Katie Harman wore a classic floor-length black dress that will never go out of style for her crowning Miss America moment.

Erika Harold represented Illinois at the Miss America 2003 pageant.

William Thomas Cain/Getty ImagesAfter her reign, Erika Harold went on to become a lawyer and politician.

Erika Harold won Miss America in a silver gown with fringe and an off-the-shoulder sleeve to match the tiers on her dress.

Ericka Dunlap was the first African American to be crowned Miss Florida. She went on to win Miss America 2004.

Donna Connor/Getty ImagesEricka Dunlap was crowned by Miss America 2003 Erika Harold.

Dunlap embodied the Florida sunshine in this strapless yellow gown with crystals on the waist.

Deidre Downs represented Alabama at the 2005 Miss America pageant.

Donald Kravitz/Getty ImagesDeidre Downs started competing in pageants to make money for college.

Deidre Downs stunned in a two-piece dress. The detail in the high-neck top is perfectly offset by the simplicity of the white maxi skirt.

Jennifer Berry was the fifth Miss America from Oklahoma to win the competition.

Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesDuring the preliminary competitions, Berry won the talent award for her ballet en pointe performance.

Berry wore a low-cut halter-style dress complete with lots of sparkles.

Lauren Nelson was the second consecutive Miss America from Oklahoma.

Denise Truscello/Getty ImagesLauren Nelson won the preliminary swimsuit award before being crowned Miss America 2007.

For her crowning moment, Lauren Nelson wore a black gown with a French lace bodice and beaded bottom.

Kirsten Haglund represented Michigan at the Miss America 2008 pageant.

Donald Kravitz/Getty ImagesAt 19, Kirsten Haglund was the youngest Miss America winner since Kimberly Aiken in 1993.

Kirsten Haglund won Miss America in a nude dress with crystal embellishments.

Katie Stam, who was crowned 2009 Miss America, started competing in pageants at the age of 15.

Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesKatie Stam represented Indiana at the 2009 Miss America pageant.

Katie Stam took home the Miss America crown in an off-shoulder lace gown with a thigh-high slit.

Caressa Cameron won the preliminary talent competition for her singing.

Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesCaressa Cameron represented Virginia at the 2010 Miss America pageant.

Caressa Cameron won the 2010 Miss America title wearing a skin-tight one-shoulder yellow dress with a rhinestone top.

Teresa Scanlan was 17 years old when she won the title of Miss America 2011.

Craig Sjodin/Getty ImagesTeresa Scanlan represented Nebraska at the pageant.

Teresa Scanlan won Miss America in a one-shoulder white dress adorned with more than 2,000 beads and crystals, according to the Omaha World-Herald.

Laura Kaeppeler was the first Miss Wisconsin to win since Terry Anne Meeuwsen in 1973.

Craig Sjodin/Getty ImagesLaura Kaeppeler was crowned Miss America 2012.

Laura Kaeppeler won Miss America in a black V-neck gown with embroidered lace details.

Mallory Hytes Hagan was the fourth Miss New York to win Miss America.

David Becker/Getty ImagesMallory Hytes Hagan was 24 years old when she won.

Mallory Hytes Hagan’s black earrings and bracelet stood out against the simple white one-shoulder dress she wore to win Miss America 2013.

Nina Davuluri was the first contestant of Indian descent to win Miss America.

Ida Mae Astute/Getty ImagesNina Davuluri was also the second Miss New York to win in a row.

Nina Davuluri won the title of Miss America 2013 in a bright yellow evening gown that she described as “the more sexy version” of Belle’s dress in “Beauty and the Beast,” according to the LA Times.

Kira Kazantsev was the third consecutive Miss America winner from New York.

Tom Briglia/Getty ImagesKira Kazantsev’s win made New York the first state to have a Miss America winner three years in a row.

For her crowning moment, Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev wore a long-sleeved white gown.

Betty Cantrell was the first Miss Georgia to win Miss America since 1953.

Michael Loccisano/Getty ImagesBetty Cantrell’s first pageant was in 2013.

Miss America 2016 Betty Cantrell wore a two-piece ensemble for the competition. The mermaid skirt hugged Cantrell in all the right places and the blue and silver rhinestones are a nice addition.

Miss America 2017 Savvy Shields started competing in pageants as a teenager.

Donald Kravitz/Getty ImagesSavvy Shields represented Arkansas at Miss America 2017.

Savvy Shields wore a sweetheart-style black mermaid gown that was an elevated version of a classic little black dress.

Cara Mund was the first Miss Nebraska to be crowned Miss America.

Donald Kravitz/Getty ImagesCara Mund was the last contestant to compete in the swimsuit competition before it was eliminated the following year.

Miss America 2018 Cara Mund looked flawless in a black gown that stood out thanks to the long, sheer train and rhinestone-embellished neckline.

Nia Franklin represented New York at Miss America 2019.

Donald Kravitz/Getty ImagesNia Franklin first started competing in pageants when she was in college.

Nia Franklin wore a white mermaid gown with a one-shoulder frilled sleeve.

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