- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Marilyn Meseke donned a silk romper at the time of the pageant.
Patricia Donnelly wore a swimsuit to accept the 1939 Miss America title.
Donnelly wore the satin swimsuit with sling-back heels.
Frances Burke was representing Philadelphia when she won the Miss America contest 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Meriwether opted for a more fitted strapless dress during her crowning moment.
Sharon Ritchie was crowned Miss America 1956.
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.
McKnight wore a stunning white ruffled dress that had a long tail attached to the back.
Marilyn Van Derbur was crowned Miss America 1958.
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.
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.
Mead paired her white gown and gloves with a silver rhinestone bracelet and earrings.
Nancy Fleming won Miss America 1961.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pamela Eldred accepted her crown in a beautiful sequined dress.
Phyllis George was Miss America 1971.
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.
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.
Maffett opted for a more dramatic dress with puffed sleeves.
Miss America 1984 Vanessa Williams was the first African American ever crowned.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Holland’s winning gown featured sheer sleeves.
Kate Shindle represented Illinois in the Miss America 1998 pageant.
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.
Johnson went with a classic black halter dress for her crowning moment.
Heather French was the first woman from Kentucky to win Miss America.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Berry wore a low-cut halter-style dress complete with lots of sparkles.
Lauren Nelson was the second consecutive Miss America from Oklahoma.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nia Franklin wore a white mermaid gown with a one-shoulder frilled sleeve.
- Read more:
- THEN AND NOW: How the Miss America pageant has changed over the years
- 37 photos of Miss America winners being crowned through the years
- 26 showstopping looks from the Miss America pageant over the years
- The 2019 titleholders of Miss Universe, Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, and Miss America are all women of colour
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