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Thoughts on MJ Lastimosa's Miss Universe gowns

Some people say this gown, designed by Colombian Alfredo Barraza, is the reason we fell short in maintaining our consistent top 5 placement in the Miss Universe pageant.

During the swimsuit round, the glow in MJ's eyes indicated much confidence that she could make it to the top 10. She naturally sashayed in her Yamamay suit and capped her movement with a right leg extension that made her look statuesque. Her fierceness exhibited that fighting form, paired with her million dollar smile. She made it.

Then, the evening gown segment arrived - a measure which aids the judges in choosing the Top 5. I sensed that MJ was not as elegant as she was during the preliminary competition. There was hesitation that we saw in the usually regal and stunning Mary Jean Lastimosa.

Let’s take a look at the gown.

The rule of thumb is that a mermaid or a fishtail cut is ideally worn by candidates who have statuesque figures. In the case of MJ, given her 5’7 height, a sudden horizontal cut at the thigh area made her look even shorter.

The flight of stairs at center stage emphasized even further this particular visual illusion from the judges' perspective.

The same designer Barraza also made Miss Colombia’s gown. Her height was emphasized, with that plunging neckline as the centerpiece of the gown.

MJ had to go through the toughest point in her journey – to navigate a gown that she very well knew didn’t really flatter her. Pageant websites and insiders even say that the gown had to be altered at the last minute. (READ: Despite Miss Universe loss, Miss PH MJ Lastimosa grateful, 'filled with love')

What is more surprising is that, during the final rehearsal, she was reportedly seen wearing a Leo Almodal pink gown which I personally think was way better than the already repaired Barraza. Almodal's gown never made it to the showcase as well.

The Philippines has been producing fashion designers whose works have consistently graced international fashion runways. (READ: Rajo Laurel's take on Miss Universe national costume)

I am no expert in fashion, but with a sentiment of dissatisfaction on the gown coming from avid Filipino pageant fanatics (and we are talking about millions), I think it is high time for the Philippines to take bold steps to quash a setup like this which is undeniably dictated by a foreign designer. (READ: Stella Araneta defends MJ Lastimosa’s national costume)

Yes, it is not about the evening gown. It is about how one carries it. But this is an incomplete thought; perhaps the question should be about how one would carry an awful gown?

Let’s not forget that controversial national costume, also by Alfredo Barraza. That dress was said to be inspired by the Panagbenga Festival. Honestly, the design concept was not even close to capturing what this festival is really all about. Yes, it may look like Goldilocks and Rainbow Brite collided in her outfit, but not even a tiny bit of beauty of the Summer Capital was reflected in the costume.

NATIONAL COSTUME. Miss Philippines Mary Jean Lastimosa during the taping of the national costume segment in Doral, Miami.

Photo by Sash Factor

When our representative joins a much celebrated international pageant such as Miss Universe, she brings with her not only her name but also an impression of the Philippines and its citizens with diverse cultural backgrounds, a society evolving against the landscape of much change.

But MJ, you are a winner. You will always be our Miss Universe – you do not have to feel sorry. There is always a reason why some events do not happen the way we want them to be. Still, congratulations, my dear! –

Christopher, a pageant fan, loves to travel and teach.  He has been involved with language assessment and evaluation for over a decade and is pursuing a PhD in Applied Linguistics.

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