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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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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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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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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Norma Smallwood from Oklahoma added some flair to her ’20s-style gown with a velvet rose sash.
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Lois Delander of Illinois looked glamorous in a silver beaded fringe dress for the 1927 Miss America competition.
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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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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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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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Rose Veronica Coyle from Philadelphia took home the title in 1936, wearing a black velvet gown for the occasion.
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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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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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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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Rosemary LaPlanche from California wowed the crowd in a dark bathing suit and voluminous curls at the pageant in 1941.
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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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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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Evelyn Ay from Pennsylvania looked simply stunning in a full-length gown with embroidery details.
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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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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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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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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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Kathleen Knight of Colorado squeezes in one last fitting before the competition. This entire look is pure retro perfection.
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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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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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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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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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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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An evening gown with a beaded bodice and pleated skirt cinched the crown for Pamela Eldred in 1970.
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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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Laurie Lea Schaefer left the judges in awe with this sparkly pale blue gown.
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