The Dangling Dollar Dilemma

I talk to a lot of pageant competitors every day. Lots of questions…. What’s the best shape for my face, what goes with my neckline, what colors should I choose. Amongst almost everyone I talk to, there runs a quiet thread of, dare I say, dread, no matter the age or pageant system… “how can I spend so much money on my jewelry? My mom (husband/credit card/conscience) is gonna kill me!!! And to go with just one gown!!!”

I get it – good earrings are expensive, and it is a shame to relegate a beautiful piece of jewelry to just one outfit, no matter how perfect a match.

So what to do? There are the usual options:

1) Wear a basic with every gown or outfit (bor-ing…)

2) Choose inexpensive enough options that you can have them in every color (can we define “inexpensive” please?)

3) Get the perfect earrings each time, and sell them with the gown (if you can bear to part with them!)

My suggestion is to use a combination of these three techniques to not only make the very best impression you can, but to also start building a wardrobe that you can wear for a lifetime. Let’s start with the big-ticket place that’s always the first to make your budget hemorrhage: Evening Gown.

Let’s be honest – you shouldn’t scrimp on your competition evening gown. Nor should you scrimp on the earrings. There are other places you can save some money, but this should not be one of them. Get the best you can comfortably handle, both gown and earrings. If budget is a consideration for you, leave off a bracelet, and spend a little less on shoes. Yes, we know you love shoes, but really, when was the last time you saw a pageant winner photographed smiling and crying, wiping her tears away from her shoes? Rein in the shoe budget a bit. (I’ll be taking calls from shoe designers from 10 am to noon on alternate Wednesdays, thank you)

You can also do a little long range planning here, and stay to more neutral gowns throughout your career, if they work well with your coloring (and you don’t get bored!) A gorgeous pair of Crystal and Crystal AB earrings can go with an amazing number of gowns and look like they were custom made for the occasion. This doesn’t necessarily mean a white or silver gown… if you pay close attention to the stoning or beading on a gown, you can frequently use those Crystal & AB earrings with a gown of another shade, as long as the TRIM has Crystal and/or Crystal AB worked in with it. This is especially true for darker haired ladies – fairer haired girls tend to do a little better bringing a bit of the gown color up to the face. If you especially favor nude or champagne gowns, you’re in luck, as these shades are über blendable, and what works with one will usually work with another.

Above: A few great options for designs that will work with a number of gowns, in neutral shades of clear Crystal and Crystal AB:

So, you can save some serious change on earrings over several gown iterations just by paying attention to the details on the gown you choose – and by being very disciplined in what gown you ultimately choose. This method does discard taking the architecture of the gown into consideration when choosing your earring, relying solely on color. But then, if we had a bottomless wallet, we wouldn’t be here, would we, lol!!! You may not always get perfect here, but you can get pretty close.

Now that you have your competition evening gown chosen, what about the rest of your wardrobe? A girl could go broke accessorizing all these clothes! This is a great place to call in some of those inexpensive options we talked about earlier. While I would never recommend that you wear, ahem , shall we say… less than perfection? on your ears for the evening gown competition, let’s face it, for swimsuit… not so much. If they are looking at your ears while you’re strutting around in a bikini, you’ve done something seriously wrong. And besides, big ole earrings can be a little out of proportion with swimsuit. For swimsuit, you can stick to the tried and true gold or silver hoops, and you really won’t hurt my feelings. They’re light, breezy, work well proportionally, and best of all, you can get ’em at the mall for next to nothing. Works for me! The exception to this would be if there is a special theme for the swimsuit competition, like Salute the 80’s, or Victoria’s Secret, or any of a number of theme’s I’ve worked with that DO demand something more than a simple hoop. Barring that – go for simple.

Interview can be a bit tricky, depending upon which system you’re competing in. For some systems, discretion is the order of the day, and you really need to go smallish and conservative. Other systems the look is more trendy and cutting edge fashion – be sure to scope out what your director or judges are looking for before making your choice. Either way, the good news here is that you don’t need to spend a lot on jewelry for interview. For one thing, too much or over-jangly jewelry can be distracting during interview, and you want all eyes and ears to be on what you’re saying. Depending on the outfit you’ve chosen, a little glitz can be very appropriate but you never want to over-do – save that for the evening gown stage! If you do want a larger earring, there are always lots of options in the mall with metals, chains, and geometric shapes. I do feel that it’s better to do a nice metal piece than a cheap initiation rhinestones piece for interview – if you want Crystal, go smaller, and go quality.

Parts of your pageant wardrobe are ripe for inexpensive pick-up earrings. Arrival outfits, rehearsal clothes, meet and mingle.. anywhere that you’re not actually being directly scored, that’s a good place to same some $$ on your accessories. If you want to have a stash of pieces in colors to match anything you have, here’s the place to wear them. There are so many great options available today in resin, metals, amazing new materials. You don’t have to have glitz on everything. Yes, I really did just say that. Don’t tell anyone – let’s keep that between us, okay?

Talent… well, we’ll tackle that another day. Long subject! Soooo many directions to go with talent…

So, put the most into your evening gown jewelry, just as you put the most into your evening gown. That’s where you really need to blow it out of the water and just STUN. Do what you can here, and don’t look back. I strongly suggest purchasing the best earrings you can, with the understanding that “bigger” does NOT necessarily equal “better”… Quality – which in the case of evening gown means nothing other than Swarovski – is what you want to aim for. To save a bit, look for styles that are built with Swarovski crystal ONLY, no cheap imitation rhinestones, but perhaps a bit airier in design, with more space in between, and lots of articulation. You don’t have to have a thick, dense earring to get a luxe look, but you DO need Swarovski. That’s just not somewhere you should be willing to compromise.

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