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How to Dress for Pageant Interview as a Teen

There’s a saying in pageantry that “Pageants are won in the interview room.” So, your interview wardrobe is just as important as your onstage wardrobe.

As a Teen contestant, sometimes it can be harder to find that perfect outfit. You want to be fashion forward but still age appropriate. You also want the outfit to flatter you without looking too young.

Needless to say, dressing for pageant interview as a Teen can be tricky. There are lots of factors to consider, but with a little planning, you can be prepared to rock your interview.

Kennedy Wheeler, USA National Miss South Carolina Teen 2016, poses for a photo before interview. Photo Credit: Amanda Ferguson.
Kennedy Wheeler, USA National Miss South Carolina Teen 2016, poses for a photo before interview. Photo Credit: Amanda Ferguson.

How to Dress for Pageant Interview as a Teen

Know the age range

Different pageant systems have different requirements for what they consider to be the Teen division. For example. Miss America’s Outstanding Teen is open to contestants ages 13-17. However, USA National Miss Teen division is open to contestants ages 16-18.

Knowing the range that is considered “Teen” can affect what type of interview dress you should go for. When there is a big age gap for Teen, you are more likely to see a larger range of silhouettes. For a Teen division that has primarily older ages, you will want to stay away from dresses that make you look too young, however, keep in mind that you’re not quite a Miss yet.

Fashion-forward or traditional?

Is the pageant you are competing in more fashion-forward or more traditional? If you do not know the answer to this, do some research to find out. Ask the director, previous judges or previous contestants.

More fashion-forward pageants, like Miss Teen USA, tend to be more lenient in what is considered appropriate for interview. This includes allowing contestants to wear pants such as jumpsuits and in some cases, even slim-fitted suits.  (Read: Top 10 Interview Outfits From Miss USA 2017)

Know the format

This can actually be applied to any age division in regards to what to wear for interview. Before trying on that first dress for interview, know what the format is. Is it a panel style interview where you stand up by a podium for a set amount of time, or will you be sitting down? Is it a round robin style panel where you will need to get up and sit down several times during your interview? (Read: Should You Shake Hands in Pageant Interview?)

These are questions that you need the answers to. Often this information can be found in your contestant handbook or information packet. If not, don’t be afraid to reach out to your director, last year’s judges, or previous contestants for the info.

Knowing the format of the interview is important because if you are doing a seated interview, especially one where you will get up several times, it needs to pass the “sit test.” The sit test is simply sitting down in your desired outfit and noting if the dress rises, bunches or if you need to adjust.

Having a dress that fails the sit test means that you will be pulling your dress down during the duration of your interview. If your interview is round robin, you will want a dress that passes this test with flying colors. You don’t want to have to pull and tug on your dress every time you get up or sit down.

Even if your interview is standing, it is still helpful to do the sit test anyways. It can give some important insight to the overall fit of the outfit or dress.

Hair styling

Hair styling is just as important in the interview room as with any other area of competition. How you wear your hair during interview can say a lot about you. (Read: 4 Best Hairstyles for Pageant Interview)

Most contestants opt for the classic pageant hair: full of curls with one side falling behind your shoulders and one side falling to the back. Having your hair pulled back in out of your face is also a great look for interview. It allows the judges to see your face more clearly.

Buns and ponytails are also interesting options that can be worn for interview; however, as a Teen contestant, we suggest staying with a simple hairstyle. Make sure to consult a pageant professional about hair styling prior to your pageant.

The suit

Added for good measure, let’s talk about the suit. Unless your pageant specifically requires a traditional pageant suit to be worn, please stay away from them! Pageant suits can come off as outdated in the majority of pageants. (Read: Should I Wear a Dress or Suit For Pageant Interview?)

For the most part, not many pageants require a suit to be worn. While some pageants still allow suits, most judges prefer a cleaner, more modern look in interview.

Shoes, shoes, shoes!

The traditional pageant interview shoe is a nude, close-toed pump. However, it is acceptable in today’s day and age to completely break the mold!

You don’t want the shoes you pick to be distracting; however, pairing a heel that complements the dress is important. If you have a solid, primary colored, red, blue or yellow dress, pairing it with a printed pump can stand out as a favorite. (Read: Should I Wear Print Shoes For Pageant Interview?)

Matching your shoe color to your dress color isn’t necessary. Try to avoid wearing black heels unless your dress is black. If you have a color blocked dress, only wear black heels if the primary color is black. Black shoes can come off matronly on younger contestants.

Going into the interview room

Moving forward as you prepare to go into the interview room, remember that what you wear is less important than what you do. Being well spoken, confident, humble and personable is ultimately what is going to set you apart from the other contestants.

Do you have any tips for a Teen competing in interview and what to wear? Let us hear it in the comments below!

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