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What To Do With Your Hands When Walking in Evening Gown

Kára McCullough, Miss District Of Columbia USA 2017; India Williams, Miss California USA 2017; and Alee-Sutton Hethcoat, Miss Tennessee USA 2017; compete as a top 10 finalists in their evening gown during The 2017 MISS USA® Competition. Photo: Miss Universe Organization
Kára McCullough, Miss District Of Columbia USA 2017 (now Miss USA 2017); India Williams, Miss California USA 2017; and Alee-Sutton Hethcoat, Miss Tennessee USA 2017; compete as a top 10 finalists in their evening gown during The 2017 MISS USA® Competition. Photo: Miss Universe Organization

Of all the things you need to think about while competing in the evening gown portion of your pageant, it’s easy to forget what your hands should or shouldn’t be doing while you walk. Though it seems like such a minor detail, it can certainly be the difference between winning and losing.

My personal strategy for evening gown is to keep it simple. Therefore, the same goes for your hands: less is more. Let’s take a look at the subtle things you can do with your hands when walking in evening gown.

What To Do With Your Hands When Walking in Evening Gown

Many of you likely have heard at some point that what you do in your evening gown varies per system and can fluctuate based on the dress. While this can certainly be true in some instances, the tips below are general rules of thumb I like to follow.

Evening gown is your chance to be “the belle of the ball” and have your shining moment in front of the judges. You want all eyes on you and your beautiful face, not any crazy business happening with your hands. In that regard, I always recommend to take the “less is more” approach. Any movement with your hands while in evening gown should be short, sweet and simple. (Read: How to Win Over the Judges in a Pageant)

The most important thing to remember is to always begin, execute and finish your walk with confidence! Take for instance if you’re waiting on stage for your turn in evening gown. Pick a spot for your hands based on what is comfortable for you, then smile and wait without moving them around. Adjusting them too frequently may show your judges you are unconfident, tired or bored. A confident woman is at ease and able to hold her pose while waiting her turn, despite the fact that it may feel unnatural. (Read: 7 Ways To Get Winning Pageant Confidence)

Meridith Gould, Miss Minnesota USA 2017, competes as a top 10 finalist in her evening gown during The 2017 MISS USA® Competition. Photo: Miss Universe Organization
Meridith Gould, Miss Minnesota USA 2017, competes as a top 10 finalist in her evening gown during The 2017 MISS USA® Competition. Photo: Miss Universe Organization

When executing your walking pattern, not only will your feet be making strides or poses but your hands will as well. These movements need to be coordinated, graceful and seamless.

As you walk, your hands should be relaxed down at your sides, palms in. With a slight bend at the elbow, your hands may brush the sides of your dress or thighs ever so slightly. Remember, everything from your shoulder down is connected. If your shoulder is relaxed (but not slouchy), a natural swing to the arm and hand will occur. (Read: How To Walk In An Evening Gown)

I think some contestants are afraid to move their arms and hands when they walk in evening gown. Don’t glue your arms to your sides! It really is okay to move a bit. You just have to be mindful and in control of the movements.

Chhavi Verg, Miss New Jersey USA 2017, competes as a top 10 finalist in her evening gown during The 2017 MISS USA® Competition. Photo: Miss Universe Organization
Chhavi Verg, Miss New Jersey USA 2017, competes as a top 10 finalist in her evening gown during The 2017 MISS USA® Competition. Photo: Miss Universe Organization

Always keep your walking pace slow and steady for evening gown. As a dancer, I love to keep with the beat of the music. However, it is important to avoid a change of walking pace if the tempo adjusts. Your arms and hands will naturally follow along if you stay consistent with your feet. (Read: 10 Simple Ways to Practice Walking in High Heels)

As you walk, try to be cognizant of the things you should avoid doing with your hands. Don’t swing your hands higher than a 45-degree angle or swing one hand higher than the other. This is where I struggle! I tend to swing my right arm like I am running a marathon while my left swings daintily. Also, hands you may see in a dance or cheer routine such blades, cinnamon rolls, jazz hands or spirit fingers don’t belong in evening gown!

When you come to a stop/pose point in your walking pattern (don’t forget to stop for at least three seconds), this is when things can vary between system, age division and style of gown as to what you do with your hands.

Alee-Sutton Hethcoat, Miss Tennessee USA 2017, competes as a top 10 finalist in her evening gown during The 2017 MISS USA® Competition. Photo: Miss Universe Organization
Alee-Sutton Hethcoat, Miss Tennessee USA 2017, competes as a top 10 finalist in her evening gown during The 2017 MISS USA® Competition. Photo: Miss Universe Organization

I don’t suggest any hands on hips for the younger girls in natural pageants. Simply down at the sides is perfectly fine for this group. Nice and relaxed, not stuck to the sides and not floating. These contestants should find a happy medium between the two.

For Teen and up, one hand or two hands to the hip (or laid on the thigh for Miss and up) is definitely okay based on the system and dress style. Let’s remember that hands on hips is a display of dominance and independence when we consider the body language speaking for us. If you put your hands on your hips in an evening gown pose, I suggest keeping your smile warm and welcoming as to not come off as too fierce during the most elegant portion of competition. (Read: Can I Walk With My Hands On My Hips In A Pageant?)

Bayleigh Dayton, Miss Missouri USA 2017, competes as a top 10 finalist in her evening gown during The 2017 MISS USA® Competition. Photo: Miss Universe Organization
Bayleigh Dayton, Miss Missouri USA 2017, competes as a top 10 finalist in her evening gown during The 2017 MISS USA® Competition. Photo: Miss Universe Organization

“How you utilize your hands during the evening gown competition of a pageant is extremely important,” said Krystle Bell, founder and pageant/life coach at The Glamour Effect. “I personally coach constants to place their hands on their hips during poses. In my opinion, this routine adds personality to the evening gown walk.”

If you are going to try any combination of hands on hips, please make sure you are doing so correctly. It doesn’t look great if your hands and arms aren’t placed in a means best fit for your body and dress. Have your coach assist and critique you before bringing it to the stage. Practice fluid movements of relaxed hands moving to and from of the hip(s), as well as proper elbow, wrist and finger placement.

Going Forward

The dress and your confidence are the starting points to achieve the perfect movements in evening gown. A dress you adore paired with a winning attitude can make the world of a difference while you are up on stage.

What you do with your hands when you walk in evening gown ultimately needs to be about what the you are most comfortable with and what makes you feel stunning. The tips above should have given you a starting point. It is now your job to practice and make it perfect! (Read: How Far in Advance Should You Get a Coach?)

You may find it helpful to go watch other contestants’ evening gown walks at different pageants before you compete in your own. Try checking out our pageant predictions page to see if there’s one coming up in your area. Cast your top picks for winners when you check it out!

If you need help finding a coach to help with your overall evening gown walk, take a peek at our coaching packages or find a coach in your area through our amazing directory!

Good luck!

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