Miss America once again broke down its own barriers in 1995 when Heather Whitestone won the competition. Heather became the first person with a disability to win the crown, becoming a hero and role model to young women across the nation. Heather, who lost most of her hearing when she was a baby, competed for the Miss America crown after winning the Miss Alabama title.
Heather looks ethereal in this white evening gown. The deep v-neck is offset by the glamor of her earrings and chic up-do. This wasn’t the first time Heather wore white during the competition. She performed a moving ballet number during the talent portion, wearing a flowing white dress with cape-like sleeves that made her look like she was floating across the stage.
Tara Holland Wows in White
Tara Dawn Holland looks absolutely thrilled to be receiving the Miss America crown from Shawntel Smith, the previous year’s winner. Tara won the competition in 1997 and went on to advocate for literacy during her year-long reign as Miss America. For the final ceremony, Tara wore a floor-length white gown as an homage to the contest’s eveningwear tradition of always wearing white.
The gown featured sheer long sleeves, a deep sweetheart neckline, and crystal embellishments on the front of the bodice. We love the neckline of the gown because it’s so flattering and timeless. Tara accessorized her gown with larger-than-life diamond earrings that echoed the crystal embellishments on the front of the dress. All in all, it’s a perfect Miss America look.
Shawntel Smith’s 1996 Halter
The 90s saw a more minimal approach to eveningwear, especially compared to the maximalism that was so popular in the 80s. Shawtel Smith of Oklahoma won Miss America 1996 in this sleek and simple white halter dress. The beaded detailing across the chest is semi-sheer and draws the eye toward the ruched bodice.
The skirt is smooth and minimal, making it stand out as a quintessentially 90s look. Shawntel topped off her look with pearl drop earrings and naturally glamorous makeup, including a red lip. Shawntel would go on to serve as a board member for the Miss America Organization after her year-long reign was over.
Kimberly Clarice Aiken
Kimberly Clarice Aiken won Miss America 1994, making her the fifth African American contestant to ever win the competition. Even though she was only 18 when she won Miss America, Kimberly was already used to breaking through glass ceilings. She was the first black woman to win the Miss South Carolina title. We can’t help but wonder if all this was running through her mind as she walked down the Miss America runway for the first time.
The gown she chose is timeless, chic, and elegant. It features a criss-cross top with sheer black sleeves and a high neckline. The thigh-high leg slit counterbalances the more conservative top half of the dress, making this look an unforgettable one in Miss America fashion history.
Serving Va-Va-Voom in 1994
The 1994 Miss America finalists must have coordinated their outfits ahead of time. Not a single one of them decided to wear the traditional white evening gown that was so synonymous with the pageant. How scandalous! We’re kidding, but it’s truly pretty unprecedented. Each contestant is glowing in a unique shade of blue, red, and black.
Every dress stands on its own as a solid eveningwear look. The deep red dress is giving major Jessica Rabbit from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” and we can’t get enough. The three black dresses may be the same shade, but they’re all so unique and beautiful, even after all this time.