That moment when the winner of Miss America is announced must be nerve-wracking for all the finalists. Imagine the elation previous winners have felt when they realized they were to become the next Miss America. Of course, any good beauty pageant finishes with a celebratory runway walk, and Miss America 1958 was no different.
Winner Marilyn Van Derbur looks so happy in this photo. She’s absolutely floating amongst all the tulle in her evening gown. The dress looks more like a prom or cotillion dress by today’s standards, but it’s still super elegant. We love that sweetheart neckline and lace bodice.
Keep It Simple, Silly
Maria Fletcher kept it simple and classic for her Miss America 1962 look. When she was crowned Miss America, she wore a strapless white dress and classic white gloves to match. The poofy A-line skirt looks a lot like previous winners’ looks. Before you start judging Maria for her lack of originality, let’s talk about why most Miss America dresses looked the same in the 50s and 60s.
According to some judges, white and other neutral colors are encouraged for contestants' evening gown looks. The thinking behind this idea is that white is a “safe” color. It doesn’t distract from the woman wearing the dress. So, if a contestant wears a neutral color, the judges won’t be distracted by any spicy colors and can judge a woman based on her talents and good looks. We’ll leave it up to you to decide if that’s a fair point or not.
Lynda Lee Mead, The 1960 Queen
As the 1960s rolled around, nothing major seemed to change for the Miss America competition. It was already pretty well-established, and fans knew what to expect. So, even as the social climate and popular fashion were changing, a lot of contestants were on the conservative side when it came to fashion.
Lynda Lee Mead looks radiant in her white gown and crown. Her strapless dress and white gloves were a look that was seen throughout the 50s, giving it a timeless appeal. A little bit of Lynda’s personal style peaks out with her jewelry, featuring a bold diamond bracelet and matching earrings. She looks fit to be a queen, which is pretty convenient.
The Difference in Dresses
There’s something about the 1950s that was so glamorous. At the time, the Miss America pageant really captured that sense of femininity and elegance that so many young girls wanted to emulate. This snapshot of Marian McKnight, who won Miss America 1957, shows just how glamorous these beauty contestants were.
Marian is seated in a poofy white dress while her Miss America predecessor Sharon Ritchie passes on her crown. It’s interesting to see how the now-former Miss America dresses so differently from the newly crowned winner. As a soon-to-be-retired queen, the predecessors often wear tighter, more mature dresses so as not to overshadow the new winner.
Miss America in Technicolor
When Sharon Kay Ritchie was crowned Miss America in 1956, the United States got one of its first glimpses at a beauty queen in full color. Color photography was becoming more common, so fans could now see their favorite contestants and winners in a more realistic way.
This photo of Sharon Ritchie and the previous year’s winner, Lee Ann Meriweather, shows a more down-to-earth depiction of the queens. They’re still glamorous as all heck, but it’s humanizing to see them with their natural hair color and everything. Plus, it’s cool to see the real-life colors of these amazing ballgowns. Sharon looks so happy in her dramatic white gown and classic red lipstick. We love to see it.