The 1950s is really when the glitz and glam of Miss America started to ramp up. The contestants started going all out with their eveningwear looks during the final crowning ceremony. Naturally, everyone wanted to look their best in case they won the crown and had to pose for a celebratory photo.
This snapshot shows previous Miss America winner Evelyn Ay crowning her successor, Lee Ann Meriwether. Lee Ann didn’t hold back with the silhouette on this dress. She looks like a real-life queen with that gorgeous tulle skirt and fitted bodice. The strapless gown goes perfectly with her drop earrings and glistening crown.
Colleen Kay Hutchins and Her Runner-Ups
Colleen Kay Hutchins won the Miss America title in September of 1951, making her the first Miss Utah to ever win the competition. By the 1950s, Miss America finalists were no longer required to show up on stage in their swimsuits, as we can see in this photo. The competition’s “princesses” surround Colleen, and they all look fabulous.
The color white seemed to be the name of the game during this competition. All of the women look stunning in florals, off-the-shoulder bodices, and poofy skirts. Each gown captures that classic 1950s silhouette of a fitting waist and A-line skirt. No wonder Miss America was aspirational for so many young women. They look so glamorous.
Evelyn Ay and Her Royal Court
Not all Miss America looks are hits. This 1954 shot of Miss America Evelyn Ay and her court of “princesses” shows a coordinated effort to look kind of silly. Evelyn is in the center in a floor-length silk gown and elaborate hat. The dress itself isn’t bad, but that headpiece did not age well.
Don’t get us started on the princesses' dresses. They’re all wearing matching sequin and silk minidresses, making them look like a dated bridesmaid party at someone’s wedding. The weirdest part of the whole ensemble was the hat they were required to wear. It looks like two bullhorns are emerging from their heads. These ladies most likely had no say about what they could wear to these photo-op events, so we feel for them.
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.
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.