Wildest National Costume Contest Outfits

Contestants wore bold ensembles at the 2023 Miss Universe national costume contest.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

  • The Miss Universe costume contest took place in El Salvador on Thursday night.
  • Contestants participated in the annual celebration of their cultures with colorful and daring looks.
  • The standout looks of the event featured colorful backpieces, feathers, and daring cutouts. 

The 2023 Miss Universe competition is in full swing, with 84 hopeful contestants gathering in El Salvador to compete for the biggest title in pageants.

The Miss Universe finals will take place on Saturday. However, on Thursday, the contestants participated in the annual costume contest.

The costume contest is always a highlight of the pageant, as it gives participants the chance to honor their countries with eye-catching ensembles.

This year, Miss Universe hopefuls wore everything from full-body feathers to elaborate backpieces.

Miss Albania Endi Demneri soared to new heights with sparkling golden wings that were the centerpiece of her national costume.

Miss Albania 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Demneri, a model who has walked for Dolce & Gabbana, kicked off the national costume contest with some showstopping wings.

The 24-year-old’s national costume was designed to look like an eagle, which appears on Albania’s flag. Demneri’s bodysuit was covered in black and red feathers — the flag’s colors — and her large wings featured shimmering gold feathers meant to symbolize Albania’s prosperity. Demneri topped off the ensemble with an eagle headpiece.

Miss Angola Ana Bárbara Da Silva Coimbra brought a splash of color to the Miss Universe stage with her costume, which was inspired by the women of the Mumuhuila tribe.

Miss Angola 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Coimbra’s costume, which was designed by Poly Poly da Rocha, featured a bright-yellow ruffled skirt with a blue, green, and red pattern. Colorful beads that matched the skirt were draped across her shoulders, and perched on top of Coimbra’s head was a colorful woven basket. As the 23-year-old model walked across the stage, she lifted the edges of her flowing train to reveal an illustration of a Mumuhuila woman on the back.

On her Instagram, Coimbra said that women from the Mumuhuila tribe are known for their colorful fabrics. In the village, they wear ornaments including beads, head baskets, necklaces, and belts to display their marital status. Coimbra also noted that her outfit was made from recycled materials, including cardboard, plastic, and used tire scraps.

Miss Argentina Yamile Dajud shimmered as bright as the sun as she took the Miss Universe stage in a sparkling gold costume.

Miss Argentina 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Dajud’s costume was inspired by “Sol de Mayo,” an Argentinian national emblem that appears on the country’s flag. It represents the Inca sun god.

The 27-year-old model sported a sparkling gold dress covered in glittering fringe. She wore a dramatic headpiece with bright yellow and orange feathers, designed to represent the rays of the sun. Dajud accessorized the ensemble with a white-and-blue cape featuring an illustration of the Sol de Mayo.

Miss Aruba Karol Croes wore a colorful outfit inspired by an indigenous queen during the national costume contest.

Miss Aruba 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Croes’ costume, which was designed by Alfredo Barraza, featured a shimmering red two-piece covered in beads. The 27-year-old international model paired her ensemble with a blue-and-gold cape, a headpiece featuring plants and flowers, and a glittering faux bird that she held while strutting down the stage.

During the show, presenters said Croes’ outfit was inspired by an indigenous queen who safeguards the planet and stands firm “against the threat of climate change.”

Miss Bahamas Melissa Ingraham sported a national costume that paid homage to vintage Bahamian market dolls.

Miss Bahamas 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Ingraham’s national costume featured a voluminous ball-gown skirt with sparkling blue and black tulle, beaded designs, and bows on the side.

The 26-year-old environmental scientist paired the skirt with a matching beaded crop top featuring dramatic off-the-shoulder sleeves and a big, floppy sun hat covered in bright-green tulle. She topped off the ensemble with a palm-leaf hand fan.

Miss Bolivia Estefany Rivero brought the drama to Miss Universe with her national costume inspired by the Bolivian Amazonian warrior.

Miss Bolivia 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Rivero’s costume, which was made from recycled materials, featured red, blue, and yellow beads that covered her two-piece. She paired the look with a shimmering gold cape and a dramatic headpiece covered in large blue feathers.

The 26-year-old architect also carried a staff with a faux bird. Rivero — who belongs to the group of indigenous people known as the Mojeño — is using her Miss Universe platform to help advocate for the protection of the blue-throated macaw bird in Bolivia.

Miss Brazil Maria Brechane’s national costume was also inspired by birds, a common theme during this year’s contest.

Miss Brazil 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Brechane strutted down the stage in a costume that paid homage to the blue macaw of Brazil. Presenters during the show said Brechane’s outfit was a “message of conservation.”

The 19-year-old model and journalism student wore a blue-and-yellow feathered bodysuit designed to make her look like a macaw, complete with a faux headpiece of the bird. She sported a flowing feathered cape and wings, with two additional faux macaws perched on each shoulder.

Miss Bulgaria Yuliia Pavlikova dripped in gold from head to toe with her national costume.

Miss Bulgaria 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

The 30-year-old, who runs a model school for children, paid homage to Bulgaria’s largest nocturnal animal of prey with her ensemble, which was made using faux feathers. Pavlikova’s outfit featured a metallic gold dress and matching wings, which she paired with a sparkling gold headpiece.

During the contest, presenters said that the golden owl is meant to symbolize courage and fearlessness.

Miss Cameroon Issie Princesse paid tribute to the women’s empowerment movement with her national costume.

Miss Cameroon 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe.

Princesse, a 23-year-old student, sported a red-and-gold two-piece with a flowing red train as she walked down the Miss Universe stage. But the real star of her costume — which was designed by Alex Hernandez and Alfaro Enrique — was the backpiece, which featured photos of women who made an impact in Cameroon’s women’s empowerment movement. The photos were framed with red, yellow, or green feathers, the color of Cameroon’s flag.

Presenters said Princesse’s ensemble was designed to “inspire girls who may not yet believe in themselves that they too can change the world.”

Miss Canada Madison Kvaltin made a statement with her national costume that paid tribute to countries all over the world.

Miss Canada 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Kvaltin, a 28-year-old business owner, sported a dress that predominantly featured red and white beads, with accents of yellow, blue, and green. Her mermaid skirt featured the flags of various countries, and flags also fluttered from the dramatic backpiece designed to look like a maple leaf — the national symbol of Canada. On the back of the leaf were the words “Inclusivity makes dreams come true.”

On Instagram, Kvaltin said her costume is meant to represent the “diversity, acceptance, and multiculturalism” of Canada. The flags on her ensemble paid homage to other countries competing at Miss Universe.

Miss Chile Celeste Viel spread giant wings as she walked across the stage.

Miss Chile 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe.

Viel, a licensed health coach, dressed as a condor — the national bird of Chile — for the costume portion of the competition. She wore a semi-sheer jumpsuit covered in sparkles and beads, a hat decorated to look like the bird’s face, and massive wings crafted from feathers.

The outfit was created by artist Garay Kelvin.

Miss Costa Rica Lisbeth Valverde Brenes was decked out in pearls, sequins, and tulle.

Miss Costa Rica 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

A model and wildlife advocate, Brenes used her costume to showcase the beauty of Costa Rican beaches and marine life. Her sleeveless bodysuit had strings of pearls that lined its cutouts, a pearlescent bodice that mirrored the shimmering ocean, and a long blue train that looked like a wave.

She also wore a shell-shaped crown and carried a trident.

Miss Curaçao Kim Rossen wore what was arguably the most daring look seen during the costume contest.

Miss Curaçao 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Sporting a barely-there bodysuit crafted from crystals, Rossen also covered her legs in gold makeup to create an Olympics-inspired look. For accessories, she carried a version of the Olympic torch and wore the Olympic rings across her shoulders.

The costume was made for the occupational therapist by designer Guilherme Alves.

Miss Denmark Nikoline Uhrenholt Hansen brought a mythical sea dragon to life with her costume.

Miss Denmark 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Hansen, who has a degree in marketing and economics, took inspiration from the sea dragon lore beloved in Nordic Viking culture for her costume, as she shared on Instagram.

Her dress was covered in an array of colors and patterns, coalescing into a dragon headpiece on top of her head. A backpiece in an array of blue hues made it look like the dragon was swimming in the ocean.

Neftali Jahaziel Espinoza⁩ and Stalyn Nuñez designed the look.

Miss Ecuador Delary Stoffers took inspiration from a train for the costume contest.

Miss Ecuador 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Stoffers, a model, embodied Ecaudor’s railways with her ensemble, wearing a sparkly, blue bodysuit and a backpiece that looked like a train car, flowing into a railroad train.

She wore a headpiece that looked like a train light, completing the illusion.

Miss El Salvador Isabella García-Manzo’s costume lit up, turning her into a volcano onstage.

Miss El Savador 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

García-Manzo’s ensemble was designed by Marina Toybina to look like a volcano, with her ball gown flowing from red to black ash.

Lights were built into the golden headpiece, the dress, and the circular back, and different pieces of it lit up as she walked the runway, creating the illusion of a volcano erupting.

Miss France Diane Leyre wore an official costume from Le Moulin Rouge, the famous French cabaret.

Miss France 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Leyre, a model and radio co-host, thanked the stage production on her Instagram story, where she also shared a video of her costume.

The all-pink outfit included a bedazzled bikini, a matching neckpiece with sleeves, over-the-knee boots, and a statement fur cape that extended from her back.

Miss Guatemala Michelle Cohn sported a bejeweled look inspired by her country’s national flower.

Miss Guatemala 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Her backpiece was semi-sheer with three white petals that matched those of La Monja Blanca, the orchid that serves as Guatemala’s national flower.

Cohn, the first mother to compete in the Miss Universe pageant, also wore crystal-covered tights, mesh armbands, a bejeweled yellow leotard, and a statement crown.

Miss Guyana Lisa Andrea Narine brought the rainforest to the Miss Universe stage.

Miss Guyana 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Narine’s ensemble — which represents her home’s wildlife and foliage — featured an array of prop animals, leaves, and giant water lilies, the national flower of Guyana. The massive costume was crafted on wheels and wrapped around her waist so she could move it down the stage.

The international relations student completed the look with sandals and a pastel minidress, both of which were decorated with floral appliqués.

Miss Honduras Zuheilyn Clemente donned a traditional costume for the contest.

Miss Honduras 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Clemente, a TV star and marketing student, wore a dress and armbands made from the same checkered fabric, and a crown and backpiece embellished with colorful feathers.

Designer Danilo García said on Instagram that the costume is called “Artesanía Lenca, Orgullo Catracho,” or “Lenca Crafts, Catracho Pride.” It represents the art of the Lenca people and Honduran pride.

Miss Indonesia Fabiënne Nicole Groeneveld wore a statement costume that showcased Indonesian art and represented her life journey.

Miss Indonesia 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Groeneveld, an international business graduate, stepped onstage in a metallic ensemble that almost looked like armor. It featured fishnet sleeves, lace-embellished tights, a printed bodice, and a backpiece that extended over her head.

Bubah Alfian, her makeup artist and the designer of the costume, said on Instagram that the black parts of the outfit represent Groeneveld’s darkest times, while the gold pieces show her dignity and inner beauty.

Miss Ireland Aishah Akorede embodied the Celtic goddess Cliodhna onstage.

Miss Ireland 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Akorede said on Instagram that her all-blue outfit designed by Claire Garvey was inspired by the guardian of the Irish seas. Its cascading blue cape, beaded fringe, and metallic fabric were meant to mimic waves and droplets, and the overall outfit represented the need to protect our waters.

The contestant, who works as a corporate compliance consultant and model, noted on Instagram that she wants her costume to serve as a “call to action.”

Miss Jamaica Jordanne Lauren Levy also found inspiration in the sea.

Miss Jamaica 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Levy wore a blue leotard with armbands and peplum pieces in a metallic blue shade. The physician’s outfit was also embellished up top with multicolored sequins, beads, and fish, all of which matched her intricate headpiece.

On Instagram, Miss Universe Jamaica said the outfit was inspired by the resiliency of Port Royal, a town in Jamaica, and the marine life that’s present in the area. It also represents the impact of climate change on the national heritage site.

Miss Kazakhstan Tomiris Zair looked like a warrior when she stepped onstage.

Miss Kazakhstan 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

The model and marketing student sported a brown leather corset with a bow-style belt and billowing cream sleeves, and a tiered, floor-length skirt made from tulle.

Designer Vonama Arzubek said on Instagram that the outfit was inspired by Kazakhstan’s national heroine Tomiris, whom Zair shares a name with, and Berkut eagles.

Miss Laos Phaimany Lathsabanthao was inspired by textiles and her mother.

Miss Laos 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Lathsabanthao is passionate about sharing traditional Laos crafts like weaving with the world. That’s what inspired her costume, which included a beaded, two-piece outfit in a deep-red shade, and a backpiece that looked like a building with woven garments hanging on each side.

Lathsabanthao said on Instagram that the costume is meant to show the connection between Lao women and textiles and represent her personal experience weaving with her mother.

Miss Latvia Kate Alexeeva stepped onstage looking like the national flower of her home country.

Miss Latvia 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Inspired by daisies, Alexeeva wore a sparkling leotard with a fringe miniskirt, green thigh-high boots, a tiered skirt that wrapped around her backside, and a white-petal shoulder piece.

Alexeeva, a model and world traveler, said on Instagram that she was inspired by the “delicate beauty and resilience” of the flower, and noted that the species is often featured in traditional Latvian art.

Miss Malta Ella Portelli floated across the stage like a butterfly.

Miss Malta 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Portelli, a real-estate agent, donned a sparkling black jumpsuit decorated with colorful butterflies. She also had rainbow-colored wings that extended from her long, fringe sleeves.

She shared on Instagram that she chose her costume to raise awareness for the decrease in moth and butterfly species in Malta due to the overdevelopment of the island. Its multicolored hues, on the other hand, represent Malta being a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community and the host of Europride 2023.

Miss Myanmar Amara Bo was dressed like a “Burmese Virtue Tree.”

Miss Myanmar 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

A model with a degree in computer science, Bo wore a white top with gold accessories, a floor-length skirt, sparkling flip-flops, and a tree-shaped backpiece with money hanging from each branch.

On Instagram, Bo explained that there’s a Buddhist tradition in Myanmar called “Virtue Tree,” in which people donate their savings to monasteries during cultural festivals. She wrote that her costume is meant to mirror “someone dressing up for the ceremony who is ready to do the good deeds.”

Miss Mexico Melissa Flores’ outfit was full of bright colors.

Miss Mexico 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

For her costume, Flores, who is a psychologist, looked to owls, which protect magical beings in Mexican culture, according to a clip from the live show she shared on Instagram.

She carried a staff that looked like an owl mask, while her headpiece featured wings. The entire costume was covered in vibrant colors and textures.

Miss Namibia Jameela Uiras wore a costume that transformed her into a symbol of her country.

Miss Namibia 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Uiras, a model and marketing strategist, stepped onstage wearing a beaded bralette, a neckpiece with a crystal collar, and a skirt embellished with a faux animal head.

The animal in question was a Diamond Oryx, a species of gemsbok that’s often used as a symbol of Namibia’s “untamed beauty and the resilience of its people,” as Uiras wrote on Instagram.

Miss Netherlands Rikkie Kollé sported a costume that transformed in real time.

Miss Netherlands 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

When she first appeared onstage, Kollé looked like a traditional Dutch tulip, wearing green, sparkling leggings and a petal top that covered her face.

But when she pressed down on them, the flower-esque top bloomed and revealed a rainbow-colored strapless top — a nod to her being the first transgender woman to be crowned Miss Netherlands.

Miss Nicaragua Sheynnis Palacios’ costume was designed to look like a bird that is native to her country.

Miss Nicaragua 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Palacios, who holds a degree in mass communications, donned a sparkly, blue-and-black bodysuit that had a ruched train for the costume contest. But it was the vertical headpiece and matching wings spreading from under her eyes that made her look truly outstanding.

As she shared on Instagram, Palacios’ costume was inspired by the Zanate Nica, also known as the Nicaraguan grackle, which is indigenous to her country. Jorge Salazar Caliz brought it to life.

Miss Nigeria Ugochi Mitchel Ihezue paid tribute to three Nigerian queens with her costume.

Miss Nigeria 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

As Ihezue shared on Instagram, each aspect of her ensemble, which consisted of a sculpted bodysuit, a headpiece, and a staff, was designed to honor a specific Nigerian queen: Queen Moremi, Queen Idia, and Amina, Queen of Zazzau.

She went on to say that the pointed backpiece represents their legacy in Nigeria. Kennedy Jhon Gasper designed the look.

In addition to competing at Miss Universe, Ihezue previously placed in the top 15 at Miss World while representing Nigeria.

A song inspired Miss Panama Natasha Vargas’ costume.

Miss Panama 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Vargas, who has a degree in journalism, nodded to the song “The Drum of Joy” with her costume, as she shared on Instagram.

Her colorful headpiece and backpiece featured musical notes and depictions of instruments, as well as flowers of the holy spirit, Panama’s national flower.

Daniel Cortina designed Vargas’ ensemble.

Miss Paraguay Elicena Andrada Orrego’s ensemble also honored music from her country.

Miss Paraguay 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe.

As she shared on her Instagram, Orrego’s sparkly costume celebrates Agustín Barrios Mangoré, a famous classical guitarist from Paraguay.

An oversized, bejeweled guitar sat on Orrego’s back, as did two Paraguayan flags. Her sparkly bikini-style set also featured her country’s colors, and she carried a flag that said “por amor al arte,” which means “for the love of art.”

Orrego previously won the Miss Latin America of the World pageant in 2017.

Miss Peru Camila Escribens looked to ancient pre-Colombian civilizations for her national costume contest outfit.

Miss Peru 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Escribens, a former track-and-field champion, walked the runway in a gold and teal bikini set with a massive backpiece that had an array of points forming a circle. She carried two coordinating spears that formed a mask when she put them in front of her face.

Escribens said on Instagram that the ensemble was designed to look like the Tumi, a knife used for surgeries by ancient Andes civilizations, that now serves as a symbol of tourism in Peru. Beto Pinedo designed her outfit.

Miss Philippines Michelle Dee turned herself into a plane for the costume contest.

Miss Philippines 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Dee’s backpiece was designed to look like a plane, featuring wings and jets adorned with the colors of the flag of the Philippines, as she shared on her Instagram.

A mural of the Philippines was painted onto the back of the wings, and plane embellishments sat on the center of her bodysuit, which was made of the “solihiya” pattern that is popular in some parts of her country.

Dee, who is an entrepreneur, also wore a captain’s hat and tie to look like she was flying a plane, as well as boots with wings on the end. Michael Barassi designed the outfit.

Miss Puerto Rico Karla Guilfú Acevedo’s costume celebrated a specific area of her country.

Miss Puerto Rico 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Acevedo, who is a model and student studying psychology, turned herself into the Borinquén area of Puerto Rico with her costume.

Her blue, mermaid-style dress looked like it was made of blue bricks, while the backpiece formed the landscape of the city, complete with individual buildings.

Miss Saint Lucia Earlyca Frederick wore an all-gold ensemble to honor her nation’s Nobel Laureates.

Miss Saint Lucia 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Frederick, a teacher, shared on Instagram that her costume was inspired by Saint Lucia’s two Nobel Laureates, as her country has the most winners per capita of any nation.

Her gold bodysuit turned into a massive backpiece that formed a scroll and rings, and she also wore a detachable skirt. Francisco Guerrero designed the outfit.

Like many contestants, Miss Slovakia Kinga Puhova looked to her country’s landscape for her costume.

Miss Slovakia 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Puhova, a model and fashion designer, donned a black minidress with three-dimensional, gold florals on the strapless neckline and hem of the dress that coordinated with her massive headpiece.

As she said on Instagram, the gold florals nod to her hometown Rye Island, as they look like wheat.

Switzerland Lorena Santen put her own spin on the Swiss Guard’s uniform for the costume contest.

Miss Switzerland 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Santen, who works in the banking industry, used the iconic red, blue, and yellow that make up the Swiss Guard uniforms and turned them into a festive bodysuit, which she paired with a sparkly helmet and red boots with feather detailing.

A backpiece that formed the Swiss Guard’s banner completed the look. Jiovanny Navarrete Vera designed the outfit.

Miss Thailand Anntonia Porsild’s costume turned her into a goddess.

Miss Thailand 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Porsild, who studied communications, walked the runway in a heavily beaded bra top, skirt, and headpiece that featured a long braid flowing from the top.

She said on Instagram that the outfit was designed by Kamolrose Thunphirom to be “The Goddess of Ayothaya” and to look like statues from Thailand’s Ayutthaya Kingdom.

Miss Trinidad and Tobago Faith Gillezeau paid tribute to both a bird and carnival with her costume.

Miss Trinidad and Tobago 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Gillezeau, a pharmacist, dressed as a scarlet ibis for the costume contest, but she also took inspiration from the moko jumbie, traditional stilt walkers, as she shared on Instagram.

The all-red ensemble was covered in ribbons that looked like feathers, and the backpiece formed an oversized bird head that floated above her actual head. Sparkly, red stilts completed the ensemble, and Gillezeau walked the runway in them.

Douglas John designed the outfit.

The mothers of her country inspired Miss Ukraine Angelina Usanova’s outfit.

Miss Ukraine 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

As Usanova, a healer and yoga instructor, said on Instagram, the idea behind her costume was the “mother protector,” an embodiment of the mothers trying to protect their children in Ukraine amid its war with Russia.

Her blue-and-gold bodysuit acted as a base for the ribbons of blue fabric that surrounded her body and floated above her head, and she carried a golden model of a baby with wings.

A gold headpiece completed the blue ensemble. Together, the colors of the costume also nod to Ukraine’s flag.

Miss USA Noelia Voigt looked to America’s most iconic landmarks for her costume.

Miss USA 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Voigt, who studies interior design, paired a crystal embellished jumpsuit with an eye-catching backpiece that featured models of different American landmarks, like the Statue of Liberty, the Washington Monument, and Route 66.

A red, white, and blue banner served as a cape, and her shoulder pads and boots featured firework designs.

Miss Venezuela Diana Silva’s red outfit nodded to a festival.

Miss Venezuela 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe

Silva, a flight attendant, brought the Dancing Devils of Yare to life with her national costume contest look, as she shared on Instagram.

The Dancing Devils of Yare is an annual festival celebrated in Venezuela, and it features dancers wearing masks similar to the one Silva carried down the runway.

Her semi-sheer bodysuit looked like it was covered in red flames, and her scarlet backpiece also gave the illusion of fire. Richard Ramírez Castro designed the outfit.

Miss Vietnam Bùi Quỳnh Hoa’s celebrated worship of the mother.

Miss Vietnam 2023.
Courtesy of Miss Universe.

As Hoa, a model, shared on Instagram, it’s common in Vietnam for people to practice Dao Mau, which translates to mother goddess worship.

Her all-red ensemble featured a billowy dress, an oversized headpiece, and red shoes, celebrating the mother. Designed by Chu Thi Hong Anh, the outfit was also embroidered with lotus flowers.

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