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What to wear to pageant check-in

When I started competed in pageants, I had no idea what to wear to pageant check-in. I learned by paying attention to winners. Along the way, I realized that pageant check-in outfits vary between age divisions and pageants systems. Even though pageant check-in isn’t a judged competition, it does leave an impression with staff, contestants, and sometimes judges (if you bump into them in the hallway.)

Ask you director for tips

Pageant directors have a habit of being vague when it comes to answering questions about pageant wardrobe. But, some information is better than none. If you’re competing in a new pageant, ask your director about the check-in process. Some pageants hold quick, and informal, check-ins. Other pageants have long check-ins that transition into pageant orientation or rehearsals. These differences determine what is appropriate to wear. Typically, my clients use an older interview dress or casual wear outfit to pageant check-in. This is a great way to cut costs and get the most out of existing pageant wardrobe. I wouldn’t suggest wearing your competition wardrobe to pageant check-in, because you don’t want it to get dirty or wrinkled before interview.

Incorporate your personal style by choosing a piece that makes you feel confident. Outfits are not limited to dresses. You can wear skirts, sets, rompers, jumpsuits, or suits. Choose polished and put together styles that make you feel like a queen.

Pageant check-in outfts
Orientation outfit examples for different age divisions

Here’s what NOT to wear

There are many fabulous options for pageant check-in, but there are also things you don’t want to wear. In order to avoid looking unprepared, you should not wear worn out clothing, old jeans, sloppy tee shirts, flip flops, or oversized sweatshirts. These pieces of clothing don’t make the best first impression, which is why you don’t want to wear them for a pageant check-in outfit.

You CAN look great on a budget

Price was a huge factor when I shopped for pageant wardrobe. When I won Miss Montana USA, I wore a classic black and white romper to check-in. The fabric was warm, and it had sleeves, but the shorts made it more appropriate for summer. I accessorized it with a belt and paired it with some block heels that were comfortable and easy to move in. The comfy heels were important because my pageant check-in transitioned into rehearsal. I purchased the romper for less than $10, from the Goodwill. This was just one of the affordable outfits I put together on a tight budget, with some creativity and simple styling.

Miss Montana USA 2018 check-in outfit

Don’t overdo it

Believe it or not, it is possible to be too dressed up to pageant orientation. Wearing an outfit that’s more appropriate for a semi-formal event, looks strange, and can make you feel out of place. Avoid wearing cocktail dresses with sequins, or high-low dresses that could double as a fun fashion outfit. These types of outfits do not look professional. They are bizarre pageant check-in outfits that I’d never encourage one of my clients to wear.

Pageant check-in outfit don'ts

If you’re having difficulty with pageant wardrobe styling, check out Dani’s Style Guide.

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