One Friday in August, I got a Facebook message from my friend Wendy of Voices&, modeling and talent agency. She asked if I wanted to go to Chicago over Labor Day weekend to be a judge for the Miss Illinois USA pageant. I knew from my experience producing shoots when I was at KC Magazine that a lot of women who did pageants also gave modeling and acting a try so it made sense that Wendy knew pageant producers.
I was never involved in pageants growing up. My minor connection is that I went to school with well known gown designer Sherri Hill‘s kids. Sherri is known for dressing many pageant winners, and she came and spoke to my grade school Girl Scout troop about all the work that goes into designing the perfect evening gown. I hadn’t thought about that in years though, until Wendy messaged me.
I said yes, and arranged my schedule so I could go a day early and spend time with my sibling (I should do a separate post on that, we had a blast). I was also really excited because my friend Heather of Forage Fashion was also going to be a judge. After I received the itinerary for the weekend, I started planning my wardrobe. I had 3 events to plan for. One was semi-formal, one day time, and for the final night I just assumed I could go all out!
You know me, I can’t go on a trip with fewer than 5 pairs of shoes. Even for a long weekend!
The first night we saw the 80+ girls for the first time in matching dresses, then bathing suits and finally evening gowns. This was the event I knew to be semi-formal, and I wore a vintage cocktail dress I bought last year from Fab Gabs. I unfortunately didn’t get a picture of myself, except for a selfie, so here’s Fab Gab’s photo of the dress.
It’s crepe, it drapes beautifully, and I love it. Here’s my end of the night selfie from Instagram:
The second day we interviewed all 80+ women individually. I asked them about themselves based on their bios that all the judges had, and I asked them a few other questions just for fun. I learned that they were not just beautiful and confident, but intelligent, accomplished and passionate about a variety of causes and charities. It was an inspiring day. I wore a Kate Spade dress I got on sale in the spring. Here’s a picture on a model, because we were just too busy for me to get a photo.
The dress was perfect, super comfortable all day — and it was a long day! I seriously thought I might not have a voice the next morning. I wore it with Re-Mix vintage Rita heels in black.
The last night I wanted to go big, literally. I got incredibly lucky because one of my favorite Kansas City boutiques, Feng had their annual warehouse sale near my office a few weeks before the event. I went with no expectations, but lucked out because I found exactly what I wanted. Something floor length that was striking and still felt like me. Even better, I got it for a great price, and it has pockets!
The last night we saw all the delegates again, narrowed it down to our top 18, then narrowed again to our top 5 who we then heard answer 3 questions each. Then we finished our ballots that decided who would be 2016’s Miss Illinois USA. It was difficult. They were all beautiful, intelligent and accomplished. It was an impressive group of young women. When the winner was announced I knew she would do a great job and represent her state well. Here’s Heather and I with the winner, Zena.
I’m in love with my dress from Feng! It was a long night but I felt comfortable and glamorous. This was a fun, interesting and exciting experience. I really enjoyed meeting all the women and was so impressed with all they’ve accomplished and everything they do to prepare for the pageant experience. It was wonderful to hear many of them say that they had bonded with their fellow delegates and would remain friends.