This year’s Miss Universe pageant will be held on December 17th, at Impact Arena in Muang Thong Thani, Bangkok, Thailand, but the most spectacular part of the show might have already happened: the annual Costume Presentation. Each year, contestants from around the world, (there are 94 this year), debut a highly expensive and finely crafted gown inspired by their home country. Not only is the Costume Presentation a chance to rock some eye-popping looks–many of the gowns look like they came from the set of a Hunger Games movie–it’s also an opportunity to express national pride, or support for a cause.
Below, you can check out some of this year’s most rad looks!
1. Rose (Miss USA)
This year’s Miss USA, Sarah Rose Summers, took inspiration from her dress from her own middle name. It also happens to be our national flower. Honestly, this is probably the most tame gown on this list, and she’s still got a giant flower on her head.
2. The Winds of Hurricane Maria (Miss Puerto Rico)
At what point does a gown stop being a gown and start being a work of art? Probably right here. Miss Puerto Rico, Kiara Ortega, wore a gown symbolizing the destruction caused by the 2017 hurricane. It included metallic finishes and LED lights to portray the movement of the winds. The red, white, and blue dress came with a white orb, which symbolizes the resilience of the Puerto Rican people.
3. Warrior Queen (Miss Ghana)
Miss Ghana Akpene Diata Hoggar’s badass gown was inspired by historical warrior queen Yaa Asantewaa, who in 1900 led her people in the War of the Golden Stool against British colonialism. The straw and leather bodice represent her country’s connection to the Earth, and the whole ensemble was topped with a golden sun headpiece.
4. Sailor Moon (Miss Japan)
Foregoing a more traditional Japanese outfit, Miss Japan Yuumi Kato dressed up as Sailor Moon, the title character in one of her country’s most successful manga series. Since 1992, Naoko Takeuchi’s superhero series has sold over 35 million copies and dominated various other media, from movies to video games to theme park attractions.
5. Chang, the Icon of Siam (Miss Thailand)
“Chang” is Thai for “elephant,” and elephants are the official national animal of Thailand. Sophida Kanchanarin, aka Miss Thailand, paid tribute to the animals with this dress, whose gold and white colors also harken back to Thailand’s historical monarchy.
6. Snowflake (Miss Switzerland)
Switzerland is covered in snowy mountains, so it’s only fitting that Miss Switzerland, Jastina Doreen Riederer, would pay homage to them.
7. Amazon Siren (Miss Peru)
Miss Peru Romina Lozano’s gown was inspired by the legends she grew up hearing about mermaids. This one depicts a siren, which according to legend “Turned itself into a beautiful woman and captivated with her beautiful voice.”
8. Setubal (Miss Puerto Rico)
Setubal is the third-largest city in Portugal, and the center of that country’s fishing industry. Miss Portugal Filipa Barroso paid tribute to her home town with a gown made of fishing nets and seashells. It also depicted the dolphins that are common to the area.
9. Women’s Suffrage (Miss Great Britain)
2018 marks the 100 year anniversary of women being granted suffrage in the UK, and Miss Great Britain, Dee-Ann Kentish-Rogers, paid tribute to the occasion with this dress. The three main colors are symbolic in the suffrage movement: purple for dignity, white for purity, and green for hope. The gown also included a ballot box and a sign that read “Let’s finish what they started.”
10. Queen of the Maple Leaf (Miss Canada)
The maple leaf has long been a Canadian emblem, first adopted by French Canadians along the St. Lawrence river in the 1700’s. The first mayor of Motreal, Jacques Viger, called it the maple tree “the king of our forest” in 1834. Miss Canada Marta Stepien’s gown, which represents the leaves’ changing fall colors, is definitely fit for royalty.
11. Rusalka (Miss Poland)
Another gown inspired by national folklore, Miss Poland Magdalena Swat’s gown depicts a rusalka, which is a water nymph from Slavic mythology. Before to the 19th century, rusalki were worshipped as fertility symbols. But in the 1800’s they became known as the vengeful spirits of young women, haunting waterways in search for vengeance against those who wronged them.
12. Arararinha Azul (Miss Brazil)
An Arararinha Azul is a colorful Amazonian bird that’s now extinct due to deforestation. Miss Brazil Mayra Dias’s gown both paid tribute to the bird, and promoted the need for environmental protection. It took three months and thousands of feathers to make, and when Dias turned around, the dress became a bird taking flight.
13. Fishing Boat (Malaysia)
Miss Malaysia Jane Teoh’s gown is based on traditional Malaysian fishing boats called Bangau Perahu. Designer Hamid Salleh spent six months making this gown, which includes a corset shaped like an armour, as well as a traditional Malaysian pattern called “Awan Larat.”
14. LuzViMinda (Miss Philippines)
Miss Philippines Catriona Gray’s gown is based on LuzViMinda, a portmanteau of three Philippine islands, Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. According to one of the gown’s designers, Carlos Buendia Jr., the painting on the back of the gown depicts “Victories, festivals, events, heroes and national icons with a style inspired by the works of Philippine National Artist Carlos ‘Botong’ Francisco.”
15. Banh Mi (Miss Vietnam)
If you’ve never tried banh mi, you’re missing out. Miss Vietnam H’Hen Nie’s dress is based on the iconic Vietnamese fast food. A traditional banh mi is a baguette sliced lengthwise and filled with savory meats and vegetables. The gown concept was chosen by a national poll in which banh mi beat out five other candidates. And now I’m hungry. Time for some banh mi!