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The 72nd Miss Universe National Costume Competition (2023) - My Top 10

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Well, here we are, the Olympics of Beauty Pageants. It's Miss Universe 2023, the 72nd installment of the world’s oldest beauty pageant! This is the first year that the pageant is under new ownership. The JKN Global Group (based in Thailand) acquired the esteemed pageant in 2022 with a $20 million (R363 million) deal. The company is led by Anne Jakkaphong Jakrajutatip – a TV personality and transgender rights advocate.

Miss Universe has set the foundation for all other pageants and one of the major competitions, though not factored into how the delegates advance in the competition, is the National Costume Competition (Click on the link to enjoy the entire costume competition). If you know anything about my love for pageants, you should know that this is my second favorite part of the competition (evening gown will always be number one).

Each year, the delegates are charged with representing their country in their choice of attire. Many will choose to work with national artists in their country to create an element of their culture to represent. For some, it may be an animal, a flower, a structure, or even, well, even anything that they feel represents the spirit of their country's culture. The National Costume Competition always amazes me as creativity, physics, gravity, and many other elements are challenged as delegates present their costume. In short, it awes the senses.

Here is a quick rundown of the concept of each country's costume:

  1. Albania - Golden eagle to represent the country's noble and courageous spirit.

  2. Angola - Traditional attire which represents the Moomoo Eilo women of Angola.

  3. Argentina - Inspired by the sun, it represents the national symbol on the Argentinian flag. It also includes concepts around the world cup and food in Argentinian culture.

  4. Aruba - Representing an indigenous queen who's charged with care of the environment.

  5. Australia - A dress that represents Australia's wildflowers, the land, sea, sun and people.

  6. Bahamas - Homage to a 19th Century Bahamian doll that is sold in marketplaces.

  7. Bahrain - Called "A Bead of Pearl," pays homage to one of Bahrain's most important economic elements, the pearl.

  8. Belgium - Ode to Latin dance, in red which gives nods to the color in the Belgian flag.

  9. Bolivia - Bolivian Amazonian Warrior who is sent to fight the extinction of the Blue Bellied Wild Bird.

  10. Brazil - A tribute to the Blue Macaw parrot of Brazil.

  11. British Virgin Islands - Lady Ursula and 11 lamps that represent the 11,000 virgins who according to the legend was martyred to the princess.

  12. Bulgaria - Golden Owl, Bulgaria's largest nocturnal bird of prey.

  13. Cambodia - A goddess outfit that honors the Mekong River. It represents the flow of health and prosperity.

  14. Cameroon - Honors the women who have impacted the women's empowerment movement in Cameroon.

  15. Canada - A testament to diversity and acceptance that Canada represents and upholds.

  16. Cayman Islands - Represents the Pigmy Blue Butterfly which is one of five sub-species found only on the Cayman Islands.

  17. Chile – Inspired by the Condor which represents the majestic bird native to Chile.

  18. Colombia – Inspired by an iconic river in Colombia, representing elements of the land and the river.

  19. Costa Rica – Representing the rich marine spaces and beautiful beaches of Costa Rica that are located between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

  20. Croatia – Inspired by the largest national park (and world heritage site) in Croatia.

  21. Curacao – Represents Curacao’s inspiring athletes who want to one day compete in the Olympics.

  22. Czech Republic – Representing the Czech Garnet, a natural stone in the Czech Republic.

  23. Denmark – Representing a Nordic Ocean Dragon that lives in the Nordic Ocean. It is an ode to the Nordic spirit.

  24. Dominican Republic – Representing one of the Dominican Republic’s major crops, the plantain.

  25. Ecuador – Representing the Ecuadorian Railroad that was completed in 1908.

  26. Egypt – Symbolizes the flooding of the Nile River and the pollution of the river through the years.

  27. El Salvador – Represents “The Land of the Volcanoes,” it consists of erupting volcano elements to symbolize the rebirth of the country.

  28. Equatorial Guinea – This costume is inspired by the country’s national emblem, the Sabre, one of the largest trees in the country.

  29. Finland – Represents red-haired Scandinavian children story characters.

  30. France – A Moulin Rouge inspired costume that was worn nightly.

  31. Germany – Paying homage to Rapunzel, a German Fairytale.

  32. Great Britain – Great Britain gave the world English, the official language of 67 countries around the world, the costume pays tribute to the English language and the Oxford dictionary.

  33. Greece – Represents the priestess to Goddess Aphrodite.

  34. Guatemala – This outfit is inspired by the national flower of Guatemala, the White Nun Orchid.

  35. Guyana – The costume represents the country’s abundance of wildlife as 80% of the country consists of rainforests.

  36. Honduras – This look pays tribute to the Lenca women of Honduras, a 500-century old group dedicated to crafting.

  37. Hungary – A modern take on a traditional Hungarian folk costume.

  38. Iceland – Represents the Midnight sun, a natural phenomenon in Iceland.

  39. India – An armored goddess costume to represent the strength and grace of modern-day women in India.

  40. Indonesia – This costume pays homage to the characters in the Mahabharata saga.

  41. Ireland – Represents a Celtic Goddess of the sea that protects the Irish waters.

  42. Italy – Represents the Light of Reason that illuminates the great female minds of the past and present.

  43. Jamaica – Represents Port Royal, once the wealthiest city in the Caribbean that was destroyed by the great earthquake of 1692.

  44. Japan – A modern day take to the Japanese Kimono.

  45. Kazakhstan – Representing Queen Tomyris, who beheaded Cyrus the Great.

  46. Korea – A modern interpretation of attire worn by royalty at a coronation ceremony.

  47. Kosovo – Inspired by singer and actress Nexhmije Pagarusha who was known for music and fashion.

  48. Laos – Made of red Laos silk, it symbolizes wisdom and patience that has been passed down from generation to generation.

  49. Latvia – Representing the national flower of Latvia, the daisy.

  50. Lebanon – In silk, the costume represents Lebanon’s rich textures.

  51. Malaysia – A songket, a traditional Malaysian handwoven fabric, which is now worn for Malay weddings. It was traditionally worn by royalty in Malaysia.

  52. Malta – There used to be over 50 species of butterflies in Malta, but due to overproduction, that number has decreased. This costume pays homage to this as well as Euro Pride that was recently held in Malta.

  53. Mauritius – Done by a Mauritian artist, the design depicts native life in Mauritius.

  54. Mexico – A mystical heroine that protects the lives of magical beings in her world. It includes an owl and deer, animals that represent wisdom and focus.

  55. Mongolia – This look draws inspiration from 13th century Mongolia when women’s hair was so tall it reached for the “heavens.”

  56. Myanmar – Represents the Virtue Tree in Buddhist culture.

  57. Namibia – Representing the antelope which represents resiliency in Namibia.

  58. Nepal – This costume pays homage to a world flawed by conflict where peace (a dove) is confined in a cage. The costume promotes peace and love.

  59. Netherlands – Representing the Tulip, the most popular flower in the Netherlands. Each color has its own meaning, with the orange that is worn representing enthusiasm.

  60. Nicaragua – The costume depicts the Great-tailed Grackle of Nicaragua.

  61. Nigeria – This look represents the power and impact that women have had on Nigeria throughout history. It is an ode to three powerful queens in Nigerian history.

  62. Norway – The costume pays tribute to Queen Sonya of Norway.

  63. Pakistan – This costume represents individuality by celebrating Pakistan’s rich culture of diversity of ethnicities.

  64. Panama – Representing a variety of items in Panamanian culture including music, food and history.

  65. Paraguay – Paying homage to a Paraguayan guitarist named Mangore.

  66. Peru – The costume represents the tumi, a ceremonial knife that dates back to the Inca Empire.

  67. Philippines – This costume salutes the delegate’s role as an Air Force Reservist.

  68. Poland – Consisting of white and red to represent the Polish Flag, also including elements to represent the other countries competing for the Miss Universe crown.

  69. Portugal – Representing Portugues monarchy.

  70. Puerto Rico – A costume that depicts the architecture of Old San Juan and livelihood of music and art in the city.

  71. Russia – A white swan inspired costume that is inspired by artwork that can be seen at a gallery in Moscow.

  72. Saint Lucia – This look is a tribute to Nobel Prize Laureates of her country, which has the highest per capita laureates.

  73. Singapore – This is a blend of heritage and rich cultural tapestry that honors Singapore’s national identity.

  74. Slovakia – This design was crafted to empower women of her country.

  75. South Africa – This costume is inspired by traditional Zulu beadwork and includes South Indian influences for the delegate’s cultural heritage.

  76. Spain – This flamingo dress is inspired by the yellow carnation flower.

  77. Switzerland – This ensemble honors the Swiss Guard who are steadfast protectors of the Pope.

  78. Thailand – Depicting the Mother Earth Goddess of Thai history who is often depicted twirling her long hair and producing holy water to nourish mankind.

  79. Trinidad and Tobago – Representing the Scarlet Ibis Bird, the national bird of Trinidad and Tobago.

  80. Ukraine – This costume is a dedication to the unconditional love of a mother and the defenselessness of children in the face of war.

  81. USA – This country includes America’s most famous landmarks.

  82. Venezuela – This costume represents the dancing devils which is a popular religious festival in Venezuela.

  83. Vietnam – This costume showcases the temperament and soul of the Vietnamese people.

  84. Zimbabwe – Covered in cowry shells to represent womanhood, it also represents the sun and animals that exist in Zimbabwe.

Note – after Miss Universe, this article will be updated to include media for each costume.

Congratulations to each delegate and their national teams for the outstanding work that they have done in representing their country. Creating a national costume to depict the amazingness of your country is not easy! Unfortunately, every competition has a winner, and not everyone can win.

Below you will find a link to my video for my Top 10 National Costumes for 2023. These choices are based on my opinion and preference; and my first impression of each costume. You will also see my final score for each costume. This is for entertainment purposes ONLY and it is not intended to insult, disparage or take away from the hard work of each delegate and their teams.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Ireland – as a rule, European countries tend to have some of the most boring costumes ever! In the last couple of decades there has been no creativity, ingeniousness, or excitement in what they create. This year, Ireland has stepped out of the box with this creation. Imagining that she is a Celtic Goddess of the Sea that exists to protect it from the harm that people cause is incredible. The costume, made of ALL recycled materials takes things that we would normally think of as garbage and utilizes it to make art. This was a great costume as it took into consideration the amazing shoreline (and the protection of it) of Ireland.

  • Mongolia – This costume is SPECTACULAR and anyone who says otherwise, might be losing their sight. If you look at the detailing on the dress and the cape, it is quite royal in its completion. It is rich, colorful and represents a unique part of Mongolian history. The fashion alone was outstanding! LOVED IT!!!

  • Venezuela – Venezuela is no stranger to some great costumes. While this costume might pull in elements of previous costumes that its delegates have worn, what sets it apart, in fact, what sets apart many of the costumes this year is the delegates’ portrayal of the costume on stage. She did an excellent job depicting and showing us the movement of this devil. I would have liked to see other elements of it, like her face painted, or her wearing the mask, but overall, the color was incredible and even the falling of the feathers represented the chaos of the devil to me!

  • Denmark – Remember when I said European countries tend to have boring costumes? Well, maybe they read my article and went back in time to correct it. WOW, WOW, WOW from Denmark!!! I don’t think I have seen a better Danish costume. I was afraid I would see another depiction of “The Little Mermaid,” but they thought out of the box, made the costume colorful, connected it to their history and culture. Amazing job!

  • Bulgaria – OK, well, I am a sucker for Gold and anything shiny! I truly loved this costume as it was pure perfection and everything you would want in a gold owl costume, if you ever wanted one, which I always do. I will admit that this costume may have received better scoring because of the color and the shine, but I am OK with that!


My Top 10:

  • 10 – Guatemala: While we have seen this type of costume before, this one was elegantly done. It is clean, colorful and depicts the flower quite well. Among the plants and flowers we saw in this years’ competition, it was one of my favorites!

  • 9 – Puerto Rico: I saw this costume prior to her arrival, but in still pictures. I LOVED the movement of it. The dress, and the design, truly played with your eyes to make it seem as though you were on a brick road in the middle of San Juan. I thought it was very well done and it depicted Old San Juan realistically. The front and the back stood out to me as well since the front celebrated the architecture and the back celebrated the people and cultural items.

  • 8 – Chile: Some of you may say “another bird costume.” While that might be true, have you seen a costume that covers the entire body? No doubt, this costume took many hours to complete, and it perfectly represented the condor. She also did a good job in presenting it, except she left the stage too early. Had she stayed a little longer, she may have been able to squeeze out a couple more points from me.

  • 7 – Canada: Yes, the Maple Leaf has been done, but I don’t think it has been done like this. If you have paid attention to Canada’s costumes for the last five years or so, they have upped their creativity game. This costume scores high for me because of its message of diversity and inclusion, which is a very important foundation of Canadian culture. Additionally, the fact that they incorporated the other countries that are competing for the crown made me like the costume even more!

  • 6 – Peru: I know what you are thinking, “it’s gold, of course he loves it!” Yes ma’am! In fact, when I first saw this costume, I was pretty sure it was going to be the best costume of the night for me. The artistry is so ripe in design and color, and she looks spectacular in this! Where this costume was lost for me is that I do not see how it is a representation of the tumi knife. However, I have put that aside and am just enjoying it!

  • 5 – Thailand: I also first saw this costume in a still picture and I thought it was too simple. I have been used to some elaborate costumes from Thailand. That being said, when I was done with my scoring, I was surprised that it only ranked #5. I looked at the remaining costumes and I think that there is good reason for their placement. I still love this costume! Her depiction of this character is what sold it to us! She did an excellent job presenting it. There are some elements that I wish it had. I feel like it was missing the traditional Thai fingernails. Additionally, part of the costume represented the creation of holy water to nourish humankind. I wish I had seen this as part portrayed.

  • 3 - Mexico (TIE): What absolutely won me over in this costume was the colors! So bright, so pungent in a good way. When I first saw this costume, it satisfied my sense of sight, smell and touch. I could immediately smell the costume as all of the colors gave me an explosion of the best possible smell ever. I imagined touching the costume would just give me happiness! I think this is one of the best Mexican costumes I have seen!

  • 3 – Trinidad and Tobago (TIE): Well, for the love of good Jesus! We have NEVER. NEVER, EVER. We have never ever seen any delegate prance across the Miss Universe stage in stilts. THIS alone is why this costume ranked high for me. If you have never done this before, it is very hard to do! I fully recognize that if this costume was not on stilts, it may not have ranked as high, but this one element truly made me think that I was really looking at a Scarlet Ibis bird. Also, her portrayal of the bird also gave her some extra points.

  • 2 – Nicaragua: On any other delegate, this would be just another bird costume, but we know that Ms. Palacios came to win this crown! A little birdie told me that she isn’t just happy with the Miss Universe crown, she wants it ALL! What she has is sheer charisma and stage presence and this is what sold this costume to us. This is what made us like it more than others. Her depiction of this tiny Nicaraguan bird was a giant accomplishment. I would not be surprised if she won this award, and I would be happy for her!

  • 1 – El Salvador: Let me get something out of the way first. She has gotten a lot of flack prior to the pageant for not being very strong. I don’t know where that came from but this performance, combined with her performance in the Preliminary competition, well, I yelled out “this bishe came to play.” NONE of the criticisms are warranted! This costume had elements upon elements upon elements! Just when I thought it was done, it wasn’t. To be honest, I was half expecting real lava to flow from the crown, and I would not have been surprised if it had! What a moment this was for her and the host country of El Salvador, it gave me chills! Good for her and her country!!! This costume is my sentimental choice as well as my hopeful prediction for winning best National Costume!!!

Which costume was your favorite?

Thanks again for reading!

The Final Numbers - My Scores:


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