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Pinoy fashion experts reveal their national costume picks at the Miss Universe 2023 preliminaries

By John Patrick Magno Ranara Published Nov 18, 2023 5:54 pm

One of the hotly anticipated segments of the Miss Universe pageant is its national costume round, where the beauty queens grace the runway in elaborate ensembles that showcase the unique culture of their countries.

The 72nd edition of the prestigious tilt recently delighted fans with costumes galore, with some that were more eye-catching than the others. PhilSTAR L!fe asked Filipino style experts, such as experienced fashion designers and stylists, to share the national costumes that they think had a winning moment during the Miss Universe 2023 prelims. Here are their NATCOS favorites.

Sheynnis Palacios of Nicaragua

Sheynnis Palacios of Nicaragua spread her wings and soared at the national costume segment in her outfit that symbolizes her home country's native bird, the great-tailed grackle.

The costume, which consists of a tight-fitting leotard, a plume decorated with black feathers, wings embellished with glitters, and an extensive tail made with thousands of crystals, was enough to make fashion stylist Randell Giel fall in love with it.

"Nicaragua in her grackle bird costume reminds me of The Hunger Games, the mockingjay dress of Katniss Everdeen," Giel said.

"She delivered excellent execution and performance during the National Costume round. It was very powerful and she got my attention," he added.

Melissa Flores of Mexico

Melissa Flores from Mexico was brimming with color as she flaunted her costume on the runway. With her chosen ensemble, she paid tribute to the so-called Alebrijes or Spirit Guardians, which are brightly colored fantastical creatures that guide spirits into the afterlife.

The costume is every bit intricate, with the mask, headpiece, and wings depicting a perfect fusion of an owl and a deer—animals that represent wisdom and focus in her country's culture.

Flores' colorful appearance dazzled Giel, who described it as "very refreshing to the eyes, and is something that would get everyone's attention on the stage of Miss Universe. It's very unforgettable."

Trinidad and Tobago
Faith Gillezeau of Trinidad and Tobago

It's often said that the color red signifies an ambitious and determined spirit, and that's exactly what Trinidad and Tobago's Faith Gillezeau displayed when she opted to use traditional stilt walkers to grace the runway.

High heels are already difficult and inconvenient to use, what more if you wear traditional stilt walkers? Gillezeau, however, rose to the challenge and trained herself to master stilt walking, and it sure paid off.

The stilt walkers were used to complement the inspiration behind her national costume, which is the scarlet ibis, a small bird with long legs to help it wade through water.

The all-red ensemble was covered in ribbons that had the illusion of feathers. The look was capped off with a backpiece that formed the large head of a bird.

Gillezeau's commitment to pulling off her look earned her praises from Giel and instantly landed her on his top costume picks.

"I super admire her for her skills in delivering her national costume," he said. "I've never seen anyone yet on a pageant stage walking on stilt, it was very lovely to watch a great representation of Trinidad and Tobago."

El Salvador
Isabella García-Manzo of El Salvador

It seems that El Salvador's Isabella García-Manzo was the undisputed queen in the national costume segment as the crowd already went wild with cheers the second she stepped onto the stage.

But that was only the beginning of her presentation as her costume had more tricks in it. Her outfit took inspiration from a volcanic eruption to honor the transformative power of nature and the human spirit, as seen from her orange and red gown that gives off an illusion of flowing lava. 

Her large, sun-shaped headpiece took the crowd by surprise when it lit up, making her shine like the bright star that she is. The back of her dress later opened up to reveal another illuminated design.

It's a no-brainer why Manzo's costume became a fan-favorite by many after that, including fashion stylist and entrepreneur Gee Jocson, who thinks that El Salvador made the most impact. "It was very different and it gave me goosebumps! She truly lit up the stage."

Anntonia Porsild of Thailand

You can always count on Thailand to give us costumes that are meticulously infused with their culture and identity. It's no surprise that the ensemble of this year's representative, Anntonia Porsild, was also a feast for the eyes.

Porsild channeled her inner goddess as she portrayed the goddess of Earth or Mother Nature in Buddhist mythology, which is highly revered and worshipped throughout Thai history. Her look features a heavily beaded bra top, skirt, and headpiece of luxurious golden color.

To stay faithful to her image, Porsild had her long hair styled into an elegant twist while showing off graceful hand movements and turns.

Jocson couldn't help but marvel at her appearance, noting that she loved her presentation as she "considered the view of all angles in her costume."

The 72nd Miss Universe will hold its grand coronation night on Sunday, Nov. 19 (Philippine time) in El Salvador. The winner will assume the title of Miss Universe from reigning queen, R'Bonney Gabriel.

The much-awaited affair will be aired and streamed live on A2Z Channel 11, Kapamilya Channel, Metro Channel, and iWantTFC on Sunday, Nov. 19, at 9 a.m. (Philippine time). Same-day replays will be available at 9:30 p.m. on A2Z, Kapamilya Channel via Sunday’s Best, Metro Channel and iWantTFC. Replays will also be aired later in the week on the Metro Channel.