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Fri, Aug 14, 2009
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Miss Singapore Universe costume: hit or miss?
by Germaine Lim

A YEAR has passed and it's time for the annual Miss Universe again. Contestants will vie for the coveted crown in the Bahamas on 23 Aug.

Following last year's public outcry over the infamous Merlion costume, all eyes are now on this year's offering.

Ms Rachel Kum, a 24-year-old brand manager, presented the national costume segment on Monday - a dark pink silk-satin and chiffon gown.

A giant Vanda Miss Joaquim, Singapore's national flower, was attached to the back.

This year's costume - one of 10 designs submitted by Raffles Design Institute's students in a national costume competition - was by the school's second-year fashion student Zhang Xiaoqing.

The winning design was selected in early August via an online poll and by four judges including Rachel, local fashion designers Jay Quek and Madeleine Wong, and Raffles Design Institute's principal, Associate Professor Giuseppe Spinelli.

While some may baulk at the idea of a giant walking orchid, most Singaporeans we spoke to say this year's flower-inspired costume is really not that bad.

Project coordinator Tyris Yar, 21, said: 'A flower is artistically more beautiful. Compared to costumes from other nations, Singapore's designs aren't really that awful. We just lack pride in our own theme and icon.'

Shatec student Khairul Afnan Mohd Haron, 20, said the pink shades 'capture the beauty of the national flower exquisitely'.

He added: 'The petals of the flowers can be considered a clever invention to ditto the image of the flower itself.'

Now, what do the experts make of it?

It is, well, simple, said local fashion designer Hayden Ng. But sometimes simple isn't enough.

'The point is, it should be a costume. But it is not over-the-top enough to be one. Ours resembles an evening gown because its design is clean,' said Mr Ng, 43, who designed Rachel's apple green national evening gown for the contest.

Maybe that's why Miss Singapore Universe (MSU) organiser Daryl Pang was 'lost for words' when we contacted him, even though he found plenty to enthuse about when it came to Japan's sexy kimono outfit.

Former MSU Jessica Tan said that though elegant, the design appeared subdued compared to those from countries like Jamaica and India.

But she was quick to add that this may be because 'we are not a costume-wearing nation'.

Incorporated elements

The 27-year-old wore a red and gold gown that incorporated Chinese, Malay and Indian elements when she competed for the crown in 2007.

It was designed by Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa) student Muhammad Hafiz Tahir.

Professor Spinelli, one of the judges who helped select this year's costume, defended it, saying a national costume doesn't have to be a Christmas tree.

He said: 'People here are unaware that costumes worn by South American contestants are usually used for festivals like Mardi Gras. My experience tells me that contestants from Venezuela sometimes borrow from costume shops.'

He added that Japan's kimono outfit with a garter belt has been 'done to death'.

It is also difficult to capture Singapore's national identity, Jessica said.

She said: 'Our roots are very diverse - we have so many nationalities in Singapore. To incorporate everything into one dress is difficult.'

Besides, other countries have much historical background to draw upon, said designer Mr Ng. He cited China's warrior outfit as an example.

He said: 'We could go with something Peranakan and ethnic. But it's difficult because the outfit cannot be too Malay.'

Rachel could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Could we have done better with a more experienced fashion designer?

Perhaps it is time we learn from previous mistakes, especially after the flak last year's infamous Merlion-inspired costume received.

The unfortunate outfit, also designed by Nafa student Hafiz, was embellished with faux leather fish scales and dangling crystals.

Professor Spinelli, however, said it is a mistake to disregard the Merlion costume.

He said: 'People don't realise how difficult it was to make it.'

Designer Mr Ng said experience is vital.

'A young designer may not have had enough experience to understand the translation of designs from paper to TV. The colours may appear washed out because stage lighting in very strong and harsh,' he said.

Given a more realistic time frame, outfits may turn out better, said Jessica. She said her red and gold costume was put together within a week, and did not fit very well.

Miss Zhang, a 31-year-old China national, took five days and $500 to complete Rachel's pink outfit, reported The Straits Times on 1 Aug.

Again, Professor Spinelli defended her work.

He said: 'The colour was difficult to achieve because it had to be dyed by hand to get such gradation.'

Regardless, Mr Ng said Rachel did a good job presenting the dress. He said: 'She looks very sweet in the pictures. I think she has captured the essence of Singapore's identity, which is the youth of our nation.'

Additional reporting by Ervina Mohamed Jamil, newsroom intern

readers' comments
come on... since we can criticise, we should spend more money to help our miss singapore look presentable on the international stage!
Posted by rumple_baby on Mon, 24 Aug 2009 at 11:23 AM
Miss Singapore could be the youth of our nation, she seems not in her fullest confident to present this dress with the giant orchid she's wearing which make the whole unpresentable.
Posted by AnchorTan on Sat, 22 Aug 2009 at 09:53 AM
Oops typo error....Miss Singapore Universe costume is ugly.
Posted by venusvenus on Fri, 14 Aug 2009 at 17:48 PM
Miss Singapore Universe customer is ugly.
Posted by venusvenus on Fri, 14 Aug 2009 at 17:43 PM
S'poreans are divided about Miss Singapore Universe's national costume.
View the article here.
Posted by A1Team on Fri, 14 Aug 2009 at 12:45 PM

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