Girls' Pageant Guide: How to Choose Winning Dresses in 2017

Every little girl dreams to one day walk the runway and win a Beauty Pageant. And any kid who starts really young needs all the help they can get to make their dreams come true!

In this guide, you'll find out all you need to know to get a sweet advantage and pick the best pageant dresses of 2017. Junior beauty pageants are your daughter's first opportunity to get the experience she needs for bigger beauty competitions. To win, young girls need to act and look the part of a true star. Pageant dresses and costumes make a real difference in the eyes of the jury - they can either make it or break it.

In this guide, we'll show you how to pick winning outfits that will wow the judges and steal the audience's heart!

What is a child pageant?

Child beauty pageants are competitions for kids under 16 years old in which the young contestants register to win a title or award. These contests consist of several segments such as talent displays, interviews, casual or formal wear presentations.

Competing in a competition is a great way for your kid to shake off the emotions of public appearances, to learn how to socialize and most importantly, to gain confidence.

what are child-beauty-pageants Child beauty pageant

Kids who sign up for pageants have the opportunity to experience the thrill of being in a competition and the excitement of performing on a stage, but they also have the chance to feel like real beauty queens or kings.

Keep in mind that the most important top notch child pageants can become very competitive - so the parents's support will make all the difference and keeping your kid upbeat, confident and ready to compete!

If your little one wants to participate in a beauty contest, you need to make sure she is prepared for the talent display segment and can cope with the stress of being on the stage, but also has the best attire and is ready to rock that runway.

child-beauty-pageants Single Shoulder Strap Pageant Dress Single Shoulder Strap Pageant Dress - Get it here!

How did child beauty pageants start?

A now very popular event, kids pageants have a longer history than most people would think.

The first ones started during the 1920’s and the first Little Miss America edition was held in New Jersey in 1960. Later in the 60’s, more modern editions emerged in Miami and since then the industry has grown to well over 250.000 pageants. You can learn more about their fascinating history from this Bustle piece

Child pageantry is very popular nowadays and thousand of parents are encouraging their little girls or boys to compete as a hobby, or as a way to start a career in the entertainment industry.

How do the pageants work?

Pageants can be small or big, depending on whether they are local, state or national.

Their type & size influence aspects such as pageant rules, so before entering a competition with your little one you should always check the edition’s rules.

Kids pageants are judged based on the type of competition (natural or glitz), but in general, the judges look for a number of specific qualities, such as stage presence, facial beauty, personality, outfits, and presentation.

celebrity child beauty pageant Selena Gomez winning a Child Beauty Pageant

After the judges meet all the contestants they decide to whom the prize goes to. They award the lucky winner with a crown, tiara, sash, trophy and even money.

A lot of celebrities like Katy Perry, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Justin Timberlake or Britney Spears have been noticed by talent agents during their participation in pageants as kids.

britney-spears-child-beauty-pageant Britney Spears participating at a Child Beauty Pageant.

Types of Child Beauty Pageants

There are two types of beauty pageants that have been popularized in recent years and have a consistent fan base: Glitz Pageants & Natural Pageants. There are significant differences between the two so before deciding on entering a contest make sure your little one has positive feelings towards the rules and the required attire.

Glitz child pageants revolve around glamor and beauty. They distinguish themselves through the fact that contestants wear makeup with false eyelashes and hair extensions, flippers (fake teeth), heels, swim and beachwear and adult gowns.

glitz-beauty-pageant-contestant Glitz beauty pageant contestant

Natural child pageants focus more on the natural beauty of the contestants. Children under 13 years are not allowed to wear make-up and none are allowed to wear the flippers, fake lashes, wigs, hair extensions and fake tan.  

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These type of pageants put emphasis on the natural aspect and encourage “age appropriate outfits”. Most of them do not include swimsuit competitions and those who do require fitting outfits. 

Natural child pageants are designed to be as family friendly as possible.

Age categories in child beauty pageants

Pageants are compartmentalized in sections of age groups as follows:

  • Baby Miss: Ages 0-23 months
  • Toddler Miss: Ages 2-3
  • Mini Miss: Ages 4-5
  • Princess: Ages 6-7
  • Little Miss: Ages 8-9
  • Pre-Teen: Ages 10-12
  • Junior Teen: Ages 13-15

What are the prizes for child beauty pageants?

The prizes for this type of pageants usually consist of money and certificates. This is why spending a lot in the process can actually be regarded as an investment.

Depending on the size of the competition, the winner's cash prize can be as little as 50$ and as high as 10.000$. The prizes also include a pageant crown and specially made pageant sashes.

Some pageants also give our certificates of achievement, pageant titles and other types of memorabilia. These can be offered to all contestants or just to those who scored the second and third place.

Furthermore, a young lady who distinguishes herself in an important pageant can then be approached by modeling agencies and jumpstart her career in different beauty areas

The opportunity of meeting agents from important media companies weighs a lot in the decision of signing up in many contests: some parents see pageants as a long-term investment rather than a weekend hobby.

In essence, this is what really helps your little girl -  the chance to be noticed and get acquainted with the world of modeling.

Child beauty pageant attire - What makes a winning look?

Pageants require a specific attire for each of the competition rounds. Depending on what is asked, the little contesters might have to use theme wear, gowns, dresses or swimwear.

Glitz pageants, in particular, require a wide variety of dress tops as well as dressed and other accessories. For them, you have to learn how to do the necessary pageant hair and makeup.

The attire is possibly one of the most important aspects of the whole competition so you need to make your sweet contester is all dressed up.

Most popular child beauty pageant dresses

The beauty pageant dresses should make your little angel look and feel like a winner. This is why you should pay extra attention to choosing the best outfits. A great way to start is looking at what pageant winners wear.

However, for further inspiration you can check out the most popular child pageant dresses styles.  

Pageant Dress Shell

Made from materials like tulle and high-quality sparkle organza, the child pageant dress shell is one of the most important outfits of the competition. The waist is made from super stretch waistband and the length of the dress is just above the knee.

Cascade Ruffled blue-pageant-dress-shell Cascade Ruffled Pageant Dress - Get it here!

A pageant dress shell (also known as a cupcake pageant dress) features fine detailing that eye-catching colors that will impress the audience and the jury.

party-time-formals-girls-1t-orange-short-beaded-organza-pageant-dress Short Orange Pageant Dress - Get it here!

Cute cupcake dresses are a must have for pageants. The little girls will have to learn to walk, bow and pirouette so a simple dress such as this one will offer freedom for movement. 

Halter top pageant dresses

These types of dresses can come in many styles and you should choose the one that best suits your little princess.

halter-top-pageant-dresses Turquoise Taffeta Ruffle Dress - Get it here!

The halter top is a beautiful sleeveless style that has the top tied around the neck.  

If you're thinking about entering a Glitz Pageant then you should go for a stylish low-cut halter gown while for Natural Pageants a high neck halter dress will receive the jury's appreciation.

Halter dresses can be long or short, depending on preference the type of pageant. For the classic innocent look we suggest a cascade ruffled mesh that will create a floating impression when she walks the podium.

petite-adele-big-girls-white-organza-cascade-ruffle-junior-bridesmaid-dress-8-12 White Cascade Ruffle Dress - Get it here!

 

The little lady might also look good in a low cut halter top with full a length dress. Couture style pickups make it look like a beautiful ball gown, perfect for girls who want to impress.

halter-top-pink-pageant-dress-with-ruffled-organza Halter Top Pink Pageant Dress - Get it here!

A pink halter top dress will make any little girl feel and look like a true princess. You can even accessorize with a small tiara.

Floor length pageant dresses

The floor length dresses are the most formal gowns that your little one will have to try on the podium.

There are a lot of designs to choose from - from the most conservative to playful, and colorful ones.

white full-lenght-pageant-dress White Mesh Full Lenght Pageant Dress - Get it here!

Choose a sleeveless white dress with a high neck and brooch accent at the waist. The story like appearance will make your little angel’s feel part of a fairy tale. 

little-girls-red-single-shoulder-strap-pageant-dress Red Full Length Dress - Get it here!

The red ruffled long pageant dress is a great fit for versatile young ladies with a playful personality.  

full-length-Pearl -child-pageant-dress Pearl Full Length Pageant Dress - Get it here!

If the event requires a less formal approach you can go for a colorful dress with exposed shoulders and beautiful embroideries. 

Glitz long dresses

The long dresses for Glitz pageants are the elegant gowns that will make your little lady look like a million dollars.

Judges hold this stage of the pageants in high regard so it’s very important that you make an irreproachable impression.

Sleeveless Long Rhinestone Pageant Dress Sleeveless Long Rhinestone Pageant Dress - Get it here!

Fortunately, there are a lot of surprising models that will make the jury go “Wow”. You can choose a straight conical shape with a halter top in a candy-like color. The waist features rhinestone decorations that are visible yet in good taste.

children-glitz-pageant-long-dress Purple Glitz Pageant Long Dress - Get it here!

Sleeveless dresses are the regular style but to get an extra edge you can go for an off the shoulder gown. Matched with taffeta, sequins, and ribbons, this perfect outfit could increase your girl's odds of winning the Supreme Title. 

Short pageant dresses

This type of dresses allow a lot more movement and are ideal for daytime events. This type of outfit is widely popular la Glitz Pageants but can also be worn in some categories for Natural ones

orange - short-pageant-dresses Orange Short Organza Pageant Dress - Get it here!

short-purple glitz-pageant-dress Purple Short Glitz Pageant Dress - Get it here!

Short dresses can be both simple and elaborate with attractive embellishments and stones.

Your beautiful lady will sparkle with happiness and confidence in a short dress with ruffles and embroideries. There’s plenty of models to choose from but we recommend a sleeveless dress with an exposed back. This will allow for complicated hairdos which weigh heavily with the jurors.  

Child pageant dress patterns

When it comes to dress patterns there’s a great variety of styles, each with its own personality. There’s no way to tell which is the best child pageant dress pattern - the important part is matching it with your little girl’s personal style and personality.

glitz-pageant-50s-style-dress Fuchsia Long Pageant Dress with Embroideries - Get it here!

The dress pattern also depends on the type of pageant, age group, and competition stage. For example, a glitz pageant with 50’s wear will require a retro pattern.

Glitz pageant dress appliques such as flower patterns are very stylish and will certainly turn the odds in your daughter's favor.


If you are looking for something more modern you can try glitz pageant dresses with embellishments and sequins.

glitz-pageant-dress-with-ruffles and embellishments Pink Ruffled Corset Pageant Dress - Get it here!

Complex dress patterns and decorations increase every contestant's chances to be noticed. The best glitz pageant dress patterns are the ones who manage to capture the eye and appreciation of the jury.

sleeveless-glitz-pageant-dress-with-sequins

Toddler and infant glitz dress patterns are usually simpler in decorations but maintain the same direction as the ones for older girls.

toddler-glitz-pageant-dress-pattern Aqua Ruffle Pageant Dress - Get it here!

For natural pageants, you can choose simple appliques. For Glitz pageants, you can choose a wide range of sequins, embroideries, embellishments all of them work. Your little one needs to feel confident and beautiful so you can let her decide what she likes best.

What pageant dresses colors win the most?

There is an immense palette of colors available for pageant dresses. Choosing a great color for your little girl’s dress will take into account her skin & hair color. A winning combo

fuchsia-ruffled -embroidered - pageant-dress-color Fuchsia Bejeweled Pageant Dress - Get it here!

She, as all Princesses, will only want a pink or fuchsia dress but you should browse thoroughly before making a final decision. Some skin colors work better with brighter colors while other with darker ones.

whit-single-shoulder-pageant-dress-color White Single Shoulder Pageant Dress - Get it here!

You should also take hair color into consideration. The best pageant dress color for blondes is white. For brunettes, you should choose red.

champagne-long-dress-pageant-color Champagne Pageant Dress - Get it here!

Dress colors influence how the contesters are judged by the jury. Each color symbolically communicates something:

  • Red stands for confidence
  • Pink is playfulness
  • Green is ingenuity
  • Orange is associated with joy and energy
  • Blue is smart and stable
  • Yellow is happiness
  • Purple speaks of royalty
  • White is pure and innocent

Pageant dresses appropriate for all age groups

Find out what dresses work for each age group and you will give your little contestant the best chances of winning.

Pageant dresses for infants

The infant category differs from pageant to pageant but the average age group is between 0 and three or four years. 

Choose little dresses in bright or playful colors that will bring a smile to the jury’s face. Most contestants are being carried on the stage by their parents so elaborate dresses are not a good choice. 

Pink-infant-pageant-dress Pink Pageant Dress & Bow - Get it here!

Glitz dresses should make them feel like comfortable - due to the fact that they are this small, they are likely to fall so the dress should not be too long or too big. 

glitz-infant-white-pageant-dress White Cascade Pageant Dress - Get it here!

Based on preference, you can choose from a wide range of models and dress styles. One thing you should take into consideration is the materials.

Small materials such as sequins can be easily ingested by mistake so it would be good if you avoided too much of that. 

You can browse the whole infant pageant collection on our site.

Pageant dresses for toddlers

The toddler age category usually starts around two, three years and goes up to six years old.

white-pageant-dress-for-toddlers White Pearl Pageant Dress - Get it here!

Your little lady is now able to display self-control and be able to perform different routines. This also means that she can wear longer and more sophisticated toddler pageant dresses but you shouldn't exaggerate. For natural beauty pageants, you can choose bright and neutral color dresses with simple designs.

glitz-purple-pageant-dress-toddler Purple Glitz Pageant Dress - Get it here!

Long gowns with ruffle cascades and appliques will make your beautiful girl shine in the eyes of the jury. Colors of high intensity with surprising contrasts will draw attention and compliments.  

toddler-blue-dress-beauty-pageants Blue A-Line Pageant Dress - Get it here!

You can pick elegant straight dresses with beautiful decorations that will highlight your lady’s keen sense of refinement. Simple but attractive, royal pageant dresses such as this blue one are sure to make a lasting impression. 

Pageant dresses pre-teen

The pre-teen category is dedicated to young girls with ages approximately between eight and twelve years old. At this stage, contestants are expected to be mostly independent of parent coaching and be able to express their personality through their style choices.  

glitz-purple-pageant-dresses-for-teens Purple Bejeweled Pageant Dress - Get it here!

Glitz pageant dresses for 11 or 12-year-olds can be more mature, with less princess inspired details and more feminine designs.

natural-beauty-pageant-blue-dress-for-teens Blue Ruffle Pageant Dress - Get it here!

Preteens contestants for natural pageants should wear chic and stylish dresses that put emphasis on their beauty. Open and warm colors are recommended though for an elegant gown red could also work.

The point is for your little girl to catch the attention of the jury with her sense of style. For further inspiration see more of our pre-teen pageant dresses

Pageant dresses for teens

Your little girl has transformed into a beautiful young lady now and the jury will expect her to present herself appropriately.

fuchsia satin-teen-pageant-dress Fuchsia Satin Pageant Dress - Get it here!

The young category contestants should showcase feminine dresses that have impressive designs and decorations. The dress embellishments, appliques, ruffles, and other details are all taken into account by the jurors when they make the big decision.

teen-natural-pageant-pink-dress Pink Lace Tiered Pageant Dress - Get it here!

A corset dress with sweetheart neckline and ruffles in warm colors that brighten the room will make little girls with darker skin tones shine.

You want her to have the best chances of winning the big prize so choose teen pageant dresses that flatter her.

teen-natural-royal-blue-pageant-dress Royal Blue Pageant Dress - Get it here!

For pageant stages where teens have to present themselves in gowns, a popular choice is elegant ball dresses that a thin waist and large lower part with ruffles.

Pageant shoes

Girls pageant shoes are a very important part of every competition outfit. They must be comfortable because they contribute to the way the girls walk and present themselves on stage.

The shoes have to be matched with the dress style and also with the type of pageant. Glitz pageants will most times require heels while for natural pageants flats will be the optimal choice. For older age groups, heels are very common, but they are not recommended for girls under the age of 10.

pageant-shoes-for-girls Low Heeled Pageant Shoes - Get it here!

One of the most popular models is the white pageant shoes because they can be matched with many dress colors.

pageant-white-shoes-flats White Ribbon Tie Flat Pageant Shoes - Get it here!

Toddler pageant shoe models are mostly composed of flats or square thick heels to make sure that the little ones don't fall.

Our collection of kid’s pageant shoes will offer you some inspiration as to what you should get for your little lady.

Pageant accessories

Accessories will help your little angel get noticed and appreciated. They consist of basically anything from pageant tiaras and wigs to scarfs, breast pins, and bags.  

To make a great impression, they should be matched with the outfits in good taste.

tiara-child-beauty-pageant Rhinestone Pageant Tiara - Get it here!

A tiara is one of the most common pageant accessories and will make your little one feel like a soon to be Queen.  

Browse for child pageant makeup and accessories to make sure you give your little one the best experience.

Beauty pageant costs

One of the primary costs associated with beauty pageants are the garments and accessories. But there are other associated costs which you need about before enlisting in a competition. 

How much do dresses cost?

Dress prices vary greatly depending on brand, materials, contest stage and if the dress is custom made.

Out glitz pageant dresses prices start from $30 and can go up to $200 depending on the fabric used (satin, organza, lycra, velvet) and designs.

Other dress designs, appropriate for special events or for natural beauty pageants are within the same approximate price range, starting from $30 up to $250.

Designer pageant dresses can be quite expensive. Costumes and dresses can range from $300 to $500 and go as high as $4000.

How much does a child beauty pageant cost?

The average costs of a pageant depend on a lot of factors: traveling expenses, outfits and pageant dresses, makeup & hairstyling and even the hourly fees of a coach to train the contestants.

  • Makeup and styling costs will set you back between 50$ and 300$.
  • The wardrobe can range anywhere from 150$ to a couple thousand, depending on how many you need and where you get them from.
  • On top of all these, there is the participation fee which can range from anywhere between 20$ and 750$.

Overall, the average costs of participating in a beauty pageant for children can range between 300$ and 5000$ depending on the level of competition.  

Where to buy pageant dresses?

The best place to buy Glitz or Natural pageant dresses is from child and young ladies-oriented brands. You can also find glitz dresses at big retailers that have special pageants sections. There is a wide variety of stores available, both offline and online.

If you are prepared to spend more money you can also have them custom made. They can be made by both a private tailor if you have the desired materials or directly in stores.

Renting pageant dresses is also an option and sometimes can actually be a better option. You pay a smaller price and can get a lot more models if the pageant has many stages and requires a large outfit collection.  

Our girl’s pageant dresses include both Glitz and Natural gowns. You can browse for your choice in our collections!


Your little Princess deserves the best chances of winning that big beauty pageant prize.  Know what she needs and how to best help her throughout the competition.

For more beauty pageant dresses and accessories you can have a look through our collections. Best of luck!