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4 gowns that were better than Michelle Dee’s at MUPH 2023

Was hers truly the competition’s best evening gown? We disagree with the judges. These four gowns were better.

The Miss Universe Philippines 2023 Evening Gown Competition was supposed to have been reserved for the 10 ladies who got the highest scores in the preceding Swimsuit Competition. But because of some unspecified “technical issues” all 18 semifinalists moved on to this round and were able to parade their Finals gowns onstage for another shot at advancing to the Top 5.   

Curiously, the judges were ready with their winner of Best in Evening Gown just a few moments after the last candidate, Miss Bulacan, sashayed onstage. The award went to Miss Makati, Michelle Dee, who donned a plain black bustier gown with a very high slit and a sexy hole on the right side of the bodice accented with a literal silver lining that goes round from the hip to the shoulder, looking like a shimmering garden snake on her.

This proved to be an inspired element: not only did it give the rather basic gown some oomph, it also perfectly fit in with Michelle’s signature serpentine walk, pouty lips, and fierce facials that make her look like she’s on a hunt and ready to slay a prey with her gaze. It’s her strongest gown performance in all four pageants she has competed in including the 2019 Miss World and last year’s Miss Universe Philippines where she finished in second place and it would’ve been even better if she reeled in the unnecessary extra head, arm, and hand movements during her final pose.

Was she truly the competition’s best in evening gown? We disagree with the judges. These four ladies’ gowns were better.

Miss Bohol Pauline Amelinckx 

This flowy, billowy all-white piece is arguably as simple and basic as Michelle’s black dress. And although it’s something we very rarely see on the local pageant stage, it’s not very new on the international front. In fact, Miss Russia 2002 was in an almost identical gown when she won the Miss Universe title that year. Pauline herself wore the same outfit but in a different color for the non-competitive Gala Night fashion presentation just a few days before Coronation Night.

What’s striking about this gown is how very smart and strategic it is on Pauline Amelincx. It fully hid her Achilles heel as a candidate—her rather stiff pasarela. For once she looked so effortless and fluid from head to foot, like she was gliding onstage. And it perfectly complemented her sweet face, her charming aura of natural airiness, and her unencumbered, accessible, relatable girl-next-door persona. This may have been the simplest gown of the evening but it was the most slyly hardworking that achieved two goals at once—conceal Pauline’s biggest weakness and highlight one of her biggest strengths.

Miss Tiaong, Quezon Afia Adorable Yeboah

Mirror ball gowns, those made up of what looks like shards of glass like those of a disco ball, aren’t new on the pageant stage, but they’re not common in the Philippines. It’s not an easy look to pull off and the few that have graced the local stage didn’t really get it right. This one did.

Afia Adorable Yeboah was, to borrow an iconic song lyric, shiny, shimmering and splendid in this curvy backless creation that was perfectly complemented with a pair of round silver earrings, a chunky but not overpowering metallic necklace of rose patterns accented with pearls, and a big ring with the same design.

Her hair in a classic top bun, her morena skin glowing against all the silverware on her, she was a bright vision of sexiness, stylishness, and sophistication as she commanded the stage with quiet, regal confidence. No mannered gestures, no unnecessary movements, no overdelivered facials, no playing to the crowd: this was easily one of the best evening gown performances not only of the night but of national pageants in recent years.

Miss Baguio Krishnah Marie Gravidez

Another shining, shimmering, splendid silver belle, Krishnah Marie Gravidez was a total stunner in this beaded bustier piece. It’s a familiar silhouette for a sheer pageant gown that was made fresh by the pop of black on both sides of the bodice that gave the illusion or further emphasized Krishnah’s whistle-bait slim hourglass figure.

Elegantly styled with big, thick, wavy long hair and a glamourous pearl-studded silver necklace, Miss Baguio looked every inch like a dusky Hollywood Glam Barbie.

Miss Zambales Christine Opiaza

This was a fabulous mix of two popular styles—the body-hugging crystal-studded nude gown and the silky Grecian goddess wrap—that Christine Opiaza totally owned and made her own with her trademark dramatic flair and sauciness to spare while, at the same time, looking like a top tier Latina candidate on the Miss Universe stage.

The entire look was extremely well put together, from the outfit itself that got a bit of an edge from the above-the-knee hemline of the nude half (which on closer look seems like a body suit or pang rather than a dress or skirt) to her gorgeous long, shiny black straight hair that looked like it was on loan from Miss Universe Venezuela 2018.

The cape swirl in the middle of the performance may have sufficed and the additional swirl and twirl at the end a tad too much on the Miss U stage (it belongs more to the Miss Grand International) but it’s what gave the entire thing the Opiazza stamp. And considering how over-the-top she usually goes with these extras, the relative restraint was notable, if not commendable.