There’s a lot I don’t like about Miss America. Sure, they give many scholarships to women, but let’s be real: Miss America isn’t about advancing women’s rights and causes, it’s about rewarding beautiful women for being beautiful. In my opinion, the pageant misrepresents itself as something greater than what it really is: a competition in which women are largely judged for their looks.
The very existence of the swimsuit contest portion of the competition and the fact that most of these women look like overly made up, perfectly proportioned Barbies come to life contriving to care about world peace makes me less than a fan.
However, I did think it was cool when I recently found out that Miss Vermont, Ashley Wheeler – a contestant in this year’s Miss America competition – is going to be wearing an eco-friendly gown. Ashley’s dress is constructed of hemp and silk, lined with hemp and organic cotton and decorated with repurposed gold lace, beads and sequins.
The gown is made by designer Tara Lynn, whose collections are inspired by and dedicated to environmental causes. Tara’s studio runs off solar power, and her shelves are stocked with vintage and recycled materials collected over many years. Her innovative wedding gowns have been featured on Treehugger.
Of her choice to wear an eco-friendly dress, Ashley says,
“I was raised as part of a family-run business and I understand how important it is to support locally-owned and operated businesses. So when it came time for me to purchase an evening gown for the Miss America pageant, I decided to keep my business in Vermont and call upon a designer from the Northeast Kingdom. I had heard about Tara Lynn and it was very appealing to go “green” for Miss America. I will be making a significant statement and suspect I will be the only contestant who has chosen to go this route. I think this is the perfect way for me to share my stance on preserving our environment and set myself apart from the other contestants.”
So, does a locally made hemp dress make up for the pageant’s many flaws? Not at all. I will never buy the assertion that Miss America is a feminist icon and I think the whole thing is outdated. But, Ashley’s choice of an eco-friendly dress does inject a tiny bit of meaning into an otherwise shallow tradition.
Given that beauty is something that is still very much valued in our society, and there are many girls out there who strive to be like Miss America, it is nice to see a contestant show the world that you can be every bit as beautiful and glamorous in an eco-friendly gown as in a conventional one.