Miss Universe 2015: What does Miss Canada’s costume say about Canadian fashion?


Photography by Larry Marano/Getty Images

We’ve had some time to digest Miss Canada’s look at the Miss Universe pageant and, well, we needed it.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s what happened: at last week’s Miss Universe pageant, contestant Chanel Beckenlehner donned a hockey-themed dress for the “National Costume” portion of the competition (and whatever you’re imagining is exactly what it looked like). Designed by costume designer Alex Kavanagh, the ensemble included a Stanley Cup crown, hockey stick wings, a maple leaf/jersey-like corset, thigh-high hockey skates, and a working scoreboard attached to her neck.

So yes — that’s a lot to digest.

And look. This isn’t to harp on Kavanaugh’s vision or her skills as a costume designer. It’s not even about condemning Beckenlehner’s idea of what, to her, Canada looks like. She’s the contestant, hockey is her Canada (I guess), and that’s her opinion. Cool. What’s less cool is that millions of people now think that’s what all of us equate Canada’s national costume to; that when we think about Canada’s national garb, we reach for our nearest Marie Antionette-inspired hockey uniform. And, well, no.

Canada isn’t lacking for style, whether stereotypical or not. (Flannel is ours, it will always be ours, and without flannel, grunge would be nothing.) Brands and designers like Joe Fresh, Pink Tartan, and Jeremy Laing (to name a literal few) have made Canadian fashion accessible, interesting, sleek, and modern; they balance out brands like Roots or even Lululemon who, on their own, could establish Canada as the loungewear capital of the world.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Even loungewear would’ve been a more sensical national costume than what we saw made of hockey sticks and a Stanley Cup hat. To go out in last year’s Olympic uniform would’ve made more sense. Anything would’ve made more sense — especially since half the participants just wore their traditional national costume. No hockey sticks or sports paraphernalia or anything (if you can believe it).

I can believe it: while other countries pandered a bit, they still epitomized important aspects of their homelands. Meanwhile, Canada was represented as a country whose only claim to fame is a sport we didn’t even invent. (It was invented in England, FYI.) It made our “style” look like Lisa Simpson’s Florida costume that Homer made when Marge was addicted to gambling.

This isn’t to say the costume was bad (like, if it was worn as part of a Halloween theme, it would’ve gone over brilliantly). And this isn’t to say Beckenlehner is a terrible Canadian. It’s to say that her choice was disappointing. Considering Canada already has a hard enough time branding itself as anything other than Not America, it would’ve been better to see Canada’s “national” style as a little more indicative of where it’s from. It would’ve been (actually) controversial to see her come out in a Canadian designer’s spring line or like Joe from that beer commercial back in 1990s. (So: dressed like any person outside right now.) It would’ve even have been better to dress in a Raptors uniform.

Because at least a Canadian invented basketball.

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