No peace for Summit dress

The national costume for this year's Miss Universe Singapore draws negative feedback

History repeated itself when the annual Miss Universe Singapore national costume was unveiled yesterday.

As was the case for the last five years, the national costume, inspired by the high-profile summit in Singapore between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un earlier this year, received poor reviews from the public.

The dress, designed by 48-year-old Moe Kasim, centres on a flowy electric blue skirt that fans out with a digital print of a handshake - one arm features the North Korean flag and the other, the American flag - over the Singapore skyline.

A peace symbol is incorporated into the bodice and 3m-long white dove wings are attached to the back.

Miss Universe Singapore 2018 winner Zahra Khanum, 23, will wear the dress at the Miss Universe competition next month in Bangkok in the national costume segment.

Human resource manager Vanessa Goh, 24, who read The New Paper article yesterday unveiling the dress, echoed most views when she said: "The design just came off really gaudy, tacky and cheap."

She, however, added that she understood the intention behind "showing how Singapore had helped to broker world peace".

A post on the story on The Straits Times' Facebook page attracted about 500 comments, mostly negative, in six hours.

There were also many memes online which replaced the handshake image with cheeky pictures.

Some questioned why a Singapore national costume features the flags of two foreign countries while others expressed shame that the design would be showcased on an international stage.

Ms Sherry Chen, a 24-year-old accountant, said the costume felt "like clickbait in a dress".

The design just came off really gaudy, tacky and cheap. 

HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGER VANESSA GOH

This is not the first time a Miss Universe Singapore national costume has attracted negative feedback. Previous costumes, which were inspired by everything Singaporean, from the Merlion to the Vanda Miss Joaquim orchid, were panned for over-the-top designs.

A fashion designer with more than 10 years of experience, who declined to be named, said of this year's theme: "I think it was chosen because of how sensational it is. It is controversial and the international press is more likely to pick it up.

"I guess if they wanted people's attention, then they succeeded."

He added, however, that the designer did get something right in the dress. "If you look at the position of Donald Trump's hand on the dress and think about his controversial comment about grabbing women, I think that's accurate."

Kasim owns a costume design company and was co-nominated for a Golden Horse award in 2007 for local film 881. He could not be reached for comment by press time.

It looks absolutely angelic. It has a very serene and calming effect.

MISS UNIVERSE SINGAPORE 2018 WINNER ZAHRA KHANUM

Attention-grabbing designs, however, are par for the course in the Miss Universe national costume segment.

Last year, Malaysia's representative made headlines for wearing a dress inspired by nasi lemak. An image of a fried egg was on her hip and she wore what resembled banana leaves on her back.

There is at least one person who is thrilled with the dress.

Miss Zahra told The New Paper that the costume looks "absolutely angelic" and embodies world peace. "It has a very serene and calming effect."

• Additional reporting by Melissa Heng


Correction note: This article has been updated to reflect the correct age of Miss Universe Singapore winner Zahra Khanum. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2018, with the headline 'No peace for Summit dress'. Print Edition | Subscribe