SINGAPORE - History repeated itself when the annual Miss Universe Singapore national costume was unveiled on Thursday (Nov 29).
As was the case for the last five years, the national costume, this year inspired by the high-profile summit in Singapore between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June, 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 in Bangkok next month for the national costume segment.
Human resource manager Vanessa Goh, 24, who read The New Paper's article unveiling the dress, echoed most views when she said: "The design just came off as 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.
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.
Accountant Sherry Chen, 24, who saw the costume on the news, said it felt "like clickbait in a dress".
This is not the first time that a Miss Universe Singapore national costume has attracted negative feedback.
Previous costumes, which were inspired by everything Singaporean, from the Merlion to the orchid Vanda Miss Joaquim, were panned for their over-the-top designs.
A fashion designer with more than 10 years of industry 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 are more likely to pick up on it.
"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."
The Straits Times has contacted Mr Kasim for his comments. He owns a costume design company and was co-nominated for a Golden Horse award in 2007 for local film 881.
The design has also sparked off a sea of memes and parodies.
Local YouTuber Preeti Nair, better known as Preetipls, posted a photoshopped image of herself in the dress, with the skirt changed to reflect the many headline-making news stories in Singapore this year.
Another image showed the skirt photoshopped to look like one half of a durian. Pizza and croissants were some of the other food items featured on the skirt.
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.
Amid the backlash, there is at least one person who is thrilled with the dress.
Miss Zahra, who will be donning the dress, told The New Paper that she thought the costume "looked absolutely angelic" and embodied world peace.
She said: "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.