Last week, a number of Malaysians were stupefied by the country’s national costume for the 65th Miss Universe pageant.
Oh , heavens. It was something that you would wear only during cosplay. Or, if your cellular reception was bad.
But, a little digging into the subject will make you further understand the concept behind the outfit, deemed “hideous” by many.
When Miss Malaysia Universe 2016 Kiran Jassal showed off the national costume she will wear in the pageant, slated for Jan 30 in Manila, the Philippines, I was gobsmacked — and cried a little by the sheer weirdness of it.
Designed by Rizman Ruzaini, the custom-made silver-and-nude jumpsuit features the Petronas Twin Towers on the shoulders.
I am not going to lie. My initial reaction was shock, to the extent that I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry.
Okay, like I said earlier, I did cry a little.
“Eye-catching” aptly describes the outfit. Or, better yet, eyes were “poked” by the unworldly pointy design. Words like “silly”, “tacky” and “handphone reception” crossed my mind.
I had expected the national costume to be demure and regal, featuring elements reflecting a mosaic of cultures, something that befits a beauty queen, and not one from a galaxy far, far away.
Doesn’t it remind you of a scene from an electronica-laden futuristic movie, circa 1960?
Hmmm. Probably, they are steering away from the overly tried-and-tested traditional garb, and giving songket and batik a rest.
The outfit has a silver tower on each shoulder, featuring more than 100,000 hand-sewn Swarovski crystals. Also, there’s a crystal-encrusted choker, symbolising the Sky Bridge.
One thing for sure — my friends who work at Petronas were “thrilled” beyond words to see their office incorporated in the national costume.
The debate on the costume made its rounds like forest fire. It caught the attention of regular Mamats and Minahs, the fashion and entertainment fraternity, and right up to company top guns and chief executive officers. What an iconic piece of conversation the costume issue turned out to be.
On social media, criticism was plentiful.
Some thought that the designer piece was modern and edgy, very editorial and avant-garde, while some traditional folk felt that the regal, subliminal sexiness of a kebaya panjang with incredible workmanship could dominate the runway.
So, given that I am no expert in the subject of national costumes in Miss Universe pageants, I took the time to understand the concept behind the outfit through some light reading over the weekend. I also flicked through photographs of past winners.
And, what I found was that the national costumes garnered a lot of conversation for being over the top, and were unabashedly in love with themes.
They are significantly big, bold and in-your-face kind of attire that could never be worn again after hitting the stage. In short, these costumes become casualties to history right after.
Take last year’s winner, Miss Thailand 2015 Aniporn Chalermburanawong, who was dressed as the signature tuk-tuk from her home country. Definitely unique, it perfectly represented one of Thailand’s most iconic tourist attractions.
I know Lady Gaga would agree to wearing it on the red carpet. Some of the creations would even appeal to Beyonce and, probably, a younger Madonna in her prime.
After looking at some of the photos, I now worry that the Petronas Twin Towers on our national costume may be a bit too small. They should be way larger to catch the needed attention.
Malaysia last placed in the Miss Universe semis 47 years ago. This year, hopes are high that the Southeast Asian nation will end the drought with the beautiful 20-year-old Kiran, as hope towers on her shoulders.
Let’s hope she slays at the pageant and hits the big time in Manila!
Also, let’s see which other Asean country will show off its buildings in its national costume.
Oh, a little bird told me that there will be fireworks coming out from the towers on the costume when Kiran parades it onstage.
Go Kiran, go!
Hizreen Azleena Kamal is a passionista with a keen interest in showbiz and pop culture (online shopping included!). And, oh, she is also entertainment editor