No peace for Miss Universe Singapore national costume inspired by Trump-Kim summit

SINGAPORE – History repeated itself once again 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 time designed by 48-year-old Moe Kasim and inspired by the Trump-Kim summit earlier this year, received poor reviews from members of the public.

The dress centres around 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.

The top half of the dress has a peace symbol incorporated into the bodice and 3m-long white dove wings attached to the back.

Miss Universe Singapore 2018 winner Zahra Khanum, 24, will wear the dress at the Miss Universe competition next month in Bangkok 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 some 500 comments, mostly negative, in six hours.

Some have questioned why a Singapore national costume would feature the flags of two other countries, while some 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” .

She said: “To be honest, it feels quite shameless. The design is trying to get exposure through something that is a controversial talking point.”

This is not the first time that a Miss Universe Singapore national costume has attracted negative feedback.

Previous costumes, which have been inspired by everything Singaporean from the Merlion to the orchid Vanda Miss Joaquim, have been panned for 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.

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 croissant 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 all the backlash, there is one person who is thrilled about 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 had a very serene and calming effect.”

Additional reporting by Melissa Heng

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