PETALING JAYA - Outrageous as it seems, Malaysia's nasi lemak-inspired national costume for the 66th Miss Universe pageant in Las Vegas may have already served its purpose.
The dress has garnered much attention. While some people are critical of the design, others have applauded it for being bold, which is exactly the intention.
"It has to be something that is unique and stands out. What we have this year is an iconic national costume," said national director of the Miss Universe Malaysia Organisation Datin Elaine Daly.
"Thailand won in 2015 for its tuk tuk costume. Last year's winning costume from Myanmar resembled a puppet, complete with a 6ft (1.8m) frame and strings," she said.
Another past winner was Miss Indonesia in 2014, whose costume depicted the Borobudur Temple, a Unesco World Heritage site, and sported huge wings, shoulder attachments and a tall, tiered headdress.
Costumes worn by Miss Singapore have received much flak over the years, including one designed after The Merlion (2008) and another after its national flower, Vanda Miss Joaquim (2013).
For this year's pageant finals, Vietnam has presented a larger-than-life costume resembling a bamboo fan, while South Africa's flamboyant design is inspired by its national flower, the protea.
In October this year, Australia unveiled a costume inspired by the Opera House and Sydney Harbour during the city's popular Vivid Festival, which drew criticism.
Syomirizwa Gupta, who created Malaysia's "Princess Of Perak" costume for the 2013 pageant finals, said the concept of the national costume could be anything, adding that it was really about selling an idea.
"But it has to have a wow element. It's a beauty pageant, so showmanship is needed in the design.
"Either you take something old and make it new or go for a creation that will blow people's minds," added the designer.
According to Izree Kai Haffiz of the Fiziwoo fashion label, what the judges look for is creativity.
"The evening gown segment is about being classic and demure, so the national costume must be fun and playful," said Izree, who designed Miss Universe Malaysia 2014 Sabrina Beneett's bronze evening gown.