Michelle Dee’s Miss Universe Journey: The Inspiration Behind The Fashion

BGC, Philippines — The week leading to the finals, Miss Universe Philippines 2023 Michelle Dee has proven without a doubt that she’s been one of the strongest bets to win the crown at the 72nd Miss Universe pageant currently being held in San Salvador, El Salvador.

Her preliminary competition performance has left the world asking for more of MMD, as the Filipina stunner proved that she is one of the favorites of the crowd and pageant insiders. Her fierce swimsuit round performance flaunting her gorgeous bod in a hot red Rubin Singer swimwsuit was jaw-dropping, while her elegant presence in her custom emerald Mark Bumgarner couture gown was truly remarkable. Her national costume was indeed not typical, with design details that told of deep stories.

Pageant and fashion fans couldn’t be more smitten over the inspirations behind Michelle’s fashion choices at the Miss Universe stage so far.


During the evening gown competition at the Miss U 2023 prelims, Michelle was a vision in a sparkling emerald cut-out gown designed by Mark Bumgarner. The fashion designer shared that the custom couture dress was encrusted with 30,000 Swarovski  crystals, and came in three shades of green contrasted with black color, and was very much a creation made out of the beauty queen’s style vision for the competition.

It was revealed that the shades of green were a nod to Dee’s advocacy of autism awareness, and a reminiscence of the evening gown of her legendary supermodel and beauty queen mom:  Miss International 1979 titleholder Melanie Marquez.

Michelle’s mother wore a shimmering strapless gown, also in teal color, during her Miss International pageant performance.

“I am the legacy of my mom (Miss International 1979 Melanie Marquez) and if I win, I believe it’s a win for her also because it will showcase how empowered and strong driven her daughter is — the woman that she raised. So, if I was crowned as Miss Universe, I believe it would be a win for all of us,” Michelle once shared with Boy Abunda in an interview months before the international pageant.

She also told VOGUE Philippines that green is the color of her advocacy of autism awareness through the organization Autism Society Philippines. “It really pays homage to a lot of aspects of me.”


There are indeed a lot of aspects in Michelle’s personality. For her Miss U National Costume segment, her airplane-themed outift presented aesthetic details that told various inspirations behind it. The attire also put a spotlight on her being an Air Force reservist with her captain’s hat.

“Behold, Sergeant Michelle Marquez Dee, Miss Universe Philippines, adorned in the nation’s pride and heritage,” she wrote on Instagram.

“Crowned with a captain’s hat, this is a salute to her role as an Air Force reservist and to our boundless adventures awaiting in the skies!”

Filipino fashion heritage was also showcased with the “solihiya” pattern in the creation by Michael Barassi. Solohiya is the humble rattan plant that has long been used as a material for furniture and basket, and in recent years, in fashion pieces.

Michelle shared on Instagram her thoughts on the rich cultural pattern, writing, “With each thread woven into the ‘solihiya’ pattern, an iconic design used in the tropics of the Philippines, it embraces her body flawlessly — unfolding the story of the islands’ unity and artistry. [Philippine flag emoji].”

Of course, the queen also chose to highlight the Philippine tourism. She also wrote, “In the grand tapestry of the Philippines comes a National costume as stunning as its archipelago. “

“Rising from her back, wings bear the colors of the Philippine flag and a mural of it’s most breathtaking sights while parading the country’s official tourism slogan: #LoveThePhilippines.”

She also explained that the backk details feature two boys in caricature riding the jeepney, as inspired by her two brothers. Her siblings are near the spectrum, and the reason the beauty queen is advocating about autism awareness.

Indeed, the star’s vision for the custom couture pieces executed for her by her fashion designers really shows the many facets of Michelle Dee. Don’t you just love it when fashion helps to tell a person’s narrative of who and what she is as person?

Watch Michelle Dee’s finale performance at the coronation night of the 72nd Miss Universe pageant on iWantTFC at 9:00AM Manila time on Sunday, November 19, 2023.