Exclusive: Why Michelle Dee Did Not Wear Her Finals Gown at the Homecoming Parade 

Exclusive: Why Michelle Dee Did Not Wear Her Finals Gown at the Homecoming Parade 


Effortlessly merging tradition with modern silhouettes, Mark Bumgarner gives MEGA the lowdown on Michelle Dee’s homecoming look

The homecoming parade of Miss Universe Philippines 2023, Michelle Dee, marked a turning point in her journey from uncertainty to outpouring admiration. Thousands of Filipinos rallied behind the Filipina representative, proving that what seemed like the conclusion of her pageant journey after competing in El Salvador for Miss Universe turned out to be a prologue for a more exciting future ahead. When it came to her sartorial choice, the beauty queen decided to incorporate elements from her Miss Universe finals gown with a contemporary twist—a decision explained by Filipino designer Mark Bumgarner

Michelle Dee and her homecoming parade look
Michelle Dee Shines in Mark Bumgarner’s homecoming parade look

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Subtle ink, bold style

Michelle Dee's homecoming parade outfit
Celebrating Apo Whang-Od’s legacy with a modern twist

“Originally, we contemplated having MMD wear her Miss Universe finals gown for the homecoming parade. However, plans shifted, prioritizing her comfort.” This was the designer’s response when asked about the inspiration behind the beauty queen’s parade look. Knowing that Michelle’s mode of transportation would be a sports car, they chose a pantsuit over a gown to ensure that she would be comfortable sitting, standing, and walking. Mark also emphasized that he made sure to maintain the essence of their references from Michelle’s Miss Universe gown while incorporating his distinctive style. “The design pays homage to her finals gown and my inspiration, Apo Whang Od, featuring the traditional Kalinga tattoo design while maintaining my aesthetic—structured, clean, and elegant,” Mark shared.

Michelle’s request

Mark Bumgarner's newest design for the beauty queen
MMD keeps it fashion-forward yet comfortable with a white pantsuit that still features the traditional Kalinga tattoo design

Mark also mentioned that the decision to tweak the attire stemmed from MMD’s desire for unrestricted movement during the celebration, including the ability to seamlessly transition between waving and comfortably moving from a seated to a standing position. As for the choice of the pristine white hue, he credited Michelle Dee’s stylist and MEGA’s fashion director, Ryuji Shiomitsu, for recommending it. Mark shared that he guaranteed that every element of the ensemble maintained a delicate balance of paying homage to the original dress and maintaining refined and sophisticated detail.

His Miss Universe masterpiece

MMD's Miss Universe 2023 finals gown
Michelle Dee’s finals gown for Miss Universe 2023

Reflecting on the widespread recognition—among pageant enthusiasts and the general public—of the gown he created for Michelle Dee as one of the most iconic on the Miss Universe stage, Mark offered a genuine and candid perspective. He stated, “Despite my initial disappointment at MMD not advancing, the gown’s viral success filled me with joy and gratitude, replacing my broken heart. Bringing a sense of national pride through my design underscored the potential for setting trends and establishing a global standard of craftsmanship.” 

Artistic horizons

MMD and Mark Bumgarner
Mark Bumgarner expresses his enthusiasm about continuing to collaborate with the beauty queen

Following their consecutive win of the “Best In Evening Gown” award at the Miss Universe Philippines and their well-applauded final gown on the Miss Universe stage, the collaboration between Michelle and Mark is far from concluding. With optimism and the promise of a new, exciting chapter, Mark conveyed, “[I am] anticipating numerous magazine covers and, hopefully, memorable red carpet moments with her as my muse. Her distinctive style serves as a continual wellspring of inspiration. Regarding other collaborations, the upcoming months will reveal our creative ventures.”


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