When local beauty Claudia Henkel steps on to the stage at the Miss Universe competition in Thailand on May 31, she'll be showing not only her own beauty - she'll also be showcasing the beauty of South Africa in a spectacular garment.

Henkel will be wearing a national costume designed by GFD Design Emporium in Johannesburg, a flamboyant indigenous design incorporating all facets of South Africa, covered by a vibrant blue silk coat which, when opened, reveals a South African story.

The garment depicts the diverse cultures of South Africa. There are scenes of Cape Town with Table Mountain as its backdrop, from the bustle of the harbour fishermen to the colourful flower sellers at the Adderley Street market.

There are also cameos of Johannesburg, rural areas with traditional huts, proteas, blue cranes, rock paintings, ostriches, guinea fowl and more. Indian and African beading is used to embellish the bodice.

In the evening wear segment, Henkel will wear a stunning canary yellow silk number, encrusted with topaz Swarovski crystals, by Johannesburg designers Marc and Michael.

Henkel will take with her national gifts for Thailand, which will be auctioned in aid of charity: an ostrich feather shawl and handbag and an African plate clock.

She will be one of 88 contestants representing various countries and the pageant will be beamed to 127 countries. Prior to the pageant, contestants will be given a tour of parts of Thailand affected by the 2004 tsunami to lend support to relief and reconstruction efforts.