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It’s not all gowns for Carolyn Brady, Miss Maine (but there are a lot of those)

When Carolyn Brady came to Maine from Philadelphia to attend Bowdoin College, she came with a lot of academic ambition and a gift for the violin, which she’d been playing since she was 5. But a suggestion from a former Miss Maine contestant who saw her playing with Bowdoin’s symphony set her on a path to pageantry and led to her becoming Miss Maine. This month she’s headed to Connecticut to represent the state in the Miss America 2.0 pageant at the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville (it airs live Dec. 19 at 8 p.m. on NBC).

As Miss Maine, Carolyn Brady has to do a lot of dressing up. Her costuming sponsor is Maine’s own Ashley Lauren Kerr, whose Scarborough-based company makes sparkling evening wear (and pageant perfect garments). Photo by Amanda Whitegiver

Her long term goals are a career with the U.S. State Department, and her hope would be an assignment in China, where she spent the summer after her freshman year. “I just ended up falling in love with Chinese culture,” she says. (And also with the language, which she minored in at Bowdoin along with majoring in government and legal studies.) It’s been a busy year for Brady. She graduated from Bowdoin in the spring and is teaching math and literacy at Reiche Elementary school in Portland. She works retail jobs, including a few hours a month at J. Crew and some shifts at Nordstrom Rack. Then there is her philanthropy work as Miss Maine, including with Catholic Charities Maine and Gateway Community Services. The state’s first-ever African American Miss Maine is also teaching spin classes at the recently opened CycleBar in Portland, where we caught up with her. Multitask much? “I am like the poster child for young America,” Brady says.

Describe your style in one sentence.
I’m either in a ball gown or leggings. The in-between happens rarely, but when it does I tend to wear jeans, ballet flats, and some sort of colorful or interesting blouse. I’m all about the pop of color!

Is it “Maine” style?
I think Maine style is very open ended. While I am not a native Mainer, I have come to find that Maine style is interpreted differently by everyone I meet, and I absolutely love that. I think it is very reflective of the state as a whole.

First outfit you remember picking out and loving, feeling great in?
Girl Scout Summer Camp. Elementary school. Pink socks. Pink shorts. Pink shirt. Pink hair tie. ‘Nuff said.

How old were you when you felt like you developed a style of your own?
I don’t remember developing my own sense of style until high school. I attended an all girls school for grades K-5, so I was required to wear a uniform. During my time in middle school, I spent the majority of the time that I spent devoted to fashion determining what that word meant to me. Finally, by the time I reached ninth grade, I think I had found my stride.

Because she moves so fast between retail jobs, teaching and Miss Maine duties, workout gear might be the ideal clothing for Brady right now. But she’s also fond of ankle pants. “I can wear them to my day job, then to my closing retail shifts, and even to my appearances as Miss Maine.” Photo by Amanda Whitegiver

Last memorable outfit:
White leggings with a scallop hem. Matching white sports bra. Navy headband with a bow and metallic polka dots. The only way to be an indoor cycling instructor is to wear a giant bow every once and awhile.

Favorite bricks and mortar place to buy clothing in Maine?
Alaina Marie!!! Love love love everything she makes, not to mention that it is a female-owned business so I am always 200% on board. I have both the clutches and a few pairs of their custom Keds. I can’t wait to see what fun collaborations they will create next.

Most you ever spent on something to wear?
Oh golly! That would probably be my gown for Miss Maine. I would say it was well worth it though since it allowed me to bring home the crown!

Best bargain of all time?
I found a pair of embroidered blue and black Sam Edelman flats for $8 at a Nordstrom Rack Sale. I have discovered that it can be very difficult to find flats that go with navy dresses, and this pair works perfectly, so I consider it a steal simply because I paid about 15% of the original price, and I wear them constantly.

Who is your style icon of all time?
Michelle Obama. I have always admired her ability to make a statement but also gain respect with her style choices, and I strive to do the same with my selections as well.

Maine style icon?
I am a big fan of the Instagram page, @5thandmagnolia (Margaret Ybarra). Most of her style choices come from either local Maine boutiques or easily accessible factory stores, and they always have a classic element with a pop of chic.

Where you do get your style inspiration? Magazines, movies, social media?
While some of my inspiration comes from social media, I would say that I often garner fashion ideas by interacting with people on a daily basis. Whether that is with my students at school, with my riders as a cycling instructor, or even just with people I pass in the grocery store, I am constantly inspired by the everyday Mainer.

What would you refuse to wear?
Birkenstocks. I’m sorry, I recognize that they are a staple, but I just can’t do it.

Amanda Whitegiver is a lifestyle family photographer who adores dark chocolate and singing with her two daughters.