Miss America 2014: Mallory Hagan on black bikinis and tiaras

Nothing quite tops an outfit like a tiara. 

Try though you may, a cloche, a beret, or a fedora do not come close. A scarf, hair band or barrette? Nope. Even fascinators, de rigueur at the royal wedding, simply do not have the cache of a tiara.

Outside of real royal crowns -- and those usually require bloodlines, conquerors and all sorts of DNA-fueled history -- the tiara that trumps them all is bestowed in New Jersey.

Yes, Miss America is back in Atlantic City, where it all started. The beauty pageant that officials prefer we think of as a scholarship contest, the 2014 Miss America Competition, airs on ABC Sunday, Sept. 15.

Miss America 2013 Mallory Hagan reflected on the year and the fashions of the pageant over the years.

Though Hagan won $50,000 in scholarships and plans to use it to finish her studies in communications at the Fashion Institute of Technology, she won, in part, because she can indeed rock a black bikini.

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Here, she wears a Catalina suit, the brand that returned to the pageant last year after a 62-year absence.

The trick to looking this good in a bikini is not so secret. "Eating well and working out," Hagan says. "On stage, it is very important to have a good tan. I love a good spray tan. And mostly, it is just confidence. They say it is won from the neck up. It is more about your energy and connection to the audience and how that confidence shines though. I try to be as confident as possible."

That black bikini, and many smaller ones over the years, have come a long way since these one-piece suits from 1953.

"I think they are actually kind of fun," Hagan says. "Last year, Catalina offered a retro swimsuit as one of our choices, and I thought long and hard if I should go with it. I still love them. Today there is something so enticing about them because they reveal enough, but not too much."

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Just in case these don't look hot and itchy enough, remember these suits were wool, some of the women in this photo are wearing wool stockings and even the men are in full suits - on the beach.

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"It is just interesting how much the fashion and times have changed since back then," Hagan says. "What we wear today would have been so inappropriate. And Miss America started out as a swimsuit competition. They were there to model the swimsuits."

The tiaras, which have changed over the years, always have four points. They represent service, style, scholarship and success.

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Incidentally, Miss America does indeed get to keep the crown, though, oddly she does not wear it all the time.

"It depends on the appearance," Hagan says, adding she has been on the go since being crowned. "I wear it when there are kids around."

Wearing the tiara, "makes me really humbled," Hagan says.
Photo/Video credit: Miss America Organization
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