Azalea Trail Maids, a court of 50 Mobile County high school seniors, are the city’s official ambassadors. Dressed in pastel period costumes customized to the individual Maid’s preferences and Trail standards, they welcome visitors at official events and reflect genteel Southern hospitality. Kaylyn Mallory, 17, is a senior at Murphy High School and current member of the court who plans to study international business after graduation. She is the daughter of Earl and Relya Mallory, and spoke with SCDD about her experience as an Azalea Trail Maid as well as her personal style.
Full circle: When I was really young, my brother had his graduation, and when we went I saw the Trail Maids there and I thought they were so beautiful. A few years later I got to meet them and I thought they looked like princesses. From that point on I just knew I wanted to be an Azalea Trail Maid too. [Now that I’m on the court] I love to see little girls smile and whisper to their moms “I want to be one of those” [when they see us at appearances].
Beyond moonlight and magnolias (er, azaleas): When I found out all the things [the Azalea Trail Maids] do around the community and to represent Mobile, I was amazed. There are so many things in Mobile that I didn’t know about until Trail, like all the things you can do for community service and [on behalf of] nonprofit organizations. I really enjoy seeing people seeing us and being happy that we’re there to represent them. [The current court has also appeared in Washington, D.C.’s Fourth of July parade as well as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.]
No controversy here: Personally, I haven’t experienced any sort of negativity or backlash [from people thinking] we represent slave times, or any animosity related to that. But I want to say that we don’t represent slavery; we represent Southern hospitality. Actually, Distinguished Young Women [formerly America’s Junior Miss] stems from Trail because people thought it was such a good idea to showcase young women, so they broadened it so more young women could participate.
About that costume: I think a lot of people are surprised how much the dress weighs and how many layers it has. I haven’t weighed mine but [I’d guess it] weighs between 40-50 pounds. It has 5 or 6 layers and about 8 different parts. It’s a little odd when people realize we have to put on the hoop, then the skirt and then the apron, and so on. At [a welcome event for the new court], you get to look at all the current courts dresses and you get an idea of what you want yours to look like. I found one that was worn by the queen from the previous year, and I tweaked it to make it more personal for me. The scalloping on the skirt and the roses are lovely. I have roses pretty much all over my dress and on my parasol and my hat. I like the elegance of it.
How long does it take to put on the entire ensemble? (Laughs) In the beginning, it might have taken (my mother and me) 30 minutes. But with time and practice you master it more, and I think I can do it in 20-25 minutes by myself.
The Court’s legacy: I’ve gained public relations skills because you really learn how to interact with people. I’m much better at communicating now, and Trail has been a really big part of that. Also, I learned a lot about teamwork and time management from coordinating things with my group.
Kaylyn’s personal style and her parents’ influence: It’s kind of laidback and carefree. I don’t go along with a lot of fads. I do like flowy, girly kinds of clothes. I love the frills and the lace. I guess that goes along with why I like being a Trail Maid. I love my jeans too though. My parents have taught me how to respect myself in what I wear: [to not choose] clothes that are too revealing. My mom tells me everything is prettier with pearls, and that makeup should only enhance your natural beauty. It shouldn’t be heavily depended on.
Kaylyn is already ready for prom this spring, having purchased her dress over the Christmas break.
“I kind of have wished I could wear my Trail dress to prom; it’s custom made and it’s perfect for me,” she laughed. (But no, she isn’t wearing her Trail Maid costume.)
Want to know more about the Azalea Trail Maids? Click here.
Images courtesy of Relya Mallory