Seaworthy Style

For Merritt Carey, it’s all about practicality and versatility.

Merritt Carey feels very comfortable in Grundens; her first job, when she was barely a teenager, was delivering cooked lobsters to yachts in Tenants Harbor in her Boston Whaler. Photo by Amanda Whitegiver

Merritt Carey has traveled the world, including as a sailor on the second all-women team to compete in the Whitbread Around the World Ocean Race (the first was the subject of the inspiring documentary Maiden). She has a law degree from the University of Maine School of Law and practiced law for a while before becoming a consultant, primarily on issues related to fisheries and rural economic development. But these days, often as not, you’ll find her at Tenants Harbor, her summer home for all her life and the site of her very first job—delivering cooked lobsters to cruising boats moored in the harbor—as well as her most recent.

Carey was a driving force behind the creation of the Tenants Harbor Fisherman’s Co-op, working with local fishermen and Luke Holden to keep ownership of their wharf local. She helped establish the co-op’s partnership with Cape Seafood and Luke’s Lobster and runs the Luke’s lobster shack seasonally. When she’s not advocating for aquaculture, she’s relaxing on horseback or tending her own scallop farm. This gives her plenty of time to wear Grundens. While her three children, Liam, 17, Madeleine, 10, and Grace, 7, might have doubts about how stylish she is, we’re impressed by any woman who pulls off both seaworthy white overalls (PVC-coated, 100% waterproof) and wearing a skirt under them.

Describe your style in one sentence.
Practical and versatile. I like my clothes to be adaptable so I feel comfortable whatever the day might bring—attending meetings, conversing with clients/customers, cleaning a barn or slipping on my Grundens and jumping on a boat.

Is it “Maine” style?
It’s definitely Maine style. Most Mainers I know do a lot in any given day and need to be practical about what they wear.

Those waterproof fishing overalls are capacious enough to allow for a skirt and good work boots underneath. The look translates when she heads to work managing the seasonal lobster shack, Luke’s, in Tenants Harbor. Photo by Amanda Whitegiver

First outfit you remember picking out and loving, feeling great in?
My habit of function over beauty started early. I had a pair of brown bell bottom (yes, I’m that old) corduroys I must have loved because I seem to be wearing them in about every childhood photo.

How old were you when you felt like you developed a style of your own?
My parents more or less left me to my own when it came to dressing. I was a tomboy through and through. I distinctly remember wearing shorts under a skirt I was forced to put on for an occasion so I could shed the dreaded skirt the second the ‘occasion’ was over and get back to the business of playing.

Last memorable outfit:
I have a boot obsession; not fashionable boots, but working boots. Recently I purchased a pair of tall riding boots, which took me several attempts to get on. But once I got them on and wore them with my jodhpurs, I have to say I felt quite swank.

Favorite bricks and mortar place to buy clothing in Maine?
Duluth Trading Co. I have a fleet of their tank tops, which I’ve worn happily all summer.

Do you thrift? If so, where?
Yes. Just about anywhere; Goodwill and Village Style in Freeport.

Best clothing shoes or accessory bargain of all time:
Last fall I bought myself a pair of Bludstones. They weren’t a bargain per se, but their versatility has provided huge value. I can wear them to meetings, riding my horse, on a boat, going for a walk.

Most you ever spent on something to wear?
$200 on a dress to wear to my rehearsal dinner; it seemed like a lot at the time. I still have it and wear the dress whenever I have the opportunity.

Photo by Amanda Whitegiver

Who is your style icon of all time?
Beryl Markham.

Maine style icon?
Margaret Chase Smith: less about style and more about perseverance.

What would you refuse to wear?
Very high heels.

Do you own Bean boots? If not, what do you wear in the snow?
Not anymore; I had some when I was a kid. I wear Muck boots or Sorels.

Where you do get your style inspiration?
My style is dictated by what I need to get done in a day; so my inspiration comes from my day-to-day activities and the Maine weather.

What do you change into after a long day?
If I’m lucky, riding attire. In any case jeans, flip flops or boots (depending on season), tank top or a wool sweater (weather depending).

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

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