Why Miss America Has to Give Her Gown Back After This Year's Pageant

11/28/2012 at 09:00 AM ET

Miss America
Courtesy Rent the Runway

After the Miss America pageant wraps on Jan. 12, last year’s champ, Laura Kaeppeler, will be packing up her gown and mailing it away. Why? For the first time ever, the organization is partnering with Rent the Runway to dress the reigning beauty queen for her final night as Miss America — and we have an exclusive peek at her recent “shopping” trip at the RTR showroom in New York.

“I was looking for a mix of fun, flirty and formal, and to experiment with different looks and designers,” Kaeppeler, who will wear several RTR dresses during the pageant, told PEOPLE after combing the racks. “I love Badgley Mischka for a classic red carpet look, Issa reminds me of Kate Middleton and modern royalty, and Diane von Furstenberg and Viktor & Rolf for styles that are young and fresh but still formal.” (She tried on a gown from David Meister, left, too.)

In fact, there wasn’t a sequin in sight — though Kaeppeler said her choices have always trended toward the classic, and not toward the over-the-top gowns often associated with pageants.

“It’s all about wearing what suits your individual style and lets you shine,” she explained. “My style has definitely become more modern, trendy and sophisticated over the past year. As Miss America, I’m constantly changing gears from casual events to cocktail parties, and through it all I’ve found taking a simple yet elegant approach lets me look good and be myself no matter the occasion.”

During Kaeppeler’s fitting, RTR fashion director Lucy Sykes was on hand to help with selection and styling. And though no final decisions were made that day, “of all the showstoppers we chose for this occasion, it is going to be difficult to narrow down the options, but she certainly can’t go wrong,” Sykes said. “Laura is sure to have a divinely fashionable exit!”

To see Kaeppeler’s final choices, tune into the Miss America pageant on Jan. 12. And through the end of 2013, use code MA2013 to receive 20% off your Rent the Runway rental, courtesy of Miss America!

PHOTOS: FIND MORE PRETTY GOWNS IN ‘LAST NIGHT’S LOOK’

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