Let’s face it: Key West is the sequin capital of America. And to those who say it isn’t? It is at least the sequin capital right now, as the southernmost city in the country gears up for Fantasy Festival, a week-long costume-infused street festival right before Halloween . In other words: Expect to see sequin dresses and feather boas galore. Whether you’re looking for a fancy dress for a fundraising gala, or a cocktail dress for a night out, here’s where to look for the fashion finds in Key West.
Style tips from a local
“Key West is warm year-round, s summer dresses never go out of style,” said Milva Victoria, a local fashion designer who hails from Argentina. “Whether they’re long or short, or have a geometric print or tropical flowers, everything is vibrant and colorful. Shirts are oversized and buttoned-down cover ups are paired up with denim shorts. Linen looks are huge, so are palazzo pants and skirts.”
Victoria recommends pairing up a pair of sparkly sunglasses with a sequin dress or a metallic shirt. “It adds a touch of elegance to any outfit,” she said.
Boutiques and fashion finds
Kirby’s Closet, a retail and pre-loved designer shop run by Kirby Myers, who sells fun, flirty dresses, skirts, blouses, handmade kimonos, and what she calls “fun, bright, eclectic happy pieces.” What makes this boutique unique is that Myers hosts private shopping parties with sangria and personal styling for groups of five to 50 in-store.
Expect to find brands like Lilly Pulitzer, Free People, Banana Republic, TopShop, Anthropologie and unique items from local designers like tiaras by Kathy Timberlake, and British brand, Never Fully Dressed. “Its affordable shopping that’s fun and eclectic with a personal touch,” said Myers. “This is tropical glam.”
She also hosts monthly book swap parties, and makeup parties, for glam and go, with the in-house makeup artist and hair stylist, Frankie Flemming, who does make up for weddings, galas and events, local charities, fundraising balls with her company Frankie Key West. She hosts a “wake up your makeup” event, inviting guests to bring in their makeup bags from home and use them in new and unexpected ways. “We add that hospitality touch,” said Flemming.
Check out the Flamingo Boutique and Mimosa Bar for fun sequin dresses in a storefront that also doubles as a mimosa bar during the day. Meanwhile, Nushuz, run by a couple from Los Angeles, Dan and Teresa, sells the best party gear, from faux fur vests that light up in colors, to sequin items and purses made from rubber chickens.
Faith Michaels, a drag queen and shoe designer, sells her custom-made shoes, many of which are bedazzled, too, and are available at In Touch With You on Duval Street. And don’t forget the Coach Outlet, which has the best purses, shoes and backpacks from the high-end fashion brand.
Fun festivals, art and culture
The Ernest Hemingway Museum is a must-visit for the rich history of the writer’s old home, and walks us through his iconic books, many of which were made into plays and Hollywood movies. Also check out the Tennessee Williams Museum, which is in a bright yellow house, shows the acclaim this playwright had from A Streetcar Named Desire, to his illustrious personal life in the Keys. The Butterfly Conservatory lets you walk through what feels like a rainforest of tropical butterflies as they flutter around a giant pond and pathways you carefully tread upon.
The Key West Film Festival is coming up from November 16 to 20, hosting screenings across town. The Custom House Museum is featuring an exhibition that runs until December 11 called Key West 200, celebrating the 200th year of the first Key West settlers in 1822, and is filled with memorabilia. And to take home an arty souvenir, get inked at the Southernmost Tattoo parlor, which is home to the island’s best artists who are well-versed in nautical symbols, fun island tattoos and any other customized artwork you might want to bring home inked on your skin.
For music, try the Tiki House on Monday nights, where local musicians David Warren performs regularly, as does Dylan Thomas on acoustic guitar, and plays around town with the band, the Durtbags. Jay Bangles plays at Irish Kevins, while Zach Lovering plays around town, too.
Sugar Apple café is for the health-conscious fashionista and is the premiere place in Key West for organic, vegan fare. Nine One Five restaurant offers stellar salads and shared plates in a luxe old mansion, while Bagatelle is the town’s foremost seafood restaurant, offering the best from the sea. Poke in the Rear is a restaurant serving poke bowls and flatbread behind the Aqua nightclub, known for its daily drag shows, and has a fun, dress-up scene. The hotspot for sequins is 22andCo., which has a weekly TuTu Tuesday.
The Winslow’s Bungalows is a set of pristine, white, clapboard bungalows that are surrounded by palm trees, swimming pools and a cozy bar. Every week, they have yoga and barre classes and DJ sets by local musicians like DJ Izzy, so there’s lots to do in this quiet corner of Key West. They run a number of properties here with Kimpton, too, including the Lighthouse Hotel, Ridley House, Ella’s Cottages, Fitch Lodge, too.