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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Tips for Creating Fantasy Fest Costumes in Style

Fantasy Fest is right around the corner with the Goombay Festival kicking things off on Friday, October 18. While the main theme is Superheroes, Villains and Beyond, the ten-day Halloween/Mardis Gras mash-up warrants multiple costumesFor Fantasy Fest veterans, this just means pulling their big box of outfits out of storage and shaking off the dust. For the uninitiated (or those who have simply procrastinated), here are some tips for creating costumes in style.

When planning, remember that there are at least 50 official events with their own themes like Captain Tony’s Party in Plaid, Sloppy Joe’s Toga Party and the Rum Barrel’s Pirate Bash. Dozens of other non-official parties pop up each year such as the Zombie Bike Ride and Tutu Tuesday.
You’ll even need an outfit for your feline and canine companions for the Pet Masquerade and Parade at Casa Marina Resort. A little effort may reap great rewards, as many of these events offer cash prizes for the best ensembles.
Since temperatures in Key West will still be in the 80s, less is more. Add in crowds that steadily grow throughout the week and the sweat factor keeps rising. By the day of the Captain Morgan Parade, expect to be rubbing elbows, literally, with estimates as high as 60,000 participants and spectators expected on Duval Street. Just a few of the things that don’t mix well with perspiration: water-based paint and double-stick tape.
While outright nudity is not allowed, you really can’t be too risqué. Body paint is de rigueur, and some of the top artists in the world travel to Fantasy Fest for the week. Research online, and go through their portfolios. It helps to send them your art design ideas and body type, and make an appointment in advance.
If body paint has turned your breasts into a work of art, you can only show your "canvas" in the designated Fantasy Zone. Bring a simple cover-up that's easy to throw on and off. There are families living in Old Town, who’ll appreciate your discretion. Keep in mind that restaurants may also ask you to put your assets away.
Festival organizers set up the Fantasy Zone on Friday, October 25 and Saturday, October 26. It runs down Duval Street from Front to South Streets and intersecting cross streets to Simonton and Whitehead Streets. Pink caution tape marks the zone boundaries.
If you are showing a lot of skin, consider wearing a mask—preferably one you can drink in. In this digital age where photos and videos go viral, think about protecting your identity. Do you really want to be tagged on Facebook later?
Constructing a more elaborate costume? Remember that bulkier outfits make it harder to walk through the crowds. Make sure you can easily drink, access your wallet and use the restroom. Revelers have even been known to include cup holders and battery-operated fans in their ensembles. Are you planning to carry cash inside a sweaty item of clothing? Be kind to the bartenders, and wrap the money in a Ziploc bag.
Whatever your outfit, wear comfortable shoes. You’re going to cover a lot of ground during the festival, so avoid high heels. You could end up with your feet hurting all night, and it’s not safe to go barefoot.
Shopping for costumes is easy at shops like Fairvilla Megastore (, a Fantasy Fest sponsor, which is open year-round. While they do sell adult items in the back, they also have an extensive selection of masks, head pieces, accessories and themed costumes from pirate wench to princess.
Each Fall, Fantasy Costumes opens in Searstown (305-294-1852). They’re stocked with all the body parts, scars and blood you’ll need for the Zombie Bike Ride, as well as a rainbow of tutus for Tutu Tuesday.
In the Upper Keys, Kmart is the go-to spot for their surprisingly large section of Halloween gear. Lion’s Lair Swimwear in Islamorada carries a more upscale collection of masquerade masks, hosiery and corsets along with complete costumes from mermaids to superheroes. Local thrift stores are also full of hidden treasures, but you’ll have to hunt for them.
If you wait until the very last minute, you might get lucky at some of the pop up costume shops like Outer Space ( Only open October 25-27, this outdoor garden will bring together Silver Key Lingerie, Where the Weird Go Pro and a body painting/makeup artist.
For more information, visit

This article previously appeared in L'Attitudes, Keynoter and Upper Keys Reporter.