You're at a dinner party. You excuse yourself to the bathroom, and on the way down the hall you see the door to the master bedroom open a crack. The most honest human part of you wants to pad into the room and explore, open sock drawers and medicine cabinets and jewelry boxes. You want to creep into the closet and check out the fashion, see if the clothes hang neatly in rows or get thrown into piles, if tags are still on or hems have fallen out.
That's creepy, so you don't. But we sneaked in for you.
To mark the start of Tampa Bay Fashion Week, we found five fabulous, fashionable people who were willing to let us go inside their wardrobes. Some closets are massive with multiple rooms and endless racks for shoes and bags. Some are modest, crammed into small apartments but still bursting with gems and gowns.
All are deliciously, fashionably clandestine.
Lisa Casalino, 40
Bio: Jazz singer
Closet: Walk-in closet in Tampa apartment, plus a wardrobe for performance clothes and a rack of dresses for her dog
Facebook followers of Lisa Casalino (Lisa Hertzner offstage) know a couple of things. One, she loves a red lip, a pair of satin gloves and a jazz standard. Two, she loves her dog. The 8-month-old dachshund Eliza Doolittle (Liza Doo offstage) came into Lisa's life after her beloved dachshund, Oscar, died at 15. Liza Doo and Lisa both have online followings. And they both have healthy wardrobes.
"Her style, its got to be sleeveless, because she's got short little legs," said Lisa. "She loves her (Tampa Bay) Rays dress and she wears her raincoat, but for the most part she runs around naked . . . Oh, she heals my heart every day. She's such a little lady."
Lisa and Liza live in a cozy apartment in South Tampa. Lisa's vintage performance dresses, gloves and accessories are organized apart from her daily uniform of gym clothes and baseball hats. Her fashion is clearly delineated, but it wasn't always that way. Lisa used to be a high school teacher. Then she was a Realtor. She moonlighted on the microphone, but realized her voice couldn't handle it all. She devoted herself to singing full time.
"When I was a teacher, I had teacher clothes. When I was a Realtor, I had Realtor clothes. Now I don't really have in-the-middle clothes. It's either super-super casual or for a performance. I lost weight. I was heavier and now I feel like I have a decent hourglass figure, but I never show the boobs and the legs all at once. Every dress I put on can look like it came from Cleavage, Ohio. Some dresses can afford to have that look, but it has got to be longer."
She performs almost every night. Her favorite stage clothes come from La France in Ybor City, or Macy's or Fresh Threads Designer Consignment. Her prize possession is a purse that belonged to her mother made of Elegance magazine covers featuring another fiery brunet: supermodel Janice Dickinson.
Sara Stonecipher, 29
Bio: Owner of vintage mecca Misred Outfitters
Closet: A spare bedroom in a St. Petersburg bungalow
A petite closet was never really an option for Sara Stonecipher.
She had been curating her personal collection of vintage clothes and jewelry for decades. Even when she lived in a studio apartment, she displayed her treasures as if she lived in a boutique. So when she and her husband moved into a St. Petersburg bungalow five years ago, she set her eyes on the guest bedroom. There would be no bed.
"It kind of happened naturally," she said. "My collection needed a place to go, and the spare bedroom was calling its name."
The statuesque redhead filled the room with her clothes, shoes and baubles, setting up rich wooden tables and brass bracelet branches to drape her gold bangles and turquoise earrings. She categorized her clothes and hung delicate head chains on mannequins. She accented the room with vintage rugs and blankets, plus roses and candles and window dressings made of fabric remnants.
The result looks like a quirky, homemade history museum. There's a Valentino party dress from the 1950s, striped like a prison jumpsuit. There's a denim snap-button tank top that she nipped, tucked and bleached to imperfection. There's an authentic 1960s Grateful Dead T-shirt, fringed and frayed.
"I have only worn it once," she said. "But it's such an amazing piece that I can't let it go."
Sara worked in retail and fashion her whole life, but she never sold vintage clothes. When she saw how good her own collection looked at home, when she realized she could bring friends and clients there to style and do business, it clicked. Maybe she could do it somewhere else, too.
She opened Misred Outfitters in 2010 in the revitalized 600 block of Central Avenue in downtown St. Petersburg, where the merchandise also includes her own designs made from recycled clothes. Her closet influenced her career, not the other way around.
Edward "kp" Williams, a.k.a Kidprince, 24
Bio: Fashion designer, one half of the Lapratto line
Closet: A small walk-in in a one-bedroom Tampa apartment
"I got the best Alexander Wang top for Fashion Week," said Edward Williams, who goes by Kidprince or "KP." He strutted hips first into the bedroom of his small apartment in Tampa. Tall and bounding, he was clad in black high-heel booties, short-shorts and red lipstick. He pulled out a silver silk charmeuse sleeveless top with strands that dangled diagonally across the bottom like the ribbons on a kite. He held it up to his chest and smiled.
Kidprince, who recently graduated from the International Academy of Design and Technology Tampa, didn't always care so much about fashion. In high school, he was a baggy punk rock dresser who liked animation and knew a little sewing from friends who made anime costumes. Then one day, he watched a YouTube video of a Balenciaga runway show. It was art.
He slipped on his first pair of high heels in 2007 and found walking in them perfectly easy. He went to Zara and Forever 21 for clothes but got bored quickly.
"Mama didn't know any better," he said about himself. "I was still an infant in fashion. I bought leggings, and I saw a girl, and this girl had the same pair of leggings."
Now he fills his closet with online discoveries. He looks for deals on Chanel or Comme des Garcons or Givenchy and mixes those pieces with his own designs. He swears by his beloved leather motorcycle jacket and sometimes carries a silver clutch purse in the shape of a bow.
"Once I get older and have the money, I'm going to be a collector of couture pieces and just wear them around my house cleaning or to the gas station to put gas in my car," he said. "Really anywhere. But yeah, that's my dream closet. A closet full of couture."
He hopes his name will be up there one day with Balenciaga. He and business partner Jonathan Ferrucci will debut their Lapratto line this year at the Tampa Bay Fashion Week runway show. The inspiration for his line is a rose coming up out of the cement.
Julianna Zobrist, 27
Bio: Christian pop singer, mom of two, wife of Tampa Bay Rays player Ben Zobrist
Closet: One here, one at home in Tennessee
Julianna Zobrist misses her closet — her real closet — at home in Franklin, Tenn. It's Tiffany blue, she said, and even the ceiling is shiny. But right now, she's living in a downtown St. Petersburg condo with her husband, Ben, and kids Zion and Kruse, while her husband plays baseball with the Rays. And she makes it work.
"I'm a pretty good packer now that we've been going at it for eight years," she said. "I pack myself and the kids in my suitcase. If we're gone for three days, I pack three days worth of outfits. I don't overpack anymore. A lot of times I'll start with what kind of handbag I'm going to use, because I only use one."
She fills her walk-in closet in the condo with rocker-glam pieces, high heels, dresses, jackets and bomber boots. She has a plethora of Betsey Johnson frocks and a pair of Sam Edelman heels with silver spikes in the back. She has a fuchsia purse, a black tutu, a pair of red boots and a bag of colorful clip-in hair extensions.
She has tried just about every look there is. In high school she collected Vogue magazines, pulled out the pages, stuck them to a cork board and re-created the outfits with what she had. The first time she met Ben Zobrist's small-town family, she showed up in thigh-high booths and a purple fur vest. She didn't know why they were staring.
"I went through a goth stage in high school, which was exciting for my parents," she said. "In college, everything was mixed patterns. I would wear slips with everything. Really big fur boots and a slip and a big coat."
These days she loves Vivienne Westwood and avant-garde designer Rick Owens. She has one special pair of Alexander McQueen ballet flats with skulls on the toe. She loves cheap costume jewelry and worn-in old favorites like the Miley Cyrus brand stretch pants she's had for two years.
As for Ben? Her husband's fashion ambition ends at a nice shirt and jeans on date night. His teammates have called him worst-dressed on the Rays, but Julianna likes it that way. She prefers him minus too much Louis Vuitton.
Lisa DeBartolo, 42
Bio: Executive vice president of DeBartolo Holdings, executive director of the DeBartolo Family Foundation nonprofit organization
Closet: Three closets in her South Tampa mansion — one for shoes, one for clothes and one for purses
Lisa DeBartolo's interior designer was at the house, getting the place ready for a fundraiser. She picked up a pair of red patent leather Chanel pumps on the stairs, and before she could do anything with them, Lisa was already offering them up.
"Are you an 8 1/2?" she asked her decorator. "Try them. My mom gave them to me, but they're not my color."
It's common at the DeBartolo home, where Lisa stores black trash bags in her closet for castoffs. Every few months she invites friends, chefs, nannies, housekeepers and anyone who needs something to take what they want for free. She loans clothes, too, even letting a friend take one of her prized Birkin bags to Las Vegas.
"It doesn't just sit around collecting dust," said Lisa, daughter of sports and real estate king Eddie DeBartolo, wife of musician Don Miggs and mother to sons Milo and Jasper. She helps run the family businesses and charities, traveling to Los Angeles for part of the year where she hits Barney's for curve-huggers from Dolce & Gabbana and Azzedine Alaia. Here in Tampa, she sticks to Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom.
Her cedar-lined purse closet holds about 50 bags, from delicate pink Lanvin satchels to Alexander McQueen brass knuckle clutches to limited edition Louis Vuitton barrel bags. Down the hall, there's a separate space for sky-high Christian Louboutins and flip-flops alike, and a large space for clothes where hoodies are on equal display with leather Balenciaga jackets and Stella McCartney sweaters.
Lisa grew up loving clothes, sporting Candies wood-block heels and Gloria Vanderbilt jeans by age 10. Her mother let her dress how she wanted if she was good.
"I get my love of fashion from my mother," she said. "She can put together the coolest outfits."
Despite Lisa's abundance of couture, most days she's answering work emails at home or chasing her kids. And her look then, to be honest?
"It's Monrow sweat pants and an Old Navy tank top."