Maybe we're not New York or Paris, or even Miami. We might not be the stuff of Vanity Fair. - But Tampa Bay is no slouch. - In fact, we're just days away from celebrating Fashion Week Tampa Bay 2009, our very own version of the glamorous goings-on in the Big Apple. And we've always been an area populated with artists, designers, society types and professionals with intense personal style - from vintage charm to high-class polish. - The Deal Divas, tbt*'s team of roving fashion writers, solicited nominations for the best-dressed people in Tampa Bay. We narrowed the list down to 10, ranging from the young and fresh to the delightfully mature. - You might disagree. You might pick apart an outfit. You might balk. But keep in mind our criteria: originality, flair and the confidence to pull anything off.
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Occupation: Philanthropist, mother of two.
Describe your style: Hip, casual and comfortable by day - lots of rag & bone, MaxMara, Vince. By night, she's disco chic and glam, everything embodied by vintage Halston evening gowns.
Style icon: Not a person, but a decade - the 1970s: "I still love all of Barbie's '70s outfits. I always loved Charlie's Angels. I know it sounds corny. I'm disco chic. I still have plenty of that look in my closet, and I'm sure I always will."
What has she splurged on? She owns several couture gowns. European designers sent fitters to her house to make sure every seam was perfect.
Shopping alone vs. working with a stylist? A stylist based in South Florida helps her to consolidate. When she used to shop alone "I bought so much more, and I was constantly buying the same things. You just end up with a lot of stuff that never gets worn because there's too much duplicity."
Drawing the line: No matter how amazing, she won't buy anything that isn't comfortable. "I have quite a collection of sky-high shoes, but I could wear all of them all day. That's how comfortable they are. And believe me, I learned the hard way."
Fashion item you can't live without: Her collection of Fendi plastic-rimmed sunglasses. A pair of flat, patent leather Jimmy Choo boots comes in a close second.- Letitia Stein
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Occupation: Hairstylist, owner of VLVT Salon.
Home: St. Petersburg
Describe your style: A cross between Billy Idol and Johnny Cash, with a little hip hop thrown in. Tight black jeans, cool T-shirt, hot jacket. "I tried one time to wear a pair of khakis and a polo shirt. I felt like I was in prison."
Style icons: David Bowie, Madonna and Britney Spears
Favorite designers: Ivanka Ska, Stella McCartney, Prada
Favorite stores: Prefers independently owned boutiques. Also Diesel, PacSun and Nieman Marcus' summer sale.
Best deal ever: A shark skin skinny lapel suit from the 1960s at Salvation Army. "I wore it to death. People thought I paid thousands of dollars for it, but I paid 10 bucks."
What's worth a splurge? "I'll always pay good money for a nice pair of shoes."
Item he can't live without: Burberry cologne
Fashion advice to live by: The Bookends Theory. "Hot haircut, hot shoes. Doesn't matter what you have on in between, it works."
- Colleen Jenkins
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Occupation: Rapper on his own label, Extravagant Entertainment.
Style: Dirty but sophisticated."You might wear a button-up shirt with a corduroy blazer and some distressed jeans with a fresh Gucci belt and some Supra sneakers."
Can't live without item: Shades, specifically aviators. "I do a lot of late-night sessions in the studio," he said. "They tie the outfit together well."
When he discovered the power of fashion: Christmas 1985. "I got my Michael Jackson jacket. I always wanted to perform, and it made me feel like everywhere I went I was on stage."
Recent splurge: $300 Gucci logo sneakers.
Talk big, shop smart: Funkghost drops names like Oscar de la Renta and Salvatore Ferragamo in his single The Way I Rock My Clothes, but he's an equal-opportunity shopper:True style is "when you can go out and put something together that's not necessarily expensive but looks like a million bucks," said Funkghost, who will be wearing suits from Express Men in his next video for the single Put It On Smash.
Advice to guys stuck in the jeans and white T-shirt rut: "Pick up a GQ magazine. Try some new things."- Nicole Hutcheson
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Occupation: Star center for the Tampa Bay Lightning, creator of the Vincent Lecavalier Foundation, helping children's hospitals and charities.
Home: Davis Islands in Tampa
Layin' back: He showed up to our photo shoot toting a black jacket and slick white dress shirt on a hanger, but decided to sport the outfit on his back - designer jeans, leather loafers and a fitted plaid shirt. It showcased his personality better.
Offseason look: At social events, he's into fine sport coats and open-collar shirts. In his downtime, it's printed tees, cool hats, a couple of funky watches. "During the season, we're always in our suits. Since I was a little boy, I always wore suits. I like it, but when you're in suits every day, you don't want to be close to it in the summertime."
Hometown influence: Lecavalier grew up in fashionable Montreal, Canada, where he was exposed to style and shopping at an early age. "I've always liked it. When I was 15, 16 years old, that's probably when I started noticing different shirts."
Favorite shopping destination: He does most of his shopping on trips back to Canada. "Being born in Montreal, I think it's very European, what you wear. I went to London this summer and did three whole days of intense shopping, which I thought was wonderful."
Shy guy: Modest about his fashion, he says he's not the best dressed on his team. "The guys all like to dress well."- Stephanie Hayes
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Occupation: Public relations director for White Book Agency and producer/publicist for Fashion Week Tampa Bay.
Describe your style: "It's very mood-based. I dress the way that I feel or I want to feel."
Favorite online shopping sites: Shopbop.com and luckymagrewards.com. "You actually do get cash back and free gifts. I've received a prepaid credit card, free mascara for me and my friends, and a nightgown."
Style icon: Designer Rachel Roy
Favorite stores: Basic Black Collection in Wesley Chapel; Love That!, Penelope T in South Tampa
Best deal ever: A $5 red dress at Target, which she wore to a Luxury Marketing Council meeting. "It was my first time there, and I'm not a member of the Luxury Marketing Council - this might be why!" Vaughn said. "Every woman in there nonstop was like, 'You look so cute.' ... There are certain places where it seems appropriate to go, 'Five dollars!' but at this place, I was like, 'Um, I probably shouldn't.'"
What's worth a splurge? "If you have a crappy pair of shoes on, your feet will let you know, and then your mood starts to change, and then you're whining, and you have to drink more now."
Favorite trend: Scarves, for their versatility.
Fashion advice to live by: "My mom always told me not to be deceived by it hanging on the hanger, so I always try things on. I don't care how expensive it is or how cheap it is, because once it's on, it's just a whole other ballgame."- Dalia Colon
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Occupation: Prosecutor and spokeswoman for the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office.
Describe your style: Conservative but trendy.
Style icons: Anne Hathaway, Molly Sims, her mom. ("She has a beautiful, classic style.")
Favorite stores: Paradise Island Boutique, which she calls Tampa's "best-kept secret" for duds from the hottest designers. And she loves the shoe department at the Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH outlet store in Ellenton.
Best recent deal: Ruffled cardigans from Forever 21 for under $20. "You cannot tell the difference from the $100 ones."
What's worth a splurge? Designer shoes and purses. "Anything leather," she said. "I'd rather have one nice pair of shoes than 10 outfits."
Items you can't live without: The classic 60-inch pearls her parents gave her ("I wear those more than anything") and her 20-year-old Abercrombie & Fitch jeans. "Every rip in them is legitimate," she said. "They're more comfortable than pajama bottoms."
Her favorite trends: Long necklaces, huge purses and one-shoulder tops and dresses. - Colleen Jenkins
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Occupation: President and CEO, Yo Soy I Am, a business development and training company that promotes cultural awareness in the marketplace. She also designs specialty note cards.
Describe your style: Classic with a modern twist. "If you wear lots of big things and colorful things, I think that just shows that you're a risk-taker. You're willing to express yourself. I don't want just one strand of pearls. I want multiple strands of pearls. I don't just wear a ring. I wear a big ring."
Movie line to live by: "The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize." - Steel Magnolias
Dressing by the rules: She was told once by a stylist that women should never wear more than five accessories, including their watch. "I use that number to help me define that moment. Do I want clients to remember me, or what I'm wearing?"
Four-eyed fashion: She owns eight pairs of glasses. Her favorite pair is a tortoiseshell Calvin Klein design with bling-bling on the sides. Her second favorite: Red frames with inside zebra stripes. - Letitia Stein
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Occupation: Fashion designer and owner of House of Ska: The Art of Modeling and Runway Studio, 433 Central Ave., Suite 205.
Home: St. Petersburg
Dress to impress: "Every day, I wear dresses. I love seeing women in dresses. It's feminine, it's easy, it's more comfortable than wearing jeans. I watched my mom growing up wearing dresses, and I never saw her wearing pants. It stuck to me."
So, no jeans?: "I own two pair of jeans. Being 5-11, you have to have really long pants. You will occasionally see me in them."
Favorite shopping destinations: The independent boutiques of St. Petersburg, and her old home, New York City. "I don't like buying brand names. If I like something, I may not know that it was Coco Chanel and I'd buy it anyway. I like to support small businesses, especially in our area. You're going to see me in every shop downtown."
What inspires you? "I like to go the malls once a year to see what other people are trying to dress our youth in. I love seeing what colors are coming out. Right now, it's like the '80s are back again with the flashy neon."
Can't live without? A black dress. "If you wear it during the day, it can be a casual dress. Spice up your makeup and add more accessories and high-heel shoes, and you're ready to go out on the town that night."
Heels know no bounds: Despite getting stitches for a cut on her ankle, she was relieved the injury didn't interfere with her outrageous footwear. How high will she go? "As high as I can."- Stephanie Hayes
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Age: Fondly remembers a time when they didn't make jeans for women.
Occupation: Philanthropist, former community affairs, special events and fashion manager for Burdines on the West Coat of Florida.
Home: South Tampa
Describe your style: "Classic. Elegant."
Designer staples: Ellen Tracy or Dana Buchman.
Fashion pet peeve: When people say, "Come casual." "What is casual? Do I have to look bummy? Everywhere I go, I like to dress. You see more people in the grocery store than you do at the Gasparilla Ball, so look like it."
Style icons: She's was partial to Jackie Kennedy, but really admires the glamorous movie stars of the 1940s.
Why she doesn't need photo albums: "My evening dresses are a picture to me. I don't need an album, I just look at the dresses and can remember the details of the event I wore it to."
Fashion item you can't live without: Broaches. She has at least 50, and they range from regal to eccentric. Wood arrived for her photo shoot donning a corncob pin made of diamonds and Citrine stones. A tiny emerald grasshopper rested on the jeweled ear of corn - a gift from her late husband.
The beauty secret anyone can afford: Good posture.
- Nicole Hutcheson
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Occupation: Owner of ARTpool Gallery and Vintage Boutique, freelance photographer.
Home: St. Petersburg
Describe your style: A mixture of wearable art, modern and vintage. "I love all the decades. I love going totally '80s, and then the next day I'll go 1945."
Favorite shopping destinations: London's Portobello and Brick Lane markets, New York City and etsy.com.
What's worth a splurge? "Personally, because I am slightly blind, I splurge on funky glasses." She has about eight pairs, including a pair of vintage Chanel frames she found for $100 on Etsy.
Reactions she gets: Williams has been known to wear a ball gown to the supermarket. "People will say, 'Where are you going?' And I just might be going home to make a stir-fry."
Favorite trend: The cape. "It's just a really elegant thing, and I think it's nice to go out to dinner and have that 'cause I get cold easily. I'm one of those. So instead of having a jacket or a windbreaker, it's just a really nice, elegant way to go out. Boots are also a must."
Advice for stepping out of the box: "Some people say, 'I can't pull it off.' That's a lie. You can pull anything off. Just put some Chaka Khan on and try it on." - Dalia Colon
For a daily dose of fashion tips that won't break the bank, check out blogs.tampabay.com/deals.
About the cover
Eclectic fashionista Marina Williams owns ARTpool, the co-op gallery and vintage boutique at 919 First Ave. N in St. Petersburg. In addition to consigned items, the shop sells Williams' personal collection of more than 1,000 men's and women's pieces from the 1900s to the 1990s. Catch Williams in some of her outrageous outfits at these upcoming ARTpool events. Both run 6 p.m. to midnight. Admission is $10. For details, check out artpoolrules.com.
Record Remix Sept. 25. See artwork on vintage vinyl records, enjoy an LP wearable art fashion show, buy albums and dance to vinyls.
Aquamarina Oct. 10. Celebrate William's birthday with an evening inspired by Pablo Picasso's blue period. Azure dress is encouraged.
Fashion Week Tampa Bay The second annual celebration takes place Wednesday through Saturday at the Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel, 200 North Ashley Drive, Tampa. Stop by to rub elbows with FWTB creator and senior event publicist Nancy Vaughn, local designer Ivanka Ska and tbt*'s Deal Divas, who will be blogging live all four days. Events will include runway shows, an exhibitor boutique, cocktail soiree and after-parties. Proceeds benefit Best Buddies Tampa and the YWCA of Tampa Bay. To view the full schedule and order tickets, visit fashionweektampabay.com.