“‘Outrageous’ is my favorite word,” says Barbara Peters, and you don’t have to be around the energetic, effusive Peters very long to realize she’s not kidding.
In fact, the area around Peters’ Fenwick Island, Del., beach house has become known as the “Wild Corner,” and Peters herself is at the heart of it. “I spend about four months out of the year down here,” she says. “Until the frost is on the pumpkin.” Peters splits her time between her sprawling Brooklandville home, the three-story beachfront house at Fenwick that she had built in 1996, and her beachside condominium in the Caribbean on the island of Anguilla.
“I entertain all the time,” says Peters, whether it’s an intimate dinner for two or three, hosting the neighbors for impromptu sunset cocktails or hosting a “blowout,” which she does once or twice a season.
Last summer, Peters was browsing at The Pleasure of Your Company in Green Spring Station when she came across some invitation cards with whimsical, watercolored flip-flips ringing the border. “I thought, ‘These are adorable— I’ve gotta do a party,’” and set out to plan her next “blowout,” where flip-flops would be mandatory.
Peters was genuinely surprised by the degree of creativity that her guests showed. “Oh, there were political themes, garden themes, fish themes— they were outrageous. They really went all-out.”
In fact, midway through the evening, there was a flip-flop pageant and formal vote in categories like “Star Quality,” “True to Character,” “Stinky” and, of course, “Most Outrageous.” The prizes awarded were items such as guest soaps, fly-swatters, serving platters, even garden steppingstones— all sporting flip-flop motifs.
Peters’ own footwear for the evening consisted of “topless” flip-flops, which had no straps, but adhered directly to the bottom of the foot. “I told everybody I’d be topless that evening,” says Peters with a chuckle. “And my flip-flops really were.” And the winner of that coveted “Most Outrageous” award? That would be Peters’ beach house neighbor Bunny Worthington Barnes, whose elaborate costume was a body-sized flip-flop constructed of foam egg-crating stitched to lime green fabric, complete with sparkling toenails and beaded fabric straps.
“I met Bunny on a Nantucket garden tour about six years ago,” says Peters. “We started talking and realized we both had beach houses not far from each other,” she says of the Darlington, Md.-based Barnes. “She’s the most outrageous person I know. She even had her own custom-beaded, matching Cosmopolitan glass.”
Cosmopolitans were the order of the evening, as were platters brimming with grilled vegetables, steamed shrimp and miniature crab balls, all with dipping sauces, and identified with labeled flip-flops. The food was provided by Christopher Rounds, who operates the Key West Crab Bag in North Ocean City. “I rely on Christopher,” says Peters. “He’s done a lot of my parties down here.”
Even the flowers carried out the flip-flop theme. Berlin, Md.-based Sue Ann Hudson incorporated the beachy sandals into arrangements of banksia, heliconia, seeded eucalyptus and gerbera daisies. She even created miniature flip-flops from colored floral oasis, grass strips and flowers, which lined the bottoms of clear glass vases. The 50-or-so guests chatted and sipped, munched and mingled, until long past the setting sun and the lighting of the tiki torches. Peters and her lapdog, Miss Sue, bade goodnight to the last guests well past 1 a.m., confident that the latest blowout had been a ringing success.
“Oh, it was wild,” says Peters with a sigh. “It was outrageous.”