The Arousing Style of Dita Von Teese
You would think that an international burlesque performer who is famous for taking her clothes off in an elaborately choreographed and propped stage show would be best known for her body. But it’s Dita Von Teese’s throwback starlet style that has the fashion world and its loyal followers drooling in their couture.
She may have a figure to die for, but it’s when it’s covered up – or rather how it’s covered up – that has cemented Ms. Von Teese’s place as one of the world’s most influential style icons. She has single-handedly brought back the allure of Old Hollywood glamour with her impeccable 1940s dressing and grooming both on and off-duty, and it seems that just about everyone wants to infuse their own look with a bit of Dita beauty.
how did a girl from West Branch, Michigan cultivate this much emulated,
sexy and sophisticated image? No overnight transformation, this was a
result of her intrigue as a young teen with all things retro and
burlesque – the dance, the costume, the attitude – which developed into
a passionate yet disciplined pathway to both her career and lifestyle.
In other words, the girl isn’t simply putting on a show, she's living it.
The natural blonde, born Heather Sweet in 1972, grew up watching Technicolor musicals with her mother – who regularly gave her clothes for dressing up – and found herself drawn to the feminine and flirty aesthetic of the pin-up girls of the past. She was especially fond of Silver Screen siren Betty Grable. From time to time she snuck peaks at her father’s Playboy magazines (eeuw), admiring the lingerie worn by the models on its pages. When she was 15 years old she worked at a restaurant with a lingerie boutique nearby and found herself visiting often to peruse and try on the lacy bras and panties. Eventually they hired her as a salesgirl. Dita became increasingly fascinated with corsets and basques and began incorporating the elaborate lingerie into her own dressing, complete with stockings and garters. Until that point she had hoped for a career as a ballerina, having soloed for a local dance company at age 13. But she arrived at the realization that she was as good as she was going to be, and looked for other ways to nurture the natural performer within. You can see the influence of her classical dance training in her show in which she is known for going en pointe.
While she was at college studying historic costuming with aspirations to style period films, Dita began working at a local strip club, then age 18. She took the opportunity to create her own pin-up girl persona and fashioned a costume consisting of a retro basque accessorised with opera-length gloves and seamed stockings, finished with a beehive hairstyle and dramatic forties-style make-up. Her originality set her apart from the other dancers and she instantly became an audience favourite. At the same time she began posing for photographs as a Betty Page look-a-like glamour model which led to a career as a star of fetish films. She made a series of films called Dita in Distress where she was bound by her hands and feet in a variety of perilous situations, such as being captured by cannibals and prepared for dinner. Despite the theme the films were lighthearted, more camp than hardcore.
However, explicit performances were not outside of Dita’s personal or career boundaries. Despite the protests of her friends – including those in the burlesque arena – she agreed to appear in a film by pornographic filmmaker Andrew Blake. Her reasoning was that she liked his films which featured mostly women, glamourously outfitted and made up in the throwback style she was known for. Rather than derailing her career as her friends had feared, it became a non issue and Dita went on to perfect her burlesque routine.
Not one to do anything half way, Dita had giant martini and champagne glasses custom-made for her signature show. After performing an old-fashioned strip-tease she climbs into the glass and bathes in the ‘cocktail’, washing herself with a giant olive or strawberry sponge, depending on the libation. Her originality caught the attention of many Hollywood insiders and her martini glass routine was borrowed for a scene in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle in which Cameron Diaz performs a burlesque number.
The undisputed ‘Queen of Burlesque’ is now a permanent fixture in the high fashion scene. She is a regular front-row guest for the most high profile and esteemed fashion houses including Dior, Vivienne Westwood, Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton, and has been named the ‘Burlesque Superheroine’ by Vanity Fair magazine. Appeasing her fans' desire for a Dita Von Teese fashion collection, she leant her distinct style to the word of lingerie, with Wonderbra by Dita Von Teese. This vintage-inspired, limited edition lingerie collection for Wonderbra was a bestseller in 2009, and has just been renewed for 2010 and expanded to all of Europe. Dita also launched her own collection of full-fashioned seamed stockings with Secrets in Lace, which are available through their catalogue and her website.
But Dita’s good deeds go beyond supporting fashion's finest and entertaining the masses. She’s had charitable roles as a MAC Viva Glam Spokesperson (2006-2008) and collaborated on the design of a top for H&M, each to help raise money and awareness for against HIV and AIDS.
And that makes up for marrying a certain one-contact-lensed, pseudo-intellectual, fetal girlfriend cloning, ex-wife bashing, self-obsessed GIANT DOUCHE. (Not that I'm taking sides or anything!)
Update: The above statement baffled (awesome) reader Kim because she is fortunate enough not to know who Dita married - and divorced. So I will direct her and anyone else who wants to take a look (get your eye wash ready) to an interview with the former Mr. Von Teese in which he declares - referring to 19 year-old girlfriend Evan Rachel Wood who broke up with him, the one who he turned from a rather plain blonde with no particular style into a clone of Dita - that he has "fantasies every day about smashing her skull in with a sledgehammer." Because she hurt him by leaving him. Oh, get over yourself you pathetic 40 year-old baby. You can read the charming interview here.