Dita Von Teese. Dita Von Teese. Queen of Burlesque. Fashion icon. Modern-day pin-up girl. When we hear “pin-up”, we instantly imagine Bettie Page, Betty Grable, Veronica Lake – sultry, seductive sex symbols of an era that is supposedly long gone. But is it? Is it really impossible to emulate the style and sensuality of these women in modern times? Dita Von Teese shows us that it is not.
For most, Dita’s name is closely associated with her ex-husband, metal and rock singer Marilyn Manson. However, there is so much more to her enigmatic personality, her glamorous work, her very essence, that this link is almost ludicrous by comparison. She is best known for her burlesque dances and striptease shows and her iconic style, heavily influenced by the 1930s and 1940s.
How did she find her way into this world? Who and what inspired her style? Let’s take a peek behind the feathery drapes.
Dita’s real name is Heather Renée Sweet. Her stage name is an homage to the German actress, Dita Parlo, while the surname “Von Teese” was the result of a happy mishap – she was required to pick a surname for her 2002 Playboy cover, so she chose “Von Treese” from the phonebook. Playboy, however, misspelled it, leading to the creation of an iconic stage name that serves neatly as a play on words.
She comes from a modest background and, as a young girl, her only access to the world of glamor, she now so gracefully inhabits and represents, used to be through motion pictures. Hollywood Golden Age actresses such as Betty Grable and Marlene Dietrich were her muses and sparked her fervent passion for classic vintage clothing – an interest fostered and also somewhat inspired by her mother. Dita’s love for lingerie also formed at a young age – she was a lingerie salesgirl in her teens and often sneaked a peek at her father’s Playboy magazines, to look at the elaborate, lacy lingerie items worn by the women on the glossy pages, items she could be no means afford. In several interviews, she explains having diligently studied historical costuming and rummaged around vintage clothing stores, where she could find affordable items, which would help her replicate the fashion of some of her favorite designers.
Dita is best known for being among those who made the revival of burlesque dancing possible. Her shows are not a cheap form of entertainment – one ticket close to the stage costs around 100 euros. However, it is worth every penny. She is the woman who put the “tease back in striptease” – her performances are long, glamorous and often executed with the help of props inspired by musicals and movies of the 30s and 40s. Her signature dance involves a huge martini glass and after a show like that, I think everyone in the audience is both shaken and stirred! On several occasions, such as the 2019 Life Ball in Vienna, she was seated on a giant red lipstick prop. In her routines, she often includes ballet elements, which she is familiar with thanks to being trained as a ballet dancer from an early age. Another noteworthy performance is her appearance at a benefit for the New York Academy of Art, clad solely in $5 million worth of diamonds – glitter and glam, indeed! Aside from her work in the field of dance, she has been featured in a number of music videos for Green Day, George Michael, Thirty Seconds to Mars, and Marilyn Manson.
Dita Von Teese received great recognition in fetish and glamor modeling circles, mostly because of her really tiny waist – through the year-long wearing of corsets, she reduced her waist to around fifty-six centimeters, which contributed to the trademark curvaceous figure she is envied for. She was featured in a number of fetish magazines such as Bizarre and Marquis and graced the pages of Playboy three times. On fetish, she is quoted in saying “I love fetish for its powers of transformation and also for its beauty.” She also starred in several softcore fetish adult movies.
If there is one thing Dita Von Teese is known for, it’s fashion. She wears designers like Jean-Paul Gautier, John Galliano, Christian Dior, Vivienne Westwood and Marc Jacobs, who have all had an immense impact on her. She has graced a number of fashion events, most notably last year’s final Gautier fashion show in Paris, numerous advertisements and almost every single fashion-centered magazine. However, she does not only admire the world of fashion from afar – she launched her own clothing and lingerie line – Von Follies – and make-up collection – Classics – in 2012. Her lingerie includes silky and lacy elements such as garters and garter belts, pantyhose, bullet bras and corsets. One may think that the prices are otherworldly; while the items are certainly not cheap, it is possible to snatch a little bit of heaven, regardless of one’s income.
Here is the place to mention that Dita Von Teese has created four fragrances, which set the mood for glamour, seduction, romance and erotica. “I lusted after something that would appeal to those of us not reluctant to proclaim we are women. Too many best-selling scents are so fruity and vanilla with a sweetly cloying air that a mere spritz gives me a toothache. Or they smell like cake. I do not want to smell like cake!” – she states, and I cannot help but agree.
The star is fabulous both on and off stage – her home is elegantly decorated, she drives cars like the 1939 Packard One Twenty Eight, 1946 Ford Super De Luxe, BMW Z4, and a 1965 Jaguar S-Type. She is quoted as saying: “I love to surround myself with everyday things that are beautiful.”
Dita’s luscious blue-black locks, crimson lip, and signature painted eye – which she styles on her own – her sexy lingerie and her dance moves, although important, are not what make her so desirable and admirable. What sets Dita Von Teese apart from most is her confidence, her daring attitude, her fearlessness when it comes to being different, embracing femininity, and taking on the world, one step at a time – in her case, in a fabulous pair of Louboutin heels. Many of her tips and tricks are explained in her books, which include Your Beauty Mark and The Art of the Teese. Many women could learn a lesson or two from her, so I leave you with some wise words – heed them, girls!
“Being sexy is not about what men want, or how young you are, or how your body looks, or how much money you have. It’s a certain inner confidence, a comfort level.”
“Don’t save your good lingerie for dates; wear it for you.”
“It’s not about seducing men, it’s about embracing womanhood.”
“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world and there’s still going to be someone who hates peaches.”
– By C. Rocher
More on “What a Teese” in Diamonds Production Magazine MARCH 2021