Dita Von Teese…Burlesque queen

Cinderella eat your heart out

Hi Kittens, I want to talk about all my favorite women…..my friends and family are sick of hearing about it so it’s your turn! I think I have mentioned Garbo and Harlow before (though I expect I will revist them at some point) Today It’s all about Dita Von Teese. She is awsome in so many ways but there is something that I think any girl..or boy..can learn from her and apply to a successful life.
So that said – on with the ode!

Pinup icon Dita Von Teese Portrait by Lilly F Lie.
Portrait of Dita in white lace ball gown By Lilly F Lie.

Dita Von Teese in white lace ball gown – Portrait by Lilly F Lie

You would be hard pressed today to find anyone who had not heard of Miss Dita Von Teese.

Who would have thought that a fetish model or burlesque performer could become an international superstar and fashion icon in this day and age?…I certainly didn’t.  When I got into vintage style in my teens it was hard to find seamed stockings, corsets, feminine clothing that wont look like either a cheap prostitute or an old maid. But now pinups,30’s/ 1940’s fashion, 50’s style and corsets (or at least imitations of corsets) are everywhere.  And it would seem that Dita Von Teese is in no small way responsible for this mass mainstream acceptance, but like all the best Modern pinup girls Dita has her own version of the vintage fashion rules.

It has become popular to hate Dita, pretty much because people outside the ‘scene’ admire her. But I think there is a lot a modern day pinup girl can learn from her.

So how does an average American girl go from stripper to style icon?

Dita Von Teese was born Heather Renée Sweet in  Michigan. 1972.
Her father worked for a graphite company as a machinist, her mother was a manicurist and she was the middle child of three daughters.

Though her birth name already sounds like the kind of thing a model or porn star would choose, she started using the name Dita Von Teese in 1991.  She claimed this was because in old Hollywood no one ever used their own names everyone had a stage name, so she had to have one too..its only right!.

It was Dita’s mother who introduced her to the golden-era of Hollywood. Her admiration of pinup actresses of the day and fascination with  classic retro glamour began at this early age.  I totally relate to this, I can remember everything about the feeling of watching those utterly perfect women on screen as a child. I couldn’t take my eyes off them, didn’t even really watch the films, mostly just gazed at them. I remember the old films even to this day by the wardrobe rather than the title!…When I looked at those women I knew what I wanted to be.

But back to Dita.
Originally she wanted to be a ballet dancer , but by the time she was 15 she states she was as good as she was going to get. So she moved in a new dance direction…all the better for us!
But she still incorporates ballet into her act today, often performing en pointe. Best of both worlds!

Dita has often talked of the time when, in her teens her mother took her to buy her first bra, and her disappointment at the plain white cotton functional garment. She had hoped for exquisite lace lingerie like the kind she had seen in her Dad’s Playboy magazines.
But she more than made up for this disappointing first experience when she got a job at an Orange County lingerie boutique called Lady Ruby’s . She became such an expert in all eras, shapes and styles of underwear, Wearing all sorts of elaborate undergarments and seamed stockings herself, and advising Lady Ruby’s customers of all ages, that She eventually became a buyer for the boutique. Of the job she says: “I was an expert,” … “I think people were sorta stunned. But I wanted to be the best at everything I did. So I was the best lingerie sales girl there ever was.”
It has to be this attitude as much as the influence of proximity to all that satin and lace that has got her to where she is today.

Her impressive career as we know it started in a strip club at the tender age of 18. …But even then she had a vision. Unimpressed with the lack of originality from the other strippers, Dita created her first custom strip tease act. With a pinup style….the novelty earned her attention as you can imagine kittens.

One of the things Miss Dita is well known for is her corsets. And you know how I feel about corsets kittens!.

Dita portrait drawing study
Dita Study – focus on the hair.

She achieved a level of recognition in the fetish community as a tightlacer. She can lace down to 16.5 inches, and as a result of years of consistent corset wear she has reduced her natural, un-laced, waist size down to 22″/ 23″, and no she has NOT had a rib removed!.

In December 2002 she appeared on the cover of playboy magazine for the first time, stunningly tightlaced in a gorgeous silver and black lace corset – designed by Catherine D’lish-. The cover proclaiming “The return of fetish.” (no one told me it had gone anywhere…I’m so out of touch!)
In the feature Playboy described Dita as being distinct from the ‘take it off and spread’em’ models because she was not just a sex object, but a sex object of her own creation. Like an artist who’s work is creating images that flame the imagination…not so much about taking it off but putting it on.

They made the inevitable comparison to our lady Bettie Page, but pointed out that Dita Von Teese is in no way the innocent that Bettie was and that her image is one finely tuned and purposefully cultivated. They called her the perfect collaboration of art and nature. Nice!

Playboy saw Dita’s talent early on though and have been publishing her images as far back as 1997, which could only increase the public desire for her. She was perfectly placed to fill the gaping niche in the market for a living fantasy who is the opposite to the ‘girl next door’.

But its burlesque that Dita is best known for, obviously. She is often called the “queen of burlesque” by the press (putting aside the fact that the press don’t know anything about burlesque, and have never heard of anyone else!)

She first started performing burlesque in 1993. But this was not simply a revival of the past.

Dita is a champion of New Burlesque, which for her rejects the often clumsy bump and grind of old burlesque in favor of something more sleek or artistic.

It is elaborate dance routines, fabulous custom costumes dripping with rinestones (seriously don’t bother trying to out-rinestone Dita Von Teese, I think she cornered the market!) and characters who’s stories play out in elegant custom sets with props.

Her signature show is probably her ‘girl in a martini glass’ which features a giant martini glass for Dita to writhe around in. This routine can be seen in both the Marilyn Manson video for ‘Mobscene’ and also re-created by Cameron Diaz in one of the Charlies Angels films where Dita is mentioned in the ‘thank you’ section of the credits.

Her career on stage has included some notable performances. Not least a benefit for the New York Academy of Art where she wore nothing but $5 million worth of diamonds!

These days you will find as many women as men, if not more in the audience at a burlesque show. They experience it as a celebration of the female form rater than a degradation of it, and a re-claiming of female sexuality for females by females. It must be every woman’s desire to be both alluring and untouchable, in control. Dita Von Teese has pulled it off and women love her for it.

You would think that that would be an end of it wouldn’t you? I mean who would not be satisfied with being the ‘new Bettie Page’ and ‘the queen of burlesque’, a branded to the lashes powerhouse of erotic moneymaker .

…But Dita Von Teese is no ordinary girl and has somehow managed to be both a sex object and become heralded as a fashion icon by the fashion industry. Appearing on any number of best-dressed lists and even seen on the catwalk!! How did that happen?

How? Laser focus on good business, an absolute dedication to the craft
– “I believe one of the secrets of my success is getting nearly nude and wet in every show.” OK fair enuf – and a refreshing honesty about who she is.

She is the most ‘real’ fake in the public eye and I think people respond to that. I mean by that of course that Dita Von Teese is a creation, a work of art built by her own hand. She does not claim to be perfect, does not deny her cosmetic surgery (breast implants and cosmetic tattoos), does not say rubbish like “I can eat whatever I like and I never exercise”. She is a plain and quite shy girl who, taking inspiration from the painted on flawlessness of 1940s movie stars, transformed herself with makeup, vintage clothes, perfect retro manicure, a spot of surgical enhancement and dying her blonde hair black (she dyes her pubic hair to match too apparently – it is all about the details with this woman!) into someone who can stop traffic just walking down the street, and build an empire on her image alone.

But isn’t it likely that she was always that woman on the inside and no one noticed until she created the outside to match? I know that’s the way it was for me growing up..

Dita’s look is her own by her own hand, she has a body, a look a brand, built from scratch and she has worked hard and smart to protect and grow it.

But while many call this out as a fault, claiming that she should be ‘natural’, it is her very ‘fake-ness’ that makes her such an icon. Think about it ladies…Dita has nothing that any one of us cannot buy or paint on to get the same effect. She may be the opposite thing to the ‘girl next door’ but she is actually more attainable because she wins with something we can all attain if we just put in the effort, rather than some heaven sent genetic lotto win. Under that mask your confidence grows and a plain shy blonde becomes a raven haired goddess who stops traffic. It works for her, it works for me..it works for everyone.

So how did an average American girl go from stripper to style icon then? She faked it for real, all in, no half measures. Say what you like about her, but she is my kind of girl.

….”What is it they say? The girl with a head for business and a body for sin? Is that me? I think so.” -Dita Von Teese….

Have a fabulous day, Kittens

Lilly xxx