Designer Q&A: Dita Von Teese

| Lingerie

Is it really cliché to say that Dita Von Teese needs no introduction? Forgive us. We’ve been gearing up for Dita for almost a year now. It’s been a whisper around the office, a mention at the buying meetings, and a “GET READY” in the marketing meetings. It’s Dita Time and we’re psyched. Her lingerie line is just as glamourous as she is, while still being super special and workable. This is truly our definition of “everyday lovely,” but since it’s Dita, we’re going with “everyday glamourous.” We got to pick her [equally glamorous] mind a bit and guess what – the girl loves tacos and has a cat, too. Dita, welcome to the Journelle club.

Name: Dita Von Teese

Born and raised?
In West Branch, Michigan the first half of my life and in Orange County, California from age 13 on.

When and how did the idea to create your own lingerie line come about?
I’ve always loved lingerie. I remember being fascinated with my mother’s lingerie drawer at a young age. To me, lingerie has always been a symbol of womanhood, which I always looked forward to. When I was little, my mother loved watching classic 1940’s and 50’s Technicolor musicals, and I became enamored with the glamour of the women in those films. When I was a teenager, my first job was working in a lingerie store, and I worked in lingerie for about 10 years. My love of lingerie is the reason I originally started creating vintage style pinup pictures and burlesque shows, so when I was approached three years ago about creating my own lingerie line, I was thrilled. I think those early years as a lingerie salesgirl influenced the way I design the collection now. I take special care to offer a variety of sizes and shapes that respect a woman’s varying preferences. I want the collection to be both glamorous and functional, for moments of beauty and luxury in everyday life. There is a lot of 1930s, 40s, and 50s influence in my designs. I use nostalgic details and shapes while maintaining modern elements that provide shaping, support and comfort. I also have an archive of museum quality loungewear, shapewear and swimwear, and so I’ve begun using my collection to design special pieces to add to the line.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A ballet dancer. I danced my whole life, but I was never going to be professional- I just didn’t have what it takes. One day, I realized that all of the reasons I had for wanting to be a ballet star, I could get from something else…beautiful costumes, theatrical expression, the glamour, the lights, the stage, the accolades. But beyond that, I also have this wonderfully inspiring audience, mainly comprised of other women who, like me, have found confidence in the creation of glamour for themselves. I realized that the reasons I started utilizing this thing called “glamour” was because I cannot relate to modern celebrated standards of beauty. I can’t be like a Victoria’s Secret supermodel, but with styling, I can certainly capture the spirit of my personal icons of beauty, like Marlene Dietrich and Hedy Lamarr. I think that burlesque celebrates diversity, beauty and the artistic creation of allure and fantasy, and that is what draws the audience.

What three words best describe the line?
Glamorous. Sensual. Functional.
What was your first performance like?
It’s hard to say. There were a lot of kinds of shows in various venues I did over the course of the past 20 years of my career…I didn’t just suddenly have a giant martini glass one day and “boom!”, that was my “first show.” I got my start in the LA rave scene in 1991, creating performance art and go-go dancing. I was also working in a strip club doing retro striptease shows, and then onto the fetish clubs and headlining the big fancy strip clubs in the US, which is probably around the time that I started making my shows with the big props and such. It’s been a long evolution, and I cannot really name a “first show.” There have been a lot of milestones of course, but I can’t think of what I would call my first or most important one.

Describe your style.
Self-made, womanly, retro-fetishistic!

First thing you do when you wake up?
Well, my cat Aleister is usually on or near my head, so that’s the first thing that happens.

Signature scent?
I have four fragrances of my own, but the one I wear the most often is the one I call Erotique. It’s a departure from the usual flowery-fruity-candy celeb fragrances…it’s a perfume I created in tribute to the animalistic perfumes of the 1940’s. It’s carnal and erotic, with notes of smoky woods, leather, Bulgarian rose petal and coriander. I get compliments on it all the time, and although it wasn’t an easy perfume to get made (because it’s so unusual and not “commercial”), those that have discovered it are devoted to it!

Guilty pleasure?
Eating tacos and drinking Mezcal.
Go-to destination spot?
I love this beautiful grand hotel in Michigan on Mackinac Island, which is a place with no cars, only horses and bicycles. It’s like stepping back in time.

What one thing are you never caught without?
Red Lipstick.

Favorite workout routine?
I’ve been doing Pilates for over 15 years.

Best piece of advice you’ve ever received/given?
People tend to like my quote: “you can be a juicy ripe peach and there will still be someone who doesn’t like peaches.” Some good advice I’ve been given? Don’t read comments on the Internet and don’t respond to negativity. The thing that makes people most mad is when they realize they can’t affect you. I have come to realize that only mediocrity is safe from ridicule or criticism. Some of the things in the fashion and entertainment industries that people generally like and accept as a whole, are often pretty bad. I take it as a compliment when a certain type of person doesn’t like or “get” me. I think I’m happy being part of a different, more stylish tribe.
Have a mantra?
“Living well is the best revenge,” which was said by George Herbert in the 14th century. I think that rather than focusing on being angry or vengeful, one should focus on creating their own pleasurable existence by doing things to become a better person and having a lovely life; like learning something new, becoming well read or well traveled. Anything like that, which cultivates yourself. I think wearing beautiful lingerie is a bit like that. I don’t wear it for someone else; I do it for me, as a part of self-seduction and genuine appreciation for functional beauty.

Plenty of women call you their inspiration, but who/what inspires you?
I have many style and beauty icons, but they are all from the past. I love high glamour, and mid-century was the era when that was at its height in Hollywood. I’ve always been attracted to the stars of the ‘30s and ‘40s, perhaps because they were also about creation and transformation – something anyone can do if they set their mind to it. I set out to give myself that same kind of classic Hollywood makeover with the use of elegant, womanly clothes, glamorous hair, signature makeup; all hallmarks of the past. It’s not easy to find modern style icons in Hollywood because most glamour we see is invoked by “glam squads.” Apart from the red carpet, I see more glamour in real life on real women. I especially see it amongst my fans, who are glamorizing everyday, for themselves and not just for the cameras. For me, these are my real modern icons. I regularly stop into an ice cream store near my house just to see a certain girl behind the counter who always has unique, dramatically drawn cat eye makeup – every single day. Everyday glamour – that’s what I love, admire and preach…and lingerie is a great way to have glamour that takes no extra time at all!