Not your usual Fashion Icon: Dita Von Teese

by Maje Pérez-Ramos

“I have my signature look and I’m sticking to it, because it’s the look that is one hundred percent me, and one hundred percent created by me. I might be a one-trick for it. But it’s a pretty good trick!”

– Dita Von Teese

In a world where fashion trends are born and die quickly, Dita Von Teese’s attitude has something of rebellious. Trends come and go but, decade after decade, Dita remains Dita.

Thanks to her friendships with some of the giants of the industry (Christian Louboutin, Jean Paul Gaultier, Marc Jacobs…) she has successfully brought Haute Couture into the realm of striptease. From stages and red carpets, she lives her particular affaire with Fashion, without never becoming a victim of it. Ignoring the whims of a season, with that neo-vintage style that is already part of her DNA, Dita is only true to herself.

As the biographical note on her website says, Dita Von Teese is the most prominent name in burlesque worldwide. She is credited with bringing this art form back to the spotlight with a new sense of elegance and sophistication. Born in the not particularly glamorous state of Michigan, little Dita lived fascinated by the aesthetics of Hollywood’s golden-era. Due to who-knows what now irrelevant circumstances, when she grew she set her mind on becoming a professional stripper.

Since her beginnings in 1992, she has been perfecting her secret formula through professionalism and authenticity: her classic ballet training, her talent for costume design, her passion for lingerie… with all this she has elevated this genre, from an kinky fetishist’s spectacle to the status of a luxury product; Dita’s neo-burlesque is a striptease show every cool person would be very proud to attend. Glamorous and elegant, it’s a celebration of vintage eroticism and an ideal of beauty and femininity that still speaks to many women. It is no coincidence that they make up the majority of its audience today. 

In an interview to Vogue in 2016 she said: “one of the reasons I started making burlesque shows and posing for pinups was because I felt like I didn’t have many modern models of sensuality that I could relate to, because I don’t look like a Victoria’s Secret model (…). Burlesque is the idea of creation: the red lipstick, the red nails, the high heels, black stockings, and garter belts, which accentuate and hide things maybe we don’t like about ourselves. Corsetry, which enhances the waist. It’s these symbols of transformation that we can all relate to, and we can all create if we want to. There’s never anything that is too overtly sexual onstage, but it’s still erotic. The combination of all these things is what makes it magical.”

When she steps down from the giant Martini glass (her most legendary show), Dita is CEO of her own brand: clothing, lingerie and gloves lines; candles and perfumes; books, costume jewellery, scarves… the list goes on and on, but it goes to prove that authenticity is very profitable. However, it is her celebrity profile that is most striking: in a world where stars give paparazzis the finger while sipping their Starbucks on the streets of Los Angeles, she is a rara avis. Always true to her image, polite and discreet. On her Instagram account, the promotion of her products alternates with tributes to burlesque stars, messages of inclusivity, her friends, her team and her cats.

It’s funny that, after almost thirty years of professionally satisfying fetishistic urges, having made adult films and being Playboy cover girl three times (among many others), Dita has more elegance and sophistication than today’s most promising celebrities. Of course, after waking up next to Marilyn Manson for seven years, little can surprise her anymore… Dita will have seen things, of that we can be sure.

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Images: @ditavonteese

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