Dita Von Teese is the biggest name in burlesque and is credited for bringing the art form back into the spotlight. The American fashion and beauty icon was in Australia to launch her global Spring Summer lingerie collection. I had the opportunity to have a girls night in with the 42-year-old to chat about the collection, what makes her feel sexy and the biggest misconception about her.
What can we expect to see from your latest collection?
There are lots of new pieces that I’ve added to some of those popular styles. I’ve added a few bodysuits because I love a bodysuit. There are lots of new colours and some of the re-occurring classic styles that have been really popular and there’s a new loungewear collection. So I’m very excited about that.
When you say loungewear, I think tracksuits!
Oh, really? [Laughs] I think long glamorous dressing gowns and negligees and things that are comfortable but sexy to wear around the house.
You always look so amazing when you’re performing. Do you ever have days where you feel self-conscious?
Yeah. Sure. That’s one thing I love about burlesque, is like you’re creating this whole illusion and it’s not just about a naked girl on stage. You can [disguise] the areas you are not comfortable with. It’s about all a fantasy spectacle so it’s about what you’re wearing as much as it is about what you’re not wearing. It’s about the lingerie and all the pieces and how they come together and how they create mystery.
What makes you feel sexy and what gives you confidence?
I have confidence when I have all my elements that make me feel good – there are a lot of signature things that do that for me. Like, I like wearing my red lipstick. I like having my nails painted red. I like my toenails to match my nail polish. I feel dressed to the nines when I’m having nice lingerie on. I like classic silhouettes. Clothes that have a very grown-up and have womanly shapes to them. I don’t like things that make me feel childish or a little girlish.
Do you ever dress down and wear no makeup?
Oh yes, All the time. That’s what the lounge wear is for. On a normal day, I just wear sunscreen, sweep of powder and red lipstick and I put my hair back in a chignon and Capri Pants with Ballet flats and that’s my look. I like simple things. I don’t have time to fuss around in the mirror for very long on a regular day.
What was it like growing up in Michigan?
I felt like I had a nice picturesque picture-perfect childhood. I came from a middle class family and I grew up in a small town. I have fond memories of having snowy winter, snowy Christmases and all that sort of thing. I had a very nice childhood.
Did you always envisage your life the way it is today?
Oh, not at all. I started working in a lingerie store when I was a teenager and then my love of lingerie made me start posing for pin-up photos. I was just doing things that I thought were fun and kind of writing my own little story and it unfolded in a way that I don’t think I could have ever anticipated or even fantasised about. I never could have dreamed that I’d go from selling lingerie to having my own collection. I certainly never thought that there would be this big pin-up and burlesque craze that I kind of started in the 90s.
You must have very passionate fans.
I do, a lot of women, which is really inspiring to me.
Would you have more female fans?
Way more female [fans] than men. It’s interesting. There’s like a new wave of feminist movement. It’s very different from what burlesque and pin-up meant in 1930s and 40s in its heydays. Now, it seems totally different resurgence with a different kind of audience. It’s a phenomenon. It’s an amazing.
It is interesting how burlesque is associated with feminism whereas back in the day, it would never be associated.
It was totally different back then. Burlesque used to be a variety show where you could hear some of risqué sex jokes and you could see real live girls taking their clothes off on stage and it was predominantly geared toward men. But, it’s definitely different now than it was back then.
I would love to see your wardrobe. How many corsets and high heels would you own?
I don’t know. I have a really big archive. I’ve been collecting vintage and of course, all my stage costumes so I have two storage units full of my collection and my whole top floor is all clothes, vintage clothes that I use a lot for inspiration on the lingerie.
What’s the biggest misconception that people have about you?
Sometimes I’m surprised when someone says, “Oh, what does she do anyway?” And I’m like, “What do I do?” I have so many jobs. Creating these big shows is a big task. When you’re seeing a Vegas Show, for instance, which has the same kind of production value that my shows have, there’s a big team of people that put that together. Whereas my show, I’m putting on the same kind of calibre of production, but I’m doing it myself. I’m directing it. I’m choreographing it. I’m styling it. I’m doing the hair and the make-up. It’s a lot of work. So sometimes I’m surprised when people think “Oh, she just does this thing in giant martini glass.”
You don’t have a hair and make-up team?
No. I do it myself. I’ve a beauty book coming out in December that kind of lays out all of my beauty secrets. It’s just like a step by step how-to guide for my brand of glamour.
How long does it take for you to get ready?
It depends. If I’m getting ready for a photo shoot or like today, I like to give myself like an hour and a half.
You have your show, your lingerie line and your book. What is a day in the life of you, with all these things going on?
It’s always different. I’ll have my mood when I’m travelling and then I have my at-home mood. I have my show mood when I’m doing performances a lot. So I never get bored. It’s always a different day.
What do you like to do when you’re at home?
I like entertaining. I like cooking. I love making comfort food; I love baking and making things like Potpies.
WE WENT TO The Langham Sydney.
WE ATE High Tea
WE DRANK Laurent Perrier Rose Champagne.
DITA WORE Dita Von Teese collection