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Dita Von Teese

Date with Kate, Fashion

Date with Kate: Dita Von Teese

5th October, 2015
A girls night in with Dita Von Teese. Photo by James Alcock.

A girls night in with Dita Von Teese. Photo by James Alcock.

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

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Kate Waterhouse (right) with burlesque icon Dita von Teese for 'Date with Kate' column at the Langham Hotel on September 24, 2015 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by James Alcock/Fairfax Media)

Date with Kate

Date with Kate: Dita Von Teese

17th November, 2013
Lunch with Dita Von Teese at Quay Restaurant. Photograph by James Brickwood.

Lunch with Dita Von Teese at Quay Restaurant. Photograph by James Brickwood.

Dita Von Teese made a name for herself wearing racy lingerie during her shows as a burlesque dancer, so it’s no wonder she was in Australia to launch her own range of sexy underwear, exclusive to Myer. I caught up with the 41-year-old while she was in town to chat about how she maintains her porcelain skin, her hopes to one day start a family and how retirement is not on her agenda.

When you go through customs, do you put ”burlesque dancer” as your occupation?

No, [laughs] I try to tell the truth but I try and be as low-key as possible. I usually say ”entertainer” or ”dancer” and hope they won’t ask what that means. When people ask me what I do I get very shy about it. I was sitting next to Beyonce’s father once on a plane, and I know Beyonce, and I’m sitting there minding my own business and all the flight attendants were coming over to tell me how much they like me, and I was dressed up like I always am, and he finally was like “who are you and what do you do?” and I was like “well, I don’t know if you remember your daughter when she did a video clip [for her song Naughty Girl] in a giant champagne glass, that is what I do every day, that is my job”. Sometimes I just cut to the chase and say “I’m a stripper” and they get so confused that I am a striptease star and how anyone can make a living out of that, and I get a lot of joy from people trying to figure it out.

How do you prepare for your shows?

In the weeks before, I bump up my workouts. I’m a little bit more careful about what I eat, not so much for how I look but for how I feel as I need to feel really strong. But I’m careful not to get too thin – looking too thin on stage with burlesque is a big faux pas.

How do you stay fit?

I do a lot of Pilates and I also take ballet classes. I do dressage and I just started fencing, which I’m very interested in.

Do you get annoyed at the imitators and people copying your shows?

It depends where it’s coming from. I get annoyed with people who are just doing it for profit. I’m very joyful when girls are embracing burlesque, but at the same time there are people who will copy my show exactly. I have had lawsuits with people who have completely ripped off [my show] for profit and I’ll stand up for myself when someone is interfering with my business.

What is the strangest thing a fan has done?

I don’t like to use the word strange because I have great fans. But I do get letters from prison that I really do enjoy and I think, “wow, this is old school to be a burlesque pin-up and get a letter from prison”.

What are you doing while in Australia?

I am here to launch my lingerie collection in Myer so it’s really exciting. I got my start working in a lingerie store when I was 15 and so my love of lingerie is what led me to my love of pin-up photos and burlesque shows, so it’s really interesting to come a full circle.


You are a sex symbol to many men, what do you find sexy in a man?

I think it’s really important to be around men who have their own sense of self and own self-worth. I find that some of my best relationships with men are [with those] who understand me and what I do. They want to know Heather Sweet from Michigan [her real name and home town], but they understand that it’s not a dual persona, it’s not Dita Von Teese and Heather Sweet. Everything that I do on stage is a part of who I am. It’s not like two personalities and sometimes men are so quick to want to dismiss the stage persona. I’ve dated men who have not wanted to see my stage show and I’m like “how can you not want to see my show?”

Have you got a man in your life?

I’m casual dating. I am at this amazing moment where I’m on second dates with several different men. I’ve always been a serial monogamist, in relationship after relationship, and right now I feel that I don’t just want to have boyfriends any more. I want to date and keep it casual until it blows the doors off my life and think “this is the man I want to be with forever”.

Do you hope to one day get married and start a family?

Yes, I would definitely love to be married [she was married to rocker Marilyn Manson from 2005 to 2007] and I definitely would like to have a child but it’s really interesting, as women we are told “go, go, go, career, career, career” and then suddenly you go “wait, no one warned me that I should kind of think about, you know”.

Will you ever retire?

I think of evolution a lot. There are things that I would never do in my show, the way that I did back when I first started. I now want to feel womanly and there are shows that get retired because they seem a little girlish now, so it’s important to always evolve. Some of the greatest burlesque dancers in history were not the youngest, the prettiest or the best dancer, sometimes it’s something else and it’s a lot to do with intelligence and sense of self. Sally Rand performed well into her 60s but in a different way. When people rely too much on their beauty and youth you have nothing when that’s gone, so you have to keep cultivating all the other things that make you interesting.

You have amazing skin, how do you maintain it?

Sunscreen, no smoking, I drink this thing called the glowing green smoothie every morning, by this nutritionist called Kimberly Snyder. She has this book called The Beauty Detox Foods and I follow that regime as best as I can. The smoothie is 70 per cent green and 30 per cent fruit, so I put in spinach, ginger, coriander and add fruit.

dita 1


WE WENT TO Quay Restaurant, The Rocks.

WE ATE Salad of albino and chioggia beetroots, preserved wild cherries, goat’s curd; organic Korean green rice, seaweed, buckwheat, mountain spinach and sesame; milk-fed Suffolk lamb with green lentils.

WE DRANK Sparkling water, Sancerre Terre de Maimbray 2011.

I WORE a LOVER dress

DITA WORE a Ulyana Sergeenko blouse and skirt, Christian Louboutin clutch and heels.

For video footage of our interview see