An almost unrecognisable but undeniably gorgeous blonde with floppy bangs, a stiff white science coat and geeky glasses sits at a computer screen in a sterile laboratory… a few seconds later after staring into a microscope — she transforms into the woman we know as Dita Von Teese. Signature jet black waves appear, set tight against her alabaster skin and ruby red lips, large inviting breasts lead down her ivory hued body to a 16inch waist and hips to die for. Von Teese is truly a vision to behold.
Resplendent in her self-designed Wonderbra lingerie range, burlesque’s numero uno shimmies and shakes in the advert (‘The Science of Sexy’) for her new collaboration with one of the biggest names in the lingerie market. She has gone from dancer and enthusiast of fetish, burlesque and showgirls to a fashion icon who came 13th in Vogue’s Best Dressed list as well as Harper’s Bazaar UK’s number 2 Top Fashion Icon of the Year. In this, her first appearance for WestEast Magazine, we catch up with Dita Von Teese, who strikes a pose in a disused London warehouse to create some images that go beyond the burlesque.
Dita Von Teese has come a long way since growing up in a small town in Michigan. Some would say that her real name ‘Heather Sweet’ is equally as sexually evocative, but of the girl next door fantasy that she has always set herself from. Instantly reminiscent of a softer version of 50s Bettie Page, Von Teese’s rise to fame has included a career in burlesque for over 16 years, which has reached stratospheric heights of late, and a much publicised marriage and divorce with controversial goth-rocker musician Marilyn Manson.
Fashion’s new muse
Headlining the retro trend that has begun to dominate on high streets and catwalks alike, throwback beauty Von Teese has become an international style icon who features as guest of honour at fashion and celebrities parties all around the world. Dita is a fan of modern designers such as “Moschino, Marc Jacobs, Jean Paul Gaultier, Dior and YSL”. She loves the dramatic personal styles of John Galliano, Zac Posen, and for the women it’s Madonna and Marlene Dietrich that catch her eye. Von Teese’s style is one of strength, of both submission and domination. A modern woman in many senses, recaptured through a love of the vintage.
This glamour puss has appeared at several high profile events for designers like Marc Jacobs, Christian Louboutin, Roland Mouret and modelled couture for the likes of Gaultier. Fendi recently even threw her a birthday party in Paris attended by Christian Louboutin, Elle Saab, Sophia Coppola and another star who is no stranger to showgirl antics — Kylie Minogue.
Recalling the likes of 1940s and 50s burlesque performers like Lili St. Cyr, Sally Rand, Gypsy Rose Lee and Bettie Page; Von Teese has revealed that her love of burlesque performance and stripping started with an admiration for the showgirls of old Hollywood. As a little girl she watched movie classics that featured showgirls and longed to be one of them. At the age of 15 she began working in a lingerie shop in her first job, and thus the obsession with lingerie and her long lived love affair with corsets began.
Dita Von Teese became more involved with fetish and photography as well as the performances she is so well admired for. The bubbles-in-the-martini-glass routine has become a modern classic. She has created a wide repertoire that has undulated from the underground to the downright commercial.
It has included over 30 appearances in Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Magazine and Playboy Book of Lingerie since 1997, finally making the cover in December 2002. Hefner showed that his obvious penchant for Hollywood blondes does not necessarily extend to every occasion, and that this petite, buxom, ivory skinned, raven- haired Queen of Retro is altogether a more refined cup of tea than your cookie-cutter tanned, blonde all-American girl.
As a secret shy girl who brandishes her sexuality, she is well aware that some feminist groups have called out for objectifying herself. However Dita Von Teese empowered. As well as selling out tongue-in-cheek burlesque performances whether in Los Angeles, New York or London, she has also penned her own popular book, the naughty but nice ‘Art of the Teese’ (with a burlesque/fetish reverse) to add to her stellar resume.
Text: Jing Zhang
Art Directon & Styling: Mohieb Dahabieh Co-ordination: MoDa’s Touch Production: Christian H Ouff Set Design: David White Make-up: James Molloy using M.A.C Hair: Louis Byrne using L’Oréal Professionnel