LOS ANGELES — After years of swishing around in an enormous martini glass and tiptoeing across the stage behind giant feather fans, Dita Von Teese is no longer dancing — and stripping — on the fringe. Her legions of die-hard retro and fetish fans are learning to share their living icon with the mainstream types discovering neo-burlesque.
Jade Jagger recently enlisted Von Teese to do the martini glass act at a Garrard party in London, while months earlier, she performed for Louis Vuitton execs at the Bellagio in Las Vegas during their corporate retreat. Over the past year, she’s also crossed over from being a Fetish and Playboy cover girl to doing fashion shoots for The Face and Flaunt. And come June, burlesque wannabes will learn all about Von Teese’s secrets in her book, “A Girl’s Guide to Burlesque and Glamour.”
This story first appeared in the December 8, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
But it’s a Vogue shoot in Paris last week that has Von Teese, who took her name from French cinema star Dita Parlo, really keyed up. She left boyfriend Marilyn Manson, who’s touring with his band through Europe, to meet her hero Mr. Pearl, the English corset couturier with the 18-inch waist. “Can you believe this? Vogue and Mr. Pearl. I never would never have believed it,” she says.
Von Teese, an Orange County, Calif.-native, has lost track of her own collection of corsets, which at last count exceeded 300. Most are by Dark Garden or Versatile Fashions, the Orange, Calif.-based house helmed by fetish grand dame Miss Antoinette. As for lingerie, Von Teese hoards Chantal Thomass and Agent Provocateur. And she loves hats — the bigger and wilder, the better — by Philip Treacy. Ditto the highest of heels, particularly those by Christian Louboutin.
An addiction to Swarovski crystals, however, sends her accountant over the edge. The costume she debuted at the Garrard event was covered in $8,000 of sparkle. “One year I spent over $18,000 on crystals,” she says. “I have them everywhere in my acts — on a claw-foot tub, a carousel horse, an antique phone. I go to the Liberace museum to get inspiration.” So why doesn’t she hit up the Swarovskis for sponsorship? “I don’t think they want to lose my business as a client!”
Currently, Von Teese’s vast wardrobe resides in the guest house-cum-closet behind the home she shares here with Manson. He has gushingly referred to Von Teese as “the love of my life.” And she adores living with a man that takes as long as she does to get ready for an evening out.
On Thursday, just three hours after arriving from Paris, Von Teese made her way to the Farmani Gallery in Beverly Hills where 13 oversized portraits of her taken by French photographer Lionel Deluy lined the walls, a project that began as a collaboration with The Book L.A.
“What is incredible about Dita is that she works so fast in front of the camera,” says Deluy, standing with his own musician girlfriend, Fiona Apple. Also checking out the exhibition are the partners of Dita Eyewear, who named the brand in honor of the diva. Another hard-core fan, wearing a backless dress, shows off an image of Dita tattooed across her shoulder blade, while yet another brandishes an image of Von Teese and the dancer’s cat inked across her leg.
Of course, Von Teese is used to such attention. “How weird is that?” she sighs.