By  on December 12, 2008

Long before Dita Von Teese donned Lucite heels and stripped down to her bejeweled, barely there underthings, there was Bettie Page: the former secretary from Tennessee — black bangs cut short, lips painted matte red — popped up in lad mags and pinup posters in 1951, her bustier-and-whip ensembles becoming a symbol of the era’s sexual repression and a major influence on fashion, underpinnings and otherwise.

Page, who died Thursday at 85, started out covering up her curves — modeling furs, that is — but became a locker-door standard by shimmying into bondage gear for the brother-and-sister photographers Irving and Paula Klaw. Clad in black bustiers, often brandishing a whip, Page was both fierce and demure, a happy dominatrix whose appeal was in her ability to seem both utterly unattainable and girl-next-door sweet (if the girl-next-door wore six-inch stilettos and a sheer red chiffon bathrobe, as Page did in one infamous shot).

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