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Dita Von Teese Lingerie Credit: Dita Von Teese

Dita Von Teese Talks Lingerie

Burlesque dancer, model and designer, Dita Von Teese is a woman who knows style. Influenced by the boudoir aesthetics and pin-up personalities of bygone ages, her love of lingerie and passion for its form, fit and function makes her the ultimate expert when it comes to creating her own collection. Sharing her inspirations, influences and icons here in an exclusive chat, discover all things Dita…

On Inspiration…

I was inspired by retro glamour, but I designed the collection in a way which makes it become very wearable, modern and functional in everyday life. That’s really been my aim all the long; not to create lingerie that you just put on for someone, or something or for a special event, but really to wear in everyday life and look good under your clothes. That’s one of the things I love about lingerie; you can be whoever you want underneath your clothes.

I use a lot of velvet in the collections as homage to the 1930s, where most lingerie had bonings which were all lined with velvet on the inside, against the skin. Once upon a time women used to have their lingerie handmade for them. I have a vast archive of vintage lingerie and clothing that I’ve been collecting for over 25 years, so whether little stitching or trim details, the shapes of garters - vintage ones usually have six straps as opposed to the modern four - I use this all for my inspiration.

"It's necessary to have lingerie so you might as well make it a part of creating a pleasurable existence. It is one little moment that doesn’t take any time out of your day, you put the same motions into it and you have a moment of beauty and glamour you can enjoy everyday."

On Lingerie…

I worked in a lingerie store from the time I was 15 years old, so it’s really my love of lingerie as a symbol of womanhood and femininity - it’s what launched my career as a burlesque star. I associate lingerie with those things. Not with seduction, to please someone else, but it’s really about honouring yourself in a small way. I believe when you’re wearing something you love, even if no one can see it, that this radiates to other people and they can feel it too. I take such pleasure in lingerie. Even a piece of lingerie just sitting on the table - the lace, the trim, the construction, it always makes an impact on me. Selecting lingerie is something I enjoy taking my time with.

On Her Collection…

The collection is about being comfortable in your own skin. I’m careful to consider people’s personal preferences; some women love full briefs, others love bikinis, and so on, I really take that into account. It’s something I learnt as a fitter that there are so many preferences and it’s just about respecting that. 

I definitely have my favourite styles which I really like to wear on a day-to-day basis because they’re most comfortable. I love to play with colour particularly for the summer season. I like unexpected colour under clothes. But I do wear a lot of black lace too, I love it. It looks good on everyone, it’s sexy, it’s sophisticated, it’s elegant, it’s everything. 

On The Fit…

The fit is so important. When I was younger I decided I wanted to be a small in underwear so I would buy it in that size. Then I realised a medium felt so much better, so I thought, “I’m going to cut the tags out.” You should cut them out anyway. I’ve learned a lot in my lingerie shopping:

1. Wear the right size.
2. For every bra you need to buy two of the matching underwear, and extra points for buying different shapes - the brief, the bikini, the G-string, so you have versatility. The underwear is washed many times more than the bra so you need to invest in more.

On The Decades Of Style…

I have things from all different eras - even from the 1800s - but really most of my references are between 1930s and early 1960s as there was still very beautiful lingerie being made at that time, especially in France. I have an archive, but also a lot of vintage books, magazines and vintage catalogues, and even patterns. I mostly use patterns for robes and loungewear but not so much the bras, I take the details, but the shapes aren’t so much the shapes that we require in modern times, they’re very different to what women would wear in the 1930s and '40s.

In the 1920s, for women, it was all the rage to flatten everything out, then it became the opposite in the 1950s - it was really about those extreme shapes. The wonderful thing about now is that we really embrace diversity, we are accepting of lots of different body shapes. I think we are seeing more celebration of women’s bodies as they really are.

On Time Travel…

I’ve often fantasised about the time travel machine where I could be popped out in Paris in a certain year - always fascinated with lingerie and corsetry and the way the fashion changed. The 1890s, that whole era is very interesting to me, but also imagine how people dressed in the 1930s and 1940s on the street - there was a lot of glamour. I’d love to see that. But what I mostly think about is being dropped off in the middle of a street corner in New York or Paris, in a real high-glamour moment and see what real women were wearing.  

On Muses…

Mae West is someone I absolutely love. I admire her so much because there’s never been another woman in cinema that has done what she’s done. She wrote every line she ever said in every film; she didn’t speak other people’s lines. And she’s quotable - if you watch a Mae West movie - she’s quotable beyond. She made her first film at 40 and she was the biggest sex symbol of her day, she trumped all the young things. Try to imagine that in this day and age - it is so inspiring. There’s a lot of ageism now - if we are lucky we will be able to experience all the stages of our beauty - that’s the thing we really need to start celebrating. 

In a lot of her films she was in the boudoir and there was a lot of imagery of her getting dressed, so I feel like I've seen a lot of her in dressing gowns - boudoir style. She is someone I admire for all those things and, of course, the woman that she was. And knowing her - she had a very distinctive persona that she was proud of, that she created herself. 

On Glamour…

There’s people keeping glamour alive, but sometimes you see things and you think “we’ll never have that again” - things were made with great opulence and beauty, for only that purpose. It’s very rare that there are things made like that now. The other thing I love about vintage things is that they were made for everyone - even your toaster would have had design details. I have a modern car which is nice and slick, but when I get into my vintage cars it’s exquisite, it’s an artistic experience. It’s a completely different feeling - the workmanship that went into the design. 

Bringing those details to lingerie - making it wearable, functional and, above all, accessible so someone can feel a little bit like they’re having a glamorous experience. It is necessary to have lingerie so you might as well make it a part of creating a pleasurable existence - that’s one little moment that doesn’t take any time out of your day, you put the same motions into it and you have a moment of beauty and glamour you enjoy everyday. That’s what I love about it. 

On The Female Form…

We’re fed very typical images of what beauty is in the media. When I shoot my campaigns, we don’t like to use the term ‘real women’ - because all women are real. I think it’s good to show curvaceous women, but also to respect that not everyone has those curves. I think it’s just acceptance - being able to see more body shapes in lingerie.

On Staying In Shape…

I don’t stress out about my figure. People need to think about what you tell your body. I know that sounds kind of strange but really, what are you telling your body? That you’re grateful for what it does for you or how it works well? Or are you picking on your body and telling it how ugly it is? I think about that a lot. Our thoughts are very important. I do exercise because it makes me feel good, I do Pilates three to five times a week because it makes me feel strong. I eat sensibly. I have a nutritionist. I’ve learned a lot about what is healthy vs what really isn’t. There’s a lot of confusing information out there - so I try to understand it and make the best choices I can every day. You have to find what works for you and what makes sense. 

My nutritionist is very balanced. She looks at my lifestyle. I am vegan during the day, then if I’m going to eat something that’s an animal protein I do that at home. I balance it all out. When I go to the grocery store I don’t buy things in packages. I think it’s common sense. I eat organic and think about smaller companies and brands that are conscientious. The more we support these small farmers and organic food - the more of them there will be.

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