Dita Von Teese On Her Teen Years, Painful Shoes & Thin Models
We caught up with burlesque artist Dita Von Teese last week to talk style, and we also ended up talking about her annual Halloween costume (she goes as "a normal girl," which you can see here).
In part two of our interview, we talk about what she wore as a teenage, her thoughts on runway models and what she'd bring back from the past. Now, get reading!
HP: What was your style like when you were a teenager?
DVT: I started dressing vintage when I was a teenager because I didn't have money for designer clothes. My parents never gave me a clothing allowance or anything like that, like a lot of my friends had, so I started shopping in thrift stores and looking to see how I could get the look of Vivienne Westwood or John Galliano or Jean Paul Gaultier for less. I would pull out pictures from magazines of my favorite designers and then I would go in and look for bullet bras that were from the '40s that I could buy for nothing back then and try to put together a look.
HP: Did your parents ever question your style?
DVT: Well, maybe when I went through my phase of lingerie as outerwear...I was wearing a lot of '50s slips with cardigan sweaters and ballet flats, it was kind of my look for daytime. I saw Elizabeth Taylor in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and I thought, 'That's the look I want,' and I'd go around wearing a white slip and a black sweater and black shoes so I think they thought, 'You should put on some clothes.' Even though I wasn't showing any body. They were like, 'You're going to wear that corset as an outfit?' And I would....I think they thought it was a little strange because I had big ideas about eccentric looks.
HP: And exactly how old were you then?
DVT: Well, when I was fifteen years old I worked in a lingerie store and that's how I feel in love with vintage lingerie because I wanted to know the history of it. I started finding all of these bullet bras and things and I was really interested in them. So when I was a teenager I was wearing a lot of the bra peaking out kind of look. I'd wear bustiers with pants, things like that.
HP: What about hats? We just read this article a few weeks ago that said you have a whole room dedicated to hats.
DVT: Since the hat room, I moved recently and now I have two rooms and my whole upstairs of my house is my wardrobe. So one room is the shoe/hat room and the other room is my clothing and it's all done in Chinoiserie style, so I have these special closet pagodas built that hold my shoes. When you walk in the room, you flip the switch on and first the chandeliers, which is Chinese-style lanterns, turn on and then there's a short delay and all of the lights flicker that light the shoes up and it's really exciting. We just did a huge home story on my closets because it's very extravagant and it doesn't look like a lot of celebrity closets. The ones they do stories on look like department stores. But mine looks like Disney Land, Chinese-style. All-super colorful and an experience.
HP: What would you say, overall, is the most painful part of your routine?
DVT: Maybe the shoes, because Christian Louboutin is one of my best friends but when I go to order my shoes every season I'll say to him, 'Christian, I really need a sensible shoe,' and he refuses to make me a sensible shoe. So what I have in my closet is some really, extremely high heels because he loves putting me in the highest of the high heels. They're all custom-made, so I'm kind of in this trap of I have beautiful, beautiful shoes but it's hard work wearing those shoes. But I have that thing where I just can't go buy sensible shoes. It's not fun. It's not exciting. I have some ballet flats in there now because I have to but my best shoes are really outrageous....But I'm not the girl who changes into flats because my feet are tired at the end of the night. I go the distance. I go all the way.
HP: Totally unrelated, I was wondering what you think of runway models.
DVT: Right now there's a hot new model that's everywhere and she's 15 years old. I think a lot of emphasis has been put on how thin they are, but the thing that a lot of people forget to mention is a lot of them are teenagers still and they are thinner because they're teenagers. I'm not saying there's not a lot of eating disorders or whatever, but I remember being a teenager and eating whatever I wanted and drinking five sodas a day and not gaining any weight. But I do think a lot of these girls are just overworked, if anything, and they're running from show to show and they don't get a chance to eat. That combined with how young they are too is contributing to their thinness.
When it comes down to it I believe that the designers who are hiring the models, they deserve to pick whatever kind of models that want. At the last Jean Paul Gaultier show, he opened up the show with Beth Ditto in a dress that he made for her and I think he's really great because he shows different kinds of women. He'll put me on the runway and I have a different body shape and I'm about two feet shorter than those girls....I also love when...I watch these girls who are built like racehorses that are over six feet tall coming out in shoes that make them even taller. It's an incredible effect, so I can't ever blame them for not putting real women in their shows all of the time. It's about fantasy and spectacle. For me, burlesque is that, too. I love when I go to the Crazy Horse and I see these women that are not really real women but I also love burlesque shows where I see real women, too. So I think we shouldn't judge any woman whether she's skinny or young or big or voluptuous and you shouldn't judge skinny girls either because there's a lot of skinny girls who can't help it, too. You can't get mad at the size zeros.
HP: We've been running a series of nostalgia-based articles before the launch of "Let's Bring Back." What would you bring back from the past?
DVT: I think as someone who collects beautiful things from the past, the thing that I miss the most about modernism and the things I lament about the past are everyday things that you would use were made more beautifully. It just seems like more artistry used to be put into everyday things you would use....Like a powder compact. You used to be able to buy these exquisite, jeweled powder compacts and now you'd be hard-pressed to find one. In fact, Estee Lauder makes some very beautiful compacts and I was talking to the president of Estee Lauder and he said these companies that make these things are closing down. It's like, it's finished. Everybody wants something fast, they want it made out of plastic, they want it made cheaply. So in general I would just say household and everyday items that we would use, I wish there was more drama and beauty put into them. And cars. I'm looking at my 1939 car in the driveway. You could never buy a car that is that beautiful. But there's a lot of things.
HP: With the holiday season coming up, what kinds of gifts do you like to give and receive?
DVT: The Cointreau coffret is definitely something I would give my most special friends and I think also it's a really wonderful hostess gift. You know, during holiday party season, I think it's always important to show up with a nice gift for the hostess and this would be something really nice for the hostess, to bring to a special lady who would appreciate it. So this is something, that if I didn't already have one, this is the ideal gift for me. That's why I created it, because I wanted one. I'm that woman that no one ever knows what to get me because I have everything, but the coffret was something I felt didn't exist.