Burlesque queen Dita Von Teese launches capsule collection

Dita Von Teese launches her own capsule collection

Los Angeles TimesOctober 24, 2012 

Dita Von Teese Collection Launch

Dita Von Teese attends her Collection Launch at Decades on Thursday Oct. 17, 2012, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Todd Williamson/Invision/AP Images)

TODD WILLIAMSON — Todd Williamson/Invision/AP

She’s splish-splashed naked onstage in a giant martini glass, married (and divorced) Marilyn Manson and acted on the TV series “CSI.”

And now, burlesque queen and fashion muse Dita Von Teese is designing her own capsule clothing line.

The collection, available in sizes 4 to 16 and priced at $575 to $995, is being launched at Los Angeles vintage boutique Decades and online at www.shopdecadesinc.com, which is appropriate since the pieces are inspired by Von Teese’s own vintage treasures.

“I have always wanted to do something like this, to re-create vintage pieces in wearable sizes and fabrics,” said Von Teese, who is an inspiration and friend to many designers, Jean Paul Gaultier and Christian Louboutin among them. “But I don’t claim to be a fashion designer, because I have so much respect for my designer friends and what they do. I don’t sketch or sew. My talent lies in styling myself and choosing vintage pieces that don’t make me look like I’m starring in a costume drama.”

Von Teese was born Heather Sweet in West Branch, Mich., the daughter of a machinist and a manicurist. When she was 12, she and her family moved to Irvine, Calif. She started out modeling for fetish magazines and dancing at strip clubs, shaping her image by wearing retro corsets, long gloves and veils during her act. Her big break came in December 2002 when she posed for Playboy. Since then, she has been a fashion world darling, appearing at hundreds of events as a guest and the main attraction, performing her act at parties for brands such as Victoria’s Secret and Louis Vuitton.

“I started dressing in vintage because I couldn’t afford designer clothes. I started wearing makeup and coloring my hair and creating this glam persona because I couldn’t achieve the sexy model look that I saw on the cover of Sports Illustrated,” she said. “That’s where the art of creation came from.”

Her nearly all-black collection consists of just five pieces, each one a tool of sartorial seduction right out of old Hollywood. One is a 1950s-era, full-skirted VIP coat ($895), which has an hourglass fit-and-flare silhouette, tulle lining and a secret pocket for a lipstick, a key or … something else. (“I like to wear it with nothing but black stockings and lingerie underneath,” Von Teese said.)

The Bon Bon dress ($995) comes in a red-and-black rose print with red velvet ribbon straps adapted from a 1930s gown in her closet. The Second Look dress ($595) is a versatile sheath with a power-mesh interior. But the Showcase dress ($695) may be the sexiest of all, with a sculpted decolletage designed to be worn with a lacy bra peeking out.

“I thought about the dresses I wear all the time,” Von Teese said of the process of creating the line. “The Follow Me dress ($895) with the scarf over the shoulder I have been wearing for almost 15 years. I’m not sure where I bought it, but I wear it over and over in different ways.”

Small details were important, including silk linings and grosgrain waist ribbons to add structure.

“I have a huge vintage collection, and I don’t just collect designer labels, but also clothes normal women wore,” Von Teese said. “And it drives me crazy that you don’t get all those details today that you used to in clothing.”

The collection, produced by the Australian company Lime Door Brands, was introduced in Australia earlier this year. Von Teese has a perfume and underwear line overseas as well, but her titular brand of glamour has been a harder sell in America, which can still be prudish when it comes to certain things.

“In other countries, people can watch what I do on television,” said Von Teese, who lives in Los Angeles. “In America, I get the question all the time, ‘What does she do?’ In America, people don’t understand how I can make a living as a striptease star. Maybe they have forgotten about Gypsy Rose Lee. Of course, I could have made a reality show and I wouldn’t have had any problem selling my products. But I decided to take things slow, do them the right way and hopefully have more staying power.”

Von Teese is on tour with her latest burlesque revue, “Strip, Strip Hurray.” And her fans might surprise you, she said. “My fan base and people interested in seeing me has evolved. Originally, it was Bettie Page fans and guys who remembered burlesque. Now, I have more women than men. My fans come in all shapes, sizes and ethnicities. My look works on any age and ethnicity, and I think my fans are getting the same thrill out of playing dress-up, wearing red lipstick, high heels and stockings, as I do.”

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