Whether it’s her unparalleled elegance or the fact that she has seamlessly become a symbol of both sensuality and female empowerment, Dita Von Teese captivates audiences on a level all her own. In addition to being the queen of modern burlesque, Von Teese has also established herself in the fashion world. She made dreams come true for women clamoring for high quality, retro-inspired lingerie when she debuted her eponymously named line in 2014. She also recently launched a swoon-worthy collection of eyewear with classic and edgy styles.
Von Teese’s personal style — Old Hollywood glamour brought to the modern world — will continue to inspire long after she retires from the stage. Somehow, this Midwestern girl looks as though she stepped out of a Parisian dream rather than a Michigan farming town. The “glamour-evangelist” returns to the Denver stage tonight, performing with the Copper Coupe Burlesque at the Fillmore Auditorium, so we took the opportunity to learn more about what she loves most about performing and how she achieves her flawless style.
303 Magazine: Describe your style in three words.
Dita Von Teese: Dramatic, Womanly, Elegant.
303: What was your latest impulse purchase?
DVT: A pair of penny loafers.
303: What are some of your favorite wardrobe staples?
DVT: A John Galliano for Dior coat I’ve been wearing for 10 years and counting, the “Tryst” bra and garter belt from my signature lingerie collection, my “Erotique” opera length leather gloves with Swarovski buttons.
303: Who are some of your idols?
DVT: Betty Grable, Hedy Lamarr, Gypsy Rose Lee.
303: What do you love most about performing?
DVT: The way it inspires other women to celebrate their sensuality in a playful and powerful way. Our audience is about 80 percent female, and so the fact that burlesque has meaning for others fuels my ambition to keep performing.
303: What was the last piece of advice you received?
DVT: It was about investing in real estate … maybe it seems boring but I wish I’d been advised on that sooner in life.
303: If you had to change careers tomorrow, what would you do?
DVT: Hmmmm … I could be a baker, I could be a fashion stylist, and interior decorator, I could be an actress … I could focus more on writing more books. I already have several other careers, so its hard to think of something I don’t already do in one way or another!
303: What’s the first thing you do to prepare for a performance?
DVT: Between approving placement on stage of all the props, I’m putting on makeup and stretching.
303: How do you think burlesque style had impacted modern fashion?
DVT: I think that showgirl style has influenced lots of people, and now more than ever, vintage style is seeing a big resurgence. It’s not really new; we saw 1940s inspired clothes in the 1970s as well.
303: How has your style evolved?
DVT: I started dressing in vintage back in the late ’80s because I couldn’t afford the kinds of designer jeans and such my friends had, so I ’d scour the vintage stores. I went through lots of different phases over the decades, for instance, at one point I was inspired by the 1920s, then the 1930s … and then after specifically 1940s with every single thing I wore being authentic of the era, even driving a 1940s car. I used to like to dress exactly of the period, but now I really like to modernize my vintage looks.
303: What are your tips for combining timeless elegance and sensuality?
DVT: Well personally, I like simplicity, with womanly silhouettes paired with minimal accessories, and pay mind to the details … like beautiful seamed stockings with good quality shoes. Black lingerie is always sophisticated and elegant and erotic all at the same time, so you can’t go wrong with that.
303: How do you embrace the spirit of burlesque in your daily life?
DVT: Hmmmm… it’s my business so it’s always part of my daily life. My house has much of the same drama I like to create onstage but in a very different way … I am quite obsessed with lighting, and how to create a poetic space in the home, which is something anyone can do.
303: What are some of your secrets to flawless style?
DVT: I think that great style is about dressing in a thoughtful way, rather than just shopping with no plan. When I was younger, I used to just love to go shopping and buy anything that caught my eye, but now I shop much more thoughtfully. I buy a lot less and I buy things that are in character for me rather than coveting things that look good on other people.
All photography by Candace Peterson unless otherwise stated. Go here to see our full gallery.