Dita Von Teese was born Heather Renée Sweet on September 28, 1972 in Rochester, Michigan, the middle of three daughters. Her mother was a manicurist and her father was a machinist at a company that made graphite. She is of partly Armenian heritage.
Von Teese is well known for her fascination with 1940s cinema and classic retro style. This began at a young age and was fostered by her mother, who would buy clothes for her daughter to dress up in. Her mother was a fan of old, Golden-era Hollywood films, and it was from her that Von Teese developed a fascination with the actresses of that day, especially Betty Grable.
She was classically trained as a ballet dancer from an early age, and danced solo at age thirteen for a local ballet company. Though she originally wanted to be a ballerina, Von Teese states that “By 15 I was as good as I’d ever be.” She was later to incorporate this element into her burlesque shows, where she frequently goes en pointe.
The family relocated from Michigan to Orange County, California when her father’s job moved. Von Teese attended University High School in Irvine.
As a teenager, Von Teese’s mother took her to buy her first bra, made from plain white cotton, and gave her a plastic egg containing a pair of wrinkly, flesh-colored tights. Von Teese says she was disappointed as she had been hoping to receive beautiful lacy garments and stockings, of the type she had glimpsed in her father’s Playboy magazines. This fueled her passion for lingerie. She worked in a lingerie store as a salesgirl when she was fifteen, eventually as a buyer. Von Teese has been fond of wearing elaborate lingerie such as corsets and basques with fully fashioned stockings ever since.
In college Von Teese studied historic costuming and aspired to work as a stylist for period films. She is a trained costume designer, often designing (and copyrighting) the photoshoots herself.
Von Teese currently splits her time between her homes in Hollywood and Paris.
She is a collector of vintage china, particularly eggcups and tea sets, and drives a 1939 Chrysler New Yorker, a BMW Z4 and a 1965 Jaguar S-type.
Von Teese frequently mentions that her best friend is fellow burlesque performer, Catherine D’lish, who designs all of Von Teese’s burlesque costumes.
Prior to her marriage, Von Teese had been romantically linked to vocalist/guitarist Mike Ness of Social Distortion and to actor Peter Sarsgaard. She has also spoken of several lesbian experiences including a long-term relationship with a woman when she was 20.
She has been open about the plastic surgery she has undergone, with both breasts and her beauty mark being artificial.
She participated at the PETA’s campaign “Animal Birth Control (ABC).
Dita is currently touring her full-length revue “Burlesque: Strip Strip Hooray!” with upcoming summer dates in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago – stripstriphooray.com