Dita Von Teese began her career in a local strip club when she was eighteen. Disappointed with the lack of originality in all the other strippers’ acts, Von Teese created a vintage-inspired outfit, with beehive hairstyle and elbow-length gloves coupled with a basque and seamed stockings, piquing the interest of the clientele.
Fetish and glamour modeling
It was during this time at the strip club that she began some glamour modeling, before she eventually became a fetish model. Her retro pin-up look, frequently emulating Bettie Page in photo shoots, set her apart from most other fetish models.
Her official website is often referred to as one of the first model sites on the internet.
Von Teese achieved some level of recognition in the fetish world as a tightlacer. Through the wearing of a corset for many years, she had reduced her natural waistline to 22 inches (56 cm), and can be laced down as far as 16.5 inches (42 cm). A thin person already, Von Teese stands at 5 ft 5″ (165 cm.) and weighs 114 pounds (52 kg).
She also appeared on a number of fetish magazine covers, including Bizarre and Marquis. It was around this time when she appeared on the cover of Midori’s book, The Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage.
Von Teese was featured in Playboy in 1999, 2001 and 2002, with a cover-featured pictorial in 2002.
The German metal band Atrocity chose her as the cover model for their 2008 album, Werk 80 II.
Von Teese is best known for her burlesque routines and is frequently dubbed “the Queen of Burlesque” in the press. Von Teese began performing burlesque in 1993 and, as a proponent of New Burlesque, has helped to popularize its revival. In her own words, she “puts the tease back into striptease” with long, elaborate dance shows with props and characters, often inspired by 1930s and 1940s musicals and films. Some of her more famous dances have involved a carousel horse, a giant powder compact, a filigree heart and a clawfoot bathtub with a working shower head. Her feather fan dance, inspired by burlesque dancer Sally Rand, featured the world’s largest feather fans, now on display in Hollywood’s Museum Of Sex. Her signature show features a giant martini glass.
Her burlesque career has included some memorable performances. She once appeared at a benefit for the New York Academy of Art wearing nothing but $5 million worth of diamonds. Additionally, Von Teese became the first guest star to perform at the Parisian Crazy Horse cabaret club with her appearance in October 2006. Also in 2006, Von Teese appeared on an episode of America’s Next Top Model cycle 7 doing a workshop to teach the contestants about sexiness by means of burlesque dancing and posing. In 2007 Von Teese performed at the adult entertainment event Erotica 07 in London alongside Italian Rock noir band Belladonna.
Cameron Diaz performed a tribute to Von Teese’s martini glass routine in the film Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. Von Teese’s name appears in the credits, listed under “Special Thanks.”
Her first book, which consisted of her opinions on the history of burlesque and fetish, Burlesque and the Art of the Teese/Fetish and the Art of the Teese, was published in 2006 by HarperCollins. Vanity Fair called her “a Burlesque Superheroine.”
In 2008 Von Teese was one of the contributors to Carrie Borzillo’s book Cherry Bomb.
Von Teese participated in the Eurovision Song Contest 2009 in Moscow, Russia as part of the stage performance for the German entry “Miss Kiss Kiss Bang.” The act placed 20th out of 25 participants in the final round of the contest. Later, she said her cleavage was censored during the show because of her voluptuous figure.
Von Teese is also an occasional actress. In her early years she appeared in fetish-related, soft-core pornographic movies, such as Romancing Sara, Matter of Trust, in which she is billed as Heather Sweet, and also in two hard-core fetish films by Andrew Blake: Pin Ups 2 and Decadence.
In recent years she has appeared in more mainstream features, such as the 2005 short film, The Death of Salvador Dali, written by Delaney Bishop, which won best screenplay and best cinematography at recent festivals, including SXSW, Raindance Film Festival and Mill Valley Film Festival, and Best Actress for Von Teese at Beverly Hills Film Festival. She appeared in the feature films Saint Francis and The Boom Boom Room, both in 2007.
In addition to this, she has appeared in a number of music videos, including the video for the Green Day song “Redundant,” the video for “Zip Gun Bop” by swing band Royal Crown Revue, Agent Provocateur’s video for their cover of Joy Division’s “She’s Lost Control,” and (performing her martini-glass burlesque routine) the video for “Mobscene” by Marilyn Manson. She has also been featured in a striptease/burlesque act in George Michael’s live tour 2008, for the song “Feelin’ Good.”
Fashion and modeling
Von Teese has appeared on a number of best-dressed lists and frequents the front row of fashion shows, particularly Christian Dior and Marc Jacobs, labels she is often seen wearing.
She has also done various catwalk work. During Los Angeles Fashion Week, Spring 2004, she modeled for former club kid Richie Rich’s fashion label, Heatherette. In 2005 she appeared in the Autumn/Winter Ready-to-Wear show for Giambattista Valli, a former designer for Ungaro, in Paris. In the 2006 Milan Fashion Week, Von Teese was on the runway, opening for the Moschino diffusion label, Moschino Cheap & Chic, autumn/winter 2006/7 show. In 2007, she appeared twice in the Jean Paul Gaultier Haute Couture show during the Paris Fashion Week. Additionally, she has starred in several ad campaigns. She appeared in Vivienne Westwood’s spring/summer 2005 collection adverts and became the face of Australian clothing range Wheels and Dollbaby for their 2006/7 Spring/Summer advertising campaign. Currently, she is a spokesmodel for MAC Cosmetics. Von Teese has appeared in Vanity Fair, Vogue, Elle, and international issues of nearly every fashion magazine. She has also campaigned on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and appeared in their ads. Most recently she has designed a new lingerie range with Wonderbra.
In spite of this, Von Teese states that she never uses a stylist. “The one time I hired a stylist, they picked up a pair of my 1940s shoes and said, ‘These would look really cute with jeans.’ I immediately said, ‘You’re out of here.’” She does her own make-up, and dyes her naturally blonde hair black at home. Von Teese’s unique style is “inspired by eccentric women like Luisa Casati, Anna Piaggi, and Isabella Blow.”