Fewer things were more common during World War II, besides guns and death, than photographs of women in suggestive poses, stuck on soldiers and sailor's walls. The pin-up girls were the first signs of what would later be called mass culture, but also a countless number of women who were finally allowed by society to share something other than cake recipes: ideas of female sensuality, fantsies and erotic games. It wasn't random that in the 1950s a certain type of hair, high-heeled shoes, sheer stockings and defined waists had become all the rage amongst women of every class.
In the small city of Rochester, in the suburbs of Detroit, Mrs. Sweet told her daughters all about the movie How to Marry Millionaire, released in 1953, starring actress Betty Grable, alongside Marilyn Monroe. One of her three girls paid especially close attention and asked her mother to dress her up as Grable, and the manicurist did so. She also dressed her other two daughters in the same way, as money was tight and not enough for exclusive wardrobes. It seemed like Hollywood's Golden Age was there to stay.
At age thirteen, Heather had to drop ballet lessons in favour of a job as a lingerie sales clerk, a destiny similar to that of other girls her age, where she lived. But, because she remembered the stories her mother told her, the job didn't seem like a burden to her, but rather a place full of garments the likes of which she saw in movie posters from the 1940s and 50s. Lingerie became her obsession from that moment on, and she was bent on drawing her own pieces and have her own brand.
But her breats didn't devolp enough for her to begin wearing a brassière until she was already seventeen. Her mother took her out to choose one, a landmark in every girl's life, and bought her a white cotton one. She was disappoited: I wanted one of those with a garter, like in my father's Playboy magazines. A little while later, living in a different state, she also started modeling lingerie. From that to fetishist under garments was a clear way.
The roads that led Heather to become a stripper are not as clear, though, because she was already studying at a Costumes Design college by the time she got the name Dita Von Teese, after choosing it by browsing through a lingerie magazine. By mid-80s, she had begun taking part in California's night-life. She thought it would be a fascinating world, just like she had expected her first bra to be stunning, but those same five-minute shows everynight became a total bore. Every girl was blonde and tanned, with big breasts moving in slow motion. She decided to put together her own presentation, combining fetish with retro, because that's what she truly liked. She didn't thrill large audiences, but, a few months later, she would be the model chained by ropes on the cover of the book The seductive art of Japanese Bondage.
The underground would take her to a steakhouse where she met an underground singer called Marilyn Manson. They got married. It's pretty obvious Dita Von Teese would not be ashamed to bask in on her husband's satanic image to promote her own ideas of what a striptease presentation should be like. She would go with him to interviews, award cerimonies and would draw the attention towards herself for her couture vintage clothes, her flawless elegance and class. Dita's goal was to transform the portrayal of naked women, erotic boldness and fetishist pieces in what they had been 60 years back: a delight for men and an intimate sharing for women. The pin-up girls were back, in style. But the romance ended last year (2007).
Dita Von Teese is looking to rescue old-school values and seduction techniques, which were pretty much forgotten, certain symbols that hold over us a growing fascination. If burlesque and retro striptease are back, inserting in women's wardrobe new articles of clothing and in men's fantasies new sensualities, coated with an aura of lightness and sex, in naive inuendo, she is, without a doubt, responsible for it. Who can remain indifferent when faced with her trademark act, the dance number with the Martini glass?
For those of you who are not familiar with the whole range of possibilities that surround Dita, you can read Burlesque and the Art of the Teese/Fetish and the Art of the Teese, released in 2008 and you can also visit her webpage, where you can, among other things, find more information about her own brand of lingerie.