Dita Von Teese Credited with Bringing Burlesque to Mainstream

Dita Von Teese
"Breaking Bad" Premiere Screening
Sony Picutres Studio
Culver City, CA
January 15, 2008
©2008 Kathy Hutchins / Hutchins Photo

In the past, burlesque entertainment was confined to gentlemen’s clubs. This was until Dita Von Teese made it onto the scene. She presented burlesque, in a unique, classy style. Suddenly, burlesque dance was enjoyed by men and women of all ages, and at classy venues. Today, burlesque has even invaded the geek realm, with shows encompassing Star Wars and Star Trek.

Dita was born Heather Sweet in Rochester Michigan. Just how did a young girl, born of a manicurist and a machinist, follow the path of a dancer, model, costume designer, actress, and entrepreneur?

Dita was fascinated with vintage clothing and the more glamorous the better. Her grandmother enjoyed watching 1940’s films, and she soon adopted this love of film. She was trained in ballet from as young as she could walk. Unfortunately, she realized when she was 15; she’d never be on the big stage as a ballerina.

When Dita’s family moved to California, she went to the University High School in Irvine. She was so disappointed by her set of lingerie. She knew there were glamorous frocks for her; she just had to have the money to buy her own.

At 15, she went to work in a department store, which fuelled her love for frilly things, and the beginnings of costume design. She studied costume design in college, and worked in film as a stylist, and costume designer, as well as an actress.

She changed her name to Dita, as homage to Dita Parlo. When she appeared in an issue of Playboy, they misnamed her Von Treese name as Von Teese, and she decided to adopt that name instead.

Dita has corset trained her waist down to 16.5 to 22 inches. Today, she is known as the “Queen of Burlesque” and even though she is 43, she is still as beautiful as when she was 22. She has an active schedule, performing at some of the top theaters in LA, and other cities around the world.

Just why is Dita a celebrity for both men and women? Men love her because she is glamorous and classy, never trashy. And they never get to see the full her, there is always that bit of mystery covered up by sequins and beads.

Women love her because she is glamorous and beautiful. She is the woman they all aspire to be on stage. Burlesque is never full-on nude; there are always discreet placing of fabric and pasties. And Dita can teach a woman a lot about how to move her body to tempt the man, without being obvious about it.

One of Dita’s most popular burlesque acts involved a large champagne glass. She performed her moves to the music, and strategically placed lights. While dancing in glasses has been utilized by many performers over the years, Dita’s burlesque-style makes it even funnier to watch.

Dita recently was a judge on the Steampunk’d TV show and has many shows lined up for the holiday season. It will be exciting to see what this 1940’s styled beauty has planned for her burlesque shows in the New Year.

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