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  • Writer's pictureC.T.Madrigal (

DITA Von Teese

 "Once I was in a US tabloid's worst dressed list and—at the same time, in the same dress—I was #2 best dressed of the year in French VOGUE. That was a major point made to me that you can't seek approval from the masses, that you have to wear what you like."

Albert Sanchez for Dita Von Teese Gloves by Gaspar

DITA IS ONE OF THE RAREST forms of celebrity, someone who (in addition to an already legendary career) is most hailed for her unparalleled personal style. The Duchess of Windsor, Mona von Bismark, The Marchesa Luisa Casati, there have been only a well-gloved handful of women in the last century who have been held in such regard. In the modern millennia, Dita has emerged as the newest member of that elite group of stylish women. Dita has been very kind to TheFROCK over the years, now she answers a few of my questions and picks some of her favorite garments from our website.

(CTM) When I was growing up in a not-so-gay-friendly Oklahoma town, I had a hard time fitting in.  I didn't share their philosophies about how a kid should dress, and they never let me forget it. I think that experience ignited something in me, a vengeful commitment to personal style. I wonder if there is something like that in your history.  You can be as avant garde as Grace Jones or Isabella Blow, then as demure as Audrey Hepburn, and you harness Noir like no other. It’s a profound range yet it all looks completely natural on you. Your commitment to style is remarkable... like you're dressing with a vengeance; what lit that fire?

(DVT) I was very shy as a little girl, and as a pre-teen. I rarely spoke in front of strangers and classmates, I had a very soft and quiet voice, so much so that I was often sent to speech classes, which for me, was traumatic because it didn't help any, I was just very shy. I was also a middle child, so I always felt a little lost between my two sisters. I think that playing with clothes and slowly forming a strong look was part of my way of expressing myself, and creating a look and feel of confidence that has definitely become genuine over time. I think that dressing extravagantly and "painting" myself was also a way of making myself somewhat unapproachable to certain people. I was made fun of a lot in the early 90's when I was first dying my hair from it's natural blonde to red then to jet black, and I was wearing some pretty outrageous hats and corsets in my everyday life. I always saw it as a compliment when someone wearing jeans and a baseball cap would make fun of me, it was kind a way for me to attract people that were like me, and weed out the ones that weren't.

Now I have to say that I see some things in a different way than I did then, for instance, now, I don't want to seem unapproachable to people, in fact, I work harder on trying to counteract my "unapproachable" look, especially in dating, because it's not easy for men to start a conversation with me, I'm told! But I am devoted to my look because it makes me feel good, and it's real for me, not something I do for show, or for my "persona", and I think that can he hard for people to understand sometimes. But I am devoted to my look because it makes me feel good, and it's real for me, not something I do for show, or for my "persona", and I think that can he hard for people to understand sometimes.

(CTM) For me, it's good to believe that some people shouldn't understand. When my first book got published, it got great reviews, but dependably 1-in-20 people just hate it. They're just not my people then, and I kinda like being 'not for everyone'. 

You and I first spoke in 2005. You were named Great Britain’s Best Dressed by Harper’s & Queen, and you wrote me to say you’d mentioned TheFROCK in the article. Naming our website as your favorite place for vintage was a wonderful gesture, but the really surprising thing was that you were thoughtful enough to email about it. I’ve read that people are often impressed by how down to earth you are, an impressive feat given the kind of praise the world has given you.

I imagine most expect you to be unapproachable, do people often express surprise at how unaffected by fame you seem to be? I wonder, are you naturally immune to great spikes in ego or  did you have to make a conscious decision to not be taken over by the monster that would have consumed most of us in your position. 

Wonderbra's Dita von Teese Collection

(DVT) I'm fairly unaware of my fame in a way, I'm kind of one of those people that is either in a room where everyone knows me or no one knows me! I've been doing my burlesque shows for decades now, so I guess the fact that I had such a slow climb, it never really struck me that I was famous, I just see it as "some people know and like what I do, some don't". I still never know how to answer the question "are you famous or something?"! I get asked that all the time by strangers and I just feel stupid answering it! I keep hoping I will find the ideal quick answer to that which conveys how I really feel, that yeah, I'm recognized for what I do by some people. I always liked this thing Diane von Furstenberg said about when you believe your own publicity, you're finished, or something to that effect.

I just keep trying to do the best job I can, and I keep doing things the way I always have, while evolving and learning. I don't travel with an entourage, I still do my own hair and makeup, I don't have a stylist. I like doing it myself, and I like inspiring other women to create their own glamour too, so I try not to buy into the whole celebrity thing, which is this drama of surrounding yourself with people fussing over you. I can't bear that. I like my alone time, I love getting myself ready for events, I love going grocery shopping by myself, I like sitting at a restaurant alone with a book. It took me years to finally be convinced to hire an assistant to help me with day to day things, and even then I was against it until it was put to me that I could get more work accomplished if I had some help, so when I saw it that way, I was ok with it. 

I'm glad I have a good reputation for being down to earth, but of course, now and then, like anyone, I might be having a bad day, or I feel pushed, or treated like a "thing" and I get a little bit cross when that happens, for instance, I hate being pushed around to take pics with strangers when I'm not working and I just want to have a little fun, or when someone interrupts my dinner or taps me on the shoulder when I'm mid-sentence and wants a's things like that that happen when someone will probably tell the story later about how mean I was to them, but there are stars I'm a huge fan of and I would never be rude just to get a facebook or twitpic, you know? If I really wanted a picture with someone, I would wait until an appropriate time, if there was one, and if there wasn't, there wasn't.

The problem is that sometimes people get caught up and forget basic manners. We are living in the era where people say "pics or it didn't happen!" But all kinds of cool things happen without pictures, like genuine connections with other people. Madonna started a conversation with me recently and yes, I would have LOVED a picture with her, but we had a nice chat, she gave me some smart advice, and that is way more valuable to me, and ok, so there's no "proof", but I know she appreciated not being asked. Once I met Lauren Bacall, and you know, she's one of the last living icons of classic Hollywood, but I wanted to soak up the moment of meeting her, and I tell that story over and over again, in great detail, and it's still a good story, perhaps even better...without pics. People bring up "objectification of women" a lot with me because I perform striptease, but I can honestly say that I only really ever feel objectified when there's a picture taking frenzy, and people stop even saying hello or introducing themselves and just pass their device over to take a picture.

At this point I can gauge when it's getting to be too much, and I'm getting short with people, and it's time for me to go home and go to bed, and start fresh with a good attitude. I also find that when I go do something like see a ballet, see my family or read a good book I feel more balanced.

(CTM) I find slapping a lover helps too, which may be why I sleep alone. Next question though... Few humans have ever had their wardrobes more spectated and speculated by the public than you. I was recently interviewed by the L.A. DAILY NEWS, about my opinion on that years Oscar gowns, which inspired me two write my own article on Oscar fashion. Mine was a bit of a rant against celebrity fashion coverage by entertainment news channels, magazines, and bloggers, a rant against the barrage of negativity many celebrities endure about the clothes they wear publicly. The unfortunate effect of that kind of scrutiny makes most celebs dress conservatively, they shrink a bit under the spotlight as if they’re dressing only to avoid magazines’ worst-dressed lists. You however dress for the covers. I think that’s a courageous message to girls who might be afraid to dress beyond their peers. I’ve never read anything negative about your fashion choices, but I wonder how you feel about the sport that modern culture makes of voicing its opinions about how celebrities dress?

Dita by Ellen von Unwerth, 2005

(DVT) I think that the worst part about the criticism of celebrities' fashion is that it's really made everyone scramble to get the best stylists because they're so afraid of what they are going to wear, and of being on on that worst-dressed list, and that's taken a lot of the fun out of red carpet dressing...and what's the point of fashion if it's not fun? Although everyone looks generally lovely, very few red carpet moments are actually memorable. When I watch something like the Oscars, I can imagine every actress telling her stylist "I want to look like a modern Grace Kelly!" It's rather boring now that it's been done over and over.

But I get really excited when I see a celebrity doing things differently. Tilda Swinton is someone I never get tired of seeing on the red carpet, she's ethereal and unique...decidedly NOT trying to look like a "modern Grace Kelly", yet I think that in the grand scope of things fashion-wise, she will have been one of the few that we will actually remember, and truly IS a kind of a modern Grace Kelly, because she isn't trying to be someone else. She reminds me of Marelene Dietrich, in a way, with the way she emulates both glamour and androgyny, and looks polished but seems unaffected by what anyone else thinks. You can feel that there is no desperation for acceptance, that it's easy and effortless because of the confidence of herself as a grown woman who makes her own choices. It's much about the spirit, not the look. Anyone can emulate a look, but to get to the essence of what makes someone memorable, that's more important than just the exterior.

Once I was simultaneously in a US tabloid's worst dressed list and at the same time, in the same dress I was #2 best dressed of the year in French VOGUE. That was a major point made to me that you can't seek approval from the masses, that you have to wear what you like. The only thing that is safe from ridicule is mediocrity. In my opinion, few things that exist there at that medium level can make a difference. I like daring, unique things, things that inspire passion, wether it be love or hate. Like Oscar Wilde said, "Everything popular is wrong." This is a sentence I live by, and it keeps me going, keeps me from being distracted by criticism or by people that don't understand what I even do. I've been called beautiful and ugly, talented and untalented, smart and stupid, feminist and anti-feminist, people are inspired and people are offended....all these things in equal measures.

It's all a matter of opinion, and fortunately, for me, I notice that the compliments come from the kinds of people I admire and I find to be admirable and chic, and the negativity comes from people that sit around on their computer anonymously and think of nasty things to say about everyone, probably while watching tv. I just keep doing what I do, I don't give up, and I believe in myself. I've been offered a lot of bad advice over the years, and I've looked at who's dishing it out, and then deliberately go against their advice. In my early years, I was told I could "make it" if I went back to my natural blonde, got a little "color" in my skin, wear less makeup, drop the "silly" burlesque act and be an actress or a Playboy Playmate. I'm glad I never listened, having integrity and longtime perseverance has paid off, because against the odds, I get to do what I love and make a living at it.*****

Dita Von Teese Parfume

💋Dita’s website can be enjoyed at

💋Her first capsule clothing collection has sold out. 

💋Her cardigans from Wheels & Dollbaby also quickly sold out.

💋Her books are available at (autographed copies!), Amazon (US) or Amazon (UK).

💋Her perfume is available at,,,

💋Her lingerie is available at,,,, Debenhams, Faire Frou Frou, and Dark Garden.

💋Her stockings are available at Secrets in Lace Stockings.

💋And her influence on fashion can be felt worldwide.

*Some products listed here may be out of date since our interview, to see her current offerings visit DITA.NET

Books by C.T. Madrigal are available at, and select bookstores.


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