Dita Von Teese, the queen of burlesque, reveals her most cherished shoes ahead of her new national tour, “The Art of the Teese.” Featuring a va-va-voom revue and dazzling haute-couture costumes by Jenny Packham, Swarovski, and her friend, Christian Louboutin, the tour kicks off Feb. 1 in Chicago with stops in Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, New York City and more before wrapping March 5 in Dallas.
Here, she chats with Footwear News about her what’s in her closet and what we’ll see when she hits the road.
GREATEST RECENT FIND: “Irving Klaw studios in New York is where Bettie Page made all those bondage videos. I heard there was a suitcase of things there that she and other models wore, and that there was an auction of some of those shoes. I was overwhelmed and picked this beautiful pair. I went home and looked at pictures and noticed every image of Bettie Page in the heels dancing or standing. Anytime she’s been hobbling, those are the ones she had been wearing. Those are her favorites, obviously. It’s the Holy Grail.”
BIGGEST PURCHASE: “The Bettie Page shoes. They weren’t as expensive as my 1953 Cadillac, but they will go up in value. People said, ‘I can’t believe you spent that much.’ But I bet somebody said that about the ruby-red [‘Wizard of Oz’] slippers that were bought for a few thousand and sold for a couple million. I want to be the caretaker of the shoes.”
MOST OVER-THE-TOP LOOK: “I have a pair of shoes by Christian Louboutin that have embroidery and Jean-Françoise Lesage porcelain faces that I’ve been wearing around. Vanity Fair published the actual cost [$6,295], but they were a gift to me.”
HIGHEST HEEL I OWN: “I have an 8-inch heel with a platform, but it’s not fair to include platforms, but I’d say 6 and a half inches. I’m actually not a fan of platform shoes.”
FIRST-TIME SPLURGE: “Back in the 1990s, I saved up $750, which was a lot of money back then, to have custom Vivienne Westwood ‘prostitute’ stilettos. Her iconic stiletto is my exception [to platform shoes] because she does that curvy heel.”
GO-TO SHOE STYLE: “I like a curvy heel. Christian Louboutin created one for me where the heel goes with the curve of the foot — making it a bit more bulbous, and it turns inward toward the foot. It’s complicated to dance in because your heel is closer to the ball, but I love that tribute to the feminine form. I’m not a fan of shoes that go straight down. I turn my nose at anything that has a non-curvy heel, like a straight stiletto that goes down or is too chunky.”
PIECES I’LL WEAR ON TOUR: “I have a whole section in my closet with Swarovski crystal heels lined up, including a pair of Christian Louboutin cowboy boots covered in crystals. He also made me a patent leather thigh-high fetish boot with a round toe — very much Bettie Page, but in Christian’s style; they have a red sole. I wear point shoes in my show a lot. We take ballet point shoe, and Christian gives them a makeover, dyes them in color and puts red soles in them; he doesn’t add a heel.”
COLLABORATING WITH CHRISTIAN: “He’s done so many shoes for my acts. I’ve taken inspiration from his existing line and modified them, and then the things that he’s done for me, I’ve later seen in his collection, but in a less extreme form. When he first made shoes for me and crystalized them, that was when he started getting into the crystallization technique — those kind of come from the first shoes that he did for me.”
WHAT I WEAR OFF-DUTY: “I’m always looking for ballet flats. You can’t live in 5-inch heels all the time.”
FAVORITE PLACE TO SHOP: “I am a vintage dealer or shopkeeper’s nightmare; I’m pretty discerning. I love going to the vintage expo that happens twice a year at L.A. and San Francisco. Shopping online at Etsy is a great place. It’s the thrill of the hunt, but it brings out inflated prices, though.”
STYLE INFLUENCE: “I’ve always been obsessed with fetishism and fetish clothing. A fetish shoe is the extreme; it’s an exaggeration and puts you into perilous heights and inhibits your movements. For as long as they’ve been making shoes, they’ve been making fetish shoes. With the invention of the camera, you can see women wearing red and black corsets, and thigh-high boots being worn since the 1800s. People are interested in things that create master and servant relationships. Fetish footwear is part of that — you lose mobility become a damsel in distress, and you become an object of desire because you can’t run away. It’s interesting because of the layers of human sexual psyche and we’re all creatures affected, plus the aesthetic. When you look at pinup artist Jon Weary, the women he would draw in the 1930s and ’40s were a femme fatale: that dominant woman in leather opera gloves and boots. I was always interested in that look. It sparked my career. I started as a pinup fetish model and brought these images to life. It’s an image of strength and power and also submission, giving in, and being objectified.”
SHEER MADNESS: “My [Secrets in Lace collaboration] stockings are another obsession of my mine from when I was first creating the pin-up look. I noticed Bettie Page had a seam up the top of hers, and these are authentic fully-fashioned stockings. I started wearing those in the ‘90s and got completely obsessed. I got to know all of the people who made them. There are vintage mills — three or four left in the world. I have them made — they are made like they were in the 1950s, with no lycra — and all hand-finished. There’s no contest: When you wear them, they feel completely different and can’t compare to anything else. It’s for people that appreciate the exquisite taste.”
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Pleased to announce that our favorite Master of Ceremonies @murray_hill will be hitting the road with me for an all new #burlesque spectacular #TheArtoftheTeese February in Chicago, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Toronto, New York, Boston, Silver Spring, Atlanta, Houston, and Dallas! Visit artoftheteese.com for ticket information and quick links.