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Exclusive: Dita Von Teese Wants to Get In Your Lingerie Drawer

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Danielle Steele caused quite a kerfuffle when she criticized San Francisco in The Wall Street Journal, saying, "There's no style, nobody dresses up—you can't be chic there." For anyone, like Ms. Steele, who has abandoned hope that San Franciscans know how to get dolled up, the crowd at Dark Garden on Sunday was a welcome sight: Throngs of women in corsets and heels and perfect coiffures queueing up for the chance to meet burlesque queen Dita Von Teese.

The raven-haired beauty was at Dark Garden to promote her lingerie line, Von Follies by Dita Von Teese. (The shop, best known for its custom corsets, is currently the only retail location in the city that carries the Von Follies line.) We stole a few minutes with Dita to find out what influenced her lingerie and fragrance lines, who makes the best red lipstick, and how we can up our glamour quotient in 2014.

You're glamorous and perfect, and we hear that you do your own hair and makeup. What's your beauty routine like? How long does it take?
"It depends. On a normal day, I would just wear mascara, a bit of powder, red lipstick, and put my hair in a chignon. I can do that in under 10 minutes. That's my normal day. For an event, I like to turn up the glamour. I spend about an hour getting ready, sometimes an hour and a half."

Are there any particular red lipsticks that you would recommend?
"I have my favorites. I'm a big fan of a matte red lip. I think that MAC makes some very fine, very very powdery reds, which I really love. NARS makes some nice lip color. I like this brand called Make Up Store, (which is not Makeup Forever). They make some wonderful, very highly pigmented lipsticks, which is something I look for."

You stay fit with pilates, ballet, and dressage. We can only imagine the fabulous ensembles you must wear for dressage and ballet, but what do you wear for Pilates? Do you have custom sparkly Lululemon pants?
"No, I have a uniform. It's usually black capri pants. Simple, black matte, cotton form-fitting black t-shirt. I throw a coat on over that, usually or a full skirt. There are a million pictures of me coming out of my Pilates studio. [Photographers] keep waiting for me to come out in sweatpants, but I never do."

You're here at Dark Garden to promote your Von Follies lingerie line. What inspired your lingerie lines?
"My whole goal was to show women that you can wear beautiful lingerie in every day life—lingerie that begs to be seen—at an accessible price. I'm very inspired by my vintage lingerie collection, which I've been collecting for about 25 years. I take a lot of inspiration from my archives and try to figure out how to translate that to modern, wearable lingerie."

The collection is beautiful and a bit racy. Are these pieces that a woman would wear under her clothes at work on a Wednesday?
"In the collection, I did lots of different things. I did some simple, basic bras, but no one has any interest in buying things that are simple and basic from me. They want the more racy, obscure, vintage-style, sexy, risqué looks. I'm trying to take cues from that and make fancy lingerie that fits well and is still wearable. I'm just trying to change people's minds about what should be in their lingerie drawer and give people a piece of what I do and what I believe in for lingerie, which is about beauty and fantasy and glamour."

Because you're a famous burlesque performer, most people assume that you're in corsets all the time. Is that the reality, or are the corsets just part of your stage costumes?
"I mostly just wear corsets on stage, much to the dismay of my corset makers. I wear them occasionally in everyday life, especially if I'm preparing for a show. Your body does mold to it and get accustomed to it, which is something I like to do before I start a tour. I lead a very comfortable life. I wear ballet flats. It's not like I wear sweats and dress down, but I do know how to do comfortable glamour."

Can you give us an example of your version of comfortable glamour?
"Ballet flats, trousers Marlene Dietrich would wear, 50's full-skirted dresses. Things like that."

We can't picture you wearing a pair of jeans.
"No, I don't. I actually wore jeans for Halloween and I didn't find it comfortable at all. I felt like I was pulling them out of my crotch all night."

You recently released a new fragrance, Erotique. How would you characterize the scent?
"Erotique is my fourth fragrance, and I really wanted to do something that was a tribute to a time in the past. A lot of people don't realize that perfume from the past was very animalistic. It was not flowery. You had quite carnal, very sexual, erotic perfumes. A lot of really interesting spices and leather and animalistic notes. I love vintage erotica, and when I'm reading stories by Anaïs Nin and Georges Bataille, I think to myself, 'What kind of fragrance goes with these really sexual scenes?' I researched a lot of vintage perfumes and purchased lots of vintage decants of rare perfumes that don't exist anymore and thought about what kind of perfume I could create that creates that mystique. [Erotique] is quite polarizing for some people, but it's the one that I wear the most of all my fragrances and it's getting a really great response. I find that there's a theme in everything I do, from the lingerie, perfume, the striptease shows: When I do things from my heart, things I really believe in—the obscure and possibly even polarizing—it's a success because it's authentic."

So many women approach glamour as a chore rather than something fun, but—between your stage costumes and your 40s-inspired day looks—you seem to embrace making everyday beautiful. Has that been a lifelong passion?
"It's a lifelong passion. I remember when I was a little girl, all I could think about was being a grown woman and able to wear lipstick and high heels and pick out my own dresses. I fantasized about lingerie. It's something I always wanted. So when I was old enough, for me, that's what was happening. I've never let it go. I don't find it a chore. I see putting on my red lipstick the same as brushing my teeth. That's just what I do. I have a better day when I feel good about myself."

You've inspired us to make a New Year's resolution to be more glamorous. How should we start?
"First, you have to decide what that is for you. When you look in the mirror and you feel hot, what made you feel that way? Besides your self-confidence. What is that one thing? You like to wear your makeup a certain way, you feel good when you wear a certain … pair of jeans. I don't care. You have to decide what it is for you. It's not necessarily what it is for me. You just have to notice what makes you feel that way and don't let other people persuade to do something differently. For me, I like beautiful lingerie. It makes me feel really good. It's not something I do for someone else, it's something I do for me. I think it's just about noticing what that thing is for you. And doing it really well."

Slightly weird question: Several male readers want to know how you feel about beards.
"I just got asked that! I'm dating a guy with a beard now. I like guys with beards who aren't afraid to shave off the beard once in a while. It's like doing a striptease. You gotta realize that variety is the spice of life. And I don't want to hear from a guy with a big ol' beard who won't shave his beard, but wants a woman to wax every single hair off of her body. That's not okay."

That seems fair. Now on to our Racked lightning round!

Beach or mountains?

Champagne or martini?

Leather or lace?

The last great book you read was:
"I'm reading Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins."

Can we be best friends? (It's okay if you say no.)
· What Dita Von Teese Wore for a Walk in the English Countryside [Racked]
· Dita Von Teese Recommends Leopard Lingerie for Susie Bubble [Racked]
· Dark Garden [Official Site]