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Talking Lingerie with Dita Von Teese: Her New Collection, First Training Bra, and Stealing from Her Mom

Going to talk to Dita Von Teese about lingerie is a little intimidating. The woman has created an entire career out of looking good in it, and then taking it off. And now, she's designing it too.

Going to talk to Dita Von Teese about lingerie is a little intimidating. The woman has created an entire career out of looking good in it, and then taking it off. And now, she's designing it too.

About a year ago, Von Teese launched her own range of lingerie under the label Von Follies. It's sold at Target in Australia, Debenhams in the UK, and online at ASOS, Stylebop and Glamuse in France. But it's had no real presence in the US until now. On April 23, HSN will launch Von Teese's lingerie along with two fragrances and it will be her largest mass retail partner.

We sat down with Von Teese yesterday at West Village hot spot The Lion to chat about all things lingerie. Perched daintily with perfect posture on a leather couch in a dark wood-paneled room upstairs, Von Teese, though soft spoken, has a presence. I found myself lowering my voice to match hers and sitting up a bit straighter. She just makes things more elegant.

Still she opened up about stealing bras from her mom when she was little, buying her first training bra, and getting ready in 15 minutes (she swears that's how long it takes). We also asked about her skin care routine, because seriously, how does she look like that?

Fashionista: So this is the biggest launch you've done right? Dita Von Teese: Yeah, the biggest American collaboration for sure. I have my own lingerie brand called Von Follies, and so basically HSN has chosen what they think [will work best] and and they have definitely gone towards the ones that they will be able to make in full figure sizes. I think they are selling up to an E-cup.

Where did your love of lingerie come from? I've always had a love of lingerie--since I was a little girl. I was obsessed with it as a rite of passage as a woman. I couldn’t wait till I was old enough to wear lingerie. And then my first job was working in a lingerie store. So I have quite a good knowledge of lingerie from then. I really built my whole career on my love of lingerie when I think about it--my desire to show it off, like onstage and in pin-up photos. I think what I love about it is that it can be this thing of great beauty and womanly elegance that you have in your everyday life. So I really wanted to bring beauty and glamour and fit and function all in one package in an accessible way.

You said you’ve been obsessed with lingerie since you were a little girl. What was your very first memory of lingerie? I watched a lot of old movies with my mother that really just set the tone for everything. I remember being really obsessed with garter belts and stockings. I used to steal things out of my mom's lingerie drawer and try them on secretly. I actually still have a bra that I stole from my mom when I was little. I don’t know how I managed to still keep it but I’s black lace.

Did she take you to get your first bra? Yeah, and I was very sadly mistaken because I got, like, the training bra. That's when I set out to save up for my own lingerie. I started working really early on because I wanted to be able to buy my own stuff. I wanted to be able to choose.

What about comfort? The kind of undergarments you wear don't seem easy to wear. That’s my big goal: To figure out how can I make things that have like nice lines under the clothes, and that have good shaping.

What's the most uncomfortable thing you've had to wear? Everybody knows how much I love corsetry and it’s not comfortable. There is something I love about the discipline of wearing things that are not so easy to wear.

And what about your fragrances (she's selling two: "Dita Von Teese" and "Rouge")? Dita Von Teese, the one in the black bottle, is my first. I was dating a Frenchman a few years ago [Count Louis Marie de Castelbajac] when I first made the perfume and he confessed to me that I wore the same perfume as his mother. And that was around the same time I approached to make my own, so I got really into the process. I wanted to make something really womanly and sophisticated and there is no element of fruit or citrus or anything sweet. I wanted to do something really grown up, the kind of perfume Marlene Dietrich would wear--but not something your grandmother would wear either.

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What was the fragrance you used to wear? Quelques Fleurs. I wore it since I was 14.

Did you have a hand in designing the bottles too? The [bottle design] is based on a lot of vintage perfume bottles that I have in my collection and books. I have a big library full of vintage references of makeup, perfume, lingerie, everything. So I got a lot of ideas from old perfume bottles that I’d seen.

What else do you collect? I think I once read you collected egg cups? I used to collect egg cups but not so much anymore. I collect pin-up art and burlesque memorabilia. I have a gown that belonged to Gypsy Rose Lee that she wore on stage, the most famous one. I have the stage costume that Natalie Wood wore when she played Gypsy. I like to collect basically things that are all a part of my world, that excite me. I collect vintage cars too.

This is a bit unrelated but when I told my office I was coming here to talk to you everyone said 'Please tell me how she keeps her skin looking like that!' So, how do you do it? No smoking, sunscreen, keep moisturized. I use a little bit of retinol at night sometimes.

That’s it? You know the basics.

But it glows! Thank you.

Any other little makeup or styling tricks that someone could do at home? I always say that practice makes perfect. You can learn to do anything. I don’t have a glam squad, I don’t have a stylist. When I’m on the red carpet it is all my doing. I just feel like, people need to feel more empowered. You can learn how to do anything, if you just zero in on that one thing you want to be great at--whether you want to have a great cat eye or want to be able to do a certain hairstyle you admire, you just got to practice it and you can be as good at it as anybody else.

How long does it take you to get ready? Like an hour [for an event]. I don’t spend an hour everyday, I usually spend like 15 minutes. I don’t spend much time on beauty, usually its just mascara, a little powder, red lipstick, hair in a chignon, done. I like to do it fast.

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Photos: Courtesy