The art of seduction according to Dita Von TeeseShe”s the queen of burlesque, so what could she teach Marianne Power (more at home in support tights than suspenders)
Lifting the hem of her Burberry dress to reveal the most exquisitely slender thigh, Dita Von Teese is showing me how to adjust stockings and suspenders in order to attract a man’s attention.
‘You have to look as if you’re attempting to do it discreetly,’ she says as she pretends to tinker with her stocking as if it’s the most natural thing on Earth. I can certainly see how this would make a man quite excited. To be honest, it’s making me turn more than a little pink.
I try to copy her, but exposing my more generously proportioned legs doesn’t create quite the same impression — and anyway, I’m wearing deeply unsexy support tights. Not only that, I don’t even own a suspender belt. Ms Von Teese receives this news as though I’ve just told her I have only days to live. ‘But that’s just TERRIBLE!’ she cries.
Discretion is key: Dita shows Marianne how to adjust stockings in order to attract a man”s attention
Needless to say, she wears suspenders and stockings every day and shudders at the thought of any woman leaving the house without a full set of matching underwear.
‘All women should have a perfect-fitting black lace bra, with matching panties — string and brief — and a good suspender belt,’ says the 39-year-old queen of burlesque.
I decide not to describe the combination of mismatched garments under my dress, but I do make a mental note to throw out my entire underwear drawer when I get home.
Dita Von Teese is in London to open a plush new members’ bar called Cointreau Prive and agrees to give me a masterclass in the art of seduction. It’s safe to say I am hopelessly out of my depth.
Next to me, sitting poker straight with her legs crossed at the ankle, is one of the sexiest women on the planet, famous for her 23in waist and a burlesque routine that involves naked splashing in a giant martini glass.
And then there’s me, who buys her knickers in multi-packs and dabs nail varnish on ladders in her tights.
First comes a lesson in how to get the perfect pout. Dita’s number one seduction secret is to ‘apply lipstick in full view of your victim. This is particularly effective when done slowly and with a pretty compact’. Victim, of course, is seductress speak for ‘man’.
I try to copy her as she slowly and seductively applies lipstick, but I am transfixed. It’s like looking at an old-fashioned Hollywood star.
Dita advises Marianne on make-up: “Apply lipstick in full view of your victim, this is particularly effective when done slowly and with a pretty compact”
Next comes the importance of mood lighting. ‘Dimmer switches! I have dimmer switches everywhere, even my wardrobe!’ says the woman who believes good lighting is the only cure for cellulite.
Then there’s perfume, to be worn every day — but not too much: ‘Make him lean in to smell it.’
And finally, weirdly, dangling your stiletto from your foot. You have to look as if it’s just fallen off and then reach down and put it back on. Apparently, this draws attention to your fabulous ankles.
‘But I’ll feel silly doing that,’ I say.
The trick is to practice these moves at home to find what you feel comfortable with, says Dita. That way, when you try them in public, they look natural.
‘Before I go to bed at night I practise taking off my clothes glamorously. Every time I remove a stocking, I do it in exactly the same way I would on stage.’
The first stockings were called hose and were worn by men in the 16th century
Her boyfriends must think all their Christmases have arrived at once.
‘It’s for me, it’s for fun,’ she says. ‘I believe we should all cultivate our sensuality. Every day you should do what you need to make you feel good.’
If any other woman was telling me this I would dismiss them as out-dated and anti-feminist, but Dita makes a compelling case.
Far from being a bimbo, she is articulate, intelligent and the living embodiment of an old-school glamour we have lost (or, in my case, never had).
The appeal of the woman who has made the art of burlesque (a tongue-in-cheek form of stripping that started in the Forties) mainstream is so great that every gym in the land seems to offer classes in it, teaching keen amateurs how to wiggle and shimmy.
Dita Von Teese has become a brand — selling underwear and dresses, working as an ambassador for Cointreau, and with plans for a range of nail colours — as well as a style icon up there with Lady Gaga. Richard Branson has even had her image painted on one of his planes.
Dita”s guide to walking in heels: You should “captivate every man in the room by gliding confidently and effortlessly in your stilettos”
Intelligent, educated women of all ages revere Dita in a way they never would other pin-ups, such as Katie Price or Pamela Anderson. In fact, Dita says most of her fans are female.
‘I remember the moment things changed. It was in 2006, when I was doing a signing at Harrods. I stepped out of the carriage and there was a sea of girls with red lips and nails in little dresses. I had to fight back the tears thinking: “Wow, it’s not just men.”’
But why has she become a role model to a generation of women brought up to trade on their brains rather than their looks Dita believes women enjoy burlesque because it gives them ‘permission to like high heels and lipstick’ and it allows them to ‘see that if you’re not naturally beautiful you can still be glamorous’.
Indeed, this is why Dita got into burlesque in the first place. Growing up, she never felt conventionally pretty, but was inspired by old Hollywood movies, and the likes of Rita Hayworth and Marlene Dietrich, to make the most of herself.
The word burlesque was originally a verb that meant to mock or imitate someone
‘When I was a little girl, I was fascinated by lingerie. I used to sneak into my mother’s lingerie drawer and steal her bras. I was obsessed with when I would get to wear those things,’ she says.
‘Sometimes you’re flipping through a magazine and see some beautiful actress and she says “I just ate a pizza,” trying to convince everyone she doesn’t work at what she does. People are afraid to admit the work they put into looking good because it makes you seem vain.’
Dita is refreshing in that she admits she works very hard to look good. She follows a daily regime of Pilates, ballet and yoga and watches what she eats. She has admitted to having breast implants and Botox.
‘I did it once,’ she says, wriggling her forehead to prove it still moves. ‘I wanted to see what it’s like because I get a furrow I can’t get rid of. But when I mentioned it, I got vilified.’
Otherwise her beauty regime is DIY. She dyes her (naturally blonde) hair black at home.
‘I don’t want to spend a few hundred dollars at a salon doing something I could do myself,’ she says.
‘On a normal day, I wear powder, maybe concealer, mascara and red lipstick. I put up my hair in a chignon. I can do it in ten minutes.’
Queen of burlesque: “All women should have a perfect-fitting black lace bra, with matching panties – string and brief – and a good suspender belt”, according to Dita
One thing she is adamant about is the fact she does not look the way she does — on stage or off — in order to please men.
‘I choose my lingerie and my look for me. When I first dyed my hair black and cut it short, my boyfriend at the time hated it.
‘He was practically in tears. My whole look is not something I’ve been doing for men. I tend to be a little intimidating to men. That’s something I’ve had to come to terms with.
‘I’m a shy woman — I’ve never made a first move. And I’ve started to realise I’ll probably have to overcome that a little bit.’
What’s this Could my mistress of seduction be doubting her own powers How is her own romantic life, I wonder
Ladyliketo the end, Dita won’t discuss her love life. What she will say is thatthere is a ‘huge difference’ between how she is on stage and in real life.
But is spinning the fantasy of a perfect woman with a perfect body fanning herself with feathers really helping women to feel less vulnerable
Surely, it’s only raising the bareven higher. Are we under pressure to soar in our careers, raise happyfamilies and be sex goddesses
‘It’s a tricky argument,’ says Dita. ‘If I’m degrading women then why are so many coming to my shows’
Dita adds: ‘Beauty, fantasy and sensuality should exist. And if you’re an adult, you have a choice about how to entertain yourself. I don’t think anyone should tell you that’s not OK. That’s anti-feminist.’
That said, she doesn’t feel comfortable being seen as a role model.
‘I like it that women see me and think it’s OK to be pale or that you don’t have to be beautiful to be glamorous. The side I’m uncomfortable with is being a role model as a striptease artist,’ says Dita.
‘I just want them to take elements from my show that they can use in their real life.’
This bring us to our final lesson of the day: walking. In her new book, The Art Of Teese, Dita writes that you should ‘captivate every man in the room by gliding confidently and effortlessly in your stilettos’.
Friends in high places: Sir Richard Branson has had her image painted on one of his planes
‘When I walk through a room with my head held high and stride in my high heels, I’m pretty well aware of the effect I have on people,’ says Dita. ‘People notice you.’
Well, of course they notice you, Dita, but what about me
I decide to find out. Once I’ve said my goodbyes to the doyenne of nipple tassels, I strut out of the hotel and sashay my way to the station.
Instead of staring at the ground, as I usually would, I hold my head high and smile. And yes, I let my hips wiggle. I pass a man who smiles back at me. ‘Very nice,’ he nods.
He was 90 if he was a day — but no matter. It’s a start. Just imagine what will happen when I get my hands on some suspenders.
Cointreau Priv, 215 Piccadilly, London W1, until December 17. The Cointreau Priv is guest list only. To book a place, go to www.cointreauprive.co.uk