Meeting Dita Von Teese at the Dark Garden Von Follies Launch

66f470a6767311e3bd450e9d6b8222c0_8

Meeting Dita Von Teese at Dark Garden, both of us wearing the “Her Sexcellency” dress from her Von Follies collection.

This past Sunday, I got to meet burlesque superstar Dita Von Teese.

1_Von_Follies_by_Dita_Von_Teese_-_embroidered_spot_bra_and_briefs

Dita Von Teese in her Von Follies lingerie. Her hair is actually this immaculately smooth in real life.

I wasn’t alone, of course.  Dita was doing a meet and greet at Dark Garden Unique Corsetry to promote her Von Follies lingerie line as well as her perfumes, both of which are exclusively available within San Francisco at Dark Garden.  Dark Garden has been Dita’s “go-to corsetmaker for the past 15 years,” and I’ve been working there for five years, so it’s slightly surprising that this is the first time I’ve met her.  I occasionally glimpse one of her orders floating through production, and we have at least five signed prints/posters/Playboy covers casually displayed around the shop.

Dita wearing "The Grable," a Dark Garden custom corset originally designed for her to wear at an event for Virgin Atlantic.

Dita wearing “The Grable,” a Dark Garden custom corset originally designed for her to wear at an event for Virgin Atlantic.  Photo by Daniel Silveira.

It feels especially odd contrasted with the random facts and anecdotes about her I’ve heard in passing from Autumn, the owner of Dark Garden.  Nothing indiscreet or gossipy, yet somehow all these mundane glimpses made her seem even more a mythical figure, with nothing concrete to anchor them.  I’ve tried on corsets in our archive that were originally Dita prototypes.  She and I use the same text tone on our iPhones, apparently.  There was a particular nutritional book (diet is such an ugly word) on our kitchen table that she follows to maintain her health and figure (which may have been mentioned as a subtle, polite reference to my own cheese and carbohydrate based diet)…  Here a tale about her cats (pun intended), there an amusing text exchange with Autumn read out loud, as friends do…  Yet I’ve never seen her perform or met her in person, until Sunday.

1506661_10202519723970589_626905872_n

Dita’s Original, Fleur Teese, Erotique, and Rouge perfumes stand in front of a signed Playboy cover at Dark Garden.  Photo by Autumn Adamme.

Before Dita herself even arrived, her fans turned out in force to pick up a piece of the collection or a bottle of perfume and be eligible for a signed print and photo with Dita.  Something about her fan base is particularly heartwarming.  Perhaps I was just responding to how wonderfully well-dressed the crowd was.  Several local burlesque performers were in attendance; some had met Dita before; a few had a copy of her book to be signed.  One girl, described by Dita’s entourage as “Dita family,” discreetly wore a shibari dress in Dita’s honor, which made trying on bras a bit tricky for her.  The fans were also uniquely well-behaved through our crowds and various queues, and it was really lovely to see the warmth of affection they felt for and from Dita.

Me, hamming for my girlfriend in the midst of prepping prints for the out-the-door line of Dita fans.

Me, hamming for my girlfriend in the midst of prepping prints for the out-the-door line of Dita fans.  Photo by Morgan Marcani.

Dita was very gracious about signing multiple items for fans.  Photo by Lily Liqueur.

Dita was very gracious about signing multiple items for fans. Photo by Lily Liqueur.

As for us, the shop staff?  We tried to follow a dress code for what felt like the first time in Dark Garden history, donning all black to differentiate ourselves a bit from the clientele.  I wore the same Von Follies dress that Dita arrived in, “Her Sexcellency,” and I wasn’t sure if it was awkward or awesome.  Probably awesome.  Several of us wore bright red lips and winged liner in her honor, and we all wore corsets and forgot to eat until the end of the day.  Owing to our beautiful and beautifully compliant crowd, we ran ahead of schedule enough to allow all the staff as well as our three lovely live models a chance at a signed print and a picture with Dita.  I was dumbstruck when I met her and barely able to make eye contact, having reached my mental capacity after deciding my print should be signed to “Victoria Dagger” rather than Marianne.  I don’t generally think of myself as being a starstruck person, but I am naturally quite shy so interacting with a stranger who is also famous and/or someone whom I respect and admire tends to numb my usually verbose tongue.

Dita signed well over a hundred of these prints over the course of two hours, taking a couple minutes or so to talk to each fan.

Dita signed well over a hundred of these prints over the course of two hours, taking a couple minutes or so to talk softly and animatedly to each fan.

Live models dressed up in items from Dita's Von Follies collection, paired with Dark Garden corsets and handmade fascinators by Kalico Delafay and Pop Antique.

Live models Anastasia, Dwoira, and Anat dressed up in items from Dita’s Von Follies collection, paired with Dark Garden corsets and handmade fascinators by Kalico Delafay and Pop Antique.  Photo by Lily Liqueur.

So what’s Dita like?  Well, I certainly spent more time observing her from the sidelines than I did interacting with her.  She looks exactly like her pictures.  I was particularly struck by her delicate little ankles.  Her hair fell and framed her ageless face in a perfectly smooth vintage style, which fills me with even greater envy now that I know it only takes her an hour or so to get dolled up for events (aka, how long it takes most of us just to get ready for work).  But I don’t want to sound too sycophantic here – I was also relieved to see her exhibiting normal mannerisms, showing a subtle hint more nerves with the parade of fans and friendly warmth when talking to Autumn.  She entered the shop quietly, without much fanfare, though a ripple of excitement followed.  She was “on” for the event, but not so much so that she seemed overly-rehearsed, fake or too smooth or posed like a mannequin.  She came off as a real human being who loves glamour, takes very good care of herself and is both talented and passionate.  Everything Dita has and is has been worked for and is authentic.

Dita exiting her car, about to make her way into Dark Garden.  Photo by Lily Liqueur.

Dita exiting her car, about to make her way into Dark Garden. Photo by Lily Liqueur.

Are you a Dita fan?  Have you met Dita before?  Perhaps you were at the event on Sunday – I know I’ve met a few Lingerie Addict readers at Dark Garden before!  I’d love to hear your experiences with Dita in the comments below.

Dita modeling Madam X in her Von Follies collection

Dita modeling Madam X from her Von Follies collection

Dita modeling Savoir Faire from her Von Follies collection.

Dita modeling Savoir Faire from her Von Follies collection.

Marianne

Marianne

Marianne Faulkner is the designer of Pop Antique, a clothing and corsetry line specializing in sustainable materials and comfortable curves. She is based in San Francisco where she earned her MFA in fashion design at the Academy of Art University, and has been a columnist at The Lingerie Addict since 2011.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookPinterestYouTube

4 Comments

  1. 09/01/14 at 14:16

    This was such a great event that went so smoothly thanks to the lovely people of Dark Garden. My girlfriend and I were the first ones to arrive on the scene (à la Griswalds), and after hours of waiting, and the lovely Dark Garden staff letting us bum around in the store until the event, we were absolutely thrilled to meet Dita. She was perfect. I fumbled around a lot. I went into shake her hand and my finger did some weird thing but I didn’t falter. It was so lovely to meet Dita – She is everything to me and is even lovelier in person than I had expected. She did sign my fashionista book that I brought with me and was thrilled to find that Dita took interest in it and flipped through the book – of course to find that she was placed in between Joan Crawford and Marlene Dietrich – only fitting. Of course I was star struck – as I am with meeting my idols. But it wasn’t just Dita that I was excited to meet. I got a very brief chance to talk to Autumn and, again trying to hide my fangirling was very difficult. As I fumbled through my words, she greeted me with such warmth and reassured my welcome. This really was a magnificent event and I can’t wait until Dita comes back to the area so we can see her again. And of course Dark Garden has recruited a new regular!

  2. Icy
    09/01/14 at 15:53

    ‘m only just getting into lingerie and it’s nice to know she’s as kind as people say. I like to also wear alternative fashion similar to Victorian girls and I’ve met the head designers of my favorite brand (they came all the way form Japan!!) and they were also very sweet and shy. I’m noticing icons of anything outside of the mainstream celebrity tend to be very kind and sweet to their fans and admirers. And I’m super glad they are.

  3. 11/01/14 at 1:03

    I wasn’t there, but an acquaintance of mine was one of the models (lucky gal!). I very much wish I’d been in San Francisco at the time, it seems like it was a splendid event.

  4. Cassie
    16/01/14 at 6:34

    I’ve seen/kind of met her a couple of times, first at her clothing line launch at Myer, then at her first lingerie line launch at Target. I awes absolutely awestruck, and she was lovely and quiet and kind of shy? and very nice about signing things and having photos taken

Leave a Comment

Thanks for leaving a comment! I love hearing from TLA readers.