I thought Hollywood was tough. The fashion world is…”
Actress Stacey Dash is searching for just the right word, trying to be polite. She eventually settles for the relatively safe “tougher,” refraining from something more colorful that could be taken as a slam. But then, Dash has recently joined the hyphenated career ranks of actor-designers, and she’s not about to rock the fashion boat with snippiness. “I can’t,” says the Bronx native, laughing. “I don’t want to be that girl!”
What Dash—best known for her turn as Dionne Davenport in the 1995 hit Clueless—also doesn’t want to be is just another in a laundry list of celebrities gone Seventh Avenue. Which is why she named her year-old line of romantic boudoir lingerie Letters of Marque and not, she likes to make clear, after herself. “It’s not Letters of Marque by Stacey Dash,” she points out. “It’s about the lingerie, not me.” Dash even proved her budding garment chops by making the trade-show rounds last fall, taking a booth at the Curve Expos in New York and Las Vegas—no easy task, as anyone who’s walked the mile-long aisles can attest. “I’ve never worked so hard in my life,” she remarks. “God bless the salesmen.”
The handle Letters of Marque has a provenance as eclectic and intriguing as Dash’s Clueless costumery. (Refresher: The duds in her opening scene included a tartan blazer with black patent-leather lapels and a fearlessly flamboyant hat that even Alicia Silverstone’s character referenced as Dr. Seuss–esque.) Several years ago Dash discovered that she had an actual pirate in the family tree (her great-great-grandfather on her father’s side) and stumbled upon the term “letter of marque” while doing additional research on buccaneers. Basically, it was a license to seize and capture. “[The document] was given to a pirate by a particular country to act on behalf of that nation,” she says. “It’s permission to invade. I thought, That’s perfect for lingerie.” Translation? “When you wear Letters of Marque, you’re giving whoever you’re wearing it for permission to invade.”
With a notion like that, one might reasonably expect the collection, which sells at Lingerie on Lex in New York and Ann Dessous in Berlin, to veer toward salacious. After all, Dash is talking pirate booty here. On the contrary, Letters of Marque is subtle, demure even, and—pop tarts, take note—that’s the way the actress thinks it should be. “I want to bring pretty sexy back, without being too provocative. I feel like it’s all gone too far,” Dash explains. The inspiration behind that attitude, not to mention the line’s conception, was a vintage bed jacket she bought 15 years ago at Paris 1900, a Santa Monica store famous for its Belle Epoque wares, some of which have been used in films, including Titanic and Legends of the Fall. According to Dash, the jacket is more than 150 years old.