Tuesday evening, an intimate crowd took over the private upper room of The Lion for a “a night of fantasy & temptation” with Dita Von Teese in honor of her new beauty and lingerie collection for HSN, which goes on sale April 23. Catherine Malandrino and Amy Sacco played dress up with lace eye masks, while Hannah Bronfman caught up with Chelsea Leyland at a balcony table. Between sips of a cucumber and vodka concoction, Von Teese chatted about her first garter—age 14, people—working as a bra fitter at 15, and the joys of eating while wearing a corset.
I read that your first job ever was at 15 in a lingerie store and that you were a bra fitter. It was in Orange County, CA. And I was a salesgirl and bra fitter and all that and also helped with buying, too.
How did you score that at 15? I worked in the pizza place next door and I just kept coming over there and asking for a job. Please let me do anything! They let me work in the stock room for a while and I kind of worked my way through.
Was it strange being so young and knowing so much about bras and fitting people who were older than you were? Yeah, it was. But I was really intent on doing a good job. I wanted that job so badly that I really gathered as much information as I could about lingerie and that’s really how I got interested in the history of lingerie. And that’s really the basis of my entire career now from the burlesque and pin up side to designing my own lingerie line.
So based on that experience what would be the biggest piece of advice you’d give a woman who is bra shopping right now? When you buy a good bra always buy several pairs of the panties, at least two—buy the string, buy the brief, buy the bikini, buy an assortment of different sizes and shapes. When I was younger I used to always say, Oh, I’m a size small panty. Because I wanted to be a size small! But then I realized, Oh I’ll be better off in a medium. Just find the right size and cut the tag out if it bothers you.
What was the first piece of lingerie you bought? I’d say the most significant thing I remember really well is buying my first garter belt. It was a really big moment for me. I was like 15 or 16. I was quite young. Maybe even before that, like 14.
Did you wear it to high school? I did. I remember changing in gym class and my friends being like, What is that?
Did you have a uniform in high school? No, I wish, that would have been way more fun. I would have liked to have worn a uniform…
Are you wearing a corset right now? Because I’ve always wondered how one eats in those. No, I’m not. But you can, you just have to focus. It’s not the most fun thing in the world. You just have to eat slowly. But I’m not a classic corset trainer. I don’t really eat in corsets. My corsets are mostly on stage now. I’m not in the race to have the smallest waist in the world anymore like I might have been when I was 17 or 18.