What do a steam engine and a burlesque model have in common? Not much you might think but for me they are both manifestations of the style and atmosphere of a classic era, in this case the mid 20th century. That's why I am showcasing Dita von Teese, probably the most famous present day exponent of the 50's Hollywood glamour style. On 29 June 2007 she visited Manchester.
As I stood in front of Dita von Teese, watching her sign posters, I could hardly believe my eyes. She was like an apparition from the 1950s. Hair, make-up, clothes all a perfect recreation of a style from 50 years ago. I just turned up and stood in the public area, behind the official photographers. In order to get some usable shots, I took a lot of images, and had to delete some photos of steam engines at the East Lancashire Railway that were on the memory card.
Retro or nostalgic are words often used, but I don't like it. I prefer to say 'classic' or 'timeless'.
Dita von Teese captures exactly the look of female celebrities of the forties and fifties. Betty Page is obviously there, though Dita has a much slimmer face. The eye make up made me think of Jackie Kennedy. The overall radiance brings to mind many screen goddesses though I can't put a name to them.
Dita von Teese la living proof that a style from another age is still valid and can command attention and respect today. A look at the enormous media attention she enjoys is a fair indication of that.
Queueing up to meet her were some of her adoring fans, mostly from the Manchester area. Some of the girls were sporting similar hair, make-up and clothes to her, and many of them looked very good, but Dita von Teese was the only one who had true star quality.
She was visiting Manchester as part of her work as spokesmodel for Mac Cosmetics, and appeared at Selfridges store in Manchester.
I couldn't think of a famous steam engine from the 50s to compare her to, but she wouldn't look out of place getting off a Super Constellation at Idlewild Airport (later JFK) or photographed in front of a pink VW Samba.
Here are some key facts about Dita von Teese:
She was born Heather Renée Sweet on 28 September 1972 in Rochester, Michigan, United States. At the age of twelve she moved with her family to Orange County, California.
Her hair is naturally blonde and she dyes it black herself.
She is 5 feet 3 inches tall.
Through wearing corsets her waistline has reduced to 22 inches, and can be laced down to as small as 16 inches.
She married the weird-looking pop star Marilyn Manson - that's a 'he' if you're not familiar with him - in a castle in County Tipperary in 2005.
She filed for divorce from Marilyn Manson on 29 December 2006.
As a girl she was fascinated classic Hollywood era film stars, especially Betty Grable.
One of her first jobs was working in a lingerie store, where she developed her interest in corsets and lace underwear.
She worked in a strip club at the age of 19 and soon developed her vintage-style burlesque act.
Her career came of age after she appeared in Playboy magazine in 1999, 2001 and 2002.
She is an occasional actress and fashion model, appearing at shows by Moschino, Jean-Paul Gaultier and others. She has been featured in fashion spreads in most major fashion magazines including Vanity Fair, Vogue, Elle and others.
Her website www.dita.net foundedin 1992 is quoted as being one of the earliest model sites on the internet.
She owns a 1939 Chrysler New Yorker and a 1965 Jaguar S-type.
These facts are summarised from the excellent Dita Von Teese Wikipedia entry.
Visit Dita von Teese's website www.dita.net.
I photographed her at the Selfridges store Manchester.www.selfridges.com
She was officially promoting the products of Mac Cosmetics www.maccosmetics.com
The dress she was wearing looked as if it could be by Vivienne Westwood, and it was. Thanks to Viktoria Malik for confirming this for me.
On the subject of 'Burlesque' try listening to the song 'Burlesque' by the progressive rock group Family, lead singer Roger Chapman.