September 09, 2007

Burlesque and the Art of the Teese


"I advocate glamour. Every day. Every minute."

- Dita Von Teese

There is no need to introduce Von Teese in this review, for I'm sure that everyone that comes across this post at least has a passing knowledge of who she is. I picked up her book today, without really having planned on it. Browsing, I happened to open it on a photo that I had infact, never seen before. Thrilled, I bought the book.

Perhaps she was more interesting when she was less exposed, and possibly a very dirty girl; before she really spoke, in all honesty. In one pictorial in the defunct publication The Face, she appears at her most decadent. She is wearing crystal studded stilettos and a delicate white chiffon cape, perched atop a bar and placing a glacécherry between her rubicund parted lips. It's almost frightening how much she seems to be enjoying herself. Literally, enjoying herself. Like some kind of personification of the feminine ego run amock in a rhinestone factory.

I find her surprinsingly articulate in this book, and i'm slightly ashamed of that. I'll admit I had my doubts; lost in the cliché that a naked woman cannot possibly be a happy woman, or a thinking woman. I searched the dust cover print and acknowledgements section for the crediting of a ghostwriter, but found nothing. The cover bears only her name under her photograph.

The book is as much history as it is the reproduction of a whole trove of her photographs. It celebrates the history of morality-baiting girly entertainment and throughout is underpinned with the moto of self-creation and creativity. Good fortune, and accidents of nature, especially where beauty is concerened are fine, but craftsmanship and the discerning eye are what marks out the truly memorable. It's not for everyone, but it is an interesting standpoint. There history lessons are quick and easy, concerning the cabaret of prohibition era America, or rationales behind her fascination with satorially extravagant aristocrats - all of which go into proving that Dita is hardly "a pervert without precedent."

Split into two halves, the Fetish part of the book (with it's own cover) suggests rather wonderfully that all clothing is in fact fetish.  During her exploration of the etymologies of 'fetish', Von Teese succeeds wonderfully in retuning the reader in to the real pleasure of dressing up:"It may seem weird - even dangerous- to acknowledge the power of clothing. After all, doing so would seem to limit a woman's freedom to dress any way she pleases."

In addressing one of the many criticisms she admits that her advocated life of hyperfeminine glamour is not for everyone. The stripper addresses the question of the F word in concise statement: yes she is a feminist, if that means that she lives by the ethos of being "being as feminine as possible." In an interview with one broadsheet, she laughs with approval at the idea of being thought of as a 'homovestite.' Alongside The Face pictorial, the accompanying article seemed to attest that she was some kind of deviant of gender politics also. When asked what she thought of American foreign policy, she answered:" Ladies don't talk about politics." The girl has a sense of humour obviously, hopefully, she isn't being serious.

Although fondness for her particular retro aesthetic may wax and wane for those who do not share her obsessions, her ridiculous dedication is forever charming. She is champion of the choosy, the non-compromising, the obsessives, all the contrary little bastards and the downright uncool. As a motivational/inspirational tool for anyone whose most sacred desire is to implant beautiful artefacts into this world, it's perfectly entertaining as a seamed-stocking filler.

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